November 28th, 2008

Niles Canyon and the Secret Sidewalk 11-22-08

Niles Canyon and the Secret Sidewalk 11-22-08

On November 22, D. and I returned to Niles Canyon, and this time we found the Secret Sidewalk. Here's some pics I took.

Alameda Creek, looking downstream and upstream.  The creek is considerably lower than the last time we were here.

Looking across the creek at the hills on the north side of the canyon.

One of the tennis ball-sized capsules of this California buckeye is splitting open to reveal the seed within (which is poisonous).

Here's a buckeye tree full of seed capsules.  They drop all their leaves during the heat of the summer to conserve water during the dry season.

The Union Pacific tracks follow the creek through the canyon.  The Altamont Commuter Express also runs on these tracks, carrying passengers between Stockton and San Jose.

We find the Secret Sidewalk.  It runs through the woods.  It used to be an aqueduct carrying water from the Sunol Water Temple to San Francisco.

It's got a hole in it.  It's empty inside.

The Sidewalk continues on.  We often have to crouch low to get past overhanging branches.

Eventually it goes underground, so we go back to the railroad tracks.

Across the canyon, the hills catch the afternoon light.

The tunnel, from 1909, looks like it got a piece carved out of its ceiling  (probably to accommodate modern intermodal double-stack freight trains that eventually began running through the canyon).

And where there are tunnels, there is graffiti.

Get close enough to it and you have instant abstract art.  Saw off a chunk and lug it home to hang on your wall.  (On second thought, don't; Union Pacific might object to their tunnel being carved up.  )

More graffiti, under the roadway approach to a bridge over the creek.

We saw a little bit of a Cougar in the woods.  (A very little bit.)

Looking east up the canyon along the tracks.

The leaves of this Fremont cottonwood are aflame with autumn color.

The railroad tracks wend their way eastward up the canyon.

A deer vertebra and part of a femur in the train tracks.  There were more deer bones, and also a possum spine and ribs nearby (see D.'s pics below). A mountain lion is eating well in this canyon.

Back down at the creek, looking upstream.

It's a popular spot with fishermen.  Apparently.

Cottonwood leaves afloat in the creek.

Autumn brings a mantle of beauty to Alameda Creek in Niles Canyon.

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Here's some pics D. took.

Beautiful Alameda Creek.

Buckeye seed capsule.

Graffiti on a maintenance structure at the Secret Sidewalk.

The Secret Sidewalk.  There was a flock of wild turkeys grazing beneath the oaks; they melted into the underbrush as we made our way along the Sidewalk.

A mossy stone wall on the south side of the canyon.

Golden hillsides rise from the canyon.

Bigleaf maple leaf.  It's really big.   We found ones at least 12 inches wide. It's aptly named.

1909 tunnel.

Almost 100 years old, still going strong.

Artists / vandals / litterbugs: multitaskers.

Lots of automotive trash in the woods alongside the road.  Someone ought to adopt that highway and pick it all up.

A cyclist enjoys the canyon road as it crosses the train tracks and the creek.

Cattle graze on the sunny north side of the canyon.

A coyote bush grows from a tiny crack in the pavement of the original 2-lane route for the highway through the canyon.

We found a very old trash pile of rusted tin cans in the woods above the train tracks.

Back down on the tracks, the spine, a few ribs and some fur are all that remains of a possum eaten by a mountain lion.

The tracks go through another curve in the canyon.

Beautiful Alameda Creek in autumn.