Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Record of a Dry Year, Part 1

View of Grant Ranch, A County Park in San Jose, looking West

Back in April of this year, my brother and I went on one of our drivearounds where we drive from San Jose over Mt. Hamilton into Livermore in search of wildflowers. We picked a beautiful day as you can see. Although most everything was green, all the plants were curiously stunted in growth. A dry year. There hasn't been much rain this year.

Grant Ranch is the first major landmark on the way up to Mt. Hamilton. We usually stop for a looksee, but decided to press on since we got started late. It's a good place to watch birds.

My brother says this is Purple Chaia, as in the tea, but he doesn't think it should be drunk.

Our practice is to drive around and then pull over on the side of the road when we see something interesting. That being said, we've done this enough times to have our favorite spots where we know we're likely to see some good plant growth.

Try as I might, I can't figure out what this one is called. I'll have to ask my brother again.

As we drove up the Mountain, pulling over the side of the road, avoiding bicyclists and SUVs alike, we were struck by how small everything was. All the plants were either smaller than usual and/or very late in their development for that time of year.

Even the Poison Oak was having a bad time of it. Without a doubt, that's the smallest Poison Oak plant I've ever seen.

Unlike me, my brother actually has a college education. While his degree turned out to be in biology, he started out as a botany major with a special fascination for our wildflowers. I think next time we do this he's going to bring a GPS so we can make keep of record of where we found the flowers via coordinates.

Douglas Wallflower. During some years there are whole carpets on the hillsides.

We're always on the lookout for animals, but we didn't see very many at all this year. We always see something big like a deer or a skunk family, but we had no luck this time.

This little valley is enchanting, as you can see.

An older guy on a bike wearing a bright yellow jacket (going downhill) stopped us on this ridge overlooking the little valley above and asked us what we were looking for since we were moving slowly along the side of the road and looking at the ground. When we told him we were looking at the flowers, he seemed mystified. As we moved away from him, he took out his cell phone, turned on his phone camcorder and recorded a little blurb about the valley. I wondered who he was going to send it to.

The sky was such a perfect color. I couldn't resist leaning against side of the mountain to take this shot.

When you're walking on the side of the road, the shoulder disappears so you have to lean against the side of the mountain when the cars go by. The rocks are plentiful, sharp, and in loose piles (easy to slip on). I spend too much time worrying about my brother when the cars go by because some of them are barreling down the mountain at high speeds, especially people who are driving SUVs and trucks. I used to try to hide that I was looking out for him, but then I realized he was doing the same thing for me.

Next up: even more wildflowers.

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