Category Archives: Dirt Trails

Tracking Your Neighborhood Mountain Lion

This morning I read in the Mercury News that the town of Los Altos Hills activated its emergency alert system over the weekend, phoning residents that a mountain lion was seen in the open space behind Foothill College.

I’m sure the residents of the Emerald Hills area of Redwood City weren’t surprised. They’ve had numerous mountain lion sightings this year, including one closer into town near Sequoia Hospital. There have been so many sightings that the Mercury News now provides an interactive sightings map on their web site.

Are all these sightings a single cat, or are the hills full of them? That’s what scientists at Santa Cruz Puma Trackers are trying to figure out by using sophisticated gps collars to track these big cats. Their research in habitat fragmentation tells interesting stories about the lives of mountain lions.

On their web site, I found maps tracking cats in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains such as a territorial young male in the Boulder Creek area. His range is approximately 20 miles in diameter, from Big Basin to Swanton to Ben Lomand. That’s further than the distance from Emerald Hills to Los Altos Hills.

A neighboring cat is 5 year old female, possibly with cubs. Her range? Almost as large as the young male’s, and clearly overlapping. And there are at least two other cats being actively tracked in this same area.

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After watching videos on their web site, my guess is that the sightings in Emerald Hills are probably multiple cats, and it’s completely possible that the cat in Los Altos Hills is from Emerald Hills. But without a formal program tracking them, we’ll never know how many are out there or where exactly they go.

Does knowing mountain lions are out there affect whether you go out onto the backroads or on the trails? Would you be afraid or excited to see one?

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Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Backroads, Dirt Trails


Snake Envy

I confess. While I was pleased with my wildflower photos from last night’s trail ride, I had hoped for more. I wanted fauna, not flora. A coyote, a jackrabbit, a deer or some wild turkeys would have made me happy. But we saw nothing. Absolutely nothing. Plus, Dick was riding with me this time, and there have been too many nights where I come home and tell him all about the wildlife he missed. Especially the snakes. Dick loves snakes. He wasn’t riding with us last year on the night when we two rattlesnakes, and boy he was bummed.

So no luck last night, but c’est la vie. We’ll see something next time.

Then, this morning I check in with Facebook and see that my friend Julie has posted an awesome photo of a rattlesnake from her ride, on a dirt road just up the hill from where we were riding.

Isn’t it badass? It was even coiled up. Seems like the ones I’ve seen before have been either too laid back or too busy running off to strike that classic pose. I suppose I should be grateful that I’ve never encountered an agitated venomous snake on the trail, but I can’t help having a little snake envy.

At least I had the GoPro helmet-cam running last year so I could share the experience with Dick, and relive that rare night again.

What wildlife are you just itching to see on the trail? If you saw rattlers on the trail, would you be excited or head straight for the parking lot?

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Posted by on August 31, 2011 in Dirt Trails


Wildflowers of Late Summer

You can tell fall is on its way when the oak leaves start to turn red. The poison oak leaves, that is.

Dick and I shared a dirty little bike date at Arastradero Preserve tonight. Unlike most summers, when I rode there every Monday night, I’ve barely been out to the park this year. So it was particularly sad that summer is nearly gone, and the wildflowers, so fresh and abundant in spring, were fading like the setting sun.

Here’s what we saw tonight, which stand in sharp contrast to the wildflowers of spring.

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What signs do you see that summer is ending?


Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Dirt Trails


Charmed by a Snake

“It’s a snake? I LOVE snakes!” Did I really say that tonight? How did that happen?

Being from Louisiana, I grew up with a healthy respect for snakes. We have cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, copperheads and coral snakes–every venomous snake in North America. Plus big fat water snakes, long skinny black runners, and kingsnakes tough enough to eat them all. Scary stuff. In California it’s much simpler: stay away from rattlers and you’re safe. But that didn’t mean I enjoyed the company of snakes.

One of the things I love about mountain biking is the wildlife. Deer, rabbits, wild turkeys, and coyotes are commonplace on our trails. So are snakes. It took me years not to immediately recoil at the mere sight of them. Then comfort at a distance, and most recently, curiosity.

Tonight, when riding with crew from Passion Trail Bikes on their Wednesday Wride, we came upon this beauty, a California Kingsnake.


The guys in front of me stopped to check it out, and when I realized why, I pushed my way through the crowd and exclaimed, “It’s a kingsnake! I LOVE snakes!” As soon as I said it, I realized that I had been charmed by a snake. More precisely, charmed by my husband, aka Snake Boy.

Here he is with a Gopher Snake we encountered on another ride. See the excitement and boyish joy all over his face? He LOVES snakes. Is it possible for passion to be contagious? Even when it’s something you once avoided, even feared?


Have you ever become passionate about something because you saw the passion through another’s eyes?

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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Dirt Trails


12 Hours of Humboldt: The Movie

The only thing that would have made it better would have been a Bigfoot sighting.


Posted by on July 25, 2011 in Dirt Trails


Wildflowers of Spring

Wildflowers, green grass and the occasional banana slug. That’s what springtime in the California grasslands is made of.

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Do you have a favorite wildflower?

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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in Dirt Trails

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