First Blush

Reflections and sightings from [almost] daily jogging at dawn

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sunrise 6:42 am: A little bit of everything

It was pouring when the Dawn Joggers and Cassie took off this morning. But by the time they hit Lake Lagunita, the sun had broken through, providing wonderfully contrasting light on the green banks, the lake itself and the white and grey clouds to the East.

When there's steady rain over a period of days, one DJ duty is to check on how high the creek has gotten. Today it was certainly up from yesterday but not near the highest they'd seen. Monitoring San Francisquito Creek is a year-round activity - if there's water, when the water comes back, when the water goes away. A particularly ferocious storm in February of 1998 saw the creek rise to almost the height of the Sand Hill bridge. New graffiti provides the current benchmark.

Footnote: The sun's gone and a new front has just moved in, complete with thunder and lightening, underscoring the male DJs earlier comment: "We seen a little bit of everything today."

Monday, February 27, 2006

Sunrise 6:43 am: Neither rain, nor sleet, nor...

Pretty much, the Dawn Joggers are all weather joggers. Only a significant storm - high wind and heavy rains - or a steady, cold rain in the darkest months of the year cancel the morning ritual. Most rainy days on the Peninsula are like today - not very windy, not very cold and squalls of rain that come through and last five to 10 minutes.

Note: keen observers will note another two minutes gain in sunrise time from yesterday to today, the second such increase in just five days.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sunrise 6:45 am: Oak firmly holding its ground

Occasionally the Dawn Joggers deviate from a Sunday hike and take a walk instead, often selecting an unexplored neighborhood. Such was the case this drizzly morning, when they set out with Cassie to take a look at a cluster of streets between Alpine Road and San Francisquito Creek. They'd jogged by this neighborhood, with its mix of architectural styles, hundreds of times but never detoured down any of the lanes that dead end at the creek.

What they found on close inspection was an amazing hodge podge of houses - cabins built in the 30s or 40s (some beautifully maintained, others dilapidated hippie huts), mostly routine 60s/70s era two story tract homes, and brand new mini mansions tucked adjacent to the creek. One house appeared to have been constructed with an existing oak tree in mind; the tree was spared and the roofline was adjusted.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sunrise 6:46 am: Arastradero aglow in emerald

The 609-acre Arastradero Preserve features rolling savanna grassland which the Dawn Joggers saw at its emerald green best this morning. The annual display of wildflowers is still to come. We encountered more humans than animals today, due to our later weekend start. What a blessing to be so close to such great open space.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Sunrise 6:47 am: An oak of another world

Upcoming weekend commitments caused the Dawn Joggers to tackle the Dish this morning rather than tomorrow. The increasingly early sunrise - another two minutes gained from yesterday - translated into a lot more traffic than encountered on previous Friday Dish runs, mostly walkers but some fellow joggers. We were also greeted by the current crop of grazing cattle, who were hugging the recreation paths. Even though it was light when we headed up the first hill, just the right camera angle gave the ground in front an oak an otherworldly glow.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sunrise 6:49 am: More water for the ducks

The Dawn Joggers hit the top of the stairs at Lake Lagunita this morning and saw less a lake and more a pond. The outlook was not good for a spring crop of ducklings. But a short jog down the lake's western bank revealed that new water was flowing into the lake.

There are a number of dams, lakes, reservoirs, deep wells and pump stations spread across Stanford land. According to a university official, Lake Lagunita is only filled if San Francisquito Creek flows are available and after Felt Lake is completely full. And it usually is filled only for spring quarter.

Yes, it was still chilly this morning - around 40, up from the the high 30s of the past few days.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sunrise 6:50 am: New acquaintances

The saddest part of the Dawn Joggers daily ritual is when long time "members of the early morning community" disappear. What happened, we wonder, to the woman who we saw walking ever Monday, Wednesday, and Friday by the biz school for a good eight years? We never knew her name but we'd stop and chat sometimes - about construction on campus, a particularly spectacular sunrise, why we'd been absent from our routine.

The flip side, of course, is when we make new acquaintances. Every since new housing opened on Sand Hill, we've been meeting some new dog friends and their guardian owners. Caesar, the German Shepherd, and Toni, the miniature poodle, are quite a pair, walked daily by a gracious and blithe owner, only too happy to stop and regal us with stories about their relationship. No surprise, Toni rules the household.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sunrise 6:51 am: Trees with a mind of their own

For years the Dawn Joggers have been perplexed by the "trees that won't lose their leaves" that line a walkway near Governor's Corner on the Stanford campus. They appear to have a mind of their own. Like other deciduous trees, the leaves on these trees turn brown. But they don't fall off. Instead the trees hold on to them for dear life - even through major wind storms. Amazingly, new growth appears in the Spring nevertheless.

Two other notes: Cassie the Aussie accompanies the DJs on their (shorter) Tuesday/Thursday jogs around Lake Lagunita; sniffing has become an even more major occupation now that she's 12. And the sun rose two minutes earlier today than yesterday!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sunrise 6:53 am: Celebrating Aussies

It was a brisk 38 degrees when the Dawn Joggers set out this morning to cross a near deserted Stanford campus due to the Presidents Day holiday. Shortly after crossing the bike bridge over San Francisquito Creek, we ran into a bundled up Paul and his Australian Shepherd, Patches, who looks much like the current Aussie star, Ch. Caitland Isle Take a Chance. This Canadian bred dog, known as Chance, took second place in the Herding Group at the Westminster Kennel Club show, the highest placement ever for an Australian Shepherd. These very active and very intelligent dogs are a breed that started in the American West, not "down under" as their name might imply.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sunrise 6:54 am: Black and white world

Most Sundays will find the Dawn Joggers and Cassie hiking various loop trails that connect Portola Valley Ranch with Blue Oaks and Los Trancos. There's very little traffic on these wonderful wooded paths, and depending on time constraints, we can do hikes of between an hour and two hours. Today we did "short Portola" and the male DJ brought along his Leica Digilux 2 and shot black and white.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Sunrise 6:55 am: Jogging "the Dish"

From 1994 to 2000, running "the Dish" (pictured in 2/11 post) was the Dawn Joggers Saturday morning routine (albeit not at dawn!). From our home to the 'backside' of the dish, up the long hill and then another long hill, and back down by Lake Lagunita to home is about six miles. The climbs make it a good workout.

Then Stanford fenced the dish area in and banned dogs. Cassie was still a very spry six-year-old at the time and Aussies need their exercise. So we had to find alternatives to the Dish.

Now that Cassie is 12 and joining us every other day, we're back to jogging the dish on Saturdays. It's the perfect vantage point for viewing the Bay Area on a day such as today after a rainfall. It's was crystal clear with temeratures in the 40s. We could see the snow on Mt. Hamilton as well as the City in the distance.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Sunrise 6:56 am: Head start on the weekend

For the past two years, the Dawn Joggers have driven out to Arastradero Preserve with Cassie in tow on Friday mornings. At least on those Fridays when it's light enough and when there hasn't been significant rainfall.

Today - where we happened to gain two minutes over yesterday's sunrise - it was very brisk (snow is predicted down to 2,000 feet) but absolutely gorgeous. Spring green combined with blue skies and scattered clouds. The "count" (defined as how many critters we encounter) was just three - one cottontail rabbit and two deer.

We've seen a lot wildlife at Aratradero Preserve over the years, jogging and hiking at various times during the day - deer, bunnies, a flock of wild turkeys, bobcats, snakes (including rattlers) and coyote. Our hunch is the rash of mountain lion spottings are actually coyotes, which are leggier and lighter colored than those we used to see in our suburban neighborhood in Southern California years ago.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sunrise 6:58 am: Worried about homes and jobs

In the 15 years the Dawn Joggers have been on patrol in the Bay Area, we've been treated to the annual appearance of Lake Lagunita on the Stanford campus. We seem to recall that early on, once the lake had filled, it stayed full until Spring when it was drained. More recently, it's filled as the result of big rainfalls, such as we had around the holidays, but then slowly receded. At least until the powers-that-be on campus open the spigot from other lakes on university land and allow a fresh stream of water to enter.

This is always a topic great concern for the DJs as a full lake provides "homes and jobs" for a lively community of ducks. Even though the lake is down considerably from early January (you can see the water marks - and that white stuff is heavy frost), they were an active group this morning. We will be watching anxiously -and praying for more water - as there is hardly anything sadder than a new crop of fuzzy ducklings left with only a puddle.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sunrise 6:59 am: Red dawn

More accurately Cardinal dawn, as the sun shone on what was once a Stanford working barn. This is one of the Dawn Joggers favorite sights, at its peak this time of year when the rising sun catches the weathered wood and bricks just so.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sunrise 7:00 am: Early morning community

The Dawn Joggers usually spend about five months of the year running in the dark. Valentine's Day is traditionally the turning point to lightness with the sun rising at 7:00.

One of the great things about our meeting the dawn together is the way a community gets formed. Saw Paul this morning and his Aussie, Patches, purchased, we must add, due to his acquaintance with our Aussie, Cassie. We've also been running into a young Bernese and his master frequently. And then there's the Stanford facilities guys who evidently meet for a early morning coffee break at Lake Lagunita, home to ducks and geese when there's water.

It's amazing the bonds that form from these frequent encounters with the same people - we've celebrated successes, mourned deaths, shared challenges - all with a group we rarely encounter outside the early AM. Many grace-filled moments.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Sunrise 7:01 am: Light and darkness

One of the Dawn Joggers most treasured sites is the golden hue of a rising sun cast on the old Stanford barn, the one that's now a bank, not the one that's still in use. Such was the case this morning, when we were treated once again to a balmy, cloudless morning.

Just as we spotted the the light on the barn, we noticed a homeless man who had set up camp in Stanford's arboretum, still asleep. It's a reminder that all are not so fortunate in the affluent Bay Area. But all remain the children of God.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sunrise 7:02 am: Coastside Moms

"Never on Sunday" is largely the rule of the Dawn Joggers. Instead it's off for a hike, accompanied by Cassie the Australian Shepherd. The Bay Area has been experiencing a week plus long spate of balmy weather, so it was over the hill to the coast.
We started south of Half Moon Bay for a stroll along the Coastal Walk and then headed for Pescadero, about 12 miles south.
There we stopped at Harley Farms Goat Dairy to pick up some of their delicious cheeses. Bonus, the first of some of the 500 babies born each Spring had just appeared in the last 24 hours. We finished the outing with lunch by Pescadero Creek under the redwoods.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Sunrise 7:03 am: Beginnings

For almost 25 years, my husband and I have been rising before dawn - at least in most months - and jogging as the sun rose. Along the way, we've seen wondrous sunrises, encountered all kinds of critters and started each day together in a kind of sacred silence. Dawn jogs can be industrious - I've written marketing copy, designed brochures in my head and come up with lead generation programs. And they can be reflective - prayer, after all, is not asking but rather listening. They've also become a bit obsessive, not just because they happen through rain, sleet and snow but also in charting what time the sun actually comes up. Did you know that living at latitude 37.4 degrees north and longitude 122.2 degrees west that, following the shortest day of the year in December, it starts staying lighter at day's end before it starts getting lighter in the morning? Just the kind of arcane detail picked up through daily dawn jogs.