First Blush

Reflections and sightings from [almost] daily jogging at dawn

Friday, June 30, 2006

Sunrise 5:50 am: A little art, a lot of nature

There are lots and lots of high thistles at Arastradero Preserve this year, making for very artistic pictures. There was also a lot of animal activity this morning. As the Dawn Joggers and Cassie headed up a switchback trail in a ravine, they heard loud, urgent yelps of a coyote, soon spotted on their right. It was answered by loud, high-pitched yelps to their left, the unmistakable sound of pups. The DJs presumed that it was Mom, out on a foraging run, who was warning the pups in the den that danger was in the midst. Once on the top of the ridge, the came across bunny and quail families and then, l00 yards further, another coyote right in the middle of the trail. He (the male DJ insisted it was the pup's father) moved to the neighboring hillside and posed for a portrait, eyeing us watchfully.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sunrise 5:50 am: Many styles of summer

As referenced yesterday, the Dawn Joggers have a lot more company on the Stanford campus due to all the continuing education programs. While Judy and the woman with the weimaraner pup are usually the only people they encounter as the jog around Lake Lagunita, they've been seeing a young woman modestly dressed in long pants, long shirt and hajib. Today she ws joined by three other woman who displayed their cultural preferences from sports bra to hip hop.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sunrise 5:50 am: First sighting of the summer

One of the ironies of jogging at sunrise on the Stanford campus is that the Dawn Joggers have more early morning company during the summer than during the regular school year. The university runs a lot of youth sports camps as well as continuing education programs for adults. No program participants have caused the DJs more amusement over the years than what they refer to as the "Revenue Generators." This is the group of mainly (but not exclusively) 40 something white males who attend the six week Stanford Executive Program (price tag $45,900, hence their nickname). Until new dedicated housing was built on the south side of campus, they used to stay in Roble Hall across from the playing field. As the DJs jogged across the field, they would reliably be seen going through morning exercises lead by an attractive young woman. Participation would always be greater at the beginning of the session than at the end, and the group would express its competitiveness on jogs around Lake Lagunita. The DJs thought they spotted the group at a distance on Monday but were perplexed to see everyone just walking. They caught up with them this morning "running" up and down the steps of Encina Hall, as always led by an attractive young woman.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sunrise 5:49 am: Good place for a stump

Some jobs are best left unfinished. Such is the case with the removal of a large eucalyptus tree located between San Francisquito Creek and Sand Hill Road. It was cut down a couple of months ago over a week's time. The reason for its removal was puzzling; it didn't appear to be diseased or in the way of one of Stanford's many construction projects. It was such a large tree that the cutting and removal of its trunk and branches involved lots of workers and large equipment. Then they disappeared, leaving a stump with stairs cut out on two sides. The Dawn Joggers have noticed it's already attracted its share of climbers and sitters. This morning, with the sun rising in the background, the male DJ and Cassie decided to explore the view from the top.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sunrise 5:49 am: Unexpected community garden

The Dawn Joggers take more or less the same route on their Monday and Wednesday jogs across Stanford campus, entering the campus on the north by the golf course, running straight across the quad to the dorms on the south side of campus before turning east, going by Frost Amphitheatre and the business school, andn then exiting through the arboretum. They cross Sand Hill by the new upscale senior housing. It was on the senior housing grounds that they both spotted a community garden at near the same moment. It was just to the right of the regular path and they realized they realized they past buy many times without noticing it. Both flowers and vegatables had been planted.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sunrise 5:49 am: Cars like you've never seen 'em

The Dawn Joggers and Cassie walked over to the 40th annual Palo Alto Concours d'Elegance, a fundraising event for local charities put on by the Lions Club. This year's theme featured Chryslers (lots of 60s era Imperials!) and 'lovable British cars" but there were plenty of crowd-pleasing Cords, Corvettes and Packards as well.

Two cars from the UK caught the DJs attention. One was a 1955 Allard JR, thought to be the last in existence, which had been built to provide Sydney Allard with a competitive car to use in British hill climbs and spring races. It continued to be raced in North America, outfitted with a Cobra engine.The other was a 1964 Trident Peel produced by Peel Engineering on the Isle of Man. This diminutive, three-speed charmer cost $760 new; it's motto was "almost cheaper than walking." Biggest drawbacks were listed as "sauna-like interior" and "uncontrollable mirth." It still could draw a crowd.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Sunrise 5:48 am: Painting quality iris photo

Soon after the Dawn Joggers headed off for their Saturday "Big Dish" run this morning, they came across some lovely irises. Framed against a backdrop of concrete, the resulting photo has a painting quality. Most First Blush photos are shot with a Lumix FX9, which has a Leica lens. It's very light weight and fits easily in a pocket of running shorts. The male DJ has been a photograher since he was a teenager and spent his early career as press photographer doing mainly feature work. Lately he's been waxing poetically about his camera equipment (and eyeing new equipment!) on his blog. An archive of black and white photos shot mainly in the 80s brings back many memories.
PS: the water had been turned off into Lake Lagunita; saw what must have been the last of this year's crop of frogs.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Sunrise 5:48 am: It's all about the fish

About a year after Dawn Joggers moved back to the Bay Area, chef Elka Gilmore did a short stint at the Village Pub in Woodside. (This was the 'old' Village Pub before the remodel and arrival of current chef Mark Sullivan.) They were dining there one evening, and the female DJ had ordered Elka's special fish. It was - and still may be - one of the most wonderfully prepared fish (it had wedges of blood oranges) she had ever eaten. It was so tasty, that every few minutes, she'd' say, "This fish is fantastic."

On that night the question, "How was the fish?" was born. It's always asked by the male Dj after the female DJ has gone on and on about something, usually something that is pleasing her.

At Arastradero this morning, it was all about the fish. The Friday ritual of jogging at dawn at this preserve is one of the best things the two DJs do together, and the female DJ often exclaims along the way, "Isn't it spectacular...look at the light...isn't this wonderful..." She says it so often that the male DJ will turn around (he's always in the lead) and ask, "And how was the fish?" This summer there is a second "fish story" going on at Arastradero - the height of the grasses. The female DJ had commented about the fact that they were so tall so frequently this morning that the male DJ turned around and took a pictue.

[Does anyone know where Elka Gilmore is cooking these days? A quick web search revealed inconclusive results.]

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sunrise 5:48 am: The case of the mysterious bicycle - update

A couple of weeks ago the mysterious black bicycle, which is reliably tethered on one side of Sand Hill Road or the other, lost its seat. This morning the Dawn Joggers both noticed that it had been replaced by a new white bike. The bike's purpose and its owner remain a mystery.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sunrise 5:47 am: And now the dawn gets later

The Dawn Joggers will begin to see the first blush of the sun's rays illuminating the Stanford golf course less and less frequently over the next weeks. The "long days of summer" actually get shorter following the first day of summer, which is today. The Bay Area gets about 15 hours of daylight at this time of year.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sunrise 5:47 am: Summer solstice on the lake

On their run around Lake Lagunita this morning (frogs still hopping; ducklings still swimming), the Dawn Joggers missed the summer solstice, marking the longest day of the year, by about 10 hours. According to an interesting web site, Eric Weisstein's World of Astronomy, the date and time of the 2006 solstice is June 21 at 12:23 am universal time. Universal time is the number of hours, minutes and seconds which have elapsed since midnight (when the sun is at a longitude of 180 degrees) in the Greenwich time zone. With both England and the U.S. West Coast on "summer" aka daylight savings time, that means the solstice occurs in the Bay Area at 4:23 pm today. The longest day of the year must, in reality, be marked by seconds of difference, not minutes, as the sunrise and sunset have been at the same time for the last few days and will be the same time again tomorrow.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sunrise 5:47 am: Real life "Cars"

The Dawn Joggers came upon a truck named Weird Foot in a parking lot near where most of the engineering buildings are located on the Stanford campus. Looked like something that starred in the movie "Cars." The male DJ commented on the power supply schematic and noticed the variety of apparently decorative formulas. He also determined that it was a gas-powered, four-wheel drive vehicle. The sun's rays had done a perfect job of lighting it for optimal display.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sunrise 5:25 am: Dads, dogs and rocket launch

It was up just past dawn for the female Dawn Jogger who caught a 9:00 am flight from JFK back to the Bay Area in order to get in some Father's Day celebrations. She went from the airport to see her father and was met there by the male DJ, son John and Cassie. All agree that there were few finer fathers/grandfathers than Booka, the name John gave to John Hubbard when he was 15 months old. The name stuck as did one of the few riturals Booka, who is in frail health, still enjoys - giving "Booka bones" to Cassie. "I don't know what man would have done without dogs," Booka commented in his matter of fact manner during today's doling out four small dog biscuits in a row.
Later in the day it was time to work on the Father's Day project, putting together the "hydrogen fuel rocket" John had bought at his company (Sharper Image) store. As is typical with this kind of activity, two hours of putting together and reading through page after page of instructions was followed by three different launches over a 10 minutes period. "Best Father's Day ever," pronounced the male DJ and John.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Sunrise 5:25 am: High and low park happenings

Still solo, the female Dawn Jogger headed into Central Park around 7:30 this morning, hoping to beat what is supposed to be a hot and humid day. The people and dog elements of the park were just gathering, it being a Saturday. But the creatures who live in the park 24/7 were busy going about their morning. The turtles were particularly active; the first one was spotted not surprisingly at Turtle Pond (pictured). A fellow jogger was concerned that maybe there was something wrong with it as it was a distance from the water. But a second turtle was spotted on grass near the Lake, and it was clearly a she as she was busy laying eggs. On a higher note, on the Mall, which is undergoing a renovation and closed in many places, rigging had been set up and trapeze lessons were being offered. New York is really a wonderful place.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Sunrise 5:25 am: Perfect Central Park morning

There is nothing sadder than a solo Dawn Jogger, particularly when doing a much-loved run. Such was the case this morning for the female DJ who's in New York for the weekend. Jogging through Central Park and around the reservoir has been a favorite of both DJs, and they've been lucky enough to enjoy it together a number of times. Conditions were near perfect today - bright sun, high 60s and relatively no humidity. It was before 9:00 am so many dogs were enjoying themselves off leash, including two red merle Australian Shepherds (ages 3 and 5) who politely posed for a photo. Their owner said she gives them a two-hour work out daily. The view of midtown from the top of the reservoir was spectacular as always.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Sunrise 5:47 am: All's well around the lake

While the mysterious construction project adjacent to the golf course had expanded yet again, all was quiet and serene around Lake Lagunita. The sun was bright and the water was still running into the lake, allowing Cassie to take full advantage of her favorite puddle. The vegetation is so thick its hard to see the duck families, although one mom and five half-grown ducklings made an appearance. A nearby fully-mown field was proving happy hunting ground for a blue heron. The Dawn Joggers yet again realized how lucky they were to be near such a great place to enjoy the stillness of the early morning.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sunrise 5:47 am: Remembering Chicago's Cows on Parade

Seven years ago the cows came to the streets of Chicago. Both of the Dawn Joggers agree there have been few cheerier early morning running companions. They were lucky enough to be in the Windy City for a wedding that year and became enchanted with them. Since then there has been cows in other cities as well as hearts, sharks, pigs and who knows what. But in 1999 the Cows on Parade exhibit idea was new to the United States, imported from a similar exhibit the year before in Zurich. Chicago artists painted each cow individually, and after the sidewalk exhibit closed at the end of October, they were auctioned off for charity. They are reminded of the fun of seeing them for the first time when they pass by a cow - one that looks like it could well have been part of the 1999 parade - in the front yard of a Menlo Park home on their Monday/Wednesday jogging route.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Sunrise 5:47 am: Dirt project grows

The Dawn Joggers ran into both Judy and the "English Lady" this morning and the talk was, "What is Stanford up to now?" The mystery dirt first noticed last week is expanding and looking more and more like a golf course related project. That's what the "English Lady" had heard, not new holes for the course itself but a practice course. That led them to discuss their suspicion that the driving range near Lake Lagunita would be relocating to make room for more student housing or some other building. Work has now also begun on an adjacent area to the community garden where just a few days ago a mountain lion was supposedly sighted. [Update from yesterday: the backpack has gone away.]

Monday, June 12, 2006

Sunrise 5:47 am: The case of the little pink backpack

The Dawn Joggers admit they get a bit obsessive about some things. Sightings like the "mysterious bicycle" that is always tethered near Sand Hill Road by the bridge over San Francisquito Creek. Their latest unsolved case concerns the little pink backpack that showed up last Thursday morning tucked next to the hedge of a house on their route. As they live near an elementary school, they figured it would get claimed the next morning. But it remained there all weekend. When they set out this morning, they noticed it had been moved and was now propped up againts a stop sign. Maybe this will provide it better visibility.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sunrise 5:47 am: "Avoid walking at dawn..."

The Dawn Joggers didn't get out with Cassie until Sunday afternoon due to other commitments. And they had not passed by the Stanford Community Garden, which sits just east of the jogging/biking path the runs adjacent to the golf course, since Thursday morning. This area is only 1/2 mile from their suburban neighborhood, so they were astonished to see a newly-posted sign warning that a mountain lion had been spotted in the area. According to another pair of walkers, the lion had stalked a woman who was working in the community garden. It seemed incredible that a lion would have ventured into such a populated area, but fish and game experts say such suburban/urban sightings may be the result of young lions being forced out the home range of adult lions. A killing of a lion in a Gilroy neighborhood a couple of weeks ago has provoked requests for better cooperation and planning between the California Fish and Game Department and local police departments, who are usually ill-equipped to handle the situation of a lion in a populated area. Meanwhile, the sign told the DJs to "fight back if attacked."

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Sunrise 5:47 am: Hiking the Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail

The Dawn Joggers spent most of the day on a 12 mile hike along the Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail in the San Francisco Peninsula Watershed, something they've both wanted to do for some time. This watershed is where the water supply for San Francisco and portions of surrounding counties is stored. It's overseen by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

When they first moved to the Bay Area in 1990, they commuted along Highway 280 into the City and would look longingly at the protected PUC land that runs above Crystal Springs and San Andreas Reservoirs. But access was extremely limited. The female DJ can remember her father talking about the beauty of the area; he'd visited before World War II because his best friend had worked for the water department.

Then in 2003 a 10-mile stretch of trail was opened named the Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail, a part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. The entire watershed consists of 23,000 acres and is home to stands of old growth Douglas fir as well as Cypress that are both amazing given their multiple limbs (In the pictures, the Cypress are the 'stick' trees while the Douglas fir has has the more rounded limbs.)

Hikes are guided, and today's hike was ably and amiably lead by John Fournet of the water department. The DJs were joined by three other hikers. They climbed from 400 feet up to 1,050 feet in the first 1.3 miles; the views from above Crystal Springs were mimimal due to heavy fog. The fog had lifted enough that they did get to see "hidden" Pilarcitos Reservoir, which is located to the east of the trail, "hidden" as a result of its location. And along the way they were accompanied by mule deer and fawns. The group stopped for lunch at mile six and returned along the same trail, enjoying the different perspective of the trail in reverse.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Sunrise 5:47 am: Return to Arastradero

The Dawn Joggers and Cassie headed out to Arastradero, their standard Friday activity, for the first time a month. Not surprisingly, much of the grass land had turned brown, although there were still patches of green, both grasses and other vegetation, in some of the more protected areas. The usual deer and bunnies were spotted, and they could hear the wild turkeys in the distance. What was most distinctive was the height of the vegetation - many grasses were waist high and some of the thistle plants approached six feet. Not good for the upcoming fire season; time to bring in the very efficient goats.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sunrise 5:47 am: Continuing march to graduation

Maybe it's just that they are more aware, what with all the photo taking and discussion of AM observations. But the Dawn Joggers think that it's been a particularly long build up to end of the year/graduation time on the Stanford campus this year.
This morning they saw that the portable storage containers had started to arrive near the Governor's Corners dorm area. Each will get a student's name attached to it, and some will reappear next September. Note on Lake Lagunita conditions: it's continuing to fill, and the frogs are still hopping about. The DJs conferred with Judy, and all agree that they don't ever remember such a long "frog season."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Sunrise 5:47 am: Thoughts on plane trees

The Dawn Joggers pass plane trees many places on the Stanford campus. They're lovely in the morning light, and the DJs have benefited from their shade on many of their canal walks in Europe. But for most of her years in Southern California, the female DJ was baffled by their popularity. She knew them as sycamore trees. In the fall they turned an ugly brown and were a big mess to clean up. A article by Arthurs Gibson of UCLA has now provided her with everything she wanted to know about plane/sycamore trees (they produce male and female flower) and more. (She'd somehow forgotten they line Bruin Walk!)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sunrise 5:47 am: More signs of school end

The Dawn Joggers noted that Lake Lagunita was continuing to gain water, and the flow from the other reservoirs was still going strong (much to Cassie's delight). The lake has long been a venue for parties, maybe more so in the bygone years when the boathouse still existed and the Big Game bonfire was held on the dry lake bed. Partying nowadays appears a little more ad hoc, judging by the empty bottles of malt liquor left on a bench, yet another sign that the term is almost over.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sunrise 5:48 am: Mystery work on field

Just after crossing the bridge over San Francisquito Creek, the Dawn Joggers run along a bike path that's parallel to the golf course. For many years, there was an open field as well as a dressage ring between the path and the fairways. Then about five years ago, maybe longer, a construction site was installed on the field. The DJs have watched on many mornings as the huge dirt carrying trucks come to pick up a load of dirt or big dump trucks arrive to deposit dirt. On Friday they noticed that a large section of what was once field had been leveled. Today, it was still level but about four feet of dirt had been spread over it and markers installed. What's going? It will on the DJs watch list.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sunrise 5:48 am: Appreciating trails nearby

Cassie, who has had just two jaunts around the lake since the Dawn Joggers return, was more than ready to hit one of her favorite Portola Valley trails this morning. It's about perfect for a 12-year-old Aussie, mainly in the shade and with a couple of dipping pools usually available, although today one of her favorites had strangely dried up. As the DJs walked along the 3.5 mile loop that they call "short Portola," they were struck with how scenic things are close to home.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Sunrise 5:48 am: Up early, then Provence deja vu

The Dawn Joggers got on the road early (for a Saturday) knowing they were meeting friends from Maryland at 10:00 am. The sun was still low enough in the sky to cast long shadows as they jogged along the path by the Stanford golf course on their way to tackling the Big Dish circuit.

Friends Barbara and Jeff were in town, partly to visit son Aaron, partly to enjoy California food and wine. Jeff is a huge fan of Ridge wines - he routinely takes along vintages from his cellar when he visits friends in France - and had never visited the winery, which is perched high on a Santa Cruz mountain ridge above Silicon Valley. The winery received significant press in the past week after its 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon won a simultaneous blind tasting held in Napa and London that commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Judgment of Paris. The DJs and friends tasted some of the newer Ridge vintages, then enjoyed lunch in the winery's picnic area, highlighted by a 1994 Ridge Geyserville that Jeff had brought with him from the East. It was almost like being back in Provence.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Sunrise 5:49 am: Light appreciation

A benefit of being up at dawn each day is viewing the sunlight when it's still low in the Eastern sky. One of the gifts the male Dawn Jogger has given to the female DJ is an appreciation of light, when it's filtered through trees and how it changes based on atmospheric condidtion. Today as they came across the Stanford campus, he noticed just how the light was hitting Hoover Tower.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sunrise 5:49 am: Big news day at the lake

Some mornings are quiet for the Dawn Joggers, other are jampacked with sightings and activity. Such was the case today. As the made their way past the series of dorms leading up to Lake Lagunita, they came upon a serious crime scene. Seems the Wall Street Journal and Barrons were being taken from in front of the East Asian Studies Theme House. A warning sign had been posted and minicam installed to catch the culprit or culprits. The fact that anyone clearing a campus of such capitalistic propaganda during their undergraduate days would have been hailed a hero was not lost on them.

The lake itself was a hotbed of activity. A new crop of frogs had emerged from their tadpole state, not in the numbers of a couple of weeks ago but significant enough that the DJs had to watch where they stepped. Then in the best news of the day, Stanford had turned the water from its other reservoirs back on, and it was once again filling the lake. A very good development for the brand new ducklings spotted on Tuesday.