Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mount Diablo

A visit by car to Mount Diablo, 3,849 feet high, and standing high above the surrounding low hills and flat valleys. The view is fantastic on all sides, though it is said to be at its best in winter and early spring after a storm has cleared the air. 
Looking roughly southwest
The view towards the north

The summit beacon used to be used for navigation, but is now lit only to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day in December.
The view from Diablo Valley Overlook, looking to the west
One of the weird eroded rock formations of Rock City
Looking back to the summit

A day out in the car . . . there are lots of walking trails, but not a lot of shade and shelter. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

This is the life

We indulge in a lazy morning, as a few scraps of high cloud chalk their way across the constant blue.
We're running out of clothes so we put a wash on.  Harry goes out to buy a card adapter for his phone and comes back with large blueberry scones.
We have a leisurely coffee - with the scones, then we are off to meet the family at Heather Farm Pool in Walnut Creek. It's an easy journey by car, much shorter than our excursion by  bus and BART last Wednesday.
A good soaking is had by all, before Brian gathers the clan and they head for home.
Harry decides to get used to US driving again and we follow the Ygnacio Valley Way out of Walnut Creek, past Shadelands and into Concord, then over the hills to Pittsburg, which must be one of the ugliest places around - full of wind turbines, a power plant, and a neighbourhood of grotty looking houses. OK, maybe I exaggerate a little.
At all events we elect not to stop for lunch here. We find our way  back to the correct road, then join the Ca 24 which brings us back to Lafayette.

A large cup of tea later, we head out in search of easy eating, and after a stroll to test the taste of the main street we end up at an American diner with veg and polenta and fried egg. With fries on the side. The veg seems to be rather coarse kale, but the waiter is very friendly and we're  hungry.
We swill it all down with a coffee, pay the bill and walk back through the balmy streets. It feels rather like Spain on a late summer evening.
Lots of outdoor socialising and dining, adults and children, all pretty relaxed.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

after dinner

after dinner 
we play hangman and squares
then walk home
lit by the full moon
through redwoods and pines

busy highway crossed
traffic noise left behind
the evening still warm
the chirp of crickets
serenades our steps

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Lafayette Reservoir


The reservoir is twenty minutes walk away
let's say a mile or so 

Two tracks to choose from
a two-mile gentle stroll near the water
or a five-mile hike around the basin's rim.
This is not the rim of a wine glass
you'll coax no smooth sustained notes 
with a wet fingertip.
This is a roller-coaster of a walk -
downhill is the scary part.
It's vertical, she said. 
An exaggeration, just.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Yorkshire Day, I believe . . .

It seems it's Yorkshire Day!  Happy Yorkshire Day, one and all!

http://www.yorkshireridings.org/news/yorkshire-day.html tells you some things about it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Public footpaths

Anyone who reads my blogs will know that one of my major obsessions is walking, usually along the UK's  fantastic network of footpaths.  This is an experience difficult, if not impossible, to replicate in other countries. Our Ordnance Survey maps are pretty darned good too!

When I first started lowland walking, as opposed to hill walking, many of the footpaths were hard to find, badly signed, or blocked by growing crops. This has improved enormously over the past twenty or thirty years, and most farmers accept that walkers have rights of way, and make the paths clear to help us keep to them.  It is not always easy, even now. Apart from the occasional bull in a field - legally with a herd of cows, apart from certain breeds, which make many of us apprehensive, some farmers fail to make the rights of way clear.  Most of them do, and I have no objection to seeing the words "Private. No public access" - this often helps to clarify the route. And believe me most of us don't enjoy getting lost and wandering through farmland randomly seeking a way through! 
Of course we as walkers have to play our part, and make sure that we close gates - sometimes with two catches if that is how we find them. We were caught out by this recently when the first walker didn't communicate with the last one through.
Fortunately the farmer concerned was happy to point this out to us, and tell us why. The cows rub against them and sometimes this opens gates with only one fastening.  He also wondered what we'd learned today, and why anyone would want to go walking through his fields at all. But all this was done in a friendly and reasonable manner - on both sides.
We had a different experience some months ago, when we couldn't find a path, although it was marked on the OS map,  and wandered into the farmyard to ask. The farmer told us we had no right to be there, and refused point blank to help us find the path. I contacted the local authority to check whether there was a right of way.  When we returned from the opposite direction a few months later,  all was clear and easy to follow.
Maybe this man had the attitude I've seen expressed on occasions - that public footpaths are an outdated survival from the times when agricultural workers had to walk to work and use the quickest route. Nowadays there is no need for them and they simply provide access for criminals and ne'er-do-wells.

A completely different problem is the way that footpaths are now frequently chopped into pieces by the modern equivalent of fast flowing rivers - major roads. Some lucky places have a tunnel or a footbridge which doesn't add too much time to the walk. it can be both annoying and unpleasant to have to take a half-mile diversion alongside a noisy road. In other places there is no alternative but to wait patiently for a break in the traffic - that's fine if you are just a small group of adults, but I wouldn't like to do it with a large group, and certainly not with children.

A side-effect of this is that certain routes are very rarely used, and stiles can be neglected, broken or overgrown - all of this is an extra disincentive to walking there. We are constantly encouraged to be more   active, and walking should be a simple way to achieve this. It shouldn't be an extreme sport of jungle-hacking, awkward stile climbing and traffic dodging.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Le Tour en Angleterre

We decided against braving the crowds around Yorkshire for the weekend of July 5th,  but got hooked on the TV watching the cyclists tearing around some familiar scenery. 
So good did everywhere look that on Monday 7th we made the journey over to Cambridgeshire - about an hour's drive - and found ourselves a spot near the village of Hinxton a few miles south of Cambridge. 

The route was full of people without being overcrowded, and we enjoyed the atmosphere as the end of the publicity 'caravane' drove by, with much hooting and bleeping.  
A flying keyring was our haul from this!  
No, not the keyring.
Next came various police motorcyclists and then the Skoda cars which we'd already spotted turning off the M11 to Cambridge. 

Lots of families with youngsters, as well as cyclists who'd travelled a few miles for a different sort of day out.
The two breakaway cyclists hurtled past, and the peloton came into view, zipping past in a whirl of colour and noise from the roadside.

After the excitement a local cycling club rolled by, a little more sedately.
Once the road was clear cyclists took advantage of the road closure for a leisurely ride on a usually busy route.
Time to go - not easy to find a decent place to eat on the route we'd chosen. The local pub was serving, but we thought they'd be too full.  The next one we found was closed - surely not a great business decision, and when we made our way to Royston, the town centre had nothing we wanted. 
Still, we had our trusty coffee making kit, and found a quiet road for a break, then headed back to the A14 and westward.