Mt. Umunhum

Gorgeous day. So I decided to drive to Mt. Umunhum, which has only been open to the public since last September. Mt. Umunhum is a signature site in the South Bay. For 10,000 years this mountain was treasured by native Americans. It was mined in the 1800s and became an Air Force Station in 1957 monitoring the Bay Areas during the Cold War. The signature tower is the only remanent that remains from this period. It can be seen from all over the South Bay.

In the 1990s, when I was at YSI (the Youth Science Institute) I was taken up to this site, which was not open to the public, by a County Parks Supervisor. At that time there were a number of buildings that had been abandoned by the military. She was hoping we could open a YSI site in one of them. But since it was more that a half hour drive up a winding mountains road, it did not see like a site that most people would be willing to access. It was a nice idea.

The mountain towers above the Bay Area at 3486 feet (a thousand feet above where we live at the top of another mountain). It has a 360 degree view of all the surrounding area including all of Silicon Valley, the coast and parts north and  south. And someday it may be part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail that is slowly taking place that may offer a trail that rivals the Appalachian Trail.

Even as a mountain woman, this site takes my breath away.

dandelions in flower and going to seed

What’s Wrong with Dandelions?

Am I stretching too far to see a political message here?

I spent some time today (and yesterday and other days) digging up dandelions by their roots. So why am I spending my time to get rid of an enduring yellow flower that takes absolutely no care? The rains have come and dandelions are sprouting up everywhere. I actually admire their tenacity and even think their small flowers are rather pretty. A couple have already started to bloom in this intemperate weather.

What is my problem? The airy globe of seeds they produce is not unattractive. It is blown off with a puff. It’s said that if you can blow all the seeds off with one blow, you are loved with a passionate love. If some seeds remain, your lover has reservations about the relationship. If a lot of the seeds still remain on the globe, you are not loved at all. Folklore says blowing the seeds off a dandelion carries your thoughts and dreams to your loved ones. Is there a reason for not loving these flowers for their beauty and tenacity? For not wanting strong winds to blow and sow them far and wide? Do they send us a message?

Their problem may come from the same traits that make them so durable. They will not be denied. They crop up everywhere, command space, and dig down deeply with their roots. They take over territory that does not allow other flowers to blossom and spread. Their message is strident and long-lasting. I allow them only because I cannot stop all of them. But I will continue to keep them under control lest they take over and not give the more delicate fauna a chance to temper their advance.




New Beginnings

An immense stately Italian pine graced the entrance to the only main street through the small village of Saratoga when I first moved there forty-eight years ago. It was over a hundred years old at the time. Saratoga marked the end of the urban world that was forming as the once small towns in the valley started uniting to become a sprawling metropolis. It marked my continuing migration toward the mountains and watched over me as I found my place in those mountains.

For almost a half a century I passed that tree almost every day. At last in 2015 it became that tree’s time to return to the earth as we all must do someday. Every day after that, passing by that spot, I was aware of the hole in the air that remained.

But, just like the old tree almost two hundred years ago, a new tree had now sprung up and was waiting. It was time for a new beginning. May this newcomer prosper and watch over people like me a hundred years from now when I too have become part of the earth like the stately old pine. I will always remember that lovely old tree.

New Beginnings from CApoppy on Vimeo.

scarp in driveway


I once had a dream that I was floating in the air just above the ground. I could see the entire California coast. I could sail over the hills and dip down close enough to Earth that I could talk to people I saw. No tugs, no pulls, no cares, I just floated along.

But eventually I awoke and felt the force of the earth holding me down, tugging me and pulling me in various directions. I had to obey the rule of gravity.

It isn’t just humans and animals, and plants that feel the weight of the world. The very ground itself is subject to the pull of gravity. It sits firmly in place until it is moved by an earthquake or a storm. And so it is this year. The rains have come and melted the earth. Chunks of it have been pulled downward under the weight of this water. And I have witnessed it personally.

As the rains came wave after wave starting in February, the access road to our house in the mountains tried to channel the water off and send it harmlessly downhill. For the forty-six years we have lived here it has always worked this way–until this year. The incessant rain sought the lowest point in the road and worked its way into the soil eventually turning it soft and muddy.

First there was a crack in the drive. The crack widened and started to sink. It sank lower and lower and new cracks appeared. The rains continued. Part of the road broke off and sank another four feet. Some of it tumbled down a hundred feet, or so, to a road below on the hillside. That road started to crack and to slump. This scarp on our mountain is on its way downhill. Our beautiful mountain is on its epic journey to become part of the landscape below.

We are will aware of the gravity of our situation.

Going Batty

For many years I knew very little about bats. I knew they got into attics and that people had little time for them.

A few years ago, when I woke up just before dawn up here on the mountain, I sat drinking my coffee in the living room and looking out the window as parts of the mountain came alive and other parts went to sleep. Owls quit hooting and quail emerged. Suddenly lightening fast flashes streaked by outside the window. I was intrigued and sat transfixed. As dawn broke something landed on the flashing below the roof. It stayed for a moment, seemed to slip down, and then darted away. This happened repeatedly until final I could see it was a bat. What happened next was remarkable. Somehow this creature managed to hang on to the eaves and squeeze up under the flashing.

I got up early for the next few days and observed this same phenomenon repeatedly.  I had known Dave Johnston from my days of working with him at the Youth Science Institute. He had become a bat expert.  And I had come to appreciate the amazing place bats have in keeping the planet in balance. They eat up bugs at a phenomenal rate, are under appreciated and at risk. Gordon, my husband who had built much of our furniture, understood this and found plans for building a bat house. He built one which we installed under the eaves by our porch. It had a grooved backboard which gives bats a “ladder” for climbing in and a slit which they can also use to access the interior.

Since then we have regularly provided hostel space for bats. Some years we have them; some years we don’t. But this year is good. We walk by them in daylight, knowing they are securely sleeping. And at night they swoop out and diminish our bug population. They are back! How do we know? You decide.



A Moving Experience

Neighbors, up here at the end of the road, who live two houses down are moving. They need to live closer to her elderly parents. The house sold and the time had come. Yesterday morning we saw a medium-sized moving truck coming up the mountain as we were going down. It was a large truck, but not one of those gigantic moving vans. Trucks that size frequently go up and down our narrow winding road, albeit slowly.

Then last evening about 7:00 the emails started flooding in from the folks in our Bohlman Road Yahoo group.

“Keith was on his way home and saw where a big truck lost his brakes and plowed into what we think is the garage of a house below the T-junction.   Fire trucks are there. “

“Hopefully, no one has been injured.”

At 9:30 this morning the truck was indeed still there, but the garage of the house was missing with parts of it dangling down the mountain slope beyond. By noon there was another truck there unloading the contents and reloading into another truck. I stopped to take pictures.

We have sometimes seen a small child riding a tricycle with her mother alongside in the driveway. At times there has been a car parked in the drive. The garage is just uphill and attached to the house. The wheels of the runaway truck missed the left wall of the garage by about two inches. Had it hit that wall it would have toppled over directly onto the roof of the house.

Viewing this scene is one of those times when the world pauses and all motion ceases.

June 6

Tow trucks came and took the truck. What was left this morning was the heart-stopping view of the shattered tiny pink bicycle so often seen on trips down the hill with a small child learning to ride. It had been under the truck. Miraculously everyone is okay.