Sunday, April 1, 2012

Kent Trail and Alpine Lake - 4/1/12

          It was a sunny Sunday afternoon when Sarah and I decided to head out to Sky Oaks and the lakes for a short leisurely hike. We parked at the edge of Alpine Lake near the Bon Tempe Dam and set off on the fire road that crosses the dam itself. We made our way across the dam taking notice of the dozen or so cormorants sunning themselves on the boom that stretches across the lake. At the far end of the dam we took a right toward the Kent Trail. Bright and shiny Buttercups as well as a few California Poppies decorated the hillside. The fire road dead ends at Alpine Lake where the Kent Trail begins, closely following the lakeshore.
          We followed the Kent Trail for a little over a mile as it undulates along the shore taking us from beneath the deep shade of Douglas Firs, to open landscapes with serpentine boulders and low growing chaparral. Checker Lilies were inconspicuously blooming along the trailside in places and are easy to miss if you’re not looking hard.
Checker Lilies

          We traveled a little further before venturing out onto a secluded peninsula where we relaxed at the edge of the lake. We enjoyed views out over the lake with Dutchman’s Rock and Liberty Peak in the backdrop.
Alpine Lake

          A red tailed hawk circled above the lake taking advantage of a thermal. We also observed an Osprey dive repeatedly into the water in the same spot again and again with no results. It was flying awkward and I wondered if it was ok.
          We relaxed a bit before heading back towards the Bon Tempe Dam. Right on the side of the trail we noticed a dismembered bird wing still fresh with bloody flesh. It was certainly not there when we passed by an hour earlier and we were curious as to what had happened. Could it have been the wrath of a Cooper’s Hawk?
Dismembered Wing

          We arrived back at the dam where I hiked a little further down the Shadyside Trail while Sarah made her way to the car. Not long after we parted ways Sarah was lucky enough to have an experience with an otter. The otter swam towards her near the spillway and got right out of the water and walked towards her before sliding back into the lake. I’ve never seen an otter in the vicinity of the Fairfax reservoirs and was quite jealous that I missed the opportunity.
          I hiked along the Shadyside trail where Milkmaids and Hounds Tongue bloomed among the shaded forest floor. There were still enough rains to be supporting a variety of fungus including Witches Butter and Orange Peel Fungus. About halfway down the Shadyside Trail I was looking for signs of Coral Root Orchids starting to pop up when I noticed several turrets which are home to the Turret Spider.

Aerial View of a Turret Spider Burrow

          Turret Spiders are exclusive to California. Northerly facing slopes in the state’s moist woodlands provide the preferable habitat for Turret Spiders. It is believed that females are the respected elders living up to sixteen years, nearly twice as long as their male counterparts. Stir Crazy seems to be an unknown concept to these spiders as they spend nearly their entire life in their burrow with the exception of the males who leave once to search for a mate before dying.
          I tried to coax one of the spiders out using a blade of grass as a decoy without any luck. I’m not sure whether the turrets were empty, or if they just weren’t interested in my spider charming.
          Remembering that Sarah was waiting for me back at the car to have lunch, I jogged back to the trail head. We tailgated at the edge of Alpine Lake watching several Ospreys soaring overhead in search of fish. Meanwhile a fisherman of the humankind had a bit of luck himself as we watched him reel in a large fish.


  1. I thought about taking this hike recently to look for Indian Pink and whatever else I might find. Never would have imagined an otter being in there. The parking fee up there is kinda crazy though. Guess they want to keep the riff-raff out, and it works!

  2. John - The parking fee really is steep. I buy a year pass because I live close enough to really take advantage but I still cringe. In the past I've parked at the golf course then ridden my bike along the golf links toward the lakes, skipping the fee. The Indian Pinks do go off pretty good there right along the trail among the serpentine.