Gorgeous Litter

It’s the time of year for litter – leaf litter, that is. Max has been enjoying
finding different colors and shapes, even from the same tree. We found silver,
yellow, green, orange, and red leaves yesterday and today on our hikes, along
with gall balls.

Gall balls are produced primarily by oak trees. A tiny wasp lays its eggs
between the tissues of its tiny new leaves, and the leaves grow around the eggs,
expanding as the eggs develop. They are easy to find beneath any mature oak
this time of year, as they fall when the leaves fall. You can’t miss the balls
that can be as large as golf balls and come in tans, browns, or blacks. Picking
one up, you’ll be impressed with how light they are – great all-natural floats
for fishing line. Looking up close, you can see many tiny holes to show where
the tiny, mature wasps burrowed out.

Gall balls are dear to me, not because I’m a geeky scientist, but because they
were a treasure to find, in my childhood. The oaks in Oregon tend to produce
very small, more fragile balls, often with speckles on the outside. My brother,
sister, and I used to hunt for them in the woods or under the big oak we had our
swing on. When one was found, we had such fun stepping on it and hearing the
loud “pop” as its outer orb collapsed. You can’t pop the gall balls in the Bay
Area, but some of you have experienced a similar joy popping the “floats” on
seaweed at the beach or popping bubble wrap when you get a shipped package.

We hope you can get outside to enjoy the cherished litter of the season – leaf
litter and the strings of bark, gall balls, and clumps of moss that can come
with it, as many trees shed their annual costume of foliage.

Following are this week’s events. This is the last week that Pippa will lead
Monday 4:30 PM Toddler Treks, as she is moving them to 10:30 AM on Wednesday.

Monday, November 1st at 11 am join Amy B. and her wee ones for a hike and a
picnic at Stevens Creek Trail beginning from Creekside Park at Easy Street in
Mountain View. Any stroller or carrier will work; the path is a lovely two-lane
paved one. We’ll have the option of walking towards the bay or towards the hills
(the trail has been extended through Mountain View). For the bay direction, the
first and last quarter of this hike is well shaded, and we hope to have some bay
breezes, in case it’s warm. For the hill direction, the trail is shaded for the
majority of the hike. For more information about the trail or directions, see
The Stevens Creek Trail Webpage
Bring a picnic lunch for your family. If you’re running late, call Amy at

Monday, November 1st at 4:30 pm join Pippa and Ruth for a Toddler Trek at
Foothills Park in Palo Alto at 3300 Page Mill Road. We’ll walk along the side of
Lake Boronda to a bridge and back. Toddlers will be encouraged to walk, but you
are welcome to bring transport if you like. The path is flat but gravelly – you
may struggle with a normal stroller in places. Warning – you can access the lake
at a few points – be ready to restrain your child or bring a change of clothing!
If you are not a Palo Alto resident, please email Pippa (pippa@…) with
your name so you can be put on the guest list. We’ll meet at the car park just
inside the gates. More info and directions:
If you’re running late, give Pippa a call at

Tuesday, November 2nd at 2 PM join Megan and little Vera for a Stroller Hike at
Rancho San Antonio in Cupertino/Los Altos Hills. We’ll do an almost entirely
paved, flat path going to the farm, and possibly go past it. The road is perfect
for trikes or bikes, if toddlers or young children want to ride. Any baby
transport will work. Meet at the upper parking lot where model airplanes are
flown (just past the entrance, turn right, then left into the first parking area
uphill from the lower two). For more information or directions, see the Rancho
San Antonio Page
Sorry, dogs not allowed. This hike is at least half shaded. If you’re running
late, call Megan at 408-409-3206.

Thursday, November 4th at 4:30 pm join Debbie, little Max, and wee Holly for a
Toddler Trek at Calero County Park in San Jose. Calero County Park is a lovely,
open park with rolling hills in the South Bay. The trails are generally wide
fire roads, so joggers or baby carriers work best, for non-walking children, but
we’ll encourage the toddlers to run or walk themselves. We’ll tackle a hill to
visit the pond and grasslands (via Figueroa/Vallecito/Pena/Los Cerritos Trail
Loop), or head over to check out the lake, after visiting with the horses. We’ll
talk about dragonflies as there are usually a lot here – they are interesting as
they spend half of their lives in the water. Meet at the parking lot by the
ranger’s office, across from the horse grazing area. For information on the area
or directions, see Bay Area Hiker’s Webpage on Calero
(http://www.bahiker.com/southbayhikes/calero.html) or The Santa Clara County
Page on Calero
). If you’re running late, call Debbie at 650-776-1082. This is a Santa Clara County Healthy
Trails (www.parkhere.org) outing.

Enjoy the colors of the season!

-Debbie, little Max, and wee Holly

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