Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Spring Colors of Joseph D. Grant County Park

Date: March 18, 2013
Place: Joseph D. Grant County Park, San Jose, California
Coordinates: 37.34268, -121.71602
Length: about 2.5 miles
Difficulty: easy to moderate

Map scanned from park brochure, trail labeled yellow.
 A day before my friend was to go back I took her hiking a trail in Joseph D Grant County Park. I was testing a loop trail on which I was planning to take the chikas 4H hiking project. Part of that trail I knew from my earlier visit there last September. This visit, however, I could barely recognize the place. Since last Fall it went through such transformation!

The view to the southwest from the Yerba Buena trail

We parked at Grant Lake and started walking east on the Yerba Buena trail. For about a mile the trail goes through open grassland along Mt. Hamilton Rd. The hills are all green now with grasses, nearly all of them invasive species from the Old World. The grass looks uniformly green from afar, but a closer look revealed a whole lot of spring ephemerals everywhere.  Once spotted, they cannot be missed, these patches of color on the green mat. Here are some of the flowers we've seen there, please click on the photos for a larger view:
Douglas's meadowfoam

Lupinus bicolor
Ranunculus californicus

Dodecantheon hendersonii

Cidalcea malviflora
Viola douglasii

Many of the oak trees there are deciduous and were just beginning to bud out their leaves. Here's a freshly-folliaged Buckeye tree nestled between the late-awakend oaks:

After about a mile we made a sharp turn into the loop trail that leads to McReary Lake. This trail enters a narrow creek that quickly deepens into a decent size gorge. It was in this creek that we met this lovely dow who stayed stayed for a long time and allowed us to photograph her from a close distance.

Although more shaded, there were still quite a few wildflowers by that part of the trail as well.
Cynoglossum grande
I like trees with personality. This fallen tree looks like it's crawling out of the creek.

An interesting bird that hopped in the trees caught my eye. I spent quite a lot of time trying to get a clear shot of it. It didn't yield easily, but with much patience I eventually managed to photograph it. I was very proud of myself - it is a bird I've never seen before: a Varied Thrush.
Varied thrush
Soon we arrived at McReary Lake. Last September it looked like a mucky little pond. This time it was nice and full, and attractive to many birds.
McReary lake
There were quite a few ducks, grebes and herons in that one little lake, but I liked the cormorants most.
Cormorants at McReary Lake
Birds aren't the only residents of this lake. On a log in the lake some turtles were basking in the sun. They were quick to dive in the water as we approached for a close-up.
A log in the lake: turtle perch. 
And not only on that log:
A turtle in the sun
We sat for some time near the lake and then crossed the dam and continued on the northern part of the McReary-Grant trail toGrant Lake. The poppies that were closed earlier that morning were now opened.
Eschscholzia californica
Tree trunks can be growth beds for other things, mostly moss and lichen. This time, however, it was grass.
A natural plant pot
Grant Lake was also full to the brim but had less birds that time than we've seen last September. None of the wader birds, anyway.
Grant Lake
At that point we were in some hurry to go pick up the chikas from school so we didn't linger there and walked back to the car. We stopped long enough to say goodbye to that cute Spotted Towhee by the trailhead.
Spotted Towhee


  1. ...and on the way back, on the road, I spotted a Coyote and a Royal Larkspur (Delphinium)...
    it was a lovely trip, I'm glad you took me there :-)

    1. I'm very glad you came with me! I love to show off the Bay Area's beauty!

  2. very nice trip that left many beautiful pictures.
    My personal favorites are the fallen tree and the grass growing on the tree :-)