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January 2008

I was in Vegas for the consumer electronics show until Thursday. Wiped out by meetings and the general energy draining properties of Las Vegas, I spent the weekend fairly low key. Yesterday (1/12) was baseball tryouts for my eldest. Definitely means spring is around the corner. I'm going to have to get some skiing in quick, or the snow will all be gone. Tentatively, that's slated for next weekend.


My family and I decided to try some new trails at Sandborn County Park by Walden West, a short 2 miles outside of Saratoga.  



It was very dark, but very mossy and green!! Almost felt like Ireland. The trails were steep, but perfect for trail running. The kids and I were on a newt hunt. We started off at a pond, where we saw our first newt. Searched every puddle and creek we saw, but didn't see another one until the end of our hike. We also saw a Coyote. I see them fairly often, but it was a first for the kids.




After our hiking adventure at Sandborn, we headed back down towards Saratoga. The Hakone Gardens was on the way, so we decided to stop for a short tour.



The last time I had been to the garden was 10 years ago...right after moving back from Yokohama. I loved visiting as it made me feel less homesick. Then, once I got adjusted to being back we stopped going. It was definitely nice to visit.






We're thinking of taking the kids to Japan this summer, so the gardens was a great way to wet their appetite. The gardens are, IMHO, one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. I always feel right back in Japan when I visit. It's definitely a slice of Japan in Silicon Valley!!

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A Midwestern Christmas

Posted by Nezumiotoko38 Jan 4, 2008

I'm a Minnesotan by birth. As a result, snow and cold weather play an important part in making the year end holidays seems...official. For the past two years, my family have migrated back to the midwest to spend the holidays with my parents. Last year we were sorely disappointed to find that Iowa had no snow or cold weather. My parents had moved to Coralville, Iowa to be closer to one of my sisters, and to be in a "warmer" environment. I guess when you're moving south from Minneapolis, Coralville, Iowa could qualify as a warmer climate.


Coralville is next to Iowa City, home of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Our trip started off with little snow. All this changed during the two hours spent indoors watching the Iowa Hawkeye women's basketball team play Western Illinois. It was fun to watch a midwestern basketball game...even more fun to come out and realize we were in the middle of a blizzard!! The winter holidays were about to get a right and proper kickstart. I was all of a sudden very happy to have brought our snow bibs!!! A quick visit to a local thrift store outfitted the kids in sorrels. I borrowed some Korean war era "bunny" boots and was ready for some good healthy snow play.


My parents live near the Brown Deer golf course which has some stellar sledding hills.  



We woke up in the morning to discover that Iowa City/Coralville had been blanketed in a good 6 inches of snow.






Time to teach the kids how to shovel snow!! It had been years since I "did the walk" for my parents, and being out in the brisk winter weather shoveling snow felt refreshing. Believe it or not, shoveling snow was never something that I loathed. After getting the driveway clear, we bundled up, grabbed our sleds and headed for the hills.


The Wind had blown some of the snow into a nice icy glaze which made sledding nice and fast. Everyone, including my 72 year old Father got into the action. We spent a could couple of hours sledding the first day, and every day thereafter. When you have to drive 3-4 hours to get to snow, having it every day is a novelty.


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A great time was had by all, and then it was time to walk home.



We did have one mishap during our sledding fun. There's a river/creek a short ways off the bottom of one of the better hills. My youngest got in luge position, laid down in his little red sled and flew down the hill...straight into the river. I had visions of George Bailey running across the ice to pull his brother out after falling through the ice as I charged down the hill to rescue my son. He was hanging onto the ice and only had, "Daddy, I got wet!" to say. With the kind help of a generous person in the pro shop, we got our son home and into a hot bath in no time. All's well that ends well and it didn't damper his enthusiasm for snow sports. Now they want to head up to Tahoe to learn how to snow board!!! Sounds good go me!! After years of trying to get them out into some sort of snow sport the Iowa winter fun finally succeeded!!!


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It's a rainy day here in Silicon Valley, which makes it a perfect time to do some badly needed blogging.


The week before Christmas was still fairly mild here, which made it perfect for running in the Rancho San Antonio area. Rancho San Antonio is perfect for mild to pretty steep hill running, and a great place to visit if you happen to be in the area on business. Here's a link to the Rancho Runner, a good distance calculator.





I went a little out of the Rancho area for a run up the Black Mountain Trail to a location we call Four Corners.

It's a close to 9 miles out and back, and a little over 1k feet of vertical climbing. There are some steep sections, but moderate oveall. As it's a longer trail run, I took water, which gave me a great way to cary my GPS tracker and digital camera.



The run begins at the lower Rancho San Antonio parking lot. You need to get there early as the park is a favorite for walkers and runners. You reach the trail map after running into the park about 1/2 mile.  




You run up the trail towards the farm, and then further up towards Rogue Valley. At the reservoir, which is at the top of a short incline about 1 mile past the farm, you take a left and head up the Black Mountain trail. The beginning of this trail is a fairly steady climb.




After a quiet and steady climb up the trail you end up at a crossroads at what's called the Windmill Meadows. This is 4 Corners. You can either continue to head up to Black Mountain if you're up for a great long run, or you can turn to the left and begin the trail down. I chose the later.




I was in shorts, which was a bit brisk even for California. Even being a transplant Minnesotan, I still prefer warm legs when running in the winter. Lessens the running injuries in my experience. Next stop, Iowa...which was more than a little brisk!!

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