Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Novato Skatepark, Bel Marin Keys - April 16, 2014

Walking Distance: 4.5 miles (estimate)
Walking Time: 2 hrs., 12 min. (4:49 - 7:01 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Novato Skatepark parking lot, Novato, CA

Today's walk was a mix of sidewalks, packed dirt trails, smaller "goat trails" and road shoulders.

From the Novato Skatepark parking lot (1200 Hamilton Parkway), I walked southeast on Hamilton Parkway on the sidewalk, and made a left onto a trail that paralleled Aberdeen Road, that forked to the right and left. After exploring the right fork and returning, and then the left fork, I found the connection to a trail that would lead to the Bay Trail that would lead north-ish toward Bel Marin Keys.

Walking through the old Hamilton Air Force Base, you'd hardly know there was a base there back in the 1970s, until you start seeing no trespassing signs, and old bunkers and cement walls poking through the grass amongst grass covered hummocks and a smattering of trees and brush.

Soon enough I was passing marshes and enjoying a new section of Bay Trail. I followed trails that headed northwest to Bel Marin and took a left toward toward Bel Marin Keys and Pacheco Pond.

This led to a narrow, unimproved path that popped out on the other side onto Bel Marin Keys Blvd. From there I headed left (westish) and passed by Pacheco Pond on my left side. It was late in the day, and I enjoyed watching a swam glide by in the distance and the evening colors being picked up by the reeds, water and trees.

I continued (west) on the side of the road up Bel Marin Keys Blvd., until I reached a commercial, light industrial area where sidewalks began to appear. As I got closer to Highway 101, the road began to turn west and south.

Closer to the highway, I went down a flight of cement stairs and followed a railroad right-of-way path for a bit before reaching a large shopping center (Hamilton Marketplace, 5800 Nave Drive, Novato, CA.

After traversing the shopping center and Safeway parking lots, I took a left onto Hamilton Parkway, passed the Marriott Courtyard Novato hotel, crossed the railroad tracks, and made my way back to the Skatepark.

Restrooms are not glamorous, but they are an essential amenity for long, urban hikes. The freshly graffiti-ed portable restroom at the Skatepark was just what I imagined it would be. But, better having one here than nothing.

Wildlife Sightings:
11 ducks; 22 red-winged blackbirds; 5 lizards; 9 little brown jobs (LBJs) + 2 rosy finches; 1 California Thrasher (pretty, medium-larger sized drab olive - golden green songbird); 1 black-necked stilt going after 2 grebes (too close to nesting area?); 2 grebes; 3 starlings; 1 turkey vulture; 38 swallows (both types); 7 Canada geese; 1 white swan in Pacheco Pond; 2 crows; 2 blue jays (scrub jays)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Hamilton Parkway, Park, Novato - March 19, 2014

Walking Distance: 1.1 miles (estimate)
Walking Time: 1 hr., 4 min. (4:51 - 5:55 p.m.)
Start and End Point: small parking lot off Hamilton Pkwy., Novato, CA

The Old Hamilton Air Force Base closed many years ago. The large hangars that once sheltered planes now house businesses in this mixed use community. Today's walk took us up and over a hill with a view of this area, now part of Novato.

We started at a small parking lot off Hamilton Parkway, at the foot of hill. We walked up the trail which curved back and forth up the hill. It felt like Spring. We did have to make one stop—for a rope swing tied to a large tree. (We stopped to swing on the way back and swinging was delightful. I hope it's still there.)

We continued to walk uphill to a vista area. This vantage point afforded some nice views of the marsh/wetlands areas that have been partially restored.

I walked downhill (past a cat hiding in green grass and old fennel stems), to the point where I'd left off last weekend, then walked back up the hill. I then re-joined my friend Elise and we walked back up over the top, then downhill back to the car.

Thank you Elise!

Wildlife Sightings:
2 turkey vultures
3 lizards
5 ducks
5 butterflies (inclu. large orange and black one)
lots of bees buzzings around large bush/tree with "teeth" flowers
1 domestic cat (white and dark gray)

Old Hamilton AFB, Novato - March 16, 2014

Walking Distance: 1.8 mi. (estimate)
Walking Time: 1 hr., 26 min. (1:55 - 3:21 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Parking lot, behind Hangar 7, Novato, CA

The portion of the Bay Trail in Novato located in the old Hamilton Air Force Base has the advantage of interesting buildings, history—and good parking.

We stopped to look at a tiny plane attached to the Hamilton Field History Museum. The museum wasn't open, but we learned quite a bit just from reading the signage for the outdoor displays.

We parked in a large parking lot, behind Hangar 7, not too far from the old (air) control tower. The lot was also conveniently located to an entrance to the Bay Trail. After watching a fire truck performing a drill using the tower, we hit the trail.

We walked up a short ramp and started walking on what looked to be a newly groomed dirt/gravel trail. (There was a trail further down by the water, on the other side of a low wall, and we took that on the way back.)

We walked south, passing a Coast Guard yard, with boats at the ready. Eventually the trail curved to right.

We followed the Bay Trail until we reached a ballpark (Palmisano Park) where I'd started on previous walk last month (February 2014), and turned around here.

We came back on the packed dirt trail on the Bay side of wall. We kept going until we reached a "#1 marker" on wall; and turned around just past where 2 trails merged. Then we walked back to car in parking lot.

We enjoyed seeing a group of several large, graceful white swans, as well as a few lizards basking in the sun.

Thank you John for the great walk.

Wildlife Sightings:
2 Brewer's? Blackbirds
18 red-winged blackbirds (RWBs)
1 bumblebee
1 orange and black butterfly
16 Canada geese
10 swans
3 lizards
4 crows/ravens
1 great egret
1 ladybug

Halong Bay Trail, Vietnam - Jan. 24, 2014

Walking Distance: 1 mile (estimate)
Walking Time: 2 hr. stop (estimate)
Start and End Point: (boat dock)

Occasionally I include short write-ups about visits to other bay trail walks from around the world. I was fortunate to be able to make a visit to Halong Bay (Vietnam) in January 2014.

Towering sea stacks loomed up through the mist the day we were there. Some of these vertical islands in the Bay were big enough to have trails and networks of caves in their interior.

Our tour boat landed on one island and we took a hike, around the shore, and up flights up stairs, and then into and through lit caves. It was a magical experience.

Wildlife Sightings:
A few sea birds flew by that I couldn't identify

Hamilton to Las Gallinas Ponds - Feb. 17, 2014

Walking Distance: 4 miles (estimate)
Walking Time: 2 hrs., 8 min. (2:05 - 4:13 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Parking lot, end of Hamilton Ave.

In this late afternoon walk, I got lost once, but I did reach Las Gallinas area eventually.

The ponds are part of the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District, and are a rich haven for birds and wildlife. They're a great place to take bird photos.

Trails on this walk ranted from newly rolled, wide packed dirt and gravel to more narrow dirt trail with very short stretches of asphalt. Access can be a bit confusing if you're coming from the north.

I started this walk from a parking lot (near a playing field area—Palmisano Community Play Park) near the SE end of Hangar Ave./Calienta Real, at the south end of the old Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato. From here I headed south along the Bay. This section of trail opened recently, and was newly rolled, and nice and broad; however, it narrowed further south.

I had to cross through an area that included a small section of trail that was still "planned" (shown as a dotted line on the Bay Trail map). However, unaware of this, I continued to walk until I reached some hills and a golf course, and eventually found my way around the golf course to a road and to Las Gallinas Ponds entrance.

There were some nice views of Mt. Tamalpais on the way. And winter rains afforded some refreshing green areas.

I enjoyed seeing the solar collectors (arrays) near Las Gallinas Ponds. Next time, I'll get here earlier to see more birds up close. Winter days end too quickly.

Wildlife Sightings:
7 white pelicans; 1 white swan; 32 little brown jobs (LBJs), mostly sparrows; 3 black-necked stilts; 6 turkey vultures; 5 Canada geese; 16 ducks (mallard pair, 6 shovelers, others); 1 phoebe; 2 swifts/swallows (closer to black and white - not orange and blue); 1 hawk/bird of prey, 1 Harrier with white rump patch; 1 snowy egret, 1 great egret; 2 balls (yellow bowling ball + 1 rubber ball); 2 crows