Thursday, January 27, 2011

McEwen Road, Martinez - Jan. 26, 2011

Walking Distance: 2.0 miles (estimate)
Walking Time: 51 min. (3:30 - 4:21 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Side of McEwen Road, paved pull-out area; Martinez, CA

This afternoon I walked from the intersection of Franklin Canyon Road and McEwen Road (just south of Highway 4, also known as John Muir Parkway -- white line on map), up McEwen Road (the set of double yellow lines furthest west on map), as far as the driveway of a ranch house -- one of the few homes on this winding, two-lane road in the hills.

As I was getting out of my car, I talked to two men who were loading up items that had been left by the side of the road, including at least three dead Christmas trees, an old couch and some chairs -- all items I recognized seeing on Franklin Canyon or McEwen Road last week. (The chairs were even featured in this blog.) Hats off to these two for cleaning up after folks who were too lazy to drive to the dump.

It was fairly quiet, with just a few cars and pickup trucks passing by, making it easier to hear cows mooing, frogs croaking, a hummingbird singing, and a few killdeer crying and flying away in a panic, as they often do. The hills were covered with lovely green grass -- a short-lived occurrence in California. By April the hills will again be golden brown, the color of a sleeping lion.

I will continue to walk at least one more segment of McEwen Road, until the point where it narrows and there is no setback, or safe way for a pedestrian to negotiate this part safely.

After all, it's not advisable to be in the way of a car whipping around a blind corner of a rural road, at any time of day, especially one hour before sunset. And, as a very serious reminder of this risk, there sits a "ghost bike" memorial on McEwen Road that I passed, about 1/2 mile up the hill from Highway 4. Apparently a bicyclist was killed on this spot by a hit and run driver a few years back.

Wildlife Sightings:
85 little brown jobs (LBJs) - including 4 bluebirds; 42 cows; 4 killdeer; 1 hummingbird; 1 hawk and 1 hawk or turkey vulture; two old snake skins and bones. Heard sounds of frogs, but no sightings; the ones I heard near fence stopped making noise when I got about six feet away.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Carquinez Scenic Dr. - Jan. 23, '11

Walking Distance: 6.2 miles (estimate)
Walking Time: 2 hrs., 31 min. (2:53 - 5:24 p.m.)
Start and End Point: unpaved shoulder Carquinez Scenic Drive, West of Nejedly Staging Area parking lot, Martinez, CA

It was a beautiful, sunny winter day for walking Carquinez Scenic Drive, a winding, paved road with great views of the Carquinez Strait and the railroad tracks below (shown as double yellow lines closest to water on Bay Trail map).

This road is closed to cars in a long section (where we walked today). In this closed stretch are a few spots where parts of the road have washed away, so it's easy to see why car traffic has been banned. Several days of dry weather previous to today's walk meant dry ground on the very few unpaved spots.

Oak trees hang in the air above the road on the south side, providing areas of shade and dappled light. And there are plenty of other interesting sights and sounds -- e.g., paintings on the road and a few small caves (access is blocked off, but they're visible from the road), and one or two unfortunate wrecked cars that had gone off the road in years past -- stopped from tumbling all the way down the steep embankment and onto the train tracks by trees and bushes. We also heard the sounds of frogs, and passing trains far below.

While we didn't see the frogs, they appeared to be coming from spots in and amongst the oak trees. I had no clue there might be tree frogs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most frogs disappeared many years ago in the very developed area where I live. As I've said before, there hasn't been a day I've walked the Bay Trail where I didn't see or learn something new. This, after living in the Bay Area for many years.

This also appeared to be one of the better, longer dog-friendly walks with Bay views. We saw many owners taking their dogs for a walk (or vice versa) today.

Wildlife Sightings:
9 little brown jobs (LBJs); 2 mockingbirds; 2 blue jays; 1 turkey vulture; 1 large, dark mystery bird (osprey or California Condor?) - dark with white markings flying over water/cliffs.

Note: For more information on this walk, see also "Walk About Martinez" write-up by The Patch columnist, Scott Williams (Jan. 1, 2011).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Franklin Canyon Rd., Martinez (Part 3) - Jan. 21, '11

Walking Distance: 5.6 mi. (estimate)
Walking Time: 1 hr., 8 min. (4:32 - 5:40 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Side of the road, unpaved area, Franklin Canyon Rd., Martinez, CA

I was able to leave work just in time to catch the last hour of sunlight, to finish (Part 3 of 3) Franklin Canyon Road. The only problem with walking in a canyon late in the day is that while it was beautiful and peaceful, it gets darker sooner. The sun had set behind one of the hills.

That said, I started to emerge from the deepest recesses of the oak tree filled Franklin Canyon Road as I walked West toward where McEwen Road intersects with Franklin Canyon Road.

Along the way, I spotted some abandoned chairs (maybe they went with the abandoned couch I saw yesterday?). I have included both chairs and couches in my "wildlife tally" on this site, and you may notice that some man-made item sightings outnumber certain bird and animal views.
When I walk, I notice things like road furniture -- and also memorials for those who are no longer with us. Some of these memorials are very tiny, and some are quite large. These personal and often moving tributes are a reminder to the living to make good use of the time they have on this planet.

In the meantime, I'm here walking with the cows -- a few of which were mooing at me from over a fence and across the stream as I walked by on the road. Cows are not used to seeing pedestrians I've found, and they may find walkers disturbing. Either that, or they're hoping that a human means they might be fed. Someone will have to explain all this to me some day. In the meantime, I just wave at them nicely. And, I'm stopping to look at all the acorns still on the ground. Do cows eat acorns? I'll have to research this when I have time.

Wildlife Sightings
1 hubcap, 3 cows, 6 chairs, 1 little brown job (LBJ), 1 rusty screw, 1 ball

Friday, January 21, 2011

Franklin Canyon Rd., Martinez (Part 2) - Jan. 20, '11

Walking Distance: 2.8 mi. (estimate)
Walking Time: 43 min. (1:05 - 1:48 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Side of the Road, unpaved area, East of Cottage Garden Plants Nursery, Martinez, CA

I enjoyed continuing to walk along oak-shaded Franklin Canyon Road this afternoon. The sun was out and it was very pleasant to hear a stream nearby.

This gently winding, rural road was located between the stream mentioned above (and Highway 4, John Muir Parkway, further up a hill) to the North of the road -- and railroad tracks to the South of the road. Twice, trains passed closeby through thickets of oak and other trees. (One is pictured at right.)

A relatively broad setback meant that I felt comfortable walking on this road, even though the occasional cars and pickup trucks were passing by at 45 - 50 miles per hour.

However, bicycle riders should watch for small rocks that have rolled downhill from the hills onto the road in a few spots.

And, for animal lovers, you may catch glimpses of both regular-sized and miniature horses, llamas, cows, and some local birds between the tree branches.

Wildlife Sightings:
8 horses, 2 llamas, 2 miniature horses, 11 little brown jobs (LBJs), 1 turkey vulture, and 1 abandoned couch

Monday, January 17, 2011

Franklin Canyon Rd., Martinez - Jan. 16, '11

Walking Distance: 3.6 miles (estimate)
Walking Time: 1 hr., 21 min. (1:25 - 2:46 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Public parking lot near park/trailhead, Franklin Canyon Rd. and Alhambra Ave. (just to the South of Highway 4); Martinez, CA

Franklin Canyon Road is a quiet, semi-rural, gently winding road that is just south of, and roughly parallel to, Highway 4 (John Muir Parkway). In at least one spot, to the south of this road, you may also see a train rumble by.

Today was an overcast Sunday, early afternoon, and cool enough for a jacket and hat. I walked West on Franklin Canyon Road as far as 2500 Franklin Canyon Road -- a place I nicknamed the "candy cane" house. In addition to a row of candy canes in front of the house, there was a small plaque explaining the origins of the candy cane.

I passed by houses -- some with yards large enough for a few horses, cows or goats. Fortunately, the only dogs I saw were behind closed gates. I always feel relieved when I see these gates, knowing that there
will probably not be any well-meaning dogs charging out onto the public road, intent on protecting what they might feel is their property.

January winter weather generally means gray days and limited spots of color. My eye was drawn to bright green grass and moss; evergreen trees; and bright red berries. Even brightly colored bits of broken glass on the road stand out more than they would otherwise. I also enjoyed seeing small daffodils starting to poke up through the dirt. This is one reason why I continue to live in California; these small glimpses of Spring appear so much earlier than in most other parts of the country.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Carquinez Scenic Dr. - Jan. 9, '11

Walking Distance: 1.2 miles
Walking Time: 25 min. (3:40 - 4:05 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Parked on Carquinez Scenic Drive, Martinez, CA

It took me a while to find the start of Carquinez Scenic Drive (shown as double yellow line on left side of map) -- a winding road with views of the Carquinez Strait, Benicia, the Benicia-Martinez bridge, and downtown Martinez. The road runs West from the West end of downtown Martinez, and is well named.

The road passes by two cemeteries (that are fenced off from passerbys). And, if you'll look closely at the picture at right, you'll notice that the fencing did not stop a few deer from wandering through and paying their respects.

Wildlife Sightings:
1 mockingbird; 1 little brown job (LBJ); 1 domestic cat; 2 deer in cemetery.

Martinez Beaver Dams - Jan. 9, '11

Walking Distance: n/a included in previous entry
Walking Time: n/a included in previous entry
Start and End Point: Public parking lot, Martinez Regional Shoreline Park, Martinez, CA

I'd been hearing about a family of beavers that made a dam near downtown Martinez (near Escobar and Marina Vista). So, when I started walking in Martinez this month, I have been looking forward to visiting the beaver dam site. While I was not able to spot any beavers this afternoon, I saw not one, but two, beaver dams.

I also saw some painted tiles of the beavers done by local children in 2009, and some beaver sculpture/shapes that had been fastened to a wall near the water and the first (larger) dam.

Perhaps I'll try stopping by next time I am in the area -- probably closer to dusk.

Wildlife Sightings:
No beavers spotted. Probably laying low or napping during the day.

Marina Vista to Benicia-Martinez bridge - Jan. 9, '11

Walking Distance: 4 miles (estimate)
Walking Time: 2 hrs., 28 min. (12:54 - 3:22 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Public parking lot, Martinez Regional Shoreline Park, Martinez, CA

Today I walked East on Marina Vista, from Downtown Historic Martinez toward the Benicia-Martinez bridge, along railroad tracks and past oil refining facilities.

I turned right at the light/intersection, onto Mococo, then caught the Bay Trail up to the bridge. I walked up to the point on the bridge where I'd left off previously (light pole #08051), and enjoyed the view. I walked back the same way along Marina Vista and stopped to visit the Martinez Historic Museum (free admission), before heading to the beaver dams.

Wildlife Sightings:
1 mockingbird; 8 little brown jobs (LBJs); 15 crows; 1 pigeon; 3 hubcaps. (also there was 1 dead, headless deer by the railroad tracks).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Alhambra Ave., Martinez, CA - Jan. 8, '11

Walking Distance: 2.5 miles
Walking Time: 1 hour (4:00 - 5:00 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Walgreens parking lot, Alhambra Ave., Martinez, CA

A walk up Alhambra Avenue, was a walk through a suburban neighborhood, past Alhambra High School, and businesses along the way. There were a few signs of Christmas past and little leftover bits of fall color. Otherwise, the branches were bare, and sky was gray and cold today. I'm sure it would be a completely different place in the summer. It almost makes me want to walk the Bay Trail again just to see all these towns in other seasons.

I walked up Alhambra Ave. (toward downtown Martinez) as far as Masonic, where I left off a few days ago. I turned around and then walked back on Berrellessa Street until it rejoined Alhambra Ave. again.  stopped at Safeway from some water and cheese on the way back, and then bought some almonds at Walgreens.

Wildlife Sightings:
1 squirrel; 1 domestic cat; 1 dove; 2 little brown jobs (LBJs)

John Muir Historic Site, Martinez - Jan. 8, '11

Walking Distance: 1.6 miles
Walking Time: 1 hr., 15 min. (1:55 - 2:35 p.m.; and 2:58 - 3:33 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Parking lot, John Muir Historic Site, Alhambra Ave., Martinez, CA

It was a gray and wintery day, but I was excited to visit John Muir's old house. After all, here's a man who took his own 1,000 mile walk (from Indiana down to the Gulf Coast), and was famous for tramping about up in the mountains.

However, in Martinez, Muir and his family raised fruit trees. Remnants of the old orchards are still there. Red berries and new green shoots of grass provided some bits of color to an otherwise gray day.

It is also possible to see the inside of the Muir house on this site. I was especially interested in seeing John Muir's study/office upstairs, an area he called his "Scribble Den."

After visiting this site, I walked down a block or two on Alhambra to the Highway 4 onramp (pedestrians take care), then turned around to walk the remainder of Alhambra Ave. Along the way, I passed the Muir Lodge. I didn't have a chance to stop in to ask them how long they'd been there. But, they are located right on the Bay Trail.

Wildlife Sightings:
2 little brown jobs (LBJs); 1 domestic black cat; 2 turkey vultures; 1 sea gull; 1 crow

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Downtown Martinez - Jan. 5, '11

Walking Distance:  .85 miles
Walking Time:  38 min. (5:12 - 5:50 p.m.)
Start and End Point:  City parking lot, off Ferry Street, near train tracks; Martinez, CA

Before walking, I stopped at the Hot Dog Depot on Ferry Street in Martinez, where I bought some water, a cup of Butter Pecan ice cream. I also bought a bag of acorn flour (handmade by the woman at Hot Dog Depot), a rare find, and not something I would ever find at a hot dog place.

I walked West on Marina Vista hoping to find the continuation of the Bay Trail. followed Buckley St., but failed to find Carquinez Scenic Drive, in part due to darkness. I ended up walking South on Berrellesa St. as far as Masonic, back up on Alhambra Ave., and through Main Street, in downtown Martinez. Most of the shops were closed, but it was still fun to see this fairly quiet, historic town.

Wildlife Sightings:
None. It was dark, and an urban setting.

Note: The map image above right was taken from Google Maps.

Martinez Regional Shoreline Park, cont. - Jan. 5, '11

Walking Distance:  1.82 miles
Walking Time:  58 min. (4:07 - 5:05 p.m.)
Start and End Point:  Public parking lot (closest to the park entrance near Ferry St.), Martinez Regional Shoreline Park, Martinez, CA

Two days ago, I walked most of the trails in Martinez Regional Shoreline Park. However, it got dark before I could finish. Today, I returned to walk the Pickleweed Trail, and the Western end of the Park. I walked from the parking lot, toward the Carquinez Strait, and over the arched, wooden bridge.

I followed the trail closest to the water, past the burnt ruins of a schooner near the shore, until I reached a point where a sign indicated that the trail had been closed for safety reasons. Just past this point, I saw what looked to be an area of collapsed bank and trail -- part of which had caved into the water.

I then followed a curving trail that headed back toward the train tracks. This is a good spot for train watchers. For a time, I followed a paved trail/road past a park building, and crossed through the Granger's Wharf area, before returning to my car.

Wildlife Sightings:
43 ducks; 1 little little brown job (LBJ) by water's edge/rocks; 15 sea gulls; 2 tiny unidentified brownish shorebirds; and 1 snowy egret.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Martinez Regional Shoreline Park - Jan. 3, 2011

Walking Distance: 2.5 mi. (estimate)
Walking Time: 1 hr., 13 min. (4:06 - 5:19 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Public parking lot, Martinez Regional Shoreline Park

I drove into the historic downtown portion of Martinez and passed an old depot, and train, near the entrance to the Martinez Regional Shoreline Park, where I went walking today.

I was looking for a place to park to walk the tail (Martinez) end of the Benicia-Martinez bridge and Marina Vista (double red lines on bottom of map image shown); but I could not find a legal place to park on the side of the road, or near the refinery operations that sit on the south side of this bridge. So, I kept driving down Marina Vista -- to Martinez Regional Shoreline Park and Martinez Marina.

In the Park, I walked as far east as far as I could go (to a wire fence, marking what I believe was the boundary with the Shell oil refinery). Then I made my way from this fire road trail north to the water's edge and toward the Martinez Marina, then out to the end of the fishing pier, and around the big pond/small lake.

It was nice to be in the Park at sunset where there were good views of the bridge to the east. Look carefully and you can see older ("mothballed") ships just beyond this bridge.

There was one trail (shown in black and white, right) that I wasn't able to walk, due to the Park closing after sunset. I'll have to finish up this last (Western-most) trail next time. Next time, I'll also study up on Google maps and other maps to find a place to park near Marina Vista/Vista Point area. If that's not possible, I'll park somewhere near the train station, or in a metered parking space, and walk back toward the bridge.

52 little brown jobs (LBJs); 15 Canada geese; 48 sea gulls; 14 ducks; 13 coots; 3 cormorants; 3 large white geese and 2 other -- white-fronted -- geese with the white geese.