Monday, February 28, 2011

Rodeo to Hercules - Feb. 28, 2011

Walking Distance: 3.4 mi. (estimate)
Walking Time: 1 hr. 25 min. (4:41 - 6:06 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Unpaved shoulder, San Pablo Ave., Rodeo, CA

Today's walk was part urban sidewalks, followed by a stretch of open space by the water to watch the sunset.

I first walked East on San Pablo Ave., spotting a roof full of pigeons along the way, to the intersection with Railroad Ave. -- my end point in yesterday's walk.

I then turned around and walked through downtown Rodeo along Parker Ave., enjoying painted signs, a bar, a bait shop, burger restaurants, an old movie theater turned into a church, and an abandoned restaurant with a dutch windmill on top.

I took a right turn on San Pablo Ave., and walked up a gradual slope to the intersection with Victoria Crescent, before turning around to head back to my car, and an East Bay Regional Park area (San Pablo Bay Regional Shoreline - Lone Tree Point) near the Bay.

By the time I arrived at the Point, the sun was starting to go down, and there were just a few people there. In addition to an old crumbling wharf, there was a small cove and beach with a cluster of wading shorebirds. An Amtrak train rumbled by, but other than that, it was very peaceful.

Wildlife Sightings:
12 pigeons; 14 LBJs; 12 sea gulls; 14 smaller UBBs; 1 dove; 6 ducks; 1 hubcap

Sunday, February 27, 2011

San Pablo Ave., Rodeo - Feb. 27, '11

Walking Distance: 4.1 miles
Walking Time: 1 hr., 38 min. (12:55 - 2:33 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Side of street, California St., Rodeo, CA

Today I parked in Rodeo, CA; and I walked East on San Pablo Ave. (double yellow line on Bay Trail map) to an East Bay Regional Park entry gate (trailhead for San Pablo Bay Regional Trail shown as red line on map -- and the location where I finished a previous walk). 
If you're into contrasts -- this is a good walk for you.

An oil refinery or processing plant creates a heavy footprint on land and shore. The Conoco Phillips facilities are no exception. There were lots of lots of large, metal objects: tanks, towers, pipes -- in short all the things you'd expect to see. 

There were multiple signs prohibiting standing, stopping, loitering or trespassing of any kind along this industrialized corridor, for security reasons I presume. I felt sorry for the woman bicycle rider across the street frantically trying to fix what might have been a flat tire or bent rim.

I was heartened to see, after walking through and by the refinery, green hills and trees and flowers -- and to hear frogs and red-winged blackbirds. And the hubcap flowers were in bloom in the dirt (example shown) as well as the beautiful yellow mustard flowers (also shown).

I saw several bicycle riders, but no other pedestrians. This walk was somewhat challenging for pedestrians. Toward the East end (closer to Cummings Skyway) there are one or two blind corners on this winding 4-lane road, with some hills, with very little setback from rapidly moving traffic. Also a fairly heavy percentage of trucks of different sizes use this route. Fortunately, it was Sunday, during non-rush hours, so there were fewer vehicles on the road.

Wildlife Sightings:
18 sea gulls; 26 red-winged blackbirds; 1 hawk or falcon; 2 little brown jobs (LBJs); 1 turkey vulture; 2 hubcaps; sounds of frogs (but no sightings). 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lunch in Crockett - Feb. 23, '11

Walking Distance: N/A
Walking Time: N/A (stopped for approximately 55 minutes)
Start and Stop Point: Street parking, off 2nd Ave., Crockett/Valona, CA

After visiting the Crockett Historical Museum, I ate lunch at the Valona Cafe Market Delicatessen on Pomona Street a few blocks away.

Valona is adjacent to Crockett -- both are incorporated areas in Contra Costa County along the Carquinez Strait. Together these areas had the feel of a historic river town. The C and H Sugar plant continues to be the most prominent business in the area, and I couldn't help but notice that most of the bottled sodas and beverages in the drink case contained pure cane sugar.

Food after walking always tastes good. I enjoyed a homemade chicken salad plate and a piece of chocolate decadence cake. The Valona Cafe Market Delicatessen also serves wine and beer and features live jazz on certain days of the week.

Crockett Historical Museum - February 23, 2011

Walking Distance: N/A - less than 1/4 mile
Walking Time: N/A (estimate this was a 55-minute stop)
Start and End Point: Public parking lot near Crockett Library and Historic Homestead, Crockett, CA

While I may not have covered much ground while inside the Crockett Historical Museum, I certainly did enjoy myself. Located in the shadow of the C and H Sugar plant, on the Bay Trail, this small, eclectic collection of items and memorabilia defies description, but it is packed with interesting objects, often accompanied by hand-written signs.

One of the world's largest wasp nests, an educational set of illustrations about the Carquin people -- the original inhabitants of the Carquinez Strait; trophies; old posters; news clippings about local celebrities -- all this and much more.

A label with an old, metal diving helmet read: "This diving was used by Bill (last name unreadable) at C and H; in the 1920's to inspect the wharf pilings for Tor(p)edo damage." A sign next to an old adding machine indicates it was used at C and H ("who knows when"). And, a description for an old computer indicates that it was the first computer used at C and H, and it displaced 9 employees.

Open only on Wednesdays and Saturdays, this compact treasure is worth visiting.

Rest of McEwen Road, Martinez - Feb. 23, 2011

Walking Distance: 2.7 mi.
Walking Time: 1 hr., 16 min. (12:05 - 1:21 p.m.)
Start and End Point: unpaved shoulder, side of McEwen Road, Martinez, CA

I had been a little apprehensive about walking the rest of McEwen Road, due to some blind corners along this fairly narrow, winding two-lane road in the hills.

I waited until the rain had stopped, and the road was dry, and was treated to a beautiful day -- with sun, green grass, and some bright yellow, wild mustard (flowers).

I had a chance to say hello to several cows who were grazing close to the fence at edge of the road. I heard a chorus of frogs singing in the distance in a grove of large eucalyptus trees near a depression that could have held some water, but no frogs were actually spotted. Walking mid-day on a Wednesday meant it was fairly quiet, with more individual bicycle riders than cars passing me now and then.

The only intrusion into this little fantasy world was spotting a load of household items that someone had dumped down an embankment. 

From what I've seen, dumping is still a relatively routine occurrence out in these open spaces in this area. Keeps the public works crew busy I'm sure.

Wildlife Sightings:
20 cows; 10 little brown jobs (LBJs); 10 crows; 4 turkey vultures; 1 couch; 1 hawk; 1 (domestic) cat.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

West of Crockett - Feb. 22, '11

Walking Distance: 1.8 mi. (estimate)
Walking Time: 4:08 - 5:22 p.m. (1 hr., 14 min.)
Start and End Point: Public parking lot, Vista Point, off San Pablo Ave., Crockett, CA

Today was a great day for scenic views. The green grass growing on the hills looked pretty wonderful.  The water in the Carquinez Strait was blue. The sun was out. All good.

West of Crockett, off San Pablo Ave., there is a Vista Point pull-out area. I parked here, and I walked approx. 1/4 mile West on San Pablo Ave. (shown as double yellow lines) -- hugging the guardrail along the way, to the gate/entrance marked as a Regional Park trailhead area.

I followed all three trails in this Regional Park area -- the first went West and uphill and then out to a scenic overlook with a bench. I am assuming this was the San Pablo Bay Regional Trail that is depicted as a solid red line on the Bay Trail map shown.

Hints of the oil refinery to the east can be seen and the panoramic view also includes Mare Island, Vallejo, and the Alfred Zampa (Carquinez Strait) bridge. The second trail, a derelict road, went downhill toward the Bay, but this trail ended in an overgrown clump of bushes. The third snaked East -- and I thought it might join up with paths/trails back in the Vista Point area (where I'd parked); but it did not.

After walking back to Vista Point, I followed two trails that headed down toward the water. But, one seemed to be an unofficial footpath that petered out, and the other packed dirt trail led down to the water and possibly a tanker near the railroad tracks and shore far below.

Last, I have to comment on mushrooms/toadstools. I often see these kicked over on the side of trails (e.g. picture at right). Perhaps people are afraid of them, or have heard that many are poisonous, or think they're bad luck...Hard to tell. I suppose some animal could be picking them, taking one piece and leaving the rest, but evidence that I've seen points to humans kicking them over.

Wildlife Sightings:
11 little brown jobs (LBJs); 4 crows; and 2 hawks/falcons

Monday, February 21, 2011

Crockett to Vista Pt. - Feb. 20, 2011

Walking Distance: 3 miles (estimate)
Walking Time: 2 hrs., 25 min. (1:47 - 4:12 p.m.) Includes 1 hr. stop at The Nantucket
Start and End Point: Wanda St. and Third Ave., Crockett, CA

Crockett is an interesting walk back in time. The CandH Sugar plant is still the biggest landmark, but there are many old wooden, historic buildings and houses in the town. While not visible/obvious on the Bay Trail map the town has been bisected in the waterfront area by the Alfred Zampa Memorial bridge.

I started today's walk in downtown Crockett and walked East to the small Crockett Historic Museum near Rolph Ave. Unfortunately the museum was closed today -- I'll have to come back on a Wednesday or a Saturday when it's open.

From the museum I turned around and walked West, along the railroad tracks to the Nantucket Restaurant (which is located on the Bay side of the train tracks, in an industrial area by the water, and is also accessible by boat).

After a pleasant stop for lunch at the Nantucket, I walked first past a small environmental education center (CREEC) that was closed in the winter, up Wanda, up the hill, under Highway 80, past the Dead Fish Restaurant (located near where Pomona turns into San Pablo Ave.), to a Vista Point pull-out area (approximately a half mile from the Dead Fish).

After snapping a few photos from the Vista Point overlook, I walked back (East) along San Pablo Ave. (hugging the guardrail to remove myself from the flow of traffic as much as possible).

I walked back on a slightly different path -- a combined pedestrian and bike path (that dead-ended into a parking lot that I hadn't seen before. The parking lot was at the end of Ceres, near Ceres and Port. Walking under the freeway (Highway 80), with several concrete arches/overpasses above you can be a little confusing.

Wildlife Sightings:
19 little brown jobs (LBJs); 2 cats (1 domestic, 1 stray/feral); 4 turkey vultures; 1 crow; 1 sea gull; 3 pigeons.

Calif. Maritime Academy, Vallejo - Feb. 20, '11

Walking Distance: 2 miles (estimate)
Walking Time: 1 hr., 1 min. (12:24 - 1:25 p.m.)
Start and End Point: on-street parking, Country Lane Drive, Vallejo, CA

It was good to be able to walk, after a week of rain and canceled walks. I parked on Country Lane Drive and walked to the gated entrance to the California Maritime Academy. After speaking briefly to two young men in the gate house, I was able to walk into and follow the trail through the campus and along Morrow Cove/the Bay (solid red line on Bay Trail map).

The trail ends roughly near the campus bookstore. (The Golden Bear ship that is part of the Academy is docked nearby -- visible from the campus, and also from the other side of the Strait at the Vallejo end of the Alfred Zampa Memorial (Carquinez) bridge (see photo at right). However, this ship is not open to the public as far as I know.

After exiting the California Maritime Academy campus, I also walked a bit further north (area shown as two red parallel lines on map), along Maritime Academy Drive, as far as the intersection of Sonoma Blvd. (aka Highway 29) and Sandy Beach Rd., before turning back to return to my car. 

Wildlife Sightings:
2 Canada geese
3 sea gulls
1 cormorant
2 ducks
1 little brown job (LBJ)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Martinez Hills Loop - Feb. 13, '11

Walking Distance: 4.13 mi.
Walking Time: 2 hrs. 50 min. (11:56 a.m. - 2:46 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Nejedly Staging Area parking lot, Martinez, CA

If you can find the end/beginning of Carquinez Scenic Drive (that is NW of Talbart in downtown Martinez), you're in for a treat. First, pass two cemeteries (a Catholic cemetery on your left, and an historic cemetery on your right), then look for a public park parking lot, also known as the Nejedly Staging area, on your left ("P" shown on the right on this map).

I had previously walked West along Carquinez Scenic Drive (shown as double yellow lines on map) -- a walk I'd recommend to anyone. Today we chose to hike up a trail that is part of/connects to the Bay Area Ridge Trail in the hills (shown as a purple figure-eight line on the map).

Warning: It's a bit of a scramble uphill in the first mile on the way to the loop trail. You'll be climbing up a steep slope partially shaded by oak trees. However, you'll be rewarded by great views of Carquinez Strait below -- and ships passing by in the Strait, the Benicia-Martinez bridge, and on a clear day you'll be able to spot the mothball fleet (of ships) from wartime yesteryears. There are benches located in scenic overlook locations.

This entire area is very scenic, and you'll have the option of going through wooded and open terrain during a roughly 4-mile hike that includes a ~ 2-mile loop trail. Part of this trail is shared grazing land with cattle. Although it is required to have dogs on a leash, make sure to observe this rule in grazing areas to avoid upsetting cows.

Wildlife Sightings:
1 woodpecker; 8 little brown jobs (LBJs); 7 turkey vultures soaring above; 35 cows; 6 butterflies; 1 beehive in a tree; 2 crows; 2 blue jays; 1 hawk + sound of red-tailed hawk(s); sounds of frogs (but no sightings)

Alfred Zampa Carquinez Bridge - Feb. 12, 2011

Walking Distance: 2.97 miles
Walking Time: 1 hr., 12 min. (6:20 - 7:32 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Merchant Ave., up the street from (full) parking lot for The Dead Fish Restaurant, San Pablo Ave., Crockett, CA

Some walks become much more difficult to do at night. Others, in urban areas, are lit up and offer great possibilities.

This (Saturday) evening we ate dinner at The Dead Fish Restaurant in Crockett, a place with great views, located on the Bay Trail. There was an hour and a half wait for a table. So, we took this time to walk across the Alfred Zampa Memorial (aka Carquinez Strait) bridge.
This would be a great walk to do at sunset, looking West into San Francisco Bay. However, we got there a bit too late. It was dark, and my photos here are grainy. (Photo tip: bring a tripod if you're shooting from a vibrating bridge.) It was still a very nice walk. The evening was almost windless, and fairly warm.

Near the foot the north (Vallejo) side of the bridge is docked a ship named the Golden Bear -- a maritime academy that is part of the California state college system. (This ship is bathed in white lights in the very top photo shown here at right.)

By the time we hiked over to Vallejo and back, our table out of the patio at The Dead Fish was ready. And we were all set to enjoy our garlic and sage french fries, apple salad, salmon (and basa) with grilled rosemary, olives, tomatoes, and more.

Wildlife Sightings:
None, too dark.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, p. 2 - Feb. 10, '11

Walking Distance: 1.9 miles (estimate)
Walking Time: 1 hr., 1 min. (2:34 - 3:35 p.m.)
Start and End Point: unpaved shoulder, Winslow St., Crockett, CA

Another sunny, winter day -- and dry weather this past month -- meant hard-packed dirt and no mud on today's relatively narrow, winding path along a hillside.

This trail (red line on Bay Trail map) runs roughly parallel to Carquinez Scenic Drive (double yellow line on map), and extends from Winslow Street in Crockett, CA, to Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline Park. The trailhead was located on Winslow Street near a bend in this narrow residential road between a hill and an embankment. A note on parking: there is an unpaved shoulder where day hikers may park a car, but there is no parking lot here. There is a parking lot in the Park further East on this trail, near Eckley Fishing Pier and railroad tracks. (The Pier is not shown on map.)

Thank you to Andrew who joined me in today's hike -- even though there were a few hills we had to climb. (This, after I'd been telling him that the Bay Trail was flat.) The shady areas on this hillside trail occasionally contained a surprise -- like the old truck and Volkswagon we saw in and amongst the trees. Although it was a bit of a mystery how they got there. Also there were some spots with nice views of Carquinez Strait.

Wildlife Sightings:
1 hawk; 2 turkey vultures; 8 ducks; 1 sea gull; 6 little brown jobs (LBJs); 8 crows; 1 mockingbird; 1 blue jay; 1 snowy egret; sounds of hummingbird(s) but no sightings.