Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pt. Pinole, San Pablo - Mar. 25, '11

Walking Distance: 5.3 mi.
Walking Time: 2 hrs., 44 min. (3:47 - 6:31 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Atlas Road and Horizon Drive, San Pablo, CA

Atlas Road (solid red line at the bottom of the map shown) runs slightly downhill toward the Bay, ending at a business park at the bottom of a hill. Formal sidewalks pause after the railroad track crossing (at the end of Atlas Rd/ the red line, before where dotted lines appear).

I turned left at the Point Pinole Business Park and continued on Giant Highway (white line on map) for a short distance to find the entrance to Point Pinole Park, on the right, which is where the red line picks up again on the map. I walked this short stretch of Giant Highway in between the business park and the Park's entrance. Caution: Setbacks on this white line stretch were very narrow, so, travel with care if you're on foot or bicycle.

Across the street/highway, perched on a hill, were fairly new houses, near a golf course. A correctional facility was located on the right, just before the park.

It was great to return to Point Pinole Regional Shoreline Park. This was my second time walking at Point Pinole this month. I'd been there last week but darkness prevented me from hiking all the trails there. I returned to walk the rest of the Marsh Trail and to wander out to Cook Point. The variety of scenery in this park was impressive. In addition to acres of green grass and areas of towering eucalyptus, there were narrow strips of beaches festooned with shells; gobs of miner's lettuce (green vegetation shown at right); and little flowers of all colors.

It was raining for part of the time, but that didn't matter, as long as I could keep my camera dry. Wet weather (standing water on trails) had closed some of the trails to bicycle and equestrian traffic. I had to tip toe through some puddles, but if you didn't mind sacrificing some dryness for fields of bright green grass, some wildflowers, and beautiful scenery, a little rain was well worth the trouble.

I had a brief feeling that I was in Ireland at one point this afternoon. Little natural waterfalls and streams had sprung to life. Hawks, herons, egrets, hummingbirds, an owl, and other birds were out.  I could hear frogs in the distance, but couldn't see any.

3 hawks; 1 great blue heron; 1 great egret; 7 red-winged blackbirds; 5 crows; 1 owl; 1 small falcon or hawk; 1 dove; 42 little brown jobs (LBJs); 3 bluebirds; 2 sea gulls; 2 dark snails; 4 hummingbirds; sounds of frogs, but no sightings

Atlas Rd., San Pablo - Mar. 25, '11

Walking Distance: 3.0 mi.
Walking Time: 1 hr., 12 min. (1:33 - 2:45 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Walgreens, San Pablo Ave., San Pablo, CA

This afternoon I walked part of San Pablo Ave. (Shamrock to Richmond Parkway - show as double yellow lines) to Atlas Road, in San Pablo. I was heading toward Pt. Pinole Regional Shoreline Park.

I first walked northeast on San Pablo Ave., turning around at Shamrock (where I'd ended a walk last week on St. Patrick's Day). I turned around at Shamrock and headed back, southwest on San Pablo Ave., until I was confronted with three sidewalk crossings to get across the major intersection of San Pablo Avenue and Richmond Parkway, so that I could travel west toward Atlas Road.

After walking for awhile on Atlas Road, I turned around at the intersection of Atlas and Vista Drive, and walked back up Atlas to take a lunch break at the shopping center at Richmond Parkway and Atlas Road. Several food options are available here, including tacos and burritos, thai food, and also root beer floats at AandW if you're so inclined.

This stretch of Atlas Road had sidewalks, and ran slightly downhill toward the Bay, with new homes on the left, and industrial/commercial operations on the right. The road crossed the railroad tracks and ended at a business park at the bottom of the hill. Not surprisingly, given today's dense urban developments, there was more bird and other signs of wildlife on the industrial side -- also closer to the water. Two crows were busy dive-bombing a kite (bird) that was hovering mid-air. And, a flock of pigeons was circling around a fenced area further toward Point Pinole. Pillbugs and ladybugs spilled over onto the concrete sidewalks near an area with undeveloped dirt and grass.

Wildlife Sightings:
13 ladybugs; 9 pillbugs; 3 crows; 2 sea gulls; 1 blue jay; 1 dove; 12 pigeons; 1 kite (bird); 1 mockingbird; 1 rusty screw

Hidden Trail - Found! - Mar., 25, '11

Walking Distance: 1.0 mi.
Walking Time: 39 min. (12:30 - 1:09 p.m.)
Start and End Point: end of cul-de-sac, Rock Harbor Point, Hercules, CA

Thank you to Laura at the Bay Trail group in Oakland for helping me solve the puzzle about where this (solid red line on Bay Trail map) trail was located, near the Rodeo and Hercules border. I had been trying to locate this trail from the north end, from Lone Tree Point -- near 2nd Street, which is not really possible. There appears to be a parcel of private land or two that might be preventing access between Lone Tree Point/East Bay Regional Park land and this trail.

The best way to get to this red line trail is to approach it from further south. Turn from San Pablo Ave. onto Victoria Crescent Circle (not shown on map). At the end of this U-shaped street, turn onto Victoria Park toward the Bay. At the end of Victoria Park is a small park with a children's play area. The trail is just beyond this park, toward the Bay.

The Bay Area has received quite a bit of rain the past few weeks, and there were a few puddles of water on part of this paved (asphalt) trail. But, it was still a very pleasant walk.  I'd be willing to bet this path is normally quite dry. There were plenty of benches to sit on, relax and enjoy the occasional passing train, and views of the Bay.

I've noticed the past few weeks that the undeveloped areas in this part of Hercules harbor a large number of ladybugs, also known as ladybird beetles. I hope these can still thrive, despite ongoing development in the area. I've always liked these tiny, bright red-shelled beetles with black spots.

2 red-winged blackbirds; 29 ladybugs; 1 small brown lizard; 1 domestic cat (watching something in tall grass); 1 kite (the kind people fly) in tree; 1 pillbug; 3 little brown jobs

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Point Pinole - Mar. 21, '11

Walking Distance: 3.9 miles
Walking Time: 2 hr., 12 min. (5:16 - 7:28 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Public parking lot, Point Pinole Regional Shoreline Park

I caught a break in the rain today, and went walking out at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline Park. This large 2,300+ acre park had lots of amenities: restrooms, picnic tables, benches at scenic overlook sites, and even a shuttle bus that apparently runs from the tip of the point (fishing pier) back to the parking lot.

I first walked South, toward basketball court, and quickly turned around and headed toward the point. There was a plaque early on that explained that this site had once been owned by Safety Nitro Powder Company, and then by Giant/Atlas explosives manufacturing companies. There were odd little grass-covered bumps in various locations in the park -- bunkers from days gone by. Happily, the steel plant which was to follow never did, and Point Pinole was preserved as a park.

A small bridge allows pedestrians, bicyclists, runners and others to cross the railroad tracks and over to the main park area and Point Pinole. After the bridge, I chose to head closer to the water and I took the first "turn-off" to the Bay View Trail.

I really enjoyed the wide sweeping views of the water and Mount Tamalpais over in Marin Country, across the Bay. Once out at the end of the point, I walked out to the end of the long fishing pier, and enjoyed more great views. And, on the way back, I took the Owl Alley Trail, and -- no surprise -- there were ... additional memorable views of marshes and very tall groves of eucalyptus trees. Somewhere up in those trees I heard at least one owl, but I could not see them.

Frankly I could have taken pictures all day here. It really was a very enjoyable and scenic place to visit. I plan to come back to walk a few more trails that I wasn't able to cover today. Despite daylight saving time, I still ran out of light to finish the last bit of the Marsh Trail.

Wildlife Sightings:
21 little brown jobs (LBJs); 1 dove; 2 crows; 4 sea gulls; 1 hawk; 2 black-crowned night herons? (flying); 1 kite; 1 hummingbird; 1 turkey vulture; 2 great egrets; 8 dark snails; 1 great blue heron; 4 ducks; plus sounds of owl up in eucalyptus trees on the Owl Trail, but couldn't see any.

Friday, March 18, 2011

San Pablo Ave., cont. - Mar. 17, '11

Walking Distance: 3.6 mi.
Walking Time: 55 min. (6:41 - 7:36 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Public parking lot near The Embers Restaurant, Pinole, CA

Before dinner this evening, I walked the red line trail at Pinole Shores Regional Park. After taking a dinner break at The Embers restaurant (in shopping center off San Pablo Ave.), it was time to do a bit more walking -- this time on city surface streets. I headed southwest first, toward Richmond. Today was Saint Patrick's Day, so it seemed appropriate to walk as far southwest as Shamrock Drive, in Tara Hills (southwest of Pinole) before turning around.

Shown as a double yellow line on the Bay Trail Map, this stretch of San Pablo Avenue was a combination of mostly light industrial and commercial businesses and buildings -- with a dash of residential dwellings thrown in for good measure. There wasn't much in the way of green grass or Bay views from San Pablo Ave. But, this would be a good route for bicyclists. For pedestrians, most of San Pablo Avenue in this part of town has a sidewalk (or at least a sidewalk on one side of the street). At one point the sidewalk took me up a hill and a bit away from the road traffic. Then I was walking on roadway again. But, again, this was a double yellow line trail, and I've learned to expect a few pedestrian unfriendly stretches where I see double yellow lines.

2 sea gulls; 8 little brown jobs (LBJs); 1 crow; 1 rusty screw; 1 domestic cat

Pinole Shores Park - Mar. 17, '11

Walking Distance: 2.4 mi. (estimate)
Walking Time: 1 hr., 15 min. (4:38 - 5:53 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Public parking lot, Pinole Shores Regional Park, Pinole, CA

The Pinole Shores Park trail (shown as a red line on the map) was an asphalt-paved trail that branched out into two different directions (roughly northeast and southwest) from the parking lot -- located at the end of Pinole Shores Drive. There are also several signs in the parking lot, making it easier to find the starting points for the two trails.

I walked south first, and turned around when the paved portion of the trail ended. Only a small dirt path remained and it looked like it was headed toward someone's yard/private property. It looks like there is a dotted line on the map; the trail may continue in the future. But, it's not clear when or if this might happen.

I then returned and walked the northern arm of the trail. Both north and south sections offered bay views. Train tracks separated walkers from Bay itself. (Two trains rumbled by during my walk.) And the trail(s) were fenced off from the railroad tracks -- increasing safety, but also blocking access to the Bay. There were several areas where chain link fence had been repaired, indicating people are trying crossing the tracks to get out to the rocky points.

There are plenty of benches along the way to stop and rest, for those so inclined. The sweeping views of the Bay were nice. And there were lots of birds to see and hear on this walk. Industry is visible on the eastern part of the trail, but it's far away in the distance.

Today was partly overcast, but Mount Tamalpais was visible across the Bay. Also grasses and vegetation were still lush and green. Generous amounts of rain in the northern half of the San Francisco Bay this winter may help prolong our green season. New leaves were unfurling everywhere -- on trees, ivy, and flowering plants.

Wildlife Sightings:
3 crows; 18 sea gulls; 2 blue jays; 3 doves; 30 little brown jobs (LBJs); 2 Canada geese; 3 hummingbirds; 1 hawk; 1 pillbug

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pinole, San Pablo Ave. - Mar. 12, '11

Walking Distance: 2.0 miles
Walking Time: 1 hr., 12 min. (3:58 - 5:10 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Pinole public parking lot, Tennent Ave., Pinole, CA

The Bay Trail follows San Pablo Avenue for quite a long way; this is the best route for bicyclists. At the same time, there are bits and pieces of trail further West by the Bay, some better suited for walkers.

This afternoon, I continued my walk West along San Pablo Ave., (shown as double yellow lines on the Bay Trail map) from Tennent Ave. to Sunnyview. And next time, I'll investigate the Pinole Shores Regional Park (red line) trail closer to the Bay.

This stretch of San Pablo Avenue was mostly pedestrian-friendly, with sidewalks or setbacks on one or both sides of the street. I walked through the southern end of historic Pinole, and a bit further the historic homes and buildings began to shift to mixed commercial and light industrial areas.

I turned around at Sunnyview, near the Foster's Freeze, and walked back toward Tennent Ave. I stopped to take pictures of several murals, yard/shop figures/sculptures, and mannequins in the windows of an evening wear store. Murals and creative figures were in abundant supply in this part of Pinole.

And, in fact, I continued walking West on Tennent Ave. when I returned, past where I'd parked my car, so I could photograph a Santa Fe train mural painted under a railroad bridge crossing.

I also spotted some other murals across the street, and an older cat sitting on a doorstep. So, these last few blocks quickly degenerated into an exercise in fun, creative-picture taking rather than mindful, Bay Trail walking.

Wildlife Sightings:
1 sea gull; 1 little brown job (LBJ); 1 crow; 1 domestic cat (on Tennent Ave.)

Hercules Market Hall - Mar. 12, '11

Walking Distance: 1 mile
Walking Time: 1 hr., 25 min. (2:05 - 3:30 p.m.) includes two stops
Start and End Point: Public parking lot, San Pablo Ave., Hercules, CA

I realized I'd skipped part of San Pablo Avenue, from Sycamore Ave. to the end of Highway 4. (Highway 4 is also known as John Muir Parkway.)

So, today I returned to walk these few blocks, and also to stop in at the Hercules Market Hall, a unique development with some interesting stalls, shops, and a children's play area. Food and drink vendors include Shaw's Texas Style BBQ and Moschetti espresso. There was a bocci ball court, an outdoor theater space; and a farmer's market is scheduled to resume there in May 2011, barring any local budget cuts. Funding reductions are being felt in several Bay Area towns I've passed through. I hope this small Market space will be able to continue. It seems well-suited for several different types of community activities.

Following my stop at The Market Hall, I crossed San Pablo Ave. (please cross at the light carefully, as cars coming off Highway 4 are not always paying attention); and I walked to the end of Highway 4/John Muir Parkway.

While not part of the Bay Trail, the Western tail end of John Muir Parkway was a peaceful stretch to walk on a weekend. The road dead ended within a few long blocks of the San Francisco Bay. Given the presence of earth-moving equipment (and the dirt colored pad/area seen in Google Maps snapshot (upper edge of image, above right) at the end of the road, close to the Bay, I suspect this area will be further developed soon.

I'm not sure what all this development will mean for this ladybug that I passed on the sidewalk, or the rest of the birds, butterflies, and other wildlife in the area. I'll be curious to return a few years from now to find out.

I hope the city also continues to make this busy interchange pedestrian friendly, as I think this might help direct more traffic to The Market space as well.

Wildlife Sightings:
1 ladybug; 4 pillbugs; 2 crows; 3 red-winged blackbirds; 4 little brown jobs (LBJs); 5 white butterflies

Hercules, Pinole Creek - Mar. 9, '11

Walking Distance: 3.7 miles
Walking Time: 1 hr., 45 min. (12:35 - 2:20 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Public Parking lot, small shopping center on San Pablo Ave., Hercules, CA

Today I combined two trail segments, by walking a large rectangle that spanned Hercules and Pinole. Actually, the shape of the route I covered was probably closer to a large squiggle.

First, I walked Southwest on San Pablo Ave. (shown as double red lines on Bay Trail map) toward Historic Old Town Pinole, stopping to watch four turkeys cross San Pablo Ave. and head down a gully toward the railroad tracks. After crossing the tracks, they headed uphill toward some houses. (If you take out a magnifying glass, you might be able to spot all four turkeys in the cropped, horizontal image, at right.)

I enjoyed walking through historic Pinole. There were several possible meal stops here. I paused for lunch at Sam's doghouse, a family run business, where I was able to buy a Fritos boat to go with my hot dog. In amongst several historic houses, I was surprised to see a horse almost hidden in some yellow flowers, behind a fence. I'm sure the horse wasn't used to seeing many pedestrians either.

After lunch, I turned around and headed back, Northeast on San Pablo Ave. for a few short blocks. Then I turned right to follow the Pinole Creek Trail (purple line on map), through a park, under a large wooden bridge, and toward the Bay and the railroad tracks near Bayfront Park.  I then turned Right onto the Bay Trail (solid red line) toward Railroad Avenue (retracing steps from previous walk).

I don't always stick exactly to the Bay Trail. I sometimes explore new bay-side developments in an area.

In Hercules, there are fairly dense housing tracts going in, south of an industrial park at the end of John Muir Parkway. The remnants of old company buildings (housing?) that were associated with manufacturing dynamite and gunpowder appeared to be boarded up or long gone. The new community looks like it has been very carefully planned. A few small businesses are incorporated into the ground floors of multi-story buildings.

My wanderings through this newly developed area took me along Sycamore, Bayfront, and Tsushima (and a few other streets shown in white, or not shown, on Bay Trail map) to return to San Pablo Ave. Much of this new development was private property, and there was a large tract closest to the Bay which looked like it had yet to be developed. But, parts of this area were somewhat pedestrian friendly.

Wildlife Sightings:
4 turkeys; 2 hawks; 19 little brown jobs (LBJs); 14 ducks; 4 crows; 2 butterflies; 36 pigeons; 4 sea gulls; 1 horse; 1 pillbug; 1 peregrine falcon (top of tall tree); 5 doves; 2 Canada geese; 1 great white egret; 10 red-winged blackbirds; 2 killdeer; 1 bluejay