Wednesday, July 9, 2014

John F. McInnis County Park - Dec. 11, 2013

Walking Distance: 5 miles (estimate)
Walking Time: 2 hrs., 30 min. (1:55 - 4:25 p.m.)
Starting Point: John F. McInnis County Park, parking lot

Today's walk was on unpaved, packed dirt trails in and around John F. McInnis County Park, and included a great bird-watching area -- Las Gallinas Ponds (adjacent to the park and part of Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District).

I started this walk by walking out toward Bay on unpaved trail. I stopped to walk out to a small pier (launching area for kayaks?), and then walked along the trail along the water that was part of the McInnis Park Wetland Preserve, according to a sign I passed.

The trail furthest out by the bay was adjacent to a large area of patchy, but healthy looking marsh grasses. I watched a great blue heron, a kite (bird), and some other birds of prey out in baylands either staring into the grasses intently (hunting) or making sudden grabs at tiny, unseen items (food).

Eventually I headed back toward the hills (inland) and looped back round to Las Gallinas (Wildlife) Ponds. I walked around first two ponds, (was some construction going on, and it was getting late, so turned around). I enjoyed watching ducks, white pelicans, cormorants, hawks, and several red-headed mergansers -- who were squawking at each other on a log. I thought one of the mergansers should be called Lucille Ball (a red-headed comedienne and TV star in the 1900s) for his/her antics.

I then had to find way back to my car in McInnis Park without going through the golf course (i.e. I didn't want to walk all the way out into the Baylands again, and thought I could cut through the park. However, I found myself walking up a hill via a narrow dirt path, and eventually climbing up and over the top of the hill (where there was a nice view) to a skate park and a road, that I followed back down again toward playing fields and the parking lot where my car was, near park entrance. Alls well that ends well.

Wildlife Sightings:
51 LBJs/brown sparrows; 3 great egrets, 3 snowy egrets; 1 crow; 142 RWBs / Blackbirds; 3 birds of prey -- 1 kite and 1 larger red-tailed hawk at ponds; 3 great blue herons; 36 Canada Geese; 173 ducks; 4 black-crowned night herons; 35 sea gulls; 2 white pelicans; 6 mergansers; 7 cormorants; 7 black birds with long-black tails flying over ponds late in afternoon; 10 swifts or swallows (not the orange and blue kind); 3 balls (1 golf ball); 3 grebes; 4 coots

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Redwood Highway - Nov. 25, 2013

Walking Distance: 6.1 miles
Walking Time: 2 hours, 0 min. (2:05 - 4:05 p.m.)
Start and End Point: 4050 Redwood Highway, San Rafael, CA

Today's walk started from a Subway sandwich shop in a small shopping center off the Redwood Highway in San Rafael, CA. (Redwood Highway is a frontage road that runs parallel to Highway 101.)

From 4050 Redwood Highway (the intersection of Marin Center Drive and Redwood Highway), I walked south, on sidewalks, toward the Marin County Civic Center/Civic Center Drive.

When I'd almost reached the point where Redwood Highway turned into Civic Center Drive, I saw a large sign adjacent to an old set of railroad tracks indicating that a Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) train was in the works and would run through the area (connecting communities and providing transit options in the region) sometime in the near future. This sign had been posted for awhile; and I believe it might be a few years before railcars for this new train have been tested and are in operation. I'm hoping there will be Bay Trail access arrangements that complement these plans.

Back to today's walk. I turned around, a bit south of the SMART sign, at the South Fork(s) of Gallinas Creek just past old railroad tracks (at the intersection of Redwood Highway and McInnis Parkway, at the northern end of Marin County Civic Center complex). The Creek with not terribly visible close to the road, but in the distance (east, toward the Bay) I could see a great white egret standing in shallow water.

After turning around, I walked north on Redwood Highway, passing my starting point. As I was headed toward Smith Ranch Rd., I passed the Cat Chateau and Luxury Cat Boarding, Joe's Cafe (4150 Redwood Highway), Happy Garden (Chinese) Restaurant, and Jimbo's Hot Dogs. In short, small businesses which I'm always interested in seeing.

These local businesses give a community a unique sense of place that I don't get with bigger chains. I also passed an office building with attractive, drought-tolerant (or at least a nod to local Mediterranean) landscaping -- with clusters of dark grapes ripening on vines, lavender plants, and neat beds of packed, amber gravel. With water being scarce this year, I was inspired to emulate this design at my house. And, I hope others will be too.

I walked east on Smith Ranch Road to John F. McInnis County Park, and stopped to watch a hawk flutter into a tree along the way.

Once in the park, I found another trail (solid green line on the Bay Trail map) near the old railroad tracks -- a more northerly stretch of the same tracks I'd seen further south; and I walked back on this more peaceful, shaded trail with occasional views of the creek and ducks, that led me back to Redwood Highway (Frontage Road).

I'd seen a family of quail crossing this same trail a few years ago, but it was too late in the day to see much this evening. I did however, enjoy seeing some great views of Mount Tamalpais in the distance as the sun set.

Wildlife Sightings:
11 little brown jobs (LBJs); 11 ducks; 1 red-tailed hawk; 8 pigeons; 7 crows/ravens; 2 clouds of ankle-to-eyeball gnats; 1 great egret; 1 sea gull with bread in beak being chased by 2 crows

Friday, March 14, 2014

McInnis Parkway - Nov. 21, 2013

Walking Distance: 2.4 miles (estimate)
Walking Time: 1 hour (12:30 - 1:30 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Near Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium, San Rafael, CA

I started today's walk by visiting the Farmers Market off Civic Center Drive, in San Rafael. The Farmers Market was set up near the distinctive-looking Marin County Civic Center buildings -- designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

After I'd stowed my market purchases in my car, I headed north on Civic Center Drive.

The first part of this walk was on sidewalks and paved (asphalt) paths (green dotted and solid lines on Bay Trail Map). I also chose to take a detour and walk along a packed dirt path that wasn't part of the Bay Trail, before returning to paved surfaces (walkways and parking lots).

From Civic Center Drive, I turned right onto McInnis Parkway, and continued to the end of the road (marked by horizontal white planks and an "End" sign).

Where the asphalt path along the road ended there was a gated entrance to a packed dirt trail on the right side, marked private (open to local residents). I followed this trail -- with views across water to Via Venetia area, and Santa Margarita Island Preserve.

The dirt/gravel trail continued to wind around to the right, affording some great views of Mount Tamalpais and the tops of the blue-domed roofs of Civic Center buildings. I followed this trail until I reached buildings again (the back sides of buildings on McInnis Parkway), and a back entrance to the Embassy Suites hotel.

I made a brief stop at Embassy Suites. This hotel chain often has large internal spaces on the lobby level filled with light and green plants, and I'm always interested in finding possible overnight stops for Bay Trail walking. After my stop, I returned to the trail, and crossed a nearby bridge over the south fork of Gallinas Creek. Once on the other side, I headed back toward the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium (part of extended Civic Center complex) parking lot, and to where my car was parked near the Farmers Market.

Wildlife Sightings:
25 little brown jobs (LBJs); 15 crows; 1 white butterfly; 1 pigeon; 15 sea gulls; 9 ducks; 4 great egrets