Sunday, May 4, 2008

Them Thar Hills! Thoughts of Trails, Trails of Thoughts

More pictures than words this week.

Elizabeth and I have made an arrangement: Because she has sculpture class on Saturday in Walnut Creek, on Friday I get the car and some badly needed exercise and fresh air. A few weeks ago, I commenced exploring the north-south string of parks that make up the East Bay Municipal Park District. Covering 91,000 acres, the district runs through the hills above East Bay cities from Richmond and unincorporated El Sobrante (“the leftovers”), through Oakland, to Hayward, Fremont, and San Jose.

We’d already explored much of the area north above the Caldicott tunnel through which Highway 24 runs into Contra Costa County. I decided to wander south. Last summer I explored around Sibley Volcanic Preserve a couple of times, but this year, I decided to start out with the Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, located about two miles south of the intersection with Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Claremont Avenue. (From the west, this is best reached by taking Highway 24 through the Caldicott Tunnel than fanning immediately right up Fish Ranch Road. At the top you make a left onto Grizzly Peak Boulevard. There’s also an exit onto Fish Ranch Road from Highway 24 west.)

The Huckleberry Preserve is smaller than the other parks in the system and is all oak woodland. It was rather a dull hazy day as you can tell from the photo below, taken on March 7.

The trail was pleasant—what trail isn’t?—and only hikers are permitted. But I craved a wider range of environments and greater vistas. The next week, I drove a few more miles south, hooked up with Skyline Boulevard and found greater satisfaction.

Unfortunately, this was the day your correspondent forgot to recharge the batteries on the Canon, so I turned the hike into a workout that turned into an exercise in getting lost—not Dead-Man-Crawling-Lost, but lost as in making a wrong turn and walking all the way to the south end of the park before awaking to my mistake. (Sometimes I’m hiking through the woods; often, like many artist-types, I’m hiking through my thoughts. This was one of those days.) I totaled up six miles and wasn’t that sorry about any of it, especially after that first beer. No sore muscles the next day, either.

The next week, I returned, fully cameraed.

Redwood Regional Park is a 400-foot-or-so-deep canyon—thought no one calls it that--whose ridges are circled by two main trails. The environment is a mix of mostly oak and chaparral at higher elevations, with hushed groves of second growth coast redwoods towering from below. A century ago, this was a major logging site whose wood was major source of building materials. The Bay Area Ridge Trail, whose construction is still in progress, runs through here.

The second Friday, I took the east ridge trail, facing toward Contra Costa County. It was a long, mostly easy, walk, pleasantly uneventful. As you can see, spring was coiled and ready to . . . .

Possibly monkeyflower, though I'm not sure

Baby Blue Eyes? I doubt it . . . .

One remarkable feature is the park’s comparative sense of remoteness. At certain angles, you can fool yourself into thinking you’re seeing things as they were hundreds of years ago, when only the Ohlone people lived in these hills with their low-tech way of life.

The Big City's Not That Far Away

Unfortunately, the hum of the city and the roar of jets overhead from Oakland International Airport are there to remind you otherwise. As are a few signs of civilization like these:

Proof that Little People Exist

The cross, I’m guessing, makes humble reference to Iraq war casualties. Stonehenge . . . ? Yes, little people do live in parks! Why . . . ?

Two weeks later, I took the south ridge. By this time, spring was in full bloom.

Blue-eyed grass; not a grass, but a member of the iris family

Beautiful . . . and unknown
I enjoy taking photos of flowers. It’s more challenging than you think. Digital cameras become unstable when taking close-ups. You’re only seeing the good ones and there aren’t many.

So far, I’ve made my way south of the Chabot Space and Science Center to Roberts Recreation Area.

Chabot Space Center

Roberts Recreation Area is actually a separate park. The second growth redwoods that grow here are descendants of the ones used as reference points by early sailing ships to safely navigate their way into San Francisco Bay.

In Roberts Recreation Area

There’s much ground left to cover. In the meantime, my weight’s down to 175 lbs and my psoriasis has eased somewhat. I'd post pictures, but somehow, sadly, the camera batteries died . . . .

[Reedited 5/5/08; 5/8/08]

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