Archive for the ‘East Bay’ Category

If you look back in the archives you’ll find our post describing our first attempt at this section. We made it about half way on a day when the winds were howling, the icy rain was falling, and the temperatures dropped quickly into the low 40’s. Fearing hypothermia, as we were ill prepared, we turned around. Today we were back to finish it up. We drove straight to the the middle of the section, parking at the end of Gold Hill Drive in Castro Valley. After a brief conversation with a older Chinese woman, who was out for her morning walk and didn’t speak a lick of English, we stepped through the gate and into the hills. Based on the scenery I think she was mentioning how beautiful the hills and the trails are, and we couldn’t agree with her more. It was a cold but sunny day – the exact opposite of the last time we were here.

We started off on the Newt Pond Trail and went through a gate into North Garin Regional Park after about 0.3 mile. This section is an easy run through the rolling hills of the East Bay on the Chabot-to-Garin Regional Trail. Due to the recent rains, the hills were green and because the cold temperatures, there was no reason to be worried about snakes. As we headed down into the canyon the light faded and the temperature dropped. There was a herd of cows milling around on the muddy trail near the bottom of the canyon. As we headed uphill, so did they. Normally cows will move along and eventually head off the trail as we approach. Since there was a steep drop off to the creek below on one side of the trail and a steep wooded hill on the other side they stuck to the trail. We slowed to a walk and herded them along. We thought this would pass after a little while, but it didn’t. The cows  stayed in front of us for more than a mile. The trail was a mess. Muddy, with puddles of cow poop all over the place. We tried not to fall and eventually reached the top where the cows could move off the trail into the pasture. They scolded us with moos as we slipped by out onto the ridge. The trail skirted the edge of a large valley that had a pond, and on this day, three coyotes hunting ground squirrels. We rounded the valley and found the end the section and the end of the Chabot-to-Garin regional trail, a wonderful trail that connects to the great parks and open spaces of the East Bay. This is the southernmost section of the trail. From here there is about a six mile gap to the next section of Ridge Trail in Mission Peak.

We tagged the post, snapped a picture, and headed back. We passed by the cows again on the way back. They were still in the pasture and we marveled at their calfs. Apparently they didn’t care for our remarks because one charged Corina. It didn’t make contact but it was enough to scare us down the trail. It was more treacherous on the way back down. Slick and wicked. We made it back down and up and hit the car about an hour and a half later. It felt good to conquer this section of the trail that had once forced us to turn around. Another great day in the East Bay Hills.

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The Chabot-to-Garin Regional Trail is an example of why the East Bay has one of the best trail networks in the country. Today’s trek took us through regional parks, public watershed lands, private lands, and through the edges of town to connect Chabot Regional Park to Castro Valley. We parked at the Chabot Staging Area off of Redwood Road. It was a cold morning, but there was no rain, for a change. The Rampage Peak Trail skirts the edge of a Christmas Tree farm, buzzing in the holiday season. We climbed our way up through East Bay Municipal Utility District lands onto Dinosaur Ridge Road. The wet creek bed gave way to sunny chaparral and 360 degree views of the Bay. We exited EBMUD lands onto a private trail easement. These regional trails are what make the East Bay great. They allow for regional connections between protected areas and allow trail users to interface with working lands. Today we were greeted by a couple of friendly horses as we entered private land. They were curious and let us pet them. The Bay Area Ridge Trail promised a pasture full of llamas, but the fence around the llama pasture was in pretty rough shape and there were no llamas in sight. So the horses saved the day. The trail through this portion leveled out and we had about a mile of flat running through scrubby oaks. We exited through a gate into what looked like someone’s backyard. On the way back this same gate was blocked by the same three horses, now a little more stubborn, and possibly hungry, forcing us to wiggle under a barbed wire fence. At this point we were a little confused – we felt uncomfortable just running through someone’s back yard! With a little searching, we saw a sign for the Garin Regional Trail headed downslope. The nice thing about these regional trails is that they meander through the already inhabited areas, so you might find yourself rambling through a backyard before diving back into open space. I believe these were the house at the end of Columbia Drive, shown on the Bay Area Ridge Trail map.

We were quickly back into the lush forest and now in the Cull Canyon Regional Recreation Area. This is a little known (at least to us) regional park that is gorgeous. We crossed a creek a few times and worked our way up and down some challenging terrain. We saw one birdwatcher along the way and talked to him about Varied Thrushes. We also heard some Brown Creepers, a rarity outside of the redwoods. Eventually we made it to a more developed part of the park where there were bathrooms, picnic areas, and a swim lagoon. We heard an interesting duck call only to find out that it was an actual a duck call commandeered by a young kid on the edge of the lagoon.

We took a small wrong turn as we followed Cull Canyon Road straight down to Crow Canyon Road, rather than turning east and running through Canyon Middle School, home of the condors. We would pick that up on the way back. The final section leaves Crow Canyon Road and travels along a neighborhood trail to Independent School. The next section picks up there and continues on to Garin Regional Park. We retraced our steps on the way back except for the occasional reroute to climb to the top of some high peaks for better views or to run through the creek as it runs through a large culvert under the road in Cull Canyon Park. Couldn’t resist. Our legs were pretty tired by the time we reached the EBMUD lands and the steep downhills were slow going. Originally we had planned to run another short section today but decided to save it for tomorrow. After 15.5 miles of hills, our legs could use the rest.

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Third time’s a charm!

The first time we set out to complete this section, we were too wet, cold, and hungry after running at Redwood and Chabot to actually do it. The second time we tried (and we use the term “we” loosely because Corina had the map), we took a wrong turn and only completed 2 miles of the trail. Today we set out to finally finish it. Although it was pouring in Campbell, we grabbed our rain gear and drove north. Since we’d already completed the EBMUD section, we drove straight to Inspiration Point to hit the other end of the section. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t raining when we arrived. We started out at the big Nimitz Way gate and ran along the paved trail past several groves of young redwoods. The trail was flat and easy – definitely in contrast with the run we did through Wildcat Canyon a couple weeks ago when we took a wrong turn! At around 2.5 miles, we made it to the EBMUD boundary, took a picture, and turned back. Along the way we explored the Rotary Club Peace Grove, admiring the names of the honored, and climbed up the muddy trail to the top of Wildcat Peak. Though I’m sure the view from the peak is beautiful, all we saw was white on this foggy day.

Back at the parking lot, we decided to extend our run southeast through Tilden Regional Park – a section of the Ridge Trail that we enjoyed last spring. We hiked up the hill, a little disappointed that the fog was hanging around and obscuring our view. Eventually we turned around, shuffled back down the hill, and actually reran the Nimitz Way section of the trail to reach our goal of running 16 miles as part of our first “long” run in our training plan for our 50 miler in April. So even though it took us three tries to complete this section we did it twice just to be sure. This was the final segment of a about 50 miles that stretches from Kennedy Grove Regional Park south to Garin Regional Park. The folks in the East Bay are spoiled to have these great trails in their backyard.

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After getting over our disappointment of our SF Watershed hike being cancelled due to storms (resulting in us not being able to actually finish the trail this calendar year because the Ridge Trail Council thinks sections behind locked gates should count), we decided to do another section of the trail today. We’re recovering from running the Quad Dipsea, a 28-mile race with 9200 feet of elevation gain, so we wanted to keep it pretty short and easy. The section from Kennedy Grove to Inspiration Point looked reasonable – 9 miles round trip and the hills certainly couldn’t be too bad.

After a long drive, we made it to the trailhead at Kennedy Grove. The steady rain made it hard to getout of the car, but several other people were there walking their dogs, so we decided to go for it. We headed out of the parking lot and soon realized we were going the wrong way. Once we’d found the actual ridge trail (it’s not easy to find from the parking lot), we were on our way. We ran past a few small bucks, across a small creek, and into the EBMUD watershed lands. We ran past the reservoir and up single-track trail to the main road, through a huge flock of robins (maybe 200), and across the road onto some old, muddy service roads.

Soon, we’d reached the end of the EBMUD lands. I saw a Bay Area Ridge Trail sign (pointing the way we’d just came), so I followed it backwards to make a big right turn onto a paved trail on the ridge. We followed this until the pavement ran out, and continued to run. When we got to a major fork in the road, we consulted the map, but found that this junction wasn’t there. Cursing the map for being so inaccurate (a common problem on these runs), we went to the right. Our gut told us this was correct. Down we went… where we were going…Nobody knows. After about a mile of going downhill, I recalled that the Ridge Trail book clearly states that from Inspiration Point to Kennedy Grove, it’s a steady downhill; therefore, we should not be running downhill as we approach Inspiration Point. We also approached some gates and houses that looked like they might be outside of parklands. Finally, we turned around and headed back up the hill, slipping and sliding in the sloppy mud.

Back at the junction, we turned left this time. After about a quarter mile, we finally spotted a Bay Area Ridge Trail sign. Phew! (or so we thought). We ran up and down some pretty steep rolling hills, shielding our faces from the wind and rain. As the fog rolled in, we could no longer see more than a hundred feet or so in front of us, so we couldn’t tell how much further we needed to go to get to the “inspiring” parking lot we were headed towards. I was starting to get cold and tired, and the miles had been ticking away. We should have been there by now. I finally decided that it wasn’t worth it to me anymore. I’d be okay with being a quarter mile short because I was too cold. We turned around and retraced our steps back to the car. I was exhausted by the time we got back. Our 9 mile run ended up being 12 miles, which wouldn’t normally be that big of a deal, but on tired legs, those extra 3 miles made a big difference.

Curious how far we had cut the route short, I went back and read the chapter about this section of the trail in the Ridge Trail book. It describes the trail through EBMUD and then states, “When you reach the ridgetop, go through a gate into Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.” Check. Did that. “Turn left (south) on Nimitz Way.” Well shoot… No wonder our map didn’t match the trails we were seeing. We’d gone right and actually spent our morning exploring Wildcat Canyon. Why there’s a Ridge Trail sign out there is beyond me. I had a small breakdown in the car, but eventually pulled myself together as we cranked up the heat in the car and headed home. I guess we’ll be back!

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We have spent quite a bit of time in Castro Valley running the miles and miles of Bay Area Ridge Trail that connect into the Berkeley Hills. During all of that we left one segment untouched. Today we turned out to run a short 3-mile section of trail in Redwood Regional Park and Lake Chabot Regional Park. We woke up to rain and it rained the whole way from San Jose to to the park. We peered out of the car windows at the MacDonald Gate in Redwood Regional Park and tried to wish the rain away. We rationalized by saying things like, “at least it’s not cold and windy, just rainy.” We talked about how hard core we were as we fogged up the windows. Finally we emerged into the puddles. Running in the rain actually isn’t that big of a deal – but beginning a run in the rain might be one of the hardest things in the world to do.

Off we went and there wasn’t a soul in sight. It was a steady warm rain and it was accompanied by a steady, steep climb. We were headed from MacDonald Gate to Bort Meadows. I was on this section of trail about one month prior with some friends that were running the Firetrails 50 miler. It looked and felt much different today. For one thing we were fresh. During Firetrails they had logged 41 miles by this point and were approaching the final internal race cutoff station before the final push to the end. I recounted the events of that day to Corina and we were able to relive them in real time. I was pacing Ilya Shafir and Mike Zensius was pacing Janine Waits-Penney. We were really pushing the envelop on time and as we approached the MacDonald Gate aid station Janine said she had a thorn in her shoe and needed to fix it at the aid station. I was trying to get them in and out of the aid station quickly so we didn’t miss the cutoff at the Bort Meadows aid station. Janine’s foot was a wreck. Full of blisters. We exchanged a few stern words (mostly from her) as I sanitized and dressed her foot. With that we were back on the trail.

Corina and I were now climbing the same hill that they faced during the race. It is a steady two mile hill. Though Corina and I happily splashed through the puddles up the hill, during the race we were forced to power hike. At the time this was Ilya’s strong suit and Janine was struggling. For the first time in nearly 10 miles we separated. Ilya and I left Mike and Janine to fend for themselves. Ilya was making quick work of the climb and I kept one eye on the clock. I was pretty sure we would make the cutoff but I was growing concerned for Janine. As we crested the hill we spoke about Janine for the first time. Ilya said he hoped her foot was better and I agreed. I thought there was no way that she would make the cutoff but never said a word about it to Ilya. I don’t know if he knew how close it was going to be. The downhill felt good as we crossed through a cattle gate and approached another. The aid station was just on the other side of the gate and as we approached Janine and Mike came barreling down the hill after us. I have no idea how Janine mustered the strength to comeback like that. I think it will always be one of the happiest memories that I will ever have on a trail. We made the cutoff by 4 minutes and Ilya and Janine went on to finish the 50 miler as darkness fell (okay darkness had fallen for awhile but it was still epic).

There was no drama like that on the trail for Corina and I we reached the Bort Meadows turnaround and for the first time saw another hiker walking his dogs. The return was fast and slippery. The rain let up a little but we couldn’t see the normally stunning views of the Bay. We passed by the car and headed up on the Golden Spike Trail into Redwood Park. The trail map was a little suspicious. They weren’t to scale and didn’t really match the terrain we were seeing. We made it to the Fish Camp picnic area and lost the trail for good. We scrambled around the hills a little looking for a trail that was supposed to take us back to the car but settled for running back on Redwood Road. A rough end to an otherwise good run.

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We got up early this morning, ready for a long drive and a long run. The drive through Orinda was surprisingly beautiful. I would have been happy just spending the morning in the car driving around, but that’s not what we went out there to do. We parked on the side of the road, ate our vegan donuts, and watched as a few bikers were celebrating the end of their ride. After signing in at the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) kiosk, we headed out. The trail started off up hill next to a firebreak. Within a few hundred feet, the trail was the firebreak. It had been recently disked, so our pace slowed to a tentative walk. We picked our way through the chunks of dirt for a half-mile or so, but then decided to hop the fence and run on the road parallel to the trail.

When the trail veered off from the firebreak, we rejoined the trail and headed away from the road. The trail was pretty rugged – alternating between roads and grass-covered lumpy single track. It made for some slow going at times. Since very few people stray this direction, we enjoyed following fresh coyote, deer, raccoon, and turkey tracks along the road, complete with some very large and interesting scat along the way.

Several miles into our run and at a high point in the watershed, we left the EBMUD land and headed into Fernandez Ranch. It was a relief to run on some nicely maintained trails – I enjoyed letting my mind wander a bit instead of thinking about every step. We ran on the Woodrat Trail down to the Windmill Trail, which led us past cows down to the main park entrance. Here we saw our first people (besides bikers on the road) of the day, getting ready for a hike. After a quick pit-stop, we headed back out, deciding to take the long way back to see more of the park. We ran up the Black Phoebe Trail to the Whipsnake Trail, and back to the Woodrat Trail. These trails offered some nice views of the area that we enjoyed before heading back onto the uneven trails of the EBMUD watershed.

Back in the Pinole Watershed, we ran on the Goat Road (though sadly we didn’t see any goats) up and down a few hills here and there until we finally made it back down to Alhambra Road where we crossed the road and kept on running. I was excited to try a new nutrition product, developed by Brendon Brazier, a vegan athlete. Though I really wanted to like the gel, I have to admit, I ended up feeding it to the ants and eating my vegan bar instead. Back up a hill and through a gate, we entered Sobrante Ridge Regional Park. This is where all the people were! We enjoyed some tasty bars while admiring the view of the Carquinez Straight and then continued on around to the south end of the park. At the end of the single track trail, we unceremoniously turned around and retraced our steps through the park. Though the Ridge Trail signs tried to coax us onto the connector trail up to Pinole Valley Park, we stayed focused and ran back up the hill and through the gate into EBMUD land once again. This little section adjacent to Sobrante Ridge Regional Park is a pretty wide (though gopher hole laden) road, so we ran back down it quickly.

Our mileage by this time was adding up, and our legs were slowing down, so we decided not to retrace our steps back through the Pinole Watershed. We really appreciate the trails being there and how easy it is to gain access into EBMUD land ($10 for an annual  permit that can be purchased and printed online), but the trails aren’t the most fun for running. Instead, we headed back on Alhambra Road and decided to spend the mileage saved on finishing another section of the Ridge Trail.

After putting up with several miles of some hot running on the road, we were happy to be back at the car eating more vegan donuts, which by this time were pleasantly warm.

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Al Zampa Bridge

Troy and I decided that this section is probably best described through pictures. I will note, however, that the Ridge Trail website and book both underestimate the mileage for this section. Don’t be fooled – to do the whole section, it’s not 1.6 miles one-way. It’s actually 2.5 miles each way. Luckily, I was in a good mood and didn’t really mind the extra 2 miles. Also worth mentioning is Al Zampa’s story – you can read it on a placard on the north end of the bridge, or check it out here.

The official start

The south end of the bridge

The bridge

Getting closer…

The other side.




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Early on in “the year of the ridge trail,” we checked race calendars to see if we could find any good trail races that would cover significant portions of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Though we found many races that do a few miles of trail here and there, we really found only two that we thought would be worth doing – both were put on by Coastal Trail Runs. We completed the first back in January, the Crystal Springs 50k. This weekend we ran the Cinderella Half Marathon through Redwood Regional Park and Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland.

We got an early start to our day, not totally sure how long it would take us to get there, check in, use the bathroom, and be ready to run. We checked in with plenty of time to spare, so I sat in the car for a good 15 minutes before deciding it would be a good idea to use the bathroom before the start of the race. Those 15 minutes in the car were a mistake. Even with over 20 minutes to go before the start, the line for the women’s room was at least 20 runners deep, with only two stalls. I waited… and waited…. I could hear the announcements to start lining up, and soon I knew I was missing the instructions for understanding the trail markings. I was only 3 people away from comfort! When I heard the stalls were out of toilet paper, I finally baled and found Troy in the lineup for the start. I could wait 2.5 hours – some of the women behind me might have been running longer distances (they offered a 30K, marathon, and 50K), so I made a sacrifice for them.

Within a few minutes, the race unceremoniously started, and we were off… at a walking pace because the trail was too narrow to fit all 200 or so runners at once. We walked and jogged the first half mile or so until the hills finally started sorting people out. We ran through Joaquin Miller Park on the Sunset, Sequoia Bayview, and Cinderella trails before entering Redwood Regional Park and meeting up with the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Months ago, we ran the half mile section from the Skyline Gate staging area to the French Trail, as part of our Tilden Regional Park section, knowing we would miss that portion during this race. The first few miles were great single-track trails, really rocky at times, and a good challenge. We were pushing ourselves as much as we could which provided for some really fast (for us) running.

We started the segment today on the West Ridge Trail until it reached the French Trail. Here we left the Ridge Trail and headed south on the French trail until eventually turning around at the Fish Ladder towards the south end of the Ridge Trail segment, where I was happy to find an aid station stocked with potato chips and Oreos. We left the aid station – me with a full mouth, and headed up hill on West Ridge Trail, now back on the Bay Area Ridge Trail. The hills here were steep, and I had to walk some pretty long segments. Troy might claim that I wasn’t trying as hard as I could, but I was tired! Besides, we’d been running in the dust of runners in front of us for over an hour, and my breathing passages weren’t very happy about that. Rest assured, I was giving it my full effort. This section is multi-use and is mostly on fire road. In all this portion was a little less inspiring than the single-track, but still nice. Because it was a little more exposed on top it was hot. This sapped our energy and made us long for the final downhill stretch.

We finally made it up the 3-mile long hill and cruised to the finish following a blistering two mile downhill. By that point our legs were pretty shot but we decided to go for it, throwing caution to the wind. The rocky descent was technical but fun. Since nobody fell or broke an ankle it was a good day. I enjoyed some soda and watermelon while waiting for results to be posted. I ended up finishing 4th in my age group, only a minute and a half behind the 3rd place winner. Maybe Troy was right – I should have stepped it up on that hill. Oh well! I was the 8th woman across the finish line, so I felt pretty good about that. Besides, it was an awesome run – a really nice segment of the ridge trail. Even with the hills, there was plenty of flat, easy running on soft, smooth surfaces through big trees. I will admit, however, I think I forgot to really look at the trees! I’ve heard they’re big here, but I’ll have to go back to really make sure. Plus, we didn’t actually finish the segment, so we will be back in the next few months to complete the southern most 3 miles of the trail. I promise to look around a bit more and report back.

All Business at the Finish Line

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Part 1 – The Hangover

The whole reason we were at Lake Chabot this particular weekend was to celebrate my 36th birthday. For the past three summers we have done a group camp out somewhere in the Bay Area to celebrate summer birthdays. We chose Lake Chabot because there was conveniently a section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail that we could tick off while there. Like all good birthday celebrations this one included a fair amount of alcohol. I don’t usually drink much, so it is easy for me to overindulge, and overindulge I did. This irritates Corina, as you might expect, and she decided to punish me by hitting the trail early on Saturday morning.

We were planning to take two days to run the section through Chabot so this first day was going to be short. It was supposed to be short and easy, but let’s just say it was short. We got up with the early birds, and it was already feeling hot. It was going to be in the 90’s so we wanted to get off early. As our friends started waking up and making breakfast, we chatted, drank our coffee, and idled the early, cool hours away. Needless to say, “early” wasn’t really as early as we’d hoped. We headed out from the parking lot where the Brandon Trail intersects Marciel Road. We headed east on the Brandon Trail which is actually a fire road. It plunges down towards Willow Creek Golf Course. The blazing sun was in our face and I was about as miserable as I could be. A pounding headache and queasy stomach. Knowing that I would get no sympathy from Corina I kept my pain to myself. The trail runs right through the golf course on a dedicated, fenced trail that goes right past one of the greens. Keeping our eyes out for errant golf balls we skirted the course and made it to the turn around at the Proctor Staging Area. On our way back up the hill, the sun now at our backs, I was starting to slow down. Between the heat and nausea I couldn’t keep up. Corina turned on the burners and left me to suffer. There were no words spoken about it but I knew that this was my payment for having too much fun the night before. About halfway back we split off onto a single-track called Willow View Trail. This trail was much cooler and wound its way along Redwood Road to the Chabot Staging Area. The highlight of this section was the carcass of a deer that a flock of about 10 turkey vultures were working on. When a carcass is the highlight you know it has been a rough day. We returned the way we came and I was so glad to see the car. By running I had push myself even further into dehydration and I would spend the rest of the day trying to catch up.

Day 2 – A Slow Recovery

Even though I spent the rest of Saturday trying to recover, I was still not myself on Sunday. We picked up where we left off and took the Brandon Trial west from the parking area. Donna Maniscalco and Bob Klein, some friends that were camping with us the night before, joined us for part of the run. Bob was participating in [and has since completed] the Vineman Triathlon the next week. This is an ironman distance, so he was taking it easy. The Brandon Trail is a rolling fire road that passes in and out of eucalyptus groves and coyote bush scrub. It was hot again but not as bad as Saturday. One of the things that has the biggest impact on you when you hike or run at Lake Chabot is the incessant gunfire. There is a popular shooting range in the park and apparently bullets are cheap, because these people unload. We ran a New Years Day race here a couple of years ago and didn’t realize there was a firing range nearby. The gunfire sounds frighteningly close and you almost duck and flinch instinctively. The boys [and probably some girls too] didn’t disappoint today. It was like running in a war zone. After three miles Donna and Bob turned around and headed home. We made it to Stone Bridge, which is, you guessed it, a stone bridge. Here we veered right onto the Grass Valley Trail and skirted the grassy hills until we made it to the Bort Meadow Staging Area. We had to get back so we left the remaining three miles for another day. We returned on the Brandon Trail and finally made it back to the car. These were two insufferable days and it was all my fault. The good news is I will probably never do this again. Of course I say that about once every six months. I guess I have a bad memory. We will return to this neck of the woods in August to run the Cinderella half-marathon in Redwood Regional Park, just north of here.

At the start – Day 1

Dedicated trail along the golf course

Vultures lingering

Shady single-track

Looking towards Castro Valley

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If you are like me, when you drive through Martinez on I-680 you think of two things: refineries and ice cream. Refineries because Martinez is full of them and ice cream because I am always thinking of ice cream. I have never exited off the freeway to explore this little city by the Bay until today. There are several sections of the Bay Area Ridge Trail in the Carquinez Strait area. We would cover about seven miles worth with a total run of almost 14 miles. We parked in sleepy downtown Martinez early in the morning. There were promises of a farmer’s market later in the day which we thought might come in handy. The Ridge Trail runs right through town paralleling the Amtrak tracks. We parked across from the station and headed west.

Right away we came to Ridge Trail evidence and some old cemeteries, always a good sign. This section of trail through town is one of many that are joint Bay Area Ridge Trail and Bay Trail segments. This sections through town ends when it enters the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline managed by East Bay Regional Parks District. We would pick up the other end of this segment later in the day. This is also where it joins the Hulet-Hornbeck Regional Trail. We quickly entered Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline and began to climb.  We passed through some scrubby oak woodlands and the slope was wicked. Before long we broke out into the open grasslands high above Martinez with a stunning view of, you guessed it, the Shell Oil Refinery. Shell established the refinery here in 1915 and along with several other refineries in the area processes crude oil so millions of Americans can burn rubber. We ambled through the grassy hills and the heat started to become apparent. We frolicked with some cows, even chasing them around at times.

We rolled through the hills and headed down towards Highway 4 where we ran past John Muir’s house and headed towards the John Muir National Historical Site where we would face Mount Wanda. Here’s the thing about the word Mount or Mt. Once before we ran up Hood Mountain and it didn’t occur to us that we would be running uphill most of the way. Silly us. Today we suffered the same fate. Mount Wanda is in fact a Mountain. It is a small mountain but when you are running and it is hot and steep, it might as well be the Rockies. By this point Corina was toast. I was trying to push the pace because I was feeling pretty good. This combination does not bode well for a running relationship. But it is an interesting form of counseling. Once on top we searched in vain for Mount Wanda. There is a major split in the trail and no sign so we went left. We ran to the top of a peak that turned out to be a just an informal look out. We continued on and as the trail began to descend we were sure we had passed the peak so we headed back. As it turns out we should have gone right at the split. We didn’t know that until we got back home and downloaded the run.

With new inspiration and hope, known as downhill running, we blazed our way back to the entrance. For such a steep hill there were a lot of people out walking up it. The people of Martinez are lucky to have the great open spaces right in their backyard. As we crossed under Highway 4 we were excited to visit John Muir’s house. One, because it is John Muir’s house and two, because Corina had to go to the bathroom and we were pretty sure he wouldn’t mind. For some reason the Ridge Trail goes to the back gate, and it was locked. Since it is a National Historic Site we decided not to scale the fence.

We pressed on and up we went, back into the grasslands where the temperature had now risen considerably.  We made short work of the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline section and were surprised as we headed towards Martinez that we were on the wrong side of the old cemetery. Somehow we took a wrong turn and entered Rankin Park, a large multi-use park in south Martinez. Corina finally found a bathroom, and a slide – what good day.  Now back in Martinez we headed for the car where we planned to shed our packs and run the last couple of miles without them. We couldn’t resist making a pass through the farmer’s market where we helped ourselves to many free samples of fresh fruit. What a treat. We might start planning our runs to coincide with farmer’s markets.

We made a quick pit stop at Subway to grab a soda and then headed back to Escobar Street where we headed east towards the Shell Refinery. This last mile or so is pretty uninspiring. We had actually planned to run all the way across the Benecia-Martinez Bridge but that was not in the cards today. We made it to the refinery where we found the welcome site of the End of Trail Segment sign. Upon our return to the car we made our usual, in-the-car clothing change and grabbed some Thai food. We were impressed with Mount Wanda and could return to do some hill repeats someday. The best part about this day is that we now know that there is more to Martinez than refineries, well, a little more. Until next time.

So Many Choices

Old Cemetery

Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline

Martinez Skyline?

The Great Cow Chase


John Muir’s House – Back Door

Atop Mountain Wanda, Well Not Really

Another Fancy Drinking Fountain

Downtown Martinez Doesn’t Disappoint

Martinez Farmer’s Market

Shell Dominates Here

Umm Okay

End of the Segment

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