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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