Destination: Sinbad Creek

janeEast Bay Parks

Here are some things I’m starting to realize as I navigate the East Bay parks:

  • many of their trails branch off in two, even three directions
  • these branches are usually unmarked and so, you end up losing your bearings (Lacking trail markers you wonder, “Do I go right? Do I go left? Do I go downhill? Do I go uphill?”)
  • often, there are no portable maps at the trailhead and since the details on the Internet are sketchy, you end up navigating by trial and error)
  • perhaps as much as ninety percent of these parks lack forest canopy and so, for most of your hike, you are at the mercy of the sun
  • the sound of traffic intrudes from nearby highways.

These are not necessarily complaints, merely observations. Each park is an adventure. You never know what you will find.

Sinbad Creek and Kilkare Canyon

I am planning to do two fourteen mile hikes through Kilkare Canyon, along Sinbad Creek, onto the top of Pleasanton Ridge and along Thermalito Trail (the same trail where I saw a mountain lion a few weeks ago). The first hike will be before the rainy season begins and the second will be during the rainy season, when the hills are once again green. These hikes will begin at Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park instead of at Augustin Bernal Park. (Both parks are in Pleasanton).

A Short Trial Run Hike

Knowing what I now know about the East Bay Parks, I attempted a short trial run of the Sinbad Creek hike yesterday. I started at 11:30 a.m. This is a late start and so, I only planned to complete four or five miles. The goal here was to get my bearings so I’d be on the right trail(s) for the actual hikes.

I started out at the trailhead (that is, at the parking lot called Foothill Staging Area) and headed uphill along Oak Trail. This trail winds steeply along an exposed hillside, past many oak trees, and lots of poison oak and coyote brush. About a quarter mile later, I arrived at the junction of Oak and Woodland Trail. Taking Woodland (it’s on the left as you head up Oak) I climbed an even steeper grade with a few switchbacks. Here there are more oak trees, the ever present poison oak and gratefully, a canopy of forest cover to protect me from the sun.

The Cow Gate

view from Oak Trail
View from Woodland Trail looking towards Sunol

About a mile later, still on Woodland Trail, I came across a cow gate at a junction by a meadow. I veered to the right, sidestepping the gate. That was a mistake: I was supposed to go through the gate. So instead of heading towards the Sunol side of the park, I found myself squarely in Pleasanton, at the junction of Oak and Sycamore Grove Trails. A marker by that cow gate would have pointed me in the right direction. Now I was clearly off the Sinbad Creek Trail loop.

Try Again

The next time I hike Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park, I will be attempting the complete fourteen mile trip. I will most likely start at sunrise when the park opens. I’ll let you know how that turns out. That will be before the rains start. After that, I will attempt a second hike (probably before Christmas), when, thanks to the rains, the hills will be green once again. For details of the entire fourteen mile hike, I’ve posted the map below.

Map Trail
Map credit, Regional Parks Foundation
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Sightings on Pleasanton Ridge

long ridge view of valley 2
View of Mount Diablo from the Valley View Trail

Know Where You’re Going!

Planning a hike? Know the trails you plan to take. If the park you start out in abuts another, be aware of your route (otherwise, you may find yourself doubling, even tripling the miles you plan to cover).

Wednesday morning’s hike started around 9:00 a.m. I planned to do a four and a half mile loop, starting and ending at Golden Eagle Way. I should be home by noon.

Up Golden Eagle Trail to Pleasanton Ridge I went, stopping by a bench overlooking the valley. Here is where Golden Eagle and Valley View Trails intersect. Mount Diablo is visible in the distance. The East Bay/Tri-Valley hills are in the foreground.

long ridge view of valley
View of Pleasanton from Long Ridge Trail

Summer Sights

The trails are dusty, making it easy to spot the tell tale tracks of wild turkeys. They have three toes forward and one back. Lizards scurry along at the edge of the ravine. Golden grass and yellow thistle cover the open fields.

Down by the turtle pond an Anna’s Hummingbird is frolicking in the water. Overhead an acorn woodpecker tap tap taps, moving from cavity to cavity. Is he removing or hiding acorns? My hummingbird is gone now. In her place, are blue damselflies. How pretty.

turtle pond at end of long ridge
turtle pond at end of long ridge trail

Thermalito Trail and Beyond

I decide to take a different route back and eventually end up on the Thermalito Trail. Am I still in Augustin Bernal Park or am I in Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park? I don’t know. Up hill, downhill, on mountain bike trails, past several dried up watering holes. Something tawny colored and quite large darts out of the bushes, directly across my path. It is an adult or sub-adult mountain lion. I’ve only ever encountered one once before. (S)he stops on a hilly overlook a short distance away. She stares curiously, unwavering. My naturalist’s training kicks in: I stop walking; I make myself look big (I raise my hands up above my head and do so a few times); I keep eye contact, remembering never to look away; I begin talking loudly to myself for there is no one else around. She isn’t budging and neither am I. Finally, she loses interest in the crazy lady talking to herself and saunters off. This is an amazing encouner and according to what I’ve learned in my training, I ought not to have been alone.

This hike ends up taking all day. I do not exit the second park until 4:30 p.m. and I still have to walk another two miles back to where I parked my car. Worse of all, half of it is up a steep hill. I have covered the entire Thermalito Trail and most of Oak Hill Trail too. I’ve hiked about eighteen miles and I am exhausted. This is my second mountain lion sighting and it has made my day.

Oh, you know I didn’t take these photographs. I was too busy keeping my eyes on my new found friend.

Mountain lion photos, credit: U.C. Santa Cruz, California; and Mountain Lion Foundation.

Inaccessible Accessible Art

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A section of graffiti bridge

Graffiti Bridge

Parallel to Interstate 680 and the Union Pacific railroad tracks is a landmark that bicyclists refer to as graffiti bridge. Does this bridge rightly have a name? I don’t know, but graffiti bridge is a good locator when trying to get your bearings as you bicycle the Sunol/Pleasanton (and if you are feeling particularly adventurous or suicidal, /Niles) bike loop. It is the most monumental graffiti in this area simply because of its location along a suburban country road lined with trees and pasture.

From Public Roadway to Private Underpass

Graffiti bridge is done up in red and white, green, and blue aerosol spray paint. Sitting directly on a public roadway, its colorful paintings are accessible to any who care to stop and look. The opposite is true for the rest of the graffiti featured here. This second set of graffiti is located on private land close to Happy Valley Road. Tucked behind a gate that is operated by a digital keypad, the tunnel paintings are barely visible from the street. Still, enough of it is visible to arouse curiosity. And so, one morning, just as the owner emerged from behind his gated, protected from the public, lands, I was able to get his permission to view as well as photograph the pictures in the/his tunnel. I doubt very much, that the taggers had permission to enter the space and create their art. Such is the nature of graffiti.

Tunnel Photographs

(Spray paint on metal)

6-lovely blend of color 2
Beautiful in its simplicity is the juxtaposition of colors against the black backdrop of the tunnel.
1-man and dragon
Street art in private, suburban underpass (Pleasanton-Sunol Road)

 Close-ups from tunnel graffiti

face forward

slanted

 

aint on concrete):

Bridge Photographs

(Spray paint on concrete):

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