The Last Time I Saw Elvis

elvis

Since I moved to California I’ve come across some quaint places and things like the town of Sunol and its dog mayor, bed-racing down the town’s Main Street, and beer being served from a replica of said dog — peeing beer — at a local saloon.

In one of my recent Bay Area forays, I went across the Golden Gate Bridge in Chicken John’s bus and found Elvis in the ladies’ room at Peri’s in Fairfax. Fairfax and Peri’s aren’t exactly my cup of tea but I was there for a Quiet Lightning literature and poetry show. The bathroom at Peri’s was/is full of Elvis memorabilia. Wonder what the heck was in the men’s bathroom? Oh, northern California, you are way too much!

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

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):

10 -red 3

Untitled

Of Water Temples

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Sunol Water Temple

Sunol Water Temple

In a canyon in Northern California sits the classic marble pavilion, the Sunol Water Temple. Built in 1910 by a private water company, it now belongs to the municipality of San Francisco.

you'd be surprised how loud the roar of the water is inside the temple
Three subterranean water sources meet in Sunol

More than half of San Francisco’s water used to pass through Sunol. Now most of the Bay Area’s water comes from the Hetch Hetchy Water System  nearly one-hundred-and-sixty miles away in the Yosemite valley.

Hetch Hetchy Water System

Hetchhetchyprojmap
Water comes from far away Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite to San Francisco

Pulgas Water Temple

Pulgas_water_temple2
Pulgas Water Temple (photo, Wikicommons)

Another water temple, this one made of cast stone, is on the other side of the San Francisco Bay. Twenty-four years younger than its Sunol counterpart, the Pulgas Water Temple (in Redwood City) was built by the municipality of San Franciso to commemorate the completion of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct. Compared to the water temples of Bali, however, these two are babes, aged as they are at seventy-eight (Pulgas) and one-hundred-and two years (Sunol).

balinese water temple (painting by U)
Temple on Bratan Lake, Bali, Indonesia (painting by Udit Mathur, India)

Balinese Water Temples

There is an ancient ritual of water management – irrigation – that has been practiced on the volcanic slopes of Bali for over a thousand years. This is subak, a custom built around water temples. It is/was at the heart of Balinese rice paddy/terrace farming. I wonder what materials are used to make these water temples. With their subdued color they blend into the landscape in a way that the California ones don’t.

The Essence of Subaks

In the subak system, priests apportioned the water for farming. Different communities (subaks) planted their crops at different times and allowed their  paddies to go fallow simultaneously. Rotating the cultivation was an effective means of distributing and conserving water; letting fields go completely fallow controlled pests.

Jatiluwih
Jatiluwih Rice Terrace (© Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia)

Challenges to the System

The thousand year old subak system came under pressure when Asia embraced the Green Revolution in the 1970s. Conflicts between government agencies and subaks, plus a steady increase in tourism, significantly altered the Balinese landscape. In 1999 there was about 1,500 subaks on Bali (with about two-hundred members each), covering an irrigated area of more than 90,000 ha.* In 2012 when UNESCO gave subaks its national heritage designation, there were five rice terraces (and their water temples) covering 9,500 ha.** Although some of these changes can be attributed to post-colonial migration, much of it is due to the pressures of tourism on land use. Today, the remaining subaks still meet at water temples to discuss community farming decisions.

*Traditional Water Management in Bali, by Suarja and Thijssen, 1999.

**Cultural Landscape of Bali Province, UNESCO, 2012.

Ritual Rice Field (© Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia)
Ritual Rice Field (© Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia)

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