Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bay Area Ridge Trail: East Bay - Chabot

Sunday August 15, 2010
3.5 miles Bay Area Ridge Trail, 7 miles total

Not every hike can be transcendant, not every landscape spectacular.  Some of them are just hard and sweaty--but exercise is the point as much as anything and for that you need to climb hills.

This quest is all about getting in shape, and centers around the gym, cycling the completed segments of the SF Bay Trail, and hiking the segments of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. For variety I decided to start hiking in the East Bay near home, hoping ridges overlooking the bay would be cool despite the summer, and to start cycling on the penninsula.

My last Bay Area Ridge Trail hike, the week before, was from Kennedy Grove to Inspiration Point in Tilden Regional Park.  This day I had in mind both a Ridge Trail Hike and a Bay Trail ride--my first double workout.  (I was in a funk the day before and although I did a short hike with my buddy Kerry and his dogs, it didn't feel like enough.  It wasn't a Ridge Trail hike either--it's a sign of progress when you start finding reasons for more exercise instead of reasons not to.)

The next Ridge Trail segment on the map would be through Tilden to Mt. Vollmer, to Sibley and Roundtop, Huckleberry, then Redwood Regional Park, but I've done that section relatively recently, and parts of it repeatedly.  Huckleberry Botanic Regional Park, for example, is one of my favorite after-work hikes.  Redwood Regional Park is another favorite.  They're both off Skyline in Oakland.  For my goal I'll have to hike them again but today I skipped south to Anthony Chabot Regional Park.  I picked up my workout bud Stephen at Rockridge BART and he came along.

The start was at the Big Bear Staging Area on Redwood Road (click the blog entry title for a map link), east of Skyline and before you reach Redwood gate to access the bottom of Redwood Regional Park heading north.  I've been there a hundred times, but I've only been to Chabot a couple of times and never from the north end.  Redwood Gate is literally over run with people, families and big groups of picnicers.  The north end of Chabot had quite a few people but was deserted by comparison--because the only direction is up.

It's similar to Redwood at first, following a tributary of Redwood creek east to the MacDonald Staging Area along the MacDonald Trail, then it climbs.  It's a sign of how out of shape I am that it was some work, 400' in a mile and a quarter, though it's about half shaded, switch-backing up an oak-bay-redwooded canyon.  We were both sweating immediately.

Then you're on the ridge.  The payoff right?  Anthony Chabot is a big park with a lake, 5,065 acres, but narrow and long north-south, and stretching east from the Oakland Hills ridgeline across a first canyon to EBMUD watershed lands, Upper San Leandro reservoir with views to Las Trampas Regional Preserve.  The view south is complex.  I'm kind of an expert on Bay Area views, especially East Bay ones, but this one needed some thought to figure out.

The "park and its lake are named for Anthony Chabot, a pioneer California businessman and philanthropist who created Lake Chabot by building an earth-fill dam in 1874-75.  A small portion of Lake Chabot at the parkʼs southern boundary was part of Rancho San Antonio, granted to Luis Maria Peralta in 1820. The southern half of Anthony Chabot Regional Park is within the 27,722-acre Rancho San Lorenzo, granted to Don Guillermo Castro in 1843. Rancho lands were used primarily for cattle grazing. Gambling debts led to Castroʼs sale of the land in the 1860s. It was subdivided into nine ranches, and the new American owners raised beef cattle."

Maybe it was the climb, the views constrained by the woodland, or the ridgeline houses bad Oakland planning had allowed to intrude on the solitude.  It's a pet peeve of mine... houses on ridgelines, and especially ones overlooking open space the public has spent millions to preserve.  A few homeowners get a great view, at the expense of everyone else, the public trust and the reasons we protect parks, including isolation.  I spend a fair bit of time at work trying to keep those kinds of houses from being built around Mt. Diablo.  Strangely the work to stop one badly placed house can often be as time consuming as the work to stop a hundred and the triage of big and small projects conspires to make you skip over final design details.

The hike was nice but fell short of great.  I'm sure it would be more pleasant in late afternoon as the shadows lengthen, or if you started at the top.  That's one of the things about getting familiar with a takes repeated visits to figure out the place.  My goal was to exercise and complete a section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail; it's not always the most beautiful route.  You can start at the end of Parkridge Drive off Skyline, skip the climb and be on the ridge immediately.

The Parkridge connector trail marks the saddle between sub-watersheds; immediately afterwards you're in a new drainage, down into "Grass Valley."  As we hiked the more gradually rolling ridge, things got more interesting and the views bigger. The botany gets more interesting too, little balds filled with gopher holes and bunchgrasses, buckwheats, etc.

"The northern portion of the park was not included in Spanish or Mexican land grants. American settlers developed ranches in the area, including the largest, the 525-acre Grass Valley Ranch.  Most of these lands were consolidated into watershed property for the City of Oakland in the early 1900s by the Peopleʼs Water Company. The water company began large-scale eucalyptus planting about 1910, greatly changing the landscape of the area. Peopleʼs Water Company became the East Bay Water Company in 1916, and creation of the East Bay Municipal Utility District followed in 1928.  The last major addition to Chabot Regional Park was Lake Chabot, EBMUDʼs reserve water supply for Oakland. Through a lease to the District, it opened to the public in 1966."

Despite that, there's no view of Lake Chabot from this trail segment, or of Upper San Leandro reservoir just to the east.  You can see down into Grass Valley.  We hiked down to the Bort Meadows Staging Area and into Grass Valley, no doubt beautiful in spring but thistle-neglected and cattle shocked now.  It would be easy to criticize park management; we all think we know others' jobs better than they do but, it has been a hard few years.  We've rapidly expanded East Bay regional parks (Yay!) at the same time that state and local budget cuts have hit goverment services hard everywhere.  Cattle are the most cost-efficient fire management tool around and besides those few obtrusive ridgeline houses there are thousands of others just over the ridge.

A half mile south into Grass Valley--Bort Meadows is a natural starting point for a next segment, though I think for that one I'll choose fading light--we turned around and retraced our steps.  The north direction is more gradual and pleasant, then a quick downhill back to the truck.  Despite it all, at seven miles this was my longest hike since early May.  My previous week's hike was a bigger climb, this one longer.

We had lunch in Rockridge and Stephen took BART home.  I took a break in Martinez, grabbed my bike and another buddy and headed to Baylands in Palo Alto.  Now that bike ride was truly amazing.  What was the synergy?  Maybe my hike was just a warm up meant to prepare me for Baylands.  Either way, Sunday August 15 included both my longest hike in four months and the most beautiful bay wetlands I have ever seen.  It was also my first double workout.

1 comment:

  1. Great story, great pictures, and great achievement. Hope you're still exercising!