SF Bay Trail: Penninsula - Baylands (Palo Alto)
8.0 miles SF Bay Trail
The Baylands in Palo Alto are the most beautiful bay wetlands I've seen since I moved here in 1981. Bar none.
It might have been the effortless cycling, that it was the hour before sunset or that it was a few thousand acres of marsh--a completed example of the thousands of acres of restoration that are in the works. The right combination of marsh, water, light. A great boardwalk or the calls of endangered California clapper rails. Or the sand bars covered with birds: pelicans, avocets, terns, gulls. It was poetry.
A week before I had intended to get to Baylands; they looked interesting on the map, two full trail loops with another segment to the southeast toward Shoreline amphitheater and two more segments to the north to include Ravenswood Open Space Preserve. I wound up on the Bay Trail segment north of the Dumbarton Bridge, and crossed the bridge instead.
|birds on islands and sandbars|
Much of the route is unpaved fire road; the first part follows Charleston Slough northeast, past beautiful mashland and lots of those bird-covered sand bars. You cross a couple of small bridges, across Mayfield Slough and around to parallel Embarcadero toward Sand Point, where there's a pier for water access. More flocks of birds. Avocets are a really beautiful bird and to see one or even ten in a mudflat area isn't all that unusual. Fifty or a hundred was a first for me. Sand Point is a perfect put-in spot for wind surfing or kayaking.
But circle around those decks and you find the start of a board walk stretching arrow straight above and across the pickleweed marsh a quarter mile to the edge of open water. We left the bikes at the Interpretive Center and walked to the end. The tide seemed to be coming in and one of the coolest things was listening to, barely seeing, the water rush through, flood through, the pickleweed. It was the antithesis of the imprisoned salt ponds, living marsh flushed and fed twice daily by the tides.
|sunset wetlands, East Bay view|
They're hen-sized with a long straight beak and a tail cocked at a jaunty angle, and they live primarily in cordgrass and pickleweed salt marsh around San Francisco Bay and, more particularly, along the narow sloughs and channels that carry the water in and out.
You don't expect an endangered species to be loud and boisterous, literally shouting to predators, "we're here." You can listen to a California Clapper Rail at: http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/463/overview/Clapper_Rail.aspx and you can see and hear one at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wX35qXtMPA .
|my buddy Sergio|
Sort of ruins the metaphors about plainitive calls by a sad bird endangered by man's greed, on the brink of extinction in the sunset's fading light. All I can say is that I hope the thousands of acres of restoration will provide enough habitat that it's their endangered status that fades and their populations grow large and robust.
Isn't that a great positive symbol of what we can do? Yes, we can ruin things before we know what we're doing. Yes we collectively suffer from greed and thoughtlessness. Yet we can also buy and restore thousands of acres to feed our souls, turn back the clock, and help out a loud, distinctive and not very smart bird.
|the board walk at the interpretive center|