This last weekend I completed another of the American Discovery Trail (ADT) segments, this one from Walnut Creek to San Francisco, which is segment 8 of California, leaving just segment 7 for me to complete. I took Amtrak to Richmond, and then BART to the Pleasant Hill station in Walnut Creek.
I walked to the beginning of this segment, mile 0 at Heather Farm Park, just so that I could get an accurate GPS track from the beginning to end of this segment, and then… I forget to turn on the GPS app on my iPad. So I have no track to contribute, but do have some guidance. It is hard to do any of these segments without reference to both the ADT Data Book, and a GPS unit with mapping. A number of times I could not have determined which way the trail went except by looking the the waypoint beyond the trail current trail junction. As it was, I got lost late in the day on Saturday, missing the trail that continues along Lafayette Ridge and dropping into town, from where I had to reorient and then climb the 1000 feet back up to the ridge. I was more careful after that. It is a situation where having a GPS track in hand could really help, but then, that is what I didn’t accomplish. Maybe next time!
From Walnut Creek the trail follows first the Contra Costa Canal (as does a part of segment 6 near Antioch), and then the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) pipelines that climb over the hills heading west. The ADT coincides with the The Briones to Mt. Diablo Trail also coincides from mile 0 to Briones Regional Park, and this trail is in turn made up of other trails. The ADT also coincides with the Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail (MCCT) along more than half the route. Sometimes all these trails are signed, sometimes one or the other, sometimes none. The quality of the signing depends on the management agency and on how recently the trail was built or reconstructed. This weaving together of various existing trail segments, with a few new ones where there are gaps, is the strength of the ADT, but is doesn’t always make the trail easy to follow.
Anyway, on with the experience! The trail climbs gradually and then steeply up the ridge to Acalanes Open Space, and once past the houses, the views open out to the east. It drops to cross Pleasant Hill Rd (for which the BART station is named, but this point is a long ways from the station), and then climbs again on the Lafayette Ridge Trail and heads west through Briones Regional Park to the Seaborg Trail and then down to the Bear Creek Staging Area (with water). The higher Lafayette Ridge trail offers spectacular views in all directions, but the roller coaster nature, up over knobs and down through saddles, is challenging. The trail then enters EBMUD lands, hiking permit required, follows the south shore of Briones Reservoir, drops down and crosses San Pablo Creek. This creek has a strong clear flow because this is Mokelumne River water that has been piped across the delta and ridges to flow into San Pablo Reservoir.
The trail then climbs steeply to across dry grassy hillsides to Inspiration Point, and enters Tilden Regional Park. The views to the east would probably be spectacular here, but the east wind of Saturday night blew in smog from the central valley (help, I can’t get away from it!) and socked in the valleys, with Mt. Diablo just peeking (peaking) up over the crud. Again, there ought to be great views across the bay and to San Francisco, but it was barely clearer to the west. The trail follows the ridge southward, mostly in the (un)natural forest of eucalyptus and pine, and then turns to head north to the top of the UC Berkeley campus.
The Jordan Firetrail drops through Strawberry Canyon to the main campus, sometimes dawdling with no elevation loss and sometimes dropping precipitously. Out onto the streets of Berkeley and then Oakland, the route heads southwest to Lake Merrrit and then back to Jack London Square and the ferry service.
I was lucky to be here on a Monday when the Ferry offers regular service, as it doesn’t run on weekends and most holidays during the winter. This was my first trip on the ferry, despite all my years in the bay area, and it was fun!
At the Ferry Building I grabbed a loaf of Acme Sourdough and then walked along the Embarcadero and up into Fort Mason to the hostel, my ending point. I then had lunch on the trail overlooking the bay and Alcatraz Island, and the tourists streamed by, huffing up the hill. The division between segment 8 and 9 is actually the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, but I’d done from the hostel to the bridge, and beyond, on my last trip.
Overall, this segment is the most strongly urban, but does have quite a bit of nature and views. I enjoyed it, and would like to go back and do some parts of it again, particularly spending time along Lafayette Ridge. Though it is all development below and pushing up almost to the ridge tops, the ridge itself is quite special. The urban nature of the hike did allow a good breakfast in Oakland and a great loaf of bread in San Francisco.
- ADT: San Francisco to Point Reyes 2013-11 (segment 9)
- ADT: Sacramento to Antioch 2013-05 (segment 6)
- closing my gap in the Western States Trail 2013-05 (segment 4)
- Western States Trail 2012-07 (segments 2, 3, 4)
- ADT: Auburn to Sacramento 2012-05 (segment 5)