This week I backpacked/hiked several section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail between Martinez and Richmond, south of the Carquinez Strait. This is part of a long-term project to walk as much of the Ridge Trail as possible with access from transit, with occasional long walks or hitchhiking. I had done the easily transit accessible sections over the last two years, and now it is getting increasingly challenging, but I’m also re-energized for getting as much of it as I can. As of this trip, I’ve done 226 miles, though that can’t be compared directly to the 375 miles which is complete because it includes several gaps I’ve walked, along roads and fire trails that are not officially part of the Ridge Trail but provide connections.
I took the train into Martinez, walked to El Cielo Brewery for a beer (beer is usually a trip-completion item, but I knew I was probably not going to be near a brewery at the end), then out of town to the Nejedly Staging Area and up onto the ridge via the Hult Hornbeck trail. I slept up top, slightly sheltered from the strong wind by a sitting bench while cows milled about all night. Morning, I walked down to the John Muir National Historic Site, which surprisingly I’d never been to before. After waiting for it to open, I toured the house and property. Then out the back gate, though the tunnel, and up onto Mt Wanda. The Ridge Trail ends here at private property, the Almond Ranch, which the John Muir Land Trust is making an effort to purchase and close a gap in the trail. I ran into staff/volunteers from the JMLT and talked to them a while about the challenge and hiking. I returned to the bottom and walked along Franklin Canyon Rd to…
Feeder Trail #1, which climbs up a fire road to the grassy highlands. This won’t be the trail when the gap is closed, but it is for now. The trail goes through two other JMLT purchases and onto what I’m guessing is an easement through another private ranch, down to Ferndale Rd. This section of trail beyond the top is almost unused. No footprints, no bending of the grass. From Ferndale Rd to Pereira Rd, I think there once was but no longer is an easement. I wiggled through on an adjacent ranch and the owner was nice enough to let me pass. He grumbled about EBRPD (East Bay Regional Park District) which he thought was responsible for the trail route and the lack of access.
From the bottom of Pereira Rd, the East Pinole Watershed Trail climbs back up the the ridgeline through heavily grazed lands belonging to EBMUD (East Bay Municipal Utilities District) which supplies most of the water to east bay cities. A permit is required, though again the trail is practically unused and I’d not expect to see anyone there.
The Pinole Watershed trail leads from the junction of the Fernandez Ranch trail coming up from the north westward to the edge of the watershed and into Sobrante Ridge Preserve. Again, very little use, the trail was hard to follow especially in wet areas, and signing is sparse. The entire part of the Pinole Watershed is hard walking, at least at this time of year, and the heavy cattle grazing makes a mine-field of the trail, with deep cow hoof prints interspersed with ridges of dried mud pushed up out of the prints. My ankles were very sore after this section. In Sobrante Ridge, the cows were gone and the walking easier. The bottom section of the trail down to Conestoga Dr is ‘closed’ due to a slip-out at a creek crossing. The closure was probably appropriate, but it is very irritating that EBRPD places the closed sign at the beginning of the last section. There is no indication of the closure ahead at the earlier point where I could have exited down to Coach Dr. This is at least the fifth time I’ve run into this unprofessional too-late signing on EBRPD lands. I guess it must be their standard practice.
From the end of the trail, I walked along Castro Ranch Rd to Hillside Dr, another gap in the Ridge Trail, and into Kennedy Grove recreation area, the end of my hike. Two years ago, I’d walked from Kennedy Grove south to Castro Valley. After lunch, I walked back to the bus stop and waited for well over an hour for a 30-minute frequency bus, as apparently AC Transit saw fit to not run two buses in a row. To Richmond station, and then home on the Capitol Corridor.
The pieces of trail in this area that I did not do are the ones in Crockett Hills park and the Fernandez Ranch trail on JMLT, so I’ll go back to pick those up on another trip. Last year I rode the road and trail between Crockett and Martinez, but it was mostly dark and so I didn’t really see what it looked like. Not part of the ridge trail, but worth doing again, in daylight. When the gaps are filled, there will be a Ridge Trail loop using the two bridges (Martinez-Benecia, and Carquinez) and trails north and south of the strait.
The Bay Area Ridge Trail, often just called the Ridge Trail, is planned and promoted by the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council (https://ridgetrail.org). The trails, however, are administered by the land agencies over which they pass. Some do a good job, others not so much.
Two previous posts on the Bay Area Ridge Trail: Bay Ridge Trail: White Hill to Pantoll and Bay Area Ridge trail sections. Of course what really introduced me to the Bay Area Ridge Trail is hiking the American Discovery Trail section CA-09, San Francisco to Point Reyes, for which there are two posts: Point Reyes to SF backpack 2016-05, and ADT: San Francisco to Point Reyes 2013-11. When labeling and uploading the photos from this trip, I realized I’d not labeled or uploaded anything from my 2018 trips, and that I had not blogged about them either. Ah well, water under the bridge, so to speak. I probably have sufficient information in my journal (I carry a small Moleskine on my backpack trips) to post, but I probably do not have sufficient time.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/sets/72157706636932631/. Ridge Trail collection on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/collections/72157708271186714/.
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