The Bay Trail at Sear’s Point with Michael – 21 November 2016

It all began not as a dark and stormy night but a bright and foggy morning as we found our way to the edge of San Pablo Bay in southern Sonoma County. Perhaps the freshest trail that we’ve hiked, it was dedicated in October of 2015 after extensive restoration by the Sonoma Land Trust. Opened to the public in 2016, it was exciting to see the new project’s beginnings next to a smaller, earlier one completed in 1996. We could observe them side by side both the fresh beginnings and the remarkable progress in these tidal wetlands after just 20 years back-to-nature. – How a diametrically opposite “solution” became popular in 1949 along with its fortunate eventual demise.

This 1990s project restored 289 acres and involved a variety of supporting organizations. “Congress blessed it with money and Vice President Al Gore came out for its dedication.” Looking ahead and projecting what the Bay will be like 100 years from now.

The day’s foggy beginnings were mysterious, softening edges and images – an opportunity to let your imagination romp and roam. Then all of a sudden color is all around us.
As we were looking at the fog dissipating with an entire field of whipping and whispering tendrils, Karen was recalling a poem by the Spanish poet which matched the scene beautifully. Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, (1836-1870) is considered the most read Spanish writer after Cervantes.écquer

“Los suspires son are y van al are” “Sighs are air and go to the air”

Los suspiros son aire y van al aire! Sighs are air and go to the air!
Las lågrimas son aqua y van al mar! Tears are water and go to the sea!
Dime, mujer, cuando el amor se olvida Tell me, woman, when love’s forgotten
¿Sabes tu adonde va? Do you know whither it goes?

Note the “no drones” clause.

Looking across the rich farmland toward Cougar Mountain to an area otherwise known as Sears Point or on its other side something completely different, Infineon Raceway.

Observing the earlier 1990s project we can see the richness and colors of the restored tidal marsh. Start with the video BRINGING BACK THE BAY. The PDFs are quite exhaustive and scholarly. I especially liked the “Kids’Species Accounts” providing some very accessible and interesting information about the California Clapper Rail, Salt Harvest Mouse and Soft Bird’s-Beak. Fun FLICKER photos with ids as well

The hillocks in the marsh are an important part of the restoration design and the water birds have discovered them with pleasure. One particular joy was seeing a Forster’s Tern hovering over the water looking for food. I had flashed on a white tailed kite id since that hovering quality was definitive for me. But others hover too (in addition to drones)!

We were talking about glorious mud previously but today we got to enjoy it in spades as we hiked out to the dike opening. We all gained at least 2 inches in height and our shoes when they weren’t being sucked down in the ooze were getting strangely heavy. Mudflats took on a whole new meaning.

Mud Season on the East Coast requires special considerations, maybe the first is staying by the fireplace.

Near the dike opening with fog receding across the bay.
Michael gave us a spirited review of tidal action so basic to these salt marshes.

Michael said this was wild mustard – it wasn’t quite up to “Wordsworth in the Tropics” but still a bit jungley and adding to the mud we were beginning to feel just a little that nature isn’t always warm and fuzzy.

Observed along the way were amaranth in bright red, raccoon tracks in the mud, pickle weed and in the last, looking for some dry areas along the way but it was hard to outfox the mud., Michael explores and dances with some fauna.

Picnic lunch is the next stop as we absorb the view without the fogginess and with a spring in our step.

Lunch on the quiet side

Lunch with conversation, were we in writing class we might write a short account of what is going on here.

After lunch we took a short stroll down the path atop the new much more graduated rise from water level which facilitates survival for marsh creatures when faced with rising water and storm surges. Perhaps sometime we can return and walk all the way down to Sears Point.

The view from our path looking toward Cougar Mountain now much more clearly defined in the noontime sunshine. Fortunately, Route 37 is just far enough away to minimize any sounds of traffic.

The Bay returns

Post Script:

We enjoyed a small segment of the San Francisco Bay Trail on this hike. The SFBT is a bold plan to ring the entire San Francisco Bay with an enormous, accessible trail for hiking and
bicycling. From the Wikipedia article account: “As of 2016, 350 miles (560 km) of trail have been completed. When finished, the Bay Trail will extend over 500 miles (805 km) to link the shoreline of nine counties, passing through 47 cities and crossing seven toll bridges. It is a project of the Association of Bay area Governments (ABAG).” In 1986, State Senator Bill Lockyer of Hayward came up with this idea to develop a pedestrian and bicycle path around the entire San Francisco Bay with shoreline access. Cf. history in the Wiki article

On an earlier hike we enjoyed another Bay Trail section at the old Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato where there is a similarly breached dike allowing the return of the Bay waters to their former foot print. Here’s a delightful account from the great BAY NATURE magazine by Ariel Rubissow Okamoto discovering this trail.

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