Crockett Hills Regional Park with Michael – 20 March 2017

Hi Everyone,

Here’s the hike-log for last Monday’s hike in Crockett which you can read at If you would prefer that I send the hike in the email form or prefer not to receive these at all, happy to do oblige.

Thanks much, Lew


Crockett is a California river town along the confluence of the mighty Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. Here they flow from Suisun Bay into San Pablo Bay, the northern portion of great Bay of San Francisco. Crockett was also a company town and in the 1920s “some 95 % of Crockett residents worked for the California and Hawaiian Sugar Refining Company toiling away in its huge brick building along the waterfront. . . In addition to being the town’s economic lifeblood, the plant gave workers and town residents access to a virtual fairyland of public amenities.” Today only a small percentage of Crockett’s citizens work there. After over a century of close working relations with Hawaiian sugar producers, the last shipment of “pure cane sugar from Hawaii” was made by the Moku Pahu as it docked at the C & H Refinery in Crockett on January 17, 2017. Cane sugar will continue to be the source of their production but sourcing will be more from Brazil, Viet Nam and places other than Hawaii. (March 5, 2004) The information sounds good but the last photo looks like Bodie, the famous ghost town.

Crockett is on the Carquinez Strait. The name comes from the Ohlone Indian word Karkin – Native Americans who lived on both sides of this tidal strait. Karkin was the name for their language and by extension of the group. The name became los Carquines in Spanish and then Carquinez when anglicized.

The Crockett name comes from a famous lawyer, Joseph B. Crockett, who came to California in 1850 after successful careers in law and government in Kentucky and Missouri. Before he left for California he became editor of the Daily St. Louis Intelligencer. He is described as a likable and engaging man and a family man with 12 children “that blessed his home”. He’d left her and the children in Hopkinsville close to St. Louis during this time of transition but he made several trips back to visit them. Arriving in California in 1852 by himself he became a respected lawyer in San Francisco and “his practice was one of the most lucrative on the Pacific Coast”. He wrote to his wife from San Francisco in 1854 where he was establishing his law practice before bringing his family out to California. “That Crocket got in on the lucrative Spanish-Mexican grants title settlements is apparent from the fact that he received as a fee 1800 acres of land in Contra Costa County where the community of Crockett which was named after him, is now located.” He was named Judge of the California Supreme Court in December of 1867 retaining the office until 1881. “Judge Crockett called and presided over the first public meeting held for the purpose of establishing the public library of San Francisco.” “When the founding of Hastings College of Law was announced at the commencement exercises of the University of California in June, 1878, Crockett shared speaking honors with Hastings, the founder and other distinguished men.” We’ll skip over his then Democratic Party affiliation supporting McClellan for President in 1864 since he referred to Lincoln as “the flagrant violator of the Constitution.” Still, he got along well with the abolitionist he replaced on the California Supreme Court. He retired from the Court in 1881at 73 when failing eyesight made his “labors especially arduous”. He said, “Justice is said to be blind, but I have found out that it is a very bad thing for a justice to be blind.” written in 1917


We need to find a park somewhere in all this history and the East Bay Regional Parks has added for our hiking pleasure Crockett Hills Regional Park on 1300 acres of land that was formerly the Crockett Ranch. This newer park is near the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline Park where we went in part of our hike to Port Costa with Armando on 27th September 2010. If you don’t do many links and only want one, this is the one you want. (Oct-Dec 2006)

Crocket Hills Regional Park which opened in 2006 is just down the Carquinez Strait in Crockett on land that was part of Rancho Canada del Hambre y las Bolsas.
“In 1843, the governor of Mexico granted the entire southern shore of the strait, including the Crockett Hills, to one Teodora de Soto.” This property “encompassed the area from modern-day Crockett to Martinez. Señora de Soto, like neighbors Ygnacio Martinez and General Mariano Vallejo, ran Spanish longhorn cattle on the steep, dry hills. Each year, the ranchos shipped thousands of pounds of hides and tallow by schooner to New England to be manufactured into shoes, soap and candles.” In the transition from these great ranchos becoming property of the United States, “California’s Mexican citizens were compelled to defend their property rights in U.S.Court. Land-rich but cash-poori many paid their attorneys in property. Among them was de Soto, who settled her debts with lawyer Joseph Crockett with 1,800 acres near the western edge of the strait.” California on its entry into the Union by the Compromise of 1850 became a non-slavery state and the 31st on September 9, 1850. California schools used to celebrate this history with a day off but this faded later on perhaps because of its proximity to the opening of schools in the beginning of September. California Admission Day remains a legal holiday.

Michael leads the way from the parking area to the Crockett Ranch Trail that is affectionately known as “heart attack hill” by mountain bikers. This excellent video is well GoPro-filmed and freshly narrated by Brian Kennedy covering a number of the trails we traced Monday. ( filmed on June 22, 2016)

He called our attention to a small tree and asked if we could identify it. The leaves had a distinctive “perfume” that comes from an organic chemical called juglone which occurs in it leaves, roots, fruit and husks of Juglans nigra. The juglone is toxic or growth-stunting compound to plants that try to grow too closely to the tree – its allopathic defense. Where this is raised commercially in orchards the native rootstock is used with Juglans regal grafted atop for its preferred fruit. This research paper by Susan Labiste does “soup to nuts” and everything in between – extensive, detailed and well written study of Ohlone Indian foods and their preparation. Excellent photos are included.

We crest the top of this hill and catch our breath looking out over the Carquinez Bridge (actually two bridges) extending from Crockett to Vallejo. Prior to this the crossing over the deep and treacherous Carquinez Strait was solved with ferries. The original 1927 cantilever bridge (on the right in the picture) was dedicated in 1927 and “was the first major crossing of San Francisco Bay” and hailed as “America’s Greatest Highway Bridge” at its dedication on May 21st with President Coolidge pressing the opening button in Washington. This West County Blog records this 1927 opening event with original and endearing photos from the time – this entry traces the beginnings I-80 and I-580 from the original East Shore Highway. It provides a great assemblage of photos combined with fine writing.

In the foreground is a part of the village of Crockett and across the strait is a ship which is the California Maritime Academy, a part of the California State University System. Vallejo extends into the distance.

The tunnel leads under the Cummings Skyway for the next part of our hike on the Soaring Eagle Trail – mixed grassland, chaparral and expansive views.

We reconnoiter from the rolling green hills and spot San Pablo Bay and Sonoma and Marin Counties in the distance along with some enormous electrical transmission towers on either side of the Carquinez Bridges – the Carquinez Straits Transmission Span. “In 1901 the general design “consisted of a main span of cables, 4,427 feet in length, with a deflection of 227 feet from the highest elevation. The lowest wire was 206 feet above the water at its lowest point. This distance allowed large ships with high masts to travel under the cable and continue up the river to Sacramento and Stockton.”
For a time this was the longest and highest voltage electrical transmission span in the world. It is listed as a California and National Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

A harbor tug passes the C & H refinery on the way up river. With major shipping going to the ports of Sacramento and Stockton there is much demand for their services and for bar pilots in these relatively shallow depths and narrow passages for large ocean going vessels. Rare footage of the Liberty Ship Jeremiah O’Brien in the Carquinez Strait. This series of beautiful photos was taken by the author from 2006-2012, they all expand for your lap top or desk top and give a sense of tug life in the greater San Francisco Bay. The site is now devoted to his/her (Pat thinks we need new a new pronoun for this and suggests hesh.) new quest of sailing the west coast of the United States and into the South Pacific.

Gaining some more altitude we seem to be developing measured distances.

A cattle stock pond fills out our impression of rolling hills in Ireland. “May you have warm words on a cold evening. A full moon on dark night. And the road downhill all the way to your door.” An Irish Blessing (found on a box of McCann’s Irish Oatmeal)

We arrive at a picnic area with a view known as the “helipad” but are pre-empted by an incoming rain storm. Michael explained how the wind was coming from the south and the storm was coming from the north and swirling together were signs of rain incoming. While we surveyed the scene, we may have seen an eagle glide seamlessly overhead toward Carquinez Strait.

Heading back hoping to out walk the rain which is blustering on the horizon we see that California Live Oaks seem to have each selected their own personal hill.
Passing along the way Michael spied some Purple Sanicle (Sanicula bipinnatifida) and nearby some Plantain (Plantago major) which he’d talked about extensively
on an earlier hike at the Oat Hill Mine Trail in Calistoga.

We opt for the sculpted downhill of the Edward’s Loop Trail that shows the hard work of many mountain bikers. There was no restriction for hikers on this trail, we as well as mountain bikers and dog walkers were equally welcome. But because this is a single track much of the way with downhill speeds on a mountain bike it might make sense to have some restrictions at least at times of high usage. Sounds did travel well up the trail providing an early warning. This was no problem on Monday or this past Saturday for that matter.

On the way down we saw Coast Mule Ears (Wyethia glabra) in the Sunflower family. Reny Parker writes that Nathaniel Wyeth’s name is part of this genus and that he is best known for his discovery of Mule Ears. Along parts of the trail the invasive Poison Hemlock was ascendent covering extensive swaths of land. Common Trillium (Trillium chloropetalum) rather than the Western trillium because it does not seem to have a stem rising above the three large leaves. California pipevine (Aristolochia california) or Dutchman’s Pipe is where the beautiful Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly exclusively lays its eggs., That’s poison oak peeking out from underneath.

Time for that lunch postponed which gets shortened with the rain.

Hydration, hydration, hydration

This reminded me of Michael’s love for Halloween. Hasta luego!

P.S. That hike with Armando on September 27, 2010 was a warm summer’s day. We took our vantage from the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline Park
on our Port Costa Hike.

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