Generally when I walk on the Alameda Creek Trail I’m on a training walk, and this was no exception. I set out to cover 18 miles, which was relatively ambitious for my current training situation. I’m walking a half marathon in 4 weeks, and I usually like to train somewhat beyond 13 miles to prepare for a half marathon; it seems to be a good way for me to have a bit of extra reserve to go all-out on race day. Beyond the physical preparation it’s mostly mental, and this seems to work well for me so that I feel prepared; for anyone else, I note that “your results may vary.”
The trailhead I like to use is 6 miles from the San Francisco Bay end of the trail. I decided to stay mainly to the Bay side of the trailhead, even though that meant more looping up and back than I usually do. I also keep notes of quartiles of long training walks, and it’s easier to sort out on my GPS data if I turn around at the quartile.
I also knew from previous walks that I would probably be able to see all of the main South Bay peaks from the end of the trail, so I did two things I don’t usually do on training walks: I took my camera, and I planned to take a break at the Bay end of the trail, halfway through the 18 miles, for stretching and photos.
Because my peak viewing was so successful, I wanted to show a somewhat unusual perspective on my GPS track. Here is the track (note the yellow curved line near the center) with a much expanded view of the South Bay region. This map includes the full range of peaks and features I could see at the end of the trail, which is at the left end of the yellow track.
First I have to mention one special view that I had well before I got out to the end of the trail. Mission Peak is the closest of the main peaks, and as I looped up and back I noticed that there was a really pretty field of mustard grass in the foreground with Mission Peak behind. It was some dramatic evidence that the recent rains are coaxing local plants to blossom.
I also want to mention that it’s not worth showing the elevation profile for this walk. Since it’s along Alameda Creek the route is pretty flat, except for several underpasses under major streets and I-880. In fact, the 130 feet of elevation gain and loss is almost entirely accounted for by the underpasses!
Once I reached the end of the trail, temporarily turned off my timing devices, and stretched briefly, I climbed onto the bench of a picnic table and basically twirled around in place taking pictures. This is what I’d hoped to be able to do: just turn around in place and see everything.
I started with Mt Tamalpais, our famous local “sleeping maiden,” about 35 miles away to the northwest. The downtown San Francisco skyline is visible in the right half of the picture. And the structure going across the foreground is the eastern approach to the San Mateo Bridge. I’d had Tam in view for a few miles, and was excited that the air was clear enough for a good view.
Turning clockwise, I could see Sutro Tower, San Bruno Mountain, and the entire ridgeline along the Peninsula, including the modest bump that is Black Mountain just to the right of the Dumbarton Bridge (near the I-280 icon on the map). Facing the peninsula, I particularly noticed the continuation of the Alameda Creek channel making a pretty curve out into the Bay.
Continuing down the peninsula are Mt Umunhum (right) and Loma Prieta (left), with radio broadcast towers at the east end of the Dumbarton Bridge at the left of the picture. Loma Prieta is also about 35 miles away, with Mt Umunhum about 5 miles closer, just barely off the south side of the map southeast of the CA-17 icon.
On the East side of the Bay, Mt Hamilton is visible above the hills of Coyote Hills Regional Park. It is “only” about 31 miles away. Lick Observatory is barely visible (if you know what to look for).
Moving up the East Bay skyline, Mission Peak looms above Coyote Hills, with Mt Allison and Monument Peak to the right. Mission Peak is about 14 miles away.
Mt Diablo is so tall – at 3850 feet, the tallest peak in the immediate Bay Area – that it is visible over the East Bay Hills ridgeline. Actually, one reason it is so visible is that the ridgeline has a low point near Castro Valley, where I-580 cuts through the hills into the San Ramon Valley.
Almost due north are the Berkeley Hills, including Round Top and Redwood, Vollmer, and Grizzly Peaks about 20-25 miles away. The large white building just to the right of center in the picture is the Oakland California (Mormon) Temple.
Finally, just a bit farther to the west, I could barely see downtown Oakland rising above the mud flats in the immediate foreground. The downtown is perhaps 18 miles away.
It was quite delightful to be able to see all of these landmarks from a single location. At other places along the trail some of the peaks disappear behind intervening hills. It’s almost like they take turns hiding and being visible. About 2½ miles up the trail is another place where I believe the major peaks are all visible, but Mt Diablo is almost gone behind the hills, and others, like Black Mountain, are hidden by the Coyote Hills. I’m frequently on the lookout for interesting juxtapositions of Bay Area peak and landmark views, and this was a wonderful treat on a long, 18-mile training walk (nearly 4½ hours including my break). After I finished my mid-walk stretching, I headed back to the trailhead.