The San Francisco Bay Trail is a work-in-progress network of trails encircling San Francisco and San Pablo Bays along the shoreline. I am sometimes surprised at how much of the trail is in parks and other recreation-type areas quite literally right along the shoreline. Other parts of the trail are in more urban settings. On much of the trail you are very aware of being in the midst of a large urban area because the signs of that are visible all around.
This was a relatively short hike – about 3.5 miles each way – on an out-and-back route passing through Menlo Park in the southeastern part of San Mateo County. I started at the parking area next to the entrance to Bedwell Bayfront Park, denoted by the orange dot on my GPS track, and turned around at the vista point at the west end of the Dumbarton Bridge.
The route is on a paved multi-use path next to the Bayfront Expressway (CA-84) and passes the large Facebook corporate headquarters campus en route to the approach to the Dumbarton Bridge. Some of the marshland next to the trail is part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Also, the vista point parking area is an entry point for one of the sections of Ravenswood Open Space Preserve.
There are a couple of dirt paths in Bedwell Bayfront Park but I quickly found the paved multi-use path next to Bayfront Expressway and started out for the bridge, where I planned to turn around due to my afternoon start and limited daylight. On the other side of the path from the expressway there is a narrow slough-type channel that, on the day of my walk, contained water, shore birds, and ducks. Almost immediately I saw a black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) busy feeding. These shore birds are distinctive because of their disproportionately very long, red legs. The white spot is actually above/behind the eye but provides an appearance almost of surprise.
There was also a clump of grass that looks similar to what I’ve seen in several other places. It also looks similar to pampas grass (Cortaderia jubata) which, unfortunately, is a non-native species considered by many to be invasive and noxious (because it is so aggressive, crowding out native species).
A bit farther along this narrow water channel there was a pair of shovelers (Spatula clypeata). This is the more colorful male, easily identified by the large spoon-like bill and distinctive coloring.
The Bayfront Expressway has several intersections with traffic lights between Bedwell Bayfront Park, at Marsh Rd, and University Ave, the last before the Dumbarton Bridge. Just past the light at Chilco St I had this view of the destination for my walk: the Dumbarton Bridge, with a bit of the East Bay Hills in the background across San Francisco Bay.
The large headquarters campus of Facebook is located at the end of Willow Rd. Facebook has added whimsical-looking colorful touches to some of the many buildings.
At the Willow Rd intersection the Bay Trail is routed along a sidewalk and tramway that passes underneath Bayfront Expressway. The way is clearly signed with Bay Trail signage – some of the signage is painted right on the surface of the bike/pedestrian path. With the multi-use path now on the south(east) side of CA-84, there are two more major traffic signals to negotiate, one at Willow Rd and one at University Ave. Because the light cycles are very long for traffic on CA-84 I actually did not need to wait, only press the button and then determine that the light remained green for auto traffic.
Directly opposite University Ave is the end of Ravenswood Slough and the boundary of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The highway and multi-use path continue on kind of a levee, just several feet above the water level. As I continued, there were more pockets of open, though shallow, water. I noticed a couple of flocks of small birds that, in unison, flew quickly around the area in an irregular formation, tipping one way and then the other, alternately appearing dark or bright white. I tried to capture a picture showing the white undersides. In 10-15 seconds the flock would weave around the entire ponded area, then land together, and shortly after that the same or another flock would take off and repeat the maneuver. It was fascinating to watch! They were too far away, however, to attempt an identification.
Just before a sign announcing Toll Crossing Entrance a small frontage road forks off from the highway. It turns out that it provides access to a couple of trails in Ravenswood Open Space Preserve and the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It can also be the starting point for a walk across the bridge. As the roadway ascends the actual bridge begins.
Right around here I noticed an American egret (Casmerodius albus) in the water, now open bay. The water was getting deeper than the shallow marshlands, so it almost looked like the egret was swimming – except that it is strictly a wading bird.
Where the bridge roadway is high enough to accommodate an underpass there is a small parking area for the frontage road, as well as some park signage. This was my turnaround point: a convenient place to return another day to continue across the bridge. Off to the southeast are the remains of a former Southern Pacific Railroad line that crossed the Bay until the 1980’s. The small white structure is part of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct.
As I returned from the turnaround point I noticed, near where I’d previously seen the American egret, a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) wading in the bay waters.
Then I continued to make my way back to Bedwell Bayfront Park. I was a bit more aware of the amount of traffic, as it was now into the afternoon rush hour preceding a holiday weekend. In the water I could see groups of avocets feeding in shallow water, as well as sandpipers on the mud flat areas. I turned around every so often to appreciate views of Mission Peak reflected in the water. After passing the Facebook campus again I could see Mt Diablo, a bit faintly, behind the East Bay Hills.
Although the nominal time for sunset was about 5:15 pm, I began to take note that the actual sunset time – when the sun dipped below the Peninsula’s skyline – would be quite a bit earlier, in terms of walking time. In fact, just as I approached the entrance to Bedwell Bayfront Park at 4:50 pm, the sun actually set behind some cloud cover.
I wanted to see how far the multi-use path continued beyond the point where I had joined it, so I continued toward the entrance roadway, where I found an End Recreational Trail sign. Near the sign I noticed a starkly white bicycle chained to the support structure for a pedestrian control sign. I was a bit startled because the entire bicycle, including saddle and tires, was covered in white paint; also the bicycle didn’t have fenders. I kind of wonder if it is a mini-exhibit of urban art!
Before leaving the park I explored, by car, part of a circumference road. A paved 2.3-mile multi-use path goes around the outside of the park and there are several dirt paths within the park. I plan to return another time to explore the park – and yet another time to walk across the Dumbarton Bridge. Both of these walks will be on San Francisco Bay Trail.