Monday, August 9, 2010

Tour de BART - El Cerrito - Butters Canyon - Redwood - Palomares - Fremont - Alameda Creek Trail - Bay Trail loop

Highlights of this long loop around the East Bay hills and the bay shore include low traffic, scenery and long segments with no stop signs or lights. Route includes remote Redwood Road, rustic Palomares Road, bike trails across Fremont and Union City, and a long return up the Bay Trail with waves breaking so close you have to dodge the spray in a few places.

Here's a map of the route. Unfortunately the mapmyride elevation profiler stopped displaying for me a couple days ago so I can't show the climbing, but it's all mellow grades maxing out around 6% and the route is very front-loaded, with all the climbing done by halfway. Hope they have the profiler fixed soon.

Map image copyright Terra Metrics, by way of

There's convenient BART access in many places, passing near El Cerrito, Berkeley, Ashby, Castro Valley, Fremont, South Hayward, San Leandro, Fruitvale, and West Oakland stations. Carry tools, food, water and a patch kit since you'll be on your own for quite a while for some stretches.

Riding the Bay Trail at a decent pace in strong wind on gravel and dirt is challenging, it may be flat but it is definitely not a recovery ride. It felt comfortable pushing relatively fast on the gravel since there's hardly anyone out here and you can see miles ahead, it would be very difficult to run into someone unexpectedly.

You can access the bottom of Butters Road from a foot/bike path just to the east of the Highway 13 off-ramp after you cross the overpass.

Crossing Castro Valley southbound I used Proctor, Rockhurst, and Seaview to a trail off Nash Court that connects to Columbia Drive and passes swimming and fishing facilities in Cull Canyon recreation area. Bay Trees park at the bottom of Cull Canyon has a good bathroom with running water.

At the bottom of Niles Canyon I took a left onto Old Canyon Road and joined the paved Alameda Creek Trail bike path which goes under Mission Boulevard. Even on a Sunday this was pretty fast riding, with nice scenery along the creek bed. Birds seen today included snowy egrets and white egrets.

I used Decoto to cross to the gravel path on the north side of Alameda Creek Trail. Pavement resumed after about 1/4 mile. Using Arizona Street to the bike trail next to Niles was very convenient, and it was great being out of traffic.

After riding the bike lane on Niles for a long block turn right on Tidewater ("no outlet") and go straight several blocks until it veers left at a small kids park. The path along the east side of the park goes through a gate to access the paved bike trail. If you access the trail earlier at the railroad tracks you'll ride a few blocks of gravel. You'll have to do a right and a u-turn at Whipple to cross.

There's a nice bike bridge over Highway 92 taking the Bay Trail from Salt Way. The Interpretive Center by the San Mateo bridge is a great stop. Clean cold water from the fountain out front, and if they are open you can buy sodas and snack bars inside plus there's bathrooms. A lot of derelict infrastructure around here from salt harvesting. This place is a photographer's playground - whether you like birds, flat land and seascapes, decaying industrial facilities juxtaposed against wilderness, or abstracts there's something for everyone. Shooting around dawn or dusk or on an overcast day with the right light it's a magical combination.

Salt flats from the air - caribb Making salt is a slow process. They flood a flat field with saltwater, seal it off, and let the sun slowly evaporate the water to leave a crust of salt crystals. The dirty salt is scraped up and used rough or cleaned up, depending on the market. The red color reminds me of the red salt ponds near Salt Pond park on Kauai

Old pilings - damada2

HDR effects - damada2

I got an adrenaline surge crossing a narrow wooden bridge over an inlet. I was focused on my line and all I could see was planks over opaque, swirling water and I got this spooky feeling of racing across a string of wood trying to reach dry land before getting inundated. Your mileage may vary.

Photo size8jeans

Bathrooms and water where Neptune Drive runs into the San Leandro Marina. Turning left from Marina onto Neptune is odd, I think you are not supposed to go left but instead have to go down the block and do a U-turn.

Going uphill to the right at the entrance to Oyster Bay park leads to trails with with lots of loose gravel and you eventually approach the bridge from the east. Next time I'll check out the paved trail that heads south-west to wind around the park and approach the bridge from the west.

Where East 7th street appears to dead end at 29th go straight across 29th using the crosswalk on the west side of 7th and take the path under the overpass, then continue straight on 7th towards the traffic lights. Next time I may check out Kennedy to Park Street bridge to see how that works instead.

Mandela Parkway has a good bike lane and is a nice way to get from Jack London Square in Oakland to Emeryville.

With all the climbing at the start and the low-traffic routing this is a relaxing long day's ride from Berkeley area. If I was starting from Fremont I'd probably do the loop in reverse to take care of the climbing early in the ride while it's still cool out.

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