We land in Antarctica!!!

January 1, 2020. After the days of exploring the Falklands and South Georgia and the few intervening days totally at sea, I could hardly wait to touch down in Antarctica. This was the day! 

Antarctic Petrels at sea
Orcadas Station
Crew members on the island stay here year-round

Laurie Island, South Orkneys, Antarctica
Our first stop, by zodiac, was to explore some of Laurie Island in the South Orkneys. It was originally the site of a hut known as Omond House. It’s now the site of Orcadas Station, occupied year-round by Argentine personnel primarily as a bird hide and field refuge. We were warmly welcomed—they don’t get a lot of visitors! 

Then we had some time to explore and view penguins by zodiac…

Zodiac cruising to view penguins–with rough seas!


Chinstrap penguin watching us too!

and finally, an incredible sunset. 

Sunsets extraordinaire!

Some history: The Voyage of the Scotia
“Omond House was a building erected in 1903 on Laurie Island in the South Orkney Islands. It was built to house shore-based members of the 1902-1904 Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, led by William Bruce.” 

“The house was named after Scottish meteorologist Robert T Omond, a strong supporter of the idea of making meteorological observations in Antarctica. It was built with over 100 tonnes of stone manually quarried then hauled on sledges from an adjacent glacial moraine.

“Its main purposes were to serve as a base for meteorological observations made at the nearby weather station, and as living quarters for small parties left behind both when the Scotia returned to Buenos Aires for repairs and supplies, and when she finally returned to Scotland.” Link here

“In January 1904, Bruce offered control of Omond House to Argentina and which was later renamed the Orcadas Station. Link here

Gratitude for our trails

Thanksgiving and Gratitude

Sunol Regional Park, Alameda County, CA

Here in the S.F. Bay Area, the days have been so mild with daytime temperatures in the 60s and 70s, it’s hard to believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving. However, when it starts getting dark at 5 PM, and colder, we realize we have to work a bit harder to fit hikes into our shorter daytime hours.

This reminds me that I have much to appreciate about where I live, why I try to support environmental causes, and how grateful I am for the thousands of people here who work to protect our environment.

Sunol Regional Park, Alameda County, CA

In particular, I am reminded of the importance of the regional parklands around me, which…

  • provide hundreds of miles of trails that I can hike. 
  • bring ever-changing displays of flowers, trees, and other plants. 
  • have quiet places to clear my head and exercise my body.
  • inspire my writing and photography with its scenic beauty.
  • support wildlife—from ladybugs covering entire branches; herons stalking their prey; hawks soaring overhead; flickers hammering cavities in tree branches to build their nests.  
  • offer the opportunity to gain perspective on our place on this earth.
  • allow free, or inexpensive, visits to all who want to come. 

And, people are instrumental in what happens…

  • by envisioning the setting aside of parcels of land to create parklands.
  • when they work to acquire properties that would otherwise turn into developments.
  • by volunteering to help with fund-raising, to interface with the public at the kiosks and gift shops, and by organizing work parties for weed control.
  • when they become park employees that build fences and picnic tables, clear out invasive plants, repair storm damaged trails and roadways, and educate park visitors. 
  • by voting in tax measures to support and improve our parks

Galen Rowell, photographer, climber, author (1940-2002) in  Bay Area Wild: A Celebration of the Natural Heritage of the San Francisco Bay Area wrote,  “The San Francisco Bay Area holds the most extensive system of wild greenbelts in the nation, with more than 200 parks and other protected areas lying within forty miles of the city.”

We are truly blessed to live here. 

Minimizing your impact on the trail

 

Trail and Camp Ethics

Don’t build illegal campfire rings!

Anytime we hike or camp, we have an effect on our environment. The goal is to minimize negative impacts. If we damage the trail, we might  affect the next person’s trip or destroy the homes of wild animals. Some actions that may seem benign to us at the time may be quite disastrouspolluting the drinking water of a community, causing flooding by erosion, or destroying homes and forest by fire. 

To start… 

1.Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites [ed.: don’t cause erosion by taking shortcuts!]. Those shortcuts that create new trails through the dirt will become channels for water during the winter. 
2.Pack it in, pack it out. After use, inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter. [ed.: Orange peels can last 6 months, bananas 12 months.] 
 
3.Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. There is little to no chance that these items will decompose before they are discovered by animals or other humans. There are far too many people on our trails and in our wildlands for these products to remain undisturbed and unnoticed. 
 
4.Deposit solid human waste* in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet (about 70 human paces) from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished. Note: leaving your poop under a rock near your campsite is not ok! Not only may it be a health hazard, but the next person to move the rockto build a campfire pit, for repairing a trailwill not appreciate the mound of feces that you left behind. Bury it!
 
*In some areas, there may be regulations required that human waste be carried out—for example, on Mt. Whitney or Denali, or in various river rafting areas.

Leave No Trace…

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics’ website tells us that the principals they give are modified or revisited from time to time as researchers gain new insights into protecting our outdoors. The current seven LNT Principles are: Plan and Prepare; Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces; Dispose of Waste Properly; Leave What You Find; Minimize Campfire Impacts; Respect Wildlife, Be Considerate of Other Visitors.  Click here for more info. 

10 Favorite S.F. Bay Area Hikes

While I certainly haven’t done every possible hike in the San Francisco Bay Area the following 10 parks and trails have yet to fail me:
1.  Mount Tamalpais State Park: Steep Ravine and Matt Davis
2Point Reyes Ntl. Seashore: Pierce Point

3. Marin County Parks: Cascade Falls
4. Marin County Parks: Mount Burdell
5. El Corte de Madera Preserve: Tafoni and more
6. Mount Diablo State Park: Mount Diablo
7. Mount Diablo State Park: Mitchell Canyon 

8. Diablo Foothills (EBParks): Diablo Foothills   
9. Sunol Regional Park: Camp Ohlone Road 
10. Coyote Hills Regional Park: Tuibun, Bayview and more 

Marin County 
Mount Tamalpais State Park: Steep Ravine & Matt Davis

7 miles round trip, elevation gain 1,781. You’ll find redwoods, waterfalls and cascading streams, wildflowers, views back toward the Pacific Ocean, and a fun ladder to climb on this hike from Stinson Beach to Pan Toll Campground and back. 

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Point Reyes Ntl. Seashore: Pierce Point Trail (aka Tomales Point)

Tule Elk, Point Reyes

9.7 miles out and back, but within the first couple of miles, you are almost guaranteed to see tule elkbirds, and wildflowers, so you can shorten the hike if you wishThe views along the narrow peninsula are spectacular–Tomales Bay to the east, Bodega Bay to the north, and the Pacific Ocean on the west.

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Cascade Falls, Fairfax

Cascade Falls, Eliot Nature Reserve. Marin County Parks, Fairfax. 3 miles out-and-back. Easy.  Best in winter or spring shortly after a rain, which gives the stream a boost. Delicate wildflowers in springtime. Excellent for young children and beautiful enough to be enjoyed by any age. 

The most direct and easiest trails to follow (especially if the alternative trails lead to the part of the wide stream with no bridge) are the Cascade Fire Road and the Cascade Falls Trail. 

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Mount Burdell, Mount Burdell Open Space, Marin County Park, Novato.

Rainbow from Mt. Burdell, Marin County

A lovely 5.2 mile loop rated moderate.  The highest point is Mt. Burdell, which is 1,558 ft. — an 1,118 ft. elevation gain. 

Good on a mild winter or fall day, better even on a spring day when the grass is green and the wildflowers are out. Summers can be very hot and there is little shade so be prepared with plenty of water if you choose to undertake this hike on such a day.

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San Mateo County

El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve, Tafoni and more, Woodside

Tafoni formation–El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve

Moderate four-mile loop using the Tafoni, Fir, El Corte de Madera Creek Trails. This lovely hike through the redwoods also has a couple of unique features. One is a commemorative marker to those who died in a plane crash here in the 1950s.  Another is the intriguing sandstone Tafoni sandstone formation, which is about 1.5 miles out from the Tafoni trailhead. 

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Contra Costa County

Mount Diablo State Park: Mount Diablo, Walnut Creek

The very peak of Mt. Diablo, which is accessed from inside the Visitors’s Center

As mountains go, Mount Diablo’s summit isn’t terribly high, 3,849 feet, but it is the highest peak in the Bay Area. It also–if you pick the right day, generally in winter or early spring after rain has cleared the skies–offers outstanding views. On a clear day you can see not only the surrounding valleys and hills, but also the Sierra Nevada 135 miles to the east, Mount Lassen 185 miles to the north, and the Farallon Islands, 27 miles west of San Francisco.

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Indian Warriors in Mt. Diablo State Park, Contra Costa County

Mitchell Canyon/ Back Creek Loop,  Mount Diablo State Park, near Clayton. 

Strenuous, some hills, about 7 miles, 1700-foot elevation gain. On this beautiful hike, you’ll pass through narrow canyons, groves of  groves of Coulter pines, birding areas, rugged mountain scenery, and enjoy expansive views. In the spring, you’ll find that the shaded north exposures are alive with a succession of wildflowers. 

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Diablo Foothills Regional Trail (EBParks), Walnut Creek  

Diablo Foothills, EBParks, Contra Costa County

This challenging hike of 7 miles, elevation gain 966 feet, begins in a neighborhood. Passing into the park, you will soon enjoy walking through oak woodlands, rolling hills, rock outcroppings, and a seasonal creek.  My favorite time to do this hike is springtime–or anytime that it is not hot!

My favorite part is Pine Canyon–even though I have yet to see the resident peregrine falcons there, you can see their white guano (droppings) on the cliffs below their nests. The cliffs themselves are actually in neighboring Mount Diablo State Park and portions of other trails that enter the park from the canyon are closed seasonally to protect the nesting birds. 

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Alameda County

Camp Ohlone Road, Sunol Regional Park, Sunol. Hike to Little Yosemite

Short and sweet, this moderately-easy hike that can be extended if desired.  Approximately 3-4 miles out-and-back. Best after rain, hot in summers, but lovely anytime (just don’t expect the 2,425-foot drop of Yosemite Falls. 

The W Tree in Sunol Regional Park
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Tuibun/Chochenyo/Lizard Rock/
Bay View/Soaproot/Red Hill/Nike/Bay View again. Coyote Hills, EBParks, Fremont. 

Coyote Hills Regional Park, Fremont

Coyote Hills Regional Park, Fremont 

A moderate loop of 4.77 miles that takes you on the Bayview Trail around the Coyote Hills where you’ll see the evaporating salt ponds of San Francisco Bay. You’ll also walk a marsh area–often teeming with waterfowl. and other birdlife. Coyote Hills is a unique park that sits where Alameda Creek flows into San Francisco Bay, and is considered sacred by the Ohlone Native Americans.

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I hope you enjoy some of these hikes. We are very lucky to have so many great trails in the S.F. Bay Area. For more trails, check out the Nifty Ninety Peaks posts. Click here.