Hiking Briones Reservoir: A 14 Mile Circumnavigation

Not to be confused with Briones Regional Park, the Briones Reservoir is an East Bay water storage reservoir owned by the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD). The lightly traveled trails of East Bay MUD are accessible to hikers with an inexpensive trail permit available online. The Briones Reservoir Loop is a circumnavigation of the entire reservoir that makes a fun trip for experienced hikers. The trails aren't particularly technical or steep, you just need some endurance. The 14-mile trip took us 6 hours flat at a medium/casual pace with two 15-minute breaks. We started at the Bear Creek Staging Area at the corner of Bear Creek and Happy Valley Road. We proceeded clockwise by following the Bear Creek Trail to the Oursan Trail. The first 4 miles is mostly shaded and quite pretty with views of the water. The Oursan trail then wanders surprisingly far from the water and eventually leads you back down the hill along the reservoir for the last few miles. Lots of pollen in the spring, and hot in the summer. Bring lots of water, there isn't any on the hike. We saw an amazing number of birds and butterflies, and had a great time.


Wildcat Marsh Landfill: Circumnavigating Garbage Mountain

The Wildcat Creek Marsh and Landfill Loop Trail along the San Pablo Bay in Richmond officially opened on 4/30/2011. Today we hiked the new 2.8 mile loop trail around Garbage Mountain, a 350-acre landfill with a 158-foot tall hill of rubbish and industrial waste. The trail passes the large solar panels of the West County Wastewater District, a power generating plant that runs on decomposing waste, and includes views of the Chevron Richmond Refinery. The bird-watching and Bay views are excellent. If you're sensitive to bad smells or pollen, you may want to hike elsewhere. More information and a map are available on the City of Richmond's website. Important notes about hours and directions:

  • The map seems to indicate that the Wildcat Creek Trailhead connects to the Landfill Loop. This trail is a 0.25 mile out and back that does not go through (a connection is slated to be built in the fall of 2011). When you're driving on Richmond Parkway from either Hwy 80 or Hwy 580, Parr Blvd. is the correct exit for the Landfill Loop Trail.
  • The Wildcat Creek Trailhead is part of the East Bay Regional Park District, and is open until 10pm. However, Wildcat Creek Marsh and the Landfill Loop Trail are open 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m., 7 days per week. The gate is locked at 5 p.m.


A quiet pinhole photo and the egrets of Bolinas

Quiet -- by Joe Reifer
Quiet -- by Joe Reifer

Worldwide Pinhole Day was Sunday, April 24th. Images taken between April 23-May 1 are eligible for the 2011 online exhibition. This non-commercial event has no entrance fee, isn't a competition, and you keep copyright. The image above was taken with a Zero Image 69 medium format pinhole camera. This beautiful little wood camera shoots 645, 6x6, 6x7, or 6x9. The pinhole is f/235, which requires about an 8 second exposure in bright sunlight with ISO 400 negative film. The image above was exposed for 16 seconds with Kodak Portra 400VC.

The sign is next to the viewing platform at Audubon Canyon Ranch's Martin Griffin Preserve (formerly Bolinas Lagoon Reserve). There are 62 egret nests visible from the viewing platform, and volunteers have spotting scopes available. When the birds stand up, you can see the beautiful pale blue eggs. The chicks will be born in mid-May. Bring a long lens if you'd like to photograph the birds from the platform.


Point Reyes hiking: Tule elk and amazing views at Tomales Point

Tule elk at Point Reyes -- by Joe Reifer

Sunday we hiked the Tomales Point trail in Point Reyes [map] and saw about 90 tule elk. All I can say is wow. If you live in the Bay Area, this hike is highly recommended. Point Reyes: The Complete Guide to the National Seashore & Surrounding Area has lots of great information about hiking in the big beautiful wilds of West Marin. The Bay Area Hiker site has a good description of the hike. Here are a few additional tips:

  1. Go early. The fog came in around 1pm, and so did the crowds (although it wasn't terribly crowded). We started the hike a little after 10am and finished around 3pm. Going an hour earlier would have been helpful.
  2. Bring layers and wear pants. When the fog rolls in you don't want to freeze. The last mile out to Tomales Point is a narrow trail with a lot of brush at ankle/shin level. Don't let the last mile of this overgrown trail deter you from going all the way out to the end - the views are incredible, even if it's foggy.
Cliffs near Tomales Point -- by Joe Reifer