Day 7: Alone In The Wilderness

Tubbs Island Farmland 1

Today was the one day where I had to drive to my destinations.  This was due mainly to the fact that Highway 37 is not accessible to pedestrians and walking on a highway is like summiting Everest without oxygen during peak climbing season – it can be done, some people do it and some even live to tell about it – but it is not a good idea. (See blog post from June 4th)  To alleviate some of the guilt of having to get in my car, I pushed on for about twenty miles over the course of four Bay Trail sections.

I started with five miles in McInnis Park in northern San Rafael and then moved on to the Hamilton Restoration project before driving over the Petaluma River on Highway 37 to the Sonoma wetlands. I saved what would be an epic hike to Tubbs Island and the edge of San Pablo Bay for last.  I also had the pleasure of hiking with Bay Trail Planner, Maureen Gaffney today at the Hamilton Wetland Restoration Area.  I was fascinated to learn from Maureen how the wetlands are restored and the engineering that goes into such a feat.  This was also the perfect outlook to view the future of the Bay Trail north of the Hamilton Wetlands.  Maureen tutored me on how the Bay Trail sections come to fruition and, trust me, there is a lot more to it than saying “Let’s blaze a trail over there, make some signs, and put them up!”  If only it were that simple!

Many of these hikes become interesting in the least expected ways.  It was a very small part of today’s journey that made the greatest impact on me. I stopped at The Bait Shop in Port Sonoma to grab some water.  It was a small shack on a dock advertising beer and bait, nothing else.  With the wind blowing Eric Church from a warehouse a quarter mile away, I entered the store and got the standard “What are you looking for?” No smile, no pleasantries, barely looked up. But strangely, it did not seem rude either.  Just a man going about his business.  An attractive blonde woman, seasoned by age and sun, exited, passing by me and smiling as I entered.  His wife I presumed.  Back in a small corner fridge I found the water, paid my two bucks and went on my way.  The further I get from the City – and this is about as far as I will get from any urban center during my trek – the more real life becomes.  Today I found reality in a bait shop on a dock.

With my two bottles of water I set off for what would be my last trek of the day.  I wasn’t tallying the total distance of all the hikes so I didn’t realize I had already put over twelve miles on my Asics, otherwise I would have gotten in the car and headed home right then and there.  Instead I drove east along Highway 37 to Tolay Creek where I would set off for a hike to Lower Tubbs Island on the edge of San Pablo Bay.  Along the way I spotted a Great Egret who seemed to taunt me for a good three miles or so.  He would let me get just close enough where I thought I could snap off a few photos.  Then he would take off again and fly another hundred yards or so down the trail.  We did this over and over again and the end result was me having to delete about 300 fuzzy white images.

This hike was striking in the diversity of scenery along the trail.  For the first mile you approach a winery set high on a hill with green vines seemingly growing to the water’s edge.  You might as well be on a hike in Tuscany.  Then you wind around a bend and find yourself facing endless fields of cut hay being slowly pulled from the ground and through the bowels of an automatic hay baler then spit out the back end in a perfectly bound rectangle. However, that all came to an end as I rounded yet another corner and saw water and wetlands again.  Suddenly the sound of anything manmade was gone.  Gone were the sounds of the tractors, the freeway and the race cars at Infineon Raceway.  And ahead of me was as wide open an expanse of the Bay as I had ever seen.

I could sit here all night and tell you about all the birds and rabbits I saw today – LOTS of rabbits, as in “Night of the Lepus” rabbits.  Well, actually, they were quite cute.  But, while I absolutely love the wildlife, nothing beats the calm of being in the middle of no-where with nothing but a steady breeze and wind-whipped waves crashing on shore at your feet.  Lonely perhaps, but it felt good to be out there.  I sipped my last drop of water, turned my back to the bay and made the two hour trek to my Jeep.

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