Once upon a time, long ago, Point Pinole was home to Atlas Powder Company, which produced material from which explosives were made. Today this beautiful place explodes only with the beauty Nature has provided, passing it over to us, its loyal community of users. A hike at Point Pinole will be the highlight of your day. Anyone who has hiked its trails will back me up.
From the wooded bayside trails at Point Pinole, it's easy to be stimulated by the visuals, as well as the chirps, songs, squeaks and squawks. Early one mid week morning during my most recent visit I had just parked the car and opened my door when I heard a pair of red shouldered hawks doing a flyover, darting at each other almost directly overhead. That was before I unloaded my chair. Being greeted in that fashion meant this was bound to be a good day.
I tend to move along very slowly as I hike because the opportunity to see and hear Mother Nature's greetings increases. After all, without a timetable I was not pushed to be anywhere until I wanted to leave. What a great way to slow down, I thought exploring as many nooks and crannies as I could in the course of this visit. As I moved toward the
trail, I picked up a park map. Although there are not many trails, each route holds an attraction. One of the first stops I make is just before I begin rolling - looking out toward the Bay over Parchester Marsh. The marsh may appear completely different depending on the tides or season. During any time of year, though, you'll be entertained by birds of all sizes and their many different habits. After a few minutes I rolled on.
The short, paved hill leading into the park exposes another of my little known loves - trains. Walk across the bridge over the tracks and you'll see several passenger and freight trains pass through each day. If I can spot the lights of an oncoming train, even if it's a couple of miles away, I'll wait for it to pass. Kids seem to be at least as enamored of them as I.
I've been on every trail in the park, and wish I could pick a favorite. Each trail has its own recommending points - The Bay View Trail? Well, of course - great views overlooking the Bay as well as some of the most picturesque sunsets one can find in the East Bay. The Marsh Trail to Whittell Marsh and the loop to bring you back? Well, marshes are my thing. I can sit and watch for hours as birds and animals move about during their busy days. This is a wonderful place to watch for Northern
Harriers, AKA Marsh Hawks as they fly close to the ground searching for an unsuspecting meal. Look for the dark body and white stripe across the tail.
I want to stick to the "main" route today, however. That would be Point Pinole Road Trail, the paved and nicely graded trail that heads from the parking lot to the fishing pier out on the Point. I like this trail because it offers easy access to many spur trails and overlooks, while being easy to navigate in a wheelchair. Besides, when temperatures start to hit triple digits in my home of Livermore, the Point Pinole Road Trail's Bay breezes are more than welcoming - they offer we inland
residents a chance to get outside while the interior is grotesquely warm.
For those who wish to picnic and play before embarking on the trail we'll pass through picnic grounds as well as large areas of cool lawn. That's a pleasant summer afternoon combination. Rolling on just a few yards and suddenly you're out in grassland while the breeze takes the edge off. The road seems to whisper - "Please? Just a little further?" as I roll along. There's the rustle of a ground squirrel just off the trail or the flutter of a white tailed kite patiently surveying its territory. I stop frequently along here, and even with that the trail continues calling for more.
Reaching the end of the road doesn't mean we have to turn back quite yet. At the far end of the road is the fishing pier, home to several species of sport fish including striped bass, perch, jacksmelt, sturgeon the hardy souls who pack their gear for a day at the pier can usually find fish. If you or anyone with all that fishing gear doesn't want to take the walk to the pier, though, the District runs a shuttle service every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The shuttle schedule is published on the Point Pinole web page at point_pinole_regional_shoreline#trailmap , so make a note to visit their page for shuttle times and other happenings.
Some days I'll come out in my "off road" chair and circle all around, returning from a nice morning via any of the unpaved but still manageable trails through the marshes and meadows. I've run across some remarkable trees and animals, and wildflowers in season. I'll make the trip to sit beneath a cluster of pines, listening while the wind rustles the needles. Eucalyptus trees offer a scent that's distinctive and wonderful, mixing perfectly with the Bay breezes. Your visit will
bear out the diversity of parkland we have within the District's boundaries, and the ease of getting around Point Pinole puts it on a "must see" list for hikers, bikers and families. You'll find a wealth of "must see" parks in the EBRPD, and I don't get much disagreement from regular park users or new visitors.
I pause on the ride back to sniff around the eucalyptus trees for a few minutes, all the while listening to the birds and animals crunch around on the ground beneath them. I hope all who read this will set out soon on a foggy morning with their day packs and a lunch, or their fishing tackle. "Regulars" know how special a place it is. I'd love to find out the "regulars" list has grown, as more park friends explore and enjoy Point Pinole. You'll see me out there frequently - look for the very
relaxed guy in the wheelchair, listening to the hawks.
Point Pinole is a summer refuge from the heat as well as a special place for budding naturalists who, like me, seek the outdoors as a quiet refuge from the challenges life tosses our way. Take advantage! I look forward to seeing you on the trail soon.