On Saturday I went with my meetup group to Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge and Coyote Hills Regional Park, both in the East Bay near Fremont, California. Some good friends that I hike with were there that I hadn’t seen in more than a couple of months because of my injury so it was a nice reunion for me as well.
Don Edwards is part of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex. It is a 30,000 acre refuge in the southeast end of San Francisco bay created in 1972, named after congressman Don Edwards who worked hard to help establish it. Much of this is on former salt ponds. A lot of the Bays tidal wetlands were commercially developed, either as salt ponds or filled in to build on, late into the 20th century. Recently there is an effort to reverse this, a private-public partnership. Cargill corporation has donated 40,000 acres of former salt ponds that are no longer economical. It is fortunate this land is being restored rather than developed upon.
When my wife and I first flew to San Francisco in 1975 we saw images like the one below during final approach to SF airport. The distinctive colors are brine in the salt ponds, with different salinity levels causing different colors. The darker blue to the right is the bay itself, separated from the ponds by levees:
Saturday morning my group set out on what was to be a hot day in the bay area, but fortunately we had nice breezes off the bay which kept us cool. We hiked towards the north through the refuge, this is the view near the start. The mountains on the other side of the bay to the West are the Santa Cruz mountains:
There are a ton of birds in the area. We got to see seagulls, egrets and pelicans and a lot of smaller birds. Here are some egrets, we saw the largest grouping of them in one spot that I’ve ever seen but unfortunately I don’t have a photo of that.
Some gorgeous birds I had not seen before and didn’t identify till later are Forster’s terns:
Further north the trail entered Coyote Hills park, with the refuge still on the left and the bay visible beyond it.
The Coyote hills are not too tall but offer beautiful views of the bay. They were formed by plate tectonic activity, a good description of which is here. One of the fascinating features we saw was radiolarian chert. Radiolarians were tiny silica-shelled animals that died and ended up on the sea floor and were compressed over millenia into a rocky substance called chert. Tectonic activity lifted this up from horizontal to near vertical in some places:
This was about a 7 mile walk, most level on well packed gravel or paved surfaces. A good first hike back for me. For the next several weeks I need to stick to safer terrain like this. It’s nice to know there are still nice places to see with that limitation.