Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend BBQ at Eckley Pier

My friend and I decided to have a picnic in a park during on this beautiful Sunday afternoon. Initially I wanted to go to Crockett Hills Regional Park, but I missed my turn. We ended up at Eckley Pier of Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline. Unlike the day I came here after work on a Friday evening, the place was packed with families picnicking. There was one grill that was not occupied, so we quickly mosey over from the parking lot. As I started dumping charcoal under the grill, another family had arrived and was obviously also looking for an empty grill. The father asked whether he could share with us. We cheerfully invited them to joining in and share the bench and table with us, too. Maybe it was the strong wind next to the pier, we were having a hard time get the charcoal to start burning. They would burn for a few minutes and then the flame would go out after a few gusts of wind.  We all started to gather little twigs. My friend thought eucalyptus barks, which the park had plenty, would be helpful. She was right. We all got the charcoal going after sticking in small pieces of eucalyptus barks.

Kelsey and new friend Woody

I totally forgot to take photos of our awesome picnic food. I grilled some steaks, asparagus, and king trumpet mushrooms. We also had some salad, hummus, yogurt, dried mango, freshly picked loquats, and dark chocolate.  It was a feast!

After we ate, we packed up everything and went for a quick hike up the fire trail. It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Loquat Harvest Time

Back in April during my spring break, I noticed the loquat tree full of little green loquats for the very first time in 20 years or so. Now some of them are turning golden yellow, which means they are ready to be eaten!  Of course all the ripe ones are all the way on the top!  I had to get some help to reach the fruits. I am so excited!

After picking a basketful of loquats, there are a lot more on the tree. The ones all the way on the top tip of the tree will become bird food. I bet those are the sweetest, too!  There are loquat trees all over the neighborhood but most of people don't think about eating the fruits. A couple nights ago I visited a friend in San Jose, and I noticed his loquat tree immediately. It was the only fruit tree in his yard. It was small but had plenty of ripe loquats. I immediately went over and had a taste test. It was sweet!  My friend didn't even know what the tree was and never thought about eating the fruit.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Weekday Point Pinole Hike

I was trying to find Point Pinole yesterday without success. After returning home, I looked up its location via Google Map. I thought it was off Richmond Parkway but it's actually off Giant Highway which is off Richmond Parkway.  From all the raving Yelp reviews, I just had to try it again today.  It was still a little confusing after getting off Giant Highway, but I eventually found my way to its parking lot. This is indeed an amazing park with lots of mature trees next to the shore.

I spent about an hour only to explore a small part of the park.  On the way back to the car, I crossed path with 2 nice women with their cattle dog and white poodle. They loved Kelsey and couldn't stop complimenting her. They told me that dogs are allowed to be off leash in most of the park, so I took Kelsey's leash off. They are also members of Regional Parks Foundation and highly recommended that I should look into it to support our awesome regional parks. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Wildcat Marsh & Landfill Loop Trail

I have been thinking of Crockett Hills Regional Park ever since I was there a couple weekends ago. When I got home from work at 4 today, I thought it would be nice to revisit Crockett.  After getting on the freeway and going at 5 miles per hour speed, I thought I would got to Point Pinole instead just so I could get off the freeway and start hiking.  I got off at the right exit in Pinole and was following the signs to Point Pinole, but suddenly the signs have disappeared. Apparently it was not clearly marked at the end, and I had missed the turn somewhere.  I kept going on Richmond Parkway and ended up at Wildcat Marsh & Landfill Loop Trail.

I parked the car in the empty parking lot and started walking down the trail with Kelsey.  We passed by fields and fields of giant solar panels on one side and marsh on the other side. The trail is all flat and easy to walk.  I would have kept going and make the loop; unfortunately some of the gates were locked up at 5 p.m. I had to turn around as I reached the locked gate. I spent almost an hour just walking in the sun without another person in sight. It was nice to be in the open air and surrounded by birds and plants after a long stuffy day in the office.  Next time I will make sure I know how to get to Point Pinole.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Camping in Butano State Park

I haven't camped for more than 10 years even though I have always wanted to camp again. That day has come. I picked Butano State Park to get my camping feet wet again.  From all the reviews I read, it's dog and kids friendly.  Basically, it's easy to get to and has plenty of drinking water available and access to clean bathrooms.  It took me about 2 hours to drive there on Friday afternoon.

The park ranger at the check-in was nice. I was given camp site number 7, which was next to the bathroom but with enough space in between. After backing my car in, I immediately started setting up my tent. I have an Eureka TL2 tent, which I could not remember how to put it together. Thankfully there is a youtube video available, and I was able to practice before the trip. People are friendly at the camp ground. Everyone greeted each other as they passed by. My neighbor from across the trail even brought me some strawberries and blueberries as he came to introduce himself.

I was preparing for a cold evening, but I never felt really cold.  I don't know whether it was because Kelsey was in the tent with me. I always wondered whether I was allergic to dogs. Now I can say that I am definitely not. The night was very quiet after all the screaming kids went to sleep.  I didn't even hear any critter walking by.  As it got closer to the morning, I heard the toilets being flushed a few times. Due to my job, I have accustomed to getting up early.  I was up and making breakfast before 7:30.  After we ate, I took Kelsey on a hike.

I liked the park but I probably won't be going back there any time soon. It's too family friendly, and I could hear the kids screaming for hours before they finally passed out for the evening.  Shortly after breakfast, the kids were screaming again. I need to go look for camp sites that are for grown ups who camp for peace and quiet.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Another Awesome Park in Crockett

Since I had such a great time at Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline yesterday, I was compelled to go back to Crockett to check out Crockett Hills Regional Park, which is pretty close to Carquinez Straits Shoreline. I headed over around 8 a.m. I am really starting to like getting out early on weekends. Everywhere is quiet and peaceful. There are very few cars on the freeway and on the streets in general before 8:30 on weekends.  When I got to the park, there was no other car in the parking lot. Near the entrance right next to the parking lot, there are some nice picnic tables and benches. There is also a very nice big grill that still looks almost new. One of these days I need to have a barbeque in a park! I think I will pick this park.

A friend with her two German Shepherds met up with us on the trail. The German shepherds are a lot younger than Kelsey. They were bouncing and running all over the trail.  Kelsey even got a little excited with those two young dogs around.  There is a tunnel off the main trail. Once we passed through the tunnel, it's just acres of open space with cattle grazing on the field. The German Shepherds even ran after a big cow. Kelsey also ran with them. We got worried and called them off. Kelsey came back right away, but it took a lot longer to get the shepherds to turn around. When they finally came back, they were wet. They ran all the way to where the big paddle was and took a dip. The grass was very tall on the open space. When the dogs ran off the trail, we couldn't even see them.

Kelsy and friends

We continued on to where there are some picnic tables and benches. We took a water and snack break there.  I took the opportunity to take a photo of Kelsey with her German friends.  Although Kelsey was having such a great time, she was limping on her bad leg.  There is no shade on the open field, and it was getting hot.  I decided to turn back while our friends continued on.  On the way back, I encountered a few more hikers who were just getting started. I was ready to go home and make a brunch for myself after a nice morning hike.
The tunnel to open space

Friday, May 9, 2014

Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline

As the school gets to the end of the year, the days are increasingly stressful. After I left work today, I had the urge to go on a hike in the open space where I can see green grass and endless sky.  I took a short drive to Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline in Crockett.

There were only a few cars in the parking lot when I arrived, and I didn't see anyone in sight. I felt that I had the park all to myself. It was a great feeling. I had some snack on a bench before taking Kelsey on the trail.

The view from the hill was amazing. We did eventually encounter a few people with their dogs. We all greeted each other. Some of them asked me what breed Kelsey is. One of them said that Kelsey looks like a Hovaward.  I get that from time to time.  I like what the man said, "It doesn't matter what she is, she is YOUR dog."  Yup, that is right! I always enjoy chatting with other dog parents.

On the way back we passed by quite a few cattle. We all looked at each other.  I love being outside in peaceful open space.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Stroll in Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline

I often go to Point Isabel because it's just right down the street; however, it is very crowded on weekends. I also love to explore new sights and smell, so I am constantly referring to my "The Dog Lover's Companion to the San Francisco Bay Area for new places to go on weekends. Since I just went to Point Isabel yesterday, I flipped through the book this morning for a new park to go.  Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline seems like to good one to explore. It's very close by, it's close to the water, and there's no fee for parking or dog. I grabbed my day pack, water bottle, a banana, trail mix, and some dog treats and headed over to Miller/Knox with Kelsey in the backseat.

Kelsey always knows when we are getting close to a new place. I would see her stretching her head up, sniffing, and look out of the window in curiosity and excitement. As soon as I parked the car, she was eager to get out.  Miller/Knox has a lot of picnic sites, and there were some families barbequing already.  I started walking toward the shore with Kelsey.  I always like to walk along abandoned rail tracks. They make me feel nostalgic. In addition to the tracks, there were several abandoned buildings covered with graffiti along the shore near where the pier is. A few men were fishing on the pier, which didn't require a fishing permit. 

Next to the lagoon, there were many Canadian geese including some chicks and juvenile geese.  They hurriedly moved away as they sensed Kelsey's presence. On our way back, there were a lot more families all over the picnic area. Some of them were having children's birthday parties. The smell of bbq started to make me feel really hungry. You would never see these many people grilling meat at Point Isabel because all the dogs just gather next to the food and refuse to move.