Sunday, January 4, 2009

Alameda creek

Alameda creek is a flood control channel running through Fremont, Union City and Hayward. It is not, as the name implies a scenic little twisty brook lined with trees and brush. It is a rather wide and fairly straight channel that changes direction a few times, while running from the hills near Niles Canyon to the Bay. Most of the year, there is barely a trickle of water in it, except near the origin where a removable dam forms a small lake.

Near Niles, the channel is narrower and the straight sections shorter, but once you hit mile 4-5 the channel widens and the views are long. Alameda creek has two creek-side paths. The Southern path is 11 miles long, while the Northern one is a little more than a mile longer due to the width and the many left hand turns. Near the Bay, the channel runs close to a few small hills, called the Coyote Hills. All along the way there are flood-control ponds and near Coyote Hills, many ponds, marshes and swamps create a rather unique wildlife habitat.

I used to run the Alameda creek to prepare for marathons. It is a more or less straight, dead-flat (except for underpasses), 12 mile uninterrupted run. There are some bikers, and a few pedestrians, but overall, "traffic" is pretty light.

I hadn't gone to "the creek" for a while. It is a rather long drive and the return trip invariably gets stuck in commute traffic so I avoided it. Today was different. The Early Bird Criterium series is on, organized by one of Team Specialized's senior members and so Alistair is keen on attending. The EB's are held at Ardenwood, right next to Coyote Hills and the Creek. 

Furthermore, I do not have a road bike at this time, so participating was out of the question. What else could I do but run to the park? Once there I decided to run along the creek, and once there I decided to continue onto the bay. All in all I ran almost 12 miles. It was fantastic !

Nice weather, not too cold or too hot, no wind. No people either. Just a steel-blue sky, a few white cumulus, an absolutely crisp view, and tons of white pelicans gliding along. It was magic. I intercepted the Southern trail at mile 8, ran to the bay (mile 11), turned back to Coyote (at mile 9), ran along the hills for another mile and a half and then back.

I met maybe five runners and a handful of "sunday" cyclists. At various points, birders with binoculars were scanning the skies. When I first turned onto the trail I saw a big hawk sitting in a tree. The ponds were flush with colorful ducks. All I could hear was the sound of my own breathing, and the slight crunch of gravel under my feet. While I could see the Dumbarton bridge and the freeway, there was no sound. It was all too far away, too unreal.

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