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Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a 30,000 acres of mostly former salt ponds and marshes spanning much of the southern end of San Francisco Bay. This is almost unique among my rides in that it is flat, holding a constant elevation of about 8 feet above sea level and no trees. While being within sight of high tech office buildings, freeways and Moffet Federal Airfield, it is surprisingly filled with waterfowl of all descriptions and probably a lot that I missed. This is the first urban National Wildlife Refuge (see the home page), another unique factor.

Park: Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Date: February 2, 2011
Distance: 18.0 miles
Ride Time: 1:23
Total Ascent: 170 feet
Maps: Detailed official trail map
Overall Rating: 3

I start at the educational center off of Grand Ave in Alviso rather than the headquarters in Fremont. You can ride out the wooden walkway of the New Chicago Marsh trail over the marsh (this part can and perhaps should be skipped if people are out there) before heading out on Mallard Slough. You can go either way, but I have a slight preference for counterclockwise (to the right) to ride the eastern and northern sections first (except during hunting season!). A very lonely stop sign out in the middle of nothing protects a concrete railroad crossing that connects to Alviso Slough. Unless you are already beat, head across the railroad track. You can ride the circumference in either direction or use the one levy that crosses the ponds to make a figure-eight. The circumference is about a 9 mile loop and the figure-eight is about 12.25 miles. Once you are done with this, head back across the railroad tracks and rid the part of Mallard Slough that you didn't do the first time.

It is easy to see literally thousands of ducks plus egrets (snowy and great white and maybe others), loons, grebes, geese, pelicans and seagulls. I have also seen hawks. Of course,there are also rabbits and squirrels, but they are not the novelty that the waterfowl are. I am not an expert bird spotter, so I probably saw even more but there were lots and lots of birds. As you come upon a group of ducks, they will either take flight or "run" along the surface of the water to spots further out from shore. There are very few people out on the trails, so most of the time you get to ride in solitude.

The ride itself was very simple since there pathways are along the tops of old dikes with very few trail junctions. Not all of the dikes are accessible or open, but this is not a problem. The surface is packed dirt that made for pretty fast riding. The surface wasn't as smooth as a road, but it was easy to look around while riding. Based on the number of footprints and bike tire tracks, it doesn't look like too many people go out there. There is one railroad crossing in the middle of nothing, but the track is active (I have seen Amtrak and freight trains).

This was a very different ride. The GPS reported a total climb of 170 feet. This must be adding each fraction of an inch as I rode over pebbles or changing weather conditions, but I think this was more likely to be due to an accumulation of small errors. The entire ride was very flat, making it a very good place for beginners or small children. It can get windy out there even when it doesn't seem very windy near Silicon Valley's office buildings and head winds can simulate climbing. The birds and scenery were both different and interesting. It was fun to be moving along at a good, sustained clip without having to worry about people, trail conditions or cars. It was a nice change. I'll have to try it again some time.

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