Mare Island April 2017

return to index

In late April the monthly hiking group visited Mare Island, an old defunct Military base, where my niece Carrie happens to live.  Carrie and I arrived late but once we caught up with the group, we had the advantage of her guidance to the BLU model homes and the Preserve Trail.  Turns out GPS does not give accurate results here...  

The high point on the Preserve Trail - and our lunch stop - provided sweeping views across San Pablo Bay, with part of Napa & Sonoma Counties to the north, and Mount Tamalpias in Marin County directly to the west.  To the east was Mt. Diablo, the Carquinez Straits, and the refineries at Martinez. 

note - you can enlarge any part of a picture by left-clicking in and then out again.    

former Officer's home, now a rental home Bird of Paradise plant historic bell  
  historic ship's cannon Frank setting up an official group shot the group minus Frank & I   
Rich and Carrie figuring out the route BLU home landscaping I connected with the landscaping but not the homes a nice view from the two model homes
  hikers on the Preserve trail the oldest military cemetery on the West Coast Mike T., see note below
roses on a leaning fence roses in an  industrial setting ditto the fate of poor George Fordham
  the Straits of Carquinez  interesting old building with grain silos    
suddenly a lot of people ferry from SF to Vallejo Karen a great view of the island & lands beyond
  looking north Mare Island & Vallejo old munitions storage sheds   probably  
real green and true green Carrie high point on the Island Linda found a  snake skin at the skeletal ship
  walk downhill the Zen of no information  Mount Tam across San Pablo Bay  
Cathy & John surrounded by roses   advanced rustication
back at start of walk Mare Island museum   Rich and ancient tea tree at the museum  

I'm sorry to write that this is the last photo I have of hiker friend Mike T., who passed away in his sleep at 66 years, about five months later, only two days shy of going on a fall camping trip to the East Sierra, and everyone was impacted by the news.  Always trim, Mike was a long-time hiker but he was a very active road biker, for many decades.  Mike had many friends in the hiking group, and we were all used to seeing he and Dorothy on the monthly hikes. 

In his working life, Mike T. had risen to become a well-respected Department Head inside Sacramento County, where I also worked, as a mid-level manager.  I know he was well liked because I interacted with some of his minions on real estate issues.  Bon Voyage, Mike, and I'm grateful to have known you!    

 

Mare Island had a long & illustrious history, being the first US Navy base on the Pacific Coast, commissioned in the 1840s.  It's hard to believe how much ship-building was done here, culminating in a tremendous manufacturing output during WWII< when more than 40,000 persons commuted in to work on the military base, a work force which included women in manufacturing jobs.      

A display at the museum said this shipyard turned out extremely high quality ships, more than 550 ships in all, extending to the Polaris series, America's first nuclear subs, at the start of the Cold War.       

The Museum - most of us took a brief tour, maybe for 30 minutes......  So many displays, with a lot of detail, and it's a crash course in history you most likely never knew anything about before, like me.  You could do some serious exhibit reading here, or, just listen to the docents, who are very informative, as evidenced by my briefly eaves-dropping on a small group of visitors near the entrance.  My guess is it takes about 2+ hours to see everything.     

Behind the Museum is the old shipyard and dry dock, walking-accessible.  Wandering through an old shipyard, camera in hand.....what could be better?  And the 'rustication' aspects here are impressive.      

ship yard walk old bridge cranes SF ferry Mare Island blue
  dry dock crane during WWII, a bee hive of activity dry dock (see note)
European hydrofoil in for repair Coast Guard cutter also very old looking building Palm trees
  Napa River at Vallejo more misc. endless variety of old buildings

note - the giant crane on the right crane appears to me to have at least one large floor space, located behind the main operator's up front cab, and I can easily imagine draftsmen & engineers in there, furiously checking off completed construction items, documenting this on "as-built" drawings.  

Carrie drove us to Benicia's pleasant waterfront where we found a great little coffee stop.  Later we dined at her favorite Thai place in Martinez.     

Straits from Benicia Martinez and  Mount Diablo Gidget Kitty

Carrie is well situated on Mare Island and it was great to experience Bay Area air quality again, overnight.  I left my window wide open all night, facing into a strong wind.  Except for luxurious accommodations, it was just like camping out !     

On Sunday Carrie and I took the same walk as the group did on Saturday, this time in full sun, with a nice cool breeze, but I left the camera at Carrie's.   We had a further walk than on the day before, finding some additional pavement, and the caves where you can reserve overnight camping.   

It's good to take any opportunity that comes up to drive through the Sacramento River Delta to get back to Elk Grove.  It is also a relief to Highway 80 sameness.  The Delta drive is shorter, and you drive at 45 or 50 mph, and the scenery is terrific.  It is almost always uncrowded, too.  The only drawbacks are that for stretches, a driver has no margin for error on the levee, therefore, photographers really cannot look around much as they'd probably like to, but there are plenty of pull-offs near scenic places like the old drawbridges.

I get off the levee at Hood-Franklin Road, but only a little ways further north there are fabulous wineries like Scribner's Bend Winery, or Bogle Winery, or the Old Sugar Mill with four or five wineries.  Highway 160 really is a great scenic drive and on sunny weekends you see sometimes expensive convertibles out, probably cruising here from local parts of the Bay Area.   

Because of the density of grape vines & fruit trees, the Sacramento River Delta is a very busy agriculture area, in summer and fall especially, when you might come up on farm machinery lumbering down the road.  Get ready for a relaxed pace here, with Delta towns surprisingly sleepy & in economic limbo.          

Rio Vista bridge view upstream from Isleton looking downstream old grain shipping facility
bridge near Isleton Sacramento River delta & levees

return to index