Since 2001, David Loeb has served as editor and then publisher of Bay Nature magazine and executive director of the nonprofit Bay Nature Institute. A Bay Area resident since 1973, David moved here after graduating from college in Boston. The decision was largely based on a week spent visiting friends in San Francisco the previous January, which had included a memorable day at Point Reyes National Seashore. In the late 1990s, after many years working for the Guatemala News and Information Bureau in Oakland, David had the opportunity to spend more time hiking and exploring the parks and open spaces of the Bay Area. Increasingly curious about what he was seeing, he began reading natural history books, attending naturalist-led hikes and natural history courses and lectures, and volunteering for several local conservation organizations.
This was rewarding, but he began to feel that the rich natural diversity of the Bay Area deserved a special venue and a dedicated voice for the whole region, to supplement the many publications devoted to one particular place or issue. That’s when the germ of Bay Nature magazine began to take shape. In February 1997, David contacted Malcolm Margolin, publisher of Heyday Books and News from Native California, with the idea of a magazine focused on nature in the Bay Area, and was delighted with Malcolm’s enthusiastic response. Over the course of many discussions with Malcolm, publishing professionals, potential funders, and local conservation and advocacy groups, the magazine gradually took shape and was launched in January 2001. It is still going strong, with a wider base of support than ever.
Highlights: Great views; rare manzanita; mature live oak woodland and open grasslands; wildflowers in spring.
A rare and endangered manzanita was the raison d’etre for the creation of this 277-acre oak/bay woodland preserve right next to a suburban subdivision near El Sobrante. But it’s the superb views that might be the biggest draw of the Sobrante Ridge Trail at Sobrante Ridge Regional Preserve.
The park has four trailheads. For this hike, enter through the gate on Conestoga Way, near the intersection with Castro Ranch Road, just to the left of the community mailboxes. Climb about 50 yards up the fire road, then turn left on to the wide single track, hard-packed dirt Sobrante Ridge Trail. The trail climbs—sometimes gradually, sometimes in short steep pitches—through a live oak/bay woodland, with an understory of poison oak. When the trail emerges in grasslands you’ll get views of of both forested hillsides and open ridges as well as of the subdivisions to the east. These are a reminder of what would have been the fate of this property without the intervention of the East Bay Regional Park District.
After 2/3 mile, the main Sobrante Ridge Trail bears right up a steep pitch. But take the Sobrante Ridge Loop Trail to the left, then a short spur to the left to arrive at a shaded picnic table, with a view through trees to the summit of Mount Diablo. Return to the Loop trail and head uphill to meet up with the main Sobrante Ridge trail. Soon the trail emerges into open grassland; on the left you’ll find a pair of picnic tables with great views of open hillsides and Mount Diablo to the east, San Pablo Bay and Mount Tam to the west (a great place to come for sunset!). Soon you arrive at the trail junction for the Manzanita Trail. However, for the best views, continue on the short, unofficial, overgrown use trail right behind the trail sign up the little knob to the 832-foot summit. The reward is an incomparable 360 degree view that includes Grizzly Peak, Mount Diabo, Mount St Helena, Sonoma Mountain, San Pablo Bay, Mount Burdell, Mount Tam, and even Sutro Heights in the city.
Return to trail junction and head west down the Manzanita Trail to an unsigned junction, where road curves right. Bear left here for 100 yards to the beginning of the short .12 mile Manzanita Loop Trail. Take the left fork up the “tunnel” created by the dark red branches of the rare and protected Alameda manzanitas. In mid-winter (late January to February) the trees have beautiful white-pink flowers.
You can retrace your steps to streetside parking on Conestoga Road. Or you can make a loop by bearing left at the Sobrante Ridge/Manzanita trails junction and following the Sobrante Ridge Trail for 1.6 miles to the trailhead at Coach Drive. To complete the loop, you have to walk through the quiet subdivision (Coach Drive to Carriage Drive to Conestoga Way) back down to your car.