“A trail surrounded by bright green grass in February is very different than seeing the same area in summer.” – C. DeBra
After years working in office buildings, Palo Alto marketing executive Corinne DeBra was ready to get outside – and get outside she did! In 2009 she launched a walk around the entire perimeter of San Francisco Bay – logging 1,000 miles in all – and blogging about it along the way. Two years later, she decided to do it again. Corinne’s Walking the Bay blog chronicles the natural and cultural landmarks she encounters, along with a tongue-in-cheek running tally of her “sightings” (e.g. “coots: 521; hubcaps: 1; robins: 0″).
Currently in the middle of her second SF Bay tour, Corinne’s made it to Maritime National Historical Park Visitor’s Center and Museum, where she spotted “38 pigeons, 12 seagulls… and the sign for nearby Ghirardelli Chocolate” – a favorite treat that helped inspire her sojourns in the first place.
BN: Are you originally from the Bay Area? If not, where did you grow up, and what brought you out here?
CD: Yes, I was born in New York state, but my family moved to Mountain View when I was two months old, so I grew up in the Bay Area. I left the area for several years to go to college, and also to live and work in Washington, D.C. in the energy and environment field. When I returned, I became a journalist, and later a marketing and partner manager in the technology industry.
BN: What prompted you to undertake walking around the entire perimeter of San Francisco Bay?
CD: There were several reasons. I’d spent decades inside office buildings, and the idea of having a big, exciting goal and getting some exercise outdoors was very compelling. Once I started, I really enjoyed seeing new places in my own backyard. Also, I eat a lot of chocolate, and there were lots of great chocolate makers along or within a few blocks of the SF Bay Trail!
BN: How long did it take you to complete your first walk around the Bay?
CD: It took just under two years, between Summer 2009 and Fall 2011.
BN: Did you encounter any glitches or obstacles during your first walk?
CD: Technically, the “finish” was delayed to November because of construction on parts of the trail. I had a small celebration with friends and family when I reached Shoreline Park in early September, but went back later and finished the two “skipped” segments in the South and East Bay where parts of the trail had been closed when I first walked by.
BN: Were there other challenges?
CD: Yes, mainly 1) time — that is, having other life and work priorities that curtailed walking times and days; and 2) footwear — I started the walk in flip flops, to help prove a point that no special equipment was needed. After wearing a few pairs out and getting a blister or two, I upgraded my shoes and socks. I had trouble finding the trail only once or twice. The Bay Trail organization was very helpful in cases like this.
BN: Why did you want to do it again?
CD: I saw so much the first time around, but realized there was still a lot yet to see. Seeing areas in different seasons is great too. A trail surrounded by bright green grass in February is very different than seeing the same area in summer when everything has been toasted golden brown by the sun. Also, new trail segments have opened that I want to see and photograph this second time around.
BN: What’s your favorite place to explore nature in the Bay Area?
CD: My list of favorite places is very long. I loved encountering new areas and the unexpected, having my assumptions challenged about certain areas. For example, there were some wonderful hikes in the Carquinez Strait that I would have completely missed if I hadn’t traveled there by foot. Richmond was full of surprises for me as well.
BN: What would you suggest as a first step for folks who’d like to walk around the bay themselves?
CD: Get outside and discover the Bay Trail, or the other two trails that circle the Bay (the Bay Area Ridge Trail or the new Water Trail). Start with http://www.baytrail.org, and go to the publications page to view the .pdf maps, and try out one of the “red line” walks near you. Another great resource is the San Francisco Bay Shoreline Guide [Ed: 2nd edition] due out in August. You may think you know the Bay Area, but you might be pleasantly surprised to find out otherwise.
>>Where is Corinne now? Find out at her Walking San Francisco Bay blog: http://www.walking-the-bay.com/
Note: Corinne will be one of our featured “Trailblazers” in BayNature.org’s new online Trailfinder guide, debuting later this month.