These pictures are from a ride I was taking regularly for a number of months. Just north of San Rafael, at the end of Smith Ranch Road is McInnis Park. Along the south side of the park next to the golf course one can gain access to a system of trails on top of the levees. These levees extend well out into wetlands that run along San Pablo Bay. Continuing north, riding on the levees, I was able to find passage up to the area east of Hamilton Air Base. I discovered that there are a couple tire tracks off one of the old airfields that leads out into farm land. Taking this well-hidden route I was able to continue as far north as Bel Marin Keys. These photos are from the abandoned buildings and facilities in that area. The tower is part of a WWII era shooting range. The ditch with the target pulleys still exists as well. The lights and the walkways are part of the system of approach lights used for the runways of the old air base. The gear apparatus was used for hauling watercraft up onto a dock. The close-ups of the paint are just close-ups of some paint on the dock area.
Much of the ride has an eerily beautiful emptiness. Normally I see very few people, if any. The views of the surrounding hills and mountains are unique. Lots of wildlife; jack rabbits, hawks, snakes. It's interesting to note the resiliency of ecosystems as they are steadily swallowing the massive amounts of pavement that once were airfield runways.
Update, Summer 2005: With restoration of the wetlands underway, the access has become, technically, limited. It seems that there is no longer a way through to Bel Marin Keys and in a perhaps misguided altruism, the old airfield runways are being excavated to be returned to wetlands. Yes, it's good to restore the wetlands, but just as compelling is the inexorable return to a wild state that has been taking place on its own. As plant and animal life swallow the old paved areas, the processes of a resilient ecosystem are, it seems, as edifying and as valuable for study as the more aggressive chosen form of dig-and-build nature. It might have been an approach of more interest and economically more viable in that a let-nature-do-what-it-will means we essentially step back and allow it to happen. I would like to have seen at least part of the area left on its own to "unimprove" itself and return to a natural state over time. I am glad that I was able to record on film some of the old structures of the airfield's life before it got "fixed". Most of the dock area with the gear apparatus has been removed already.
Update, November 24, 2006: Restoration of the wetlands continues, but I was glad to see that some of the artefatcs remain. The shooting range tower and target ditch are still there. They have also cleared a road over top of another levee so that once again it's possible to make it the whole way to Bel Marin Keys. The road as of today was very rough and slow, but it was in an area I hadn't ridden along the extreme eastern levee close to the bay. I wish there was a way over the channel that connects Bel Marin to the bay so that I could get all the way over to Rte. 37 via the back way.