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AS I SEE IT: Salt ponds, not beaches

Have you seen large areas of salt ponds, not beaches, in California? I just did!

Last Friday (September 1), was my birthday! My daughter Tweety (she and her 3-year-old Hawaiian-born Baby Ellie from South Carolina who are vacationing in California) told me and my wife Delia something: “Wear white and we will go for an outdoor photoshoot.” This must be one of the things she thought of celebrating my birthday, so we obliged without even knowing and asking where we were going.

My other daughter May from Manteca, who was also vacationing in our Milpitas home, drove her Audi car with us as her passengers going to the planned destination.

When we arrived at the designated place, I noticed many cars parked as she was looking for a vacant spot. It appears that the place they chose was a popular spot for people to visit.

It’s the Alviso Marina County Park, part of the Restoration Project’s Ponds in the Bay Area/San Francisco Bay. It is a place for hiking and bird watching. These are the popular activities at this bayside park with paths and boardwalks.

We went through the wetlands and bushes but what made me curious and perplexed was the large tract of water, likened to the beaches of Hawaii. I found out that it’s a long stretch of salt ponds which is the main attraction of the county park, not a beach.

Not knowing what a salt pond is, Baby Ellie asked me if she can play in the water and wade, just like what she was doing in Hawaiian beaches where she used to live. Well, I explained to her it was not a beach, but a salt pond. All we can do is touch the salt and enjoy the scenery which we did. She enjoyed posing and walking along the salt edges which looked like sand where we can leave our footprints (footprints on the sand).

I never thought and imagined of salt ponds as huge as the Alviso ponds which is part of the Restoration Project’s ponds, salt marsh, trail, and salt making ruins which allow visitors to experience the wide-open edge of the Bay, boat, fish, hunt, learn about history, and see some of the millions of birds stopping in during their migration season across continents.

Its 15,000 acres of ponds are clustered in three distinct areas: the Eden landing ponds near Hayward, home of the Bay’s oldest salt making ponds used by native Ohlone tribes; the largest pond complex, Alviso ranging from Fremont along San Jose to Mountain View; and the smallest, the Ravenswood ponds at the West ending the Dumbarton bridge.

The Alviso Marina County Park (trails) is an 18.9 acres bayside park which provides for picnicking and bird watching as well as access to their public lands for seasonal fishing and hiking. I thought it’s a must place to visit for all of us who love to enjoy communing with nature.

Some 23 square miles of South Bay Salt evaporation ponds became public property. The Alviso ponds is almost 8,000 acres wraps around the southernmost tip of the San Francisco Bay. It is indeed a place for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts to go and enjoy each other’s company.

I remember my outdoor escapades when I was younger as a member of the Philippine Nomads, an outdoor organization devoted to spelunking, mountain climbing, cave exploration, hiking treks, river trips, and observation of minorities.

I climbed, with four other members of the Philippine Nomads (Pete Reyes, Patrick Pineda, Jeng Pineda, and Atty. Baquizal) the 8,000 feet Mayon volcano in the Bicol Region. It was a 3-day assault (ascent and decent) with the following terrain: the Commission on Volcanology (Comvol) office at 2,000 feet; vegetation area at 4,000 feet which serves as our camp area before the day’s assault to the top; granite- hard rocks at 6,000 feet and loose rocks at 8,000 feet up to the mouth of the volcano (crater). Since it was an active volcano with poisonous gas fumes emanating from the crater, we wore masks and stayed only for five minutes at the top of the volcano.

Three months before the climb, we went through stair practice climbing and climbing smaller and easy-to-climb mountains to prepare us to the rugged climb of Mayon Volcano, Philippines’ perfect cone.

Communing with nature, especially the Mount Mayor climb, was fun and challenging, but for a member of the Philippine Nomads, mountaineering is a way of life!