Route: East Bay Skyline National Recreation Trail (CA)

Location
California, US
Distance
33.5 mi
Vertical Gain
5800 ft
Description

Jimmy McCaffrey posted the route:

The East Bay Skyline National Trail traverses the ridge line above the coastal mountains situated to the east of Richmond, Berkeley and Oakland; and ends in Castro Valley. It goes entirely through the East Bay Regional Park system; Wildcat Canyon, Tilden, Sibley, Huckleberry, Redwood and the two Chabot parks. This is the eastern portion of the yet-to-be-completed Bay Area Ridge Trail.

I believe it's marked so that hikers can use either the French Trail route or the West Ridge route through Redwood Regional Park. I however think that the up-and-down of the French Trail (the "crown jewel" of East Bay trails, imho) along with its beautiful single-track (as well as being closed to bikes) adds some challenge to the 32+ miles.

The northern terminus is Wildcat Canyon Staging Area in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, on Park Ave in Richmond, where there’s a short paved road that ends at the Wildcat Creek Trailhead. There are three potable water sources available; the first at Tilden Steam Trains, the second at Sibley Staging Area and the last at Skyline Gate.

Trails and mileages:
Wildcat Creek .44 to Belgum
Belgum 1.00 to San Pablo Ridge
San Pablo Ridge 1.28 to Nimitz Way
Nimitz Way 4.72 to Curran
Curran .27 to Sea View
Sea View 2.18 to Vollmer Peak
Vollmer Peak ~.55 to Lomas Cantadas (water)
Lomas Cantadas 2.55 to Old Tunnel Staging Area
OTSA .87 to Sibley Staging Area (water)
Sibley SA 2.76 to East Ridge
East Ridge .20 to Skyline Gate (water)
Skyline Gate .56 to French Trail (via West Ridge)
French Trail 4.04 to Orchard
Orchard .18 to West Ridge
West Ridge .62 to Golden Spike
Golden Spike .78 to Big Bear Staging Area
BBSA .25 to MacDonald
MacDonald 2.52 to Grass Valley
Grass Valley 1.48 to Brandon
Brandon 5.36 to Proctor Staging Area
Approximate distance: 32.61 miles

I've only been able to find available info from a few thru-hikers through their websites; here's one: gurmeet.net/hiking/hikes/East_Bay_Skyline_National_Recreation_Trail.html

I feel this trail is an under-rated, yet iconic gem of the East Bay (and Northern coastal California for that matter); both the Dick Collins Firetrails 50-miler and the Skyline 50k are two classic East Bay races that both use large (southern) portions of the trail. 

Note:  Generally accepted practice would be to use public spigots for water under "Unsupported".  If you purchase snacks or drinks that's "Self supported".

GPS Track
Images

Comments

Well, looks like I get the first comment for this route on the new site...! 

Hi! My name is Tara Madsen-Steigmeyer, and I'm planning to follow in Marcy's footsteps and try to improve on her EBST time from last year. I know I won't be able to do justice to her photo documentation, but I hope to shave at least a bit of time off. This is my first ever FKT attempt, so I'll see how it goes. I've run the middle section of this route a handful of times (and some sections LOTS), but this will be the first time I've run through Chabot. I'm looking forward to doing the whole thing! Thanks to Jimmy for getting it started, and to Marcy for setting a women's benchmark. 

My plan is to make an attempt on Thursday, Jan 31st. I think my husband will drop me off at the start before kindergarten drop-off, so I expect to start around 7:30a. I'll post my Strava track and pictures when I'm done! 

 

I've been thinking since last spring about doing an out-and-back on this route, so I'm planning to try it tomorrow (Feb 18).  Starting/finishing at the south end.  Self-supported, carrying everything from the start except water (refills at fountains).  Should be interesting!

InReach will be running: https://share.garmin.com/MarcyBeard

It looks like most (maybe all) of the self-supported times here should actually be considered unsupported.

Ay-oh! What a lovely route I must say.

I have been doing most sections in separate occasions and I plan on doing the full route tomorrow morning at sunrise to avoid the weekend and day crowds in this special period of social distancing.

Due to water fountains being unavailable at this time, my partner will likely meet me at Skyline Gate for a quick 1L refill for the last 13 miles. I understand this will count as "Supported" effort.

I'll try to get as close to 4:18 as I can but more realistically, my legs are probably just good for a 4:45+ range.

I'll share the good stuff tomorrow when done.

Hi again! What a fun morning it was with a 5:01:01. I got dropped off and picked up by my partner Kristine. And I ended up doing the route unsupported carrying all needed stuff.

Here is the trace with the full report: https://www.strava.com/activities/3239780079/overview

And I share the report here for those who don't use Strava:

I had in mind running this line (https://fastestknowntime.com/route/east-bay-skyline-national-recreation…) for a while and it was supposed to be this past weekend pre-covid-19 era. However, with the social distancing rules, it seemed too risky for a Saturday with so many crowds around. As a result, I took the weekday off (thanks Brian for the suggestion) and went for it.

I got dropped off by Kristine at Wildcat Canyon Regional Park at 7am. The run started a few minutes later along the creek. I enjoyed chill temperatures and light fog until Skyline Gate Staging Area. Notable but without big consequences, I sprained my ankle just before Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve and it led me to walk a few minutes to monitor the pain. I tried to push on the French Trail but legs were already lagging behind. At this point, I switched the lofty goal of getting not too far from 4:18 (Paddy's time is a bit insane) to finishing under 5 hours. I got in a tiny pain cave between km35 and km43. A final Gu gel took me out of it. From there, it was Brandon Trail all the way to the finish, at Proctor Staging Area. I checked the timer that was nearing 5:00 and gave my best. In vain though, the watch stopped on a funky 5:01:01. Kristine welcomed me and after a few minutes of recovery, we were off.

Note after route review, that I made a few different turns:
1. At the very start, just before hitting the Alvarado parking, I went down towards the creek and back up while the original stays on the larger trail 🤷🏿‍♂️. Likely costed a few seconds rather than saving some.
2. In Sibley, I used the Water Tank road instead of Skyline Trail for a few hundred feet.
3. In Huckleberry, I used the Bay Area Skyline trail all the way instead of switching to Huckleberry Path. Likely equivalent.

Most sections of the route are large enough to respect the 6-feet distance. The French Trail and Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve required a bit more actions to cross path properly but this was only needed 4-5 times.

I carried all the needed fuel: 2.1 liters of water and 5 gels (Gu + Spring Energy). I did eventually use 1.5 liters of water and 4 gels. I finished a bit dehydrated but nothing out of the ordinary. So this likely counts as an unsupported attempt.

Alright, until next time ✌

 

Has anyone run this route from South to North? And does anyone know whether any of the water fountains are currently operational? I'm planning to give it a go later this week but can carry at most 3.5 liters (and tend to drink a lot, especially when it's hot). My hope is that the South-to-North route will give me the psychological boost of feeling like I'm running "home," since I've been living near Tilden and running the northern segments pretty regularly.

Hi @eriehl, water was wrapped in plastic at Sibley Staging Area and at Skyline Gate last weekend (5/16/20). However, a trail runner reported the plastic was removed the day after.

Hi all! I'm planning an attempt on this FKT tomorrow. I'll be running supported since most of the water sources in the hills are turned off right now. I honestly have no idea what time I'm aiming for - perhaps 5:30 is reasonable? It will be toasty but I hope to start early enough to beat the heat. Looking forward to the adventure!

Hi my name is Sarah Klass and I'll be attempting this FKT on Thursday July 9th. The plan is to run it with my friend Alex (for his birthday!!) Starting around 5 am. The plan is to fill our water at the steam train site if the water is flowing, but everything else will be individually carried. So I believe this will count as unsupported. Aiming for 5:30 ish. Weather looks pretty nice and hopefully it's not so crowded.

I'll be running with Sarah.  I don't think we'll be anywhere close to the men's FKT, but thought I'd post here for posterity.  Also, there seem to be different starting locations in a few of the FKTs...  We are going to start from the Alvarado Staging Area because this is where all of the original runs started (e.g., Jimmy, Allen, and Marcy).  This starting location makes the route just over 50 km.  Here's the map of our planned route: "https://www.alltrails.com/explore/map/map-da4fb5c--14".  Should be fun!

Just a heads up for anyone exploring here and looking for a good map, the route Alex posted here on all trails has a decent number of deviations from the standard course. While a lot of small variations have occurred over the years, the route that is typically competed hasn't changed from the route initially established (and which follows the official trail throughout). I've created a Strava Route for folks wishing for a clear map: https://www.strava.com/routes/2728002236206310200

Hi my name is Chris Thoburn.

I'll be attempting to set a new record on this course tomorrow morning. The plan is to start around 6am from Alvarado gate to beat the heat and tackle the traditional "uphill" (North to South) route. https://www.strava.com/routes/2728002236206310200. I might start a bit late given I'm not much of a morning person 😅. I ran this route just a minute or so slower than the current male self-supported/unsupported FKT a few months ago when I was just barely recovered from lung surgery. For this attempt I'm hoping to dip under 4 hours.

I'll be leaving car at the finish, getting a ride to the start, and carrying everything with me (likely 1.5-2L). Water is still off at all spigots directly on the course other than at Steam Trains. This will be a fully unsupported attempt (no fountain usage, no pacing).

If all goes well I'll report back!

I missed the sub-4 but did lower the record to 4:12:46 https://www.strava.com/activities/3903756002

I've submitted this as "unsupported" since I carried everything. In the past, attempts which relied only on the on-route water fountains were marked self-supported (even though within rules these were unsupported attempts), I think folks should likely continue to make this distinction for the route: use-of-fountains = self-support, no-use unsupported.

Hi everyone,

After Katy's time was flagged, Peter Bakwin and I had a short back and forth about it on her report (see https://fastestknowntime.com/fkt/katy-pieri-mccaffrey-east-bay-skyline-…). In particular, I felt that it was potentially unfair to flag Katy's time for the variation she took by accident when connecting to Golden Spike (which made the course longer and harder). Specifically, unfair because every single FKT submission for this route has by some definition taken a variation, including (as I will describe below and which came as a surprise to me given the effort I underwent to verify the route in advance) my own.

I think it is important for the future of this FKT route that we work together to clarify the exact route being undertaken, even if it means flagging some (or potentially all) of the existing FKTs. In the spirit of transparency, I'm posting here my analysis of all of the existing FKTs. Please know that I think everyone here has done an amazing job running this route, that all of these efforts are fantastic, and the goal here is not to discredit any of these efforts but to solidify the route so that we can have a clear and consistent standard for evaluating submissions going forward.

The need for this clarity is evident in many of the comments below and in the reports themselves, folks often describe variations they have taken or noticed because of confusion for what exactly the route here is, so I hope given so many have noted this issue, that folks will be generally receptive to an outcome here that works to eliminate such confusion. I further see evidence of this confusion on Strava, where many attempts that I've reviewed there have contained the variations seen here (and many more!). Perhaps the best evidence of confusion is that Brian's later (just barely unsuccessful) attempt at retaking the FKT from Paddy (done with Kris Brown and Paul Balmer) had multiple variations from his own previous route. My own first attempt (also a near miss at Paddy's record) also had a variation (Bort Meadows Parking).

What is the route?

In order to describe variations on the route we must first have a route to work from. For this, I will be using the route defined by the downloadable GPX file / browsable map here on the FKT site. HOWEVER this route is not actually the route described in the FKT description, nor the route used by the FKT establisher. It is instead the route used by Brian Gillis when he set his record. This is likely one of the largest reasons this route has become confusing. My own attempt followed this route precisely, but since it is not actually the original route I think its only fair to say that all of FKTs listed here have a chance of being flagged.

Variation Definitions (with descriptions of their dis/advantage)

  • Wildcat Gate: signifies that an attempt either started or turned around at Wildcat Gate (at the far end of the parking lot) instead of Alvarado Gate.
    • shortens the course by ~.5miles
  • Wildcat Entrance: signifies that an attempt either started or turned around at the entrance to the parking for Wildcat Gate instead of at Alvarado Gate.
    • shortens the course by ~.2 miles
  • Belgum to San Pablo Connection: signifies that an attempt used the single track over the "humps" on the ridge to connect these trails vs the descent on Belgum and steep climb on San Pablo.
    • shortens the course by ~.1 miles
    • eliminates ~100ft of climb and descent
  • Paved Trail at Sibley: signifies an attempt used the paved trail at Sibley instead of the (mostly parallel) technical single track)
    • shortens the course by ~.1 miles
    • eliminates ~50ft of climb and descent
    • uses a paved surface instead of a Root and rock filled section of trail
  • Lower Trail in Huckleberry: signifies an attempt used the lower trail instead of the upper trail through Huckleberry. The signage in Huckleberry can be confusing, but the Skyline Trail does officially follow the upper trail after taking the stair case connector.
    • shortens the course by ~.1 miles
    • eliminates ~100ft of climb and descent
    • uses well groomed single track instead of the narrow bush lined technical trail of the upper path
  • Down on Orchard: signifies an attempt went down on Orchard and back up West Ridge to the connector (vs up on Orchard and Down on West Ridge)
    • lengthens the course by .1-.3 miles
    • adds ~150-250ft of ascent and descent
    • significantly trickier downhill and harder uphill
  • Missed Golden Spike Connection: signifies an attempt went all the way down West Ridge to Bridle and then on to the start of Golden Spike instead of taking the connector
    • lengthens the course by ~1.0 miles
    • adds 250ft of ascent and descent
  • Bort Meadows Parking: signifies an attempt went through the parking lot at Bort Meadows Staging instead of via the connector
    • potentially adds 0.02 miles
    • generally considered net-neutral as a mistake

Variations in One Way Attempts

As a reminder, these are variations against the GPS track currently listed as the official one for the route, which is not actually the original route described and established. This is why even Jimmy McCaffrey's time below has variations listed.

  • Chris Thoburn
    • None
  • Paddy O'Leary
    • Bort Meadows Parking
  • Brian Gillis
    • None
  • Allen Currano
    • Wildcat Gate
    • Lower Trail in Huckleberry
  • Jimmy McCaffrey
    • Wildcat Gate
    • Lower Trail in Huckleberry
  • Katy Pieri-McCaffrey
    • Lower Trail in Huckleberry
    • Down on Orchard
    • Bort Meadows Parking
  • Lucy Andrews
    •  Paved Trail at Sibley
    • Lower Trail in Huckleberry
  • Devon Yanko
    • Bort Meados Parking
  • Nadia Stanis
    • Wildcat Entrance
    • Lower Trail in Huckleberry
    • Missed Golden Spike Connection
  • Tara Madsen-Steigmeyer
    • Wildcat Gate
    • Lower Trail in Huckleberry
  • Marcy Beard
    • I was unable to access GPS for this (track is on the old site, I can't register to be able to download it), these variations are based on her detailed description, which is detailed enough I'm decently confident these are the only  variations / potential variations
    • Lower Trail in Huckleberry (she clearly indicates in her report taking the lower trail)
    • Bort Meadows (it is unclear from her report if she went through the parking lot or not)

Variations in Out-And-Back Attempts

  • Patrick Martin
    • possibly took a longer unmarked trail at the start at Alvarado, easy to do in there, but unclear, could just be poor GPS
    • Belgum to San Pablo Connection
    • Lower Trail in Huckleberry
  • Marcy Beard
    • GPS track is particularly bad, likely given the long day it was in a version of ultra-track mode given the points are often a mile or more apart. Due to the quality it is difficult to know what variations were or were not utilized beyond those listed below.
    • Wildcat Gate (in her case, turn around point, note she used Alvarado gate for her previous one-way record)
    • Belgum to San Pablo Connection (she calls this out in her trip report, and had not done this on her previous one-way record which clearly described going down on Belgum to meet San Pablo and then up)

Proctor Staging End Point Variation

It has never been specified exactly where this FKT starts/ends at Proctor. Some GPS tracks indicate heading into the parking lot, some photos use the sign board in the parking lot, and some (including mine) end at the signpost marking the start/end of the skyline trail. Every attempt's GPS track seems a little different here but GPS reception in that narrow valley under the trees can also be misleading.

Conclusions

If we look at the route as originally laid out by McCaffrey against the GPS track from Brian's FKT there are only two differences, where the northern terminus is, and whether you take the lower vs the upper trail in Huckleberry. Factoring in that the southern terminus in Proctor has never been clearly defined that gives us three things to consider. Lastly, we should consider whether the tiny variation at Bort Meadows Parking should be a "runners choice" or if a specific route should be enforced. I think all of the other variations here are for clear reasons (at least to me but I'm happy to spell it out if needed) not variations that should become part of the route (even though I happen to like the single track over the humps shortening the connection between Belgum and San Pablo).

So to summarize, I think there are four key things for us to clarify.

  1. Is the northern terminus Alvarado Gate or Wildcat Gate?
  2. Should folks take the lower trail or the upper trail in Huckleberry?
  3. Are runners allowed to go through Bort Meadows Parking and then descend the paved road or must they take the trail connector?
  4. Is the southern terminus the sign post marking the trail start, the sign board (in the lot), or something else?

Happy Trails!

- Chris Thoburn (runspired)

 

Wow this is terrific work!  Thanks for taking the time.  This seems to have become a pretty competitive FKT, so it would be great to really nail down the exact route.  What is the correct route?  Is it the GPX we have, the described route, or something else?  Can this be determined by carefully following signs on the ground?  It would be great if we had a GPX that matches the route description!

My Recommendation

My recommendation is that the course should start at Alvarado Gate, then follow the Skyline Trail precisely (which means taking the lower trail through huckleberry), divert from Skyline Trail only to take French Trail, allow either option of connecting at Bort Meadows, and finish at the signpost where the trail meets the road at Proctor Staging.

If folks are in agreement, I can produce a GPX track for it (either via exporting one I create manually or by actually going and running this again, which would be fun). Additionally I think we should rewrite the description of this FKT both to ensure the description is clear and accurate but also because the existing mileages and elevation were poorly measured even for the course they describe (off by nearly 2 miles). I am happy to take this on.

My research and reasoning for this is below.

Route Research

I don't think anyone here would disagree that the spirit of this route is "The entirety of the East Bay Skyline National Trail but with taking French Trail through Redwood Regional Park".  Most of this course is extremely well marked by a recognizable "USA" style Skyline Trail logo.

With that in mind I thought I'd do some more research to try to answer these questions. The online resources for this trail are scarce, and don't clarify the start nor the choices at Huckleberry / Bort Meadows. https://www.ebparks.org/parks/trails/east_bay_skyline_national_trail/de…

The best we can get from the online map and description is that the start is definitely not Wildcat Gate but closer to Wildcat Entrance. The best we can get from the online description for Huckleberry is that horses and dogs are only allowed on skyline trail through the park, which would rule out the upper trail which is definitely not horse friendly.

What also have a few other key pieces of info to figure this out:

  • the Bay Area Ridge Trail (also has a unique recognizable symbol appearing on the trail) mostly but not always uses the Skyline National Trail in these parts
  • the Juan Bautista De Anza Historic Trail (again has a unique recognizable symbol) also mostly but not always uses the Skyline National Trail in these parts

With this in mind I went to see what trail maps for Bay Area Ridge Trail had to say, since more maps and online resources typically exist for it

Unfortunately it was still vague around the intersection of Bort Meadows, and joins the trail up on the ridge in Wildcat (vs starting with it) so that was as good as any online answers were going to get.

With these questions and this info yesterday evening I went out to the trail and re-reviewed and photographed the signage at all three locations taking in mind both northbound and southbound travel. Here's what I came away with.

Lower vs Upper Trail in Huckleberry

The lower trail in huckleberry is clearly marked as the Skyline National Trail.

Where this can be confusing is the first sign you see heading southbound before the connector when coming up from San Leandro creek could be read as "take the connector to skyline trail", however both the sign and signpost at the connector are clear that the lower trail is the skyline trail. This is reaffirmed by the signage at the southern end where the upper and lower trails come back together, by the signage at the top of the connector, and by the sign post with the map at the entrance to huckleberry park (which is not on the route, but a good resource).

Bort Meadows

Few markings exist, the only noticeable one would be seen by northbound travelers only and is unclear.

There is no signage on the trail when heading southbound to let you know to veer right onto what we've been calling the connector. The only sign in the parking lot is at the north end and simply lets you know that you're getting onto the Skyline Trail (the "connector" is only a few feet beyond it). There is no signage at all on the southern end of the parking lot.

On the "connector" trail itself there are signposts clearly indicating that the connector is not actually a connector but rather the intersection of Macdonald Trail and Grass Valley Trail, which is the two trails you are supposed to connect for this route. These signposts do not have any of the three possible regional trail markers.

Exiting the "connector" trail we find a sign post indicating for both the DeAnza and the Bay Area Ridge Trail to take the connector.

A little further, at the foot of the paved road down from the parking lot, is a large sign post that seems to indicate taking the paved route up to reach Macdonald Trail with the Skyline Trail logo on it. However the positioning of this post is awkward in part due to the complex nature of this intersection (3 way split paved/gravel road crossing with an additional trail junction and fire road junction).

My recommendation here is that variation at this junction should be "whatever the runner does", the total distance covered here is maybe .15 miles via either way of connecting, and neither way seems noticeably longer or more challenging.

Start Location

The indication from online resources that the start is not at Wildcat Gate but closer to Wildcat entrance is confirmed by the signpost where the road at the entrance meets the trail being taken by those starting at Alvarado Gate. On this signpost is a clear Skyline Trail marker and arrow, I searched diligently throughout the rest of Alvarado Park for any other sign posts with Skyline Trail markings, there are none.

You will only see this marking if traveling southbound. As a side note, other markings do exist in Alvarado Park for the DeAnza trail plotting a course through it that while not exactly the course being run from Alvarado Gate is fairly similar and even a bit more straightforward.

This signpost is an odd place to start and end this route, you won't see the marker if traveling northbound and you will still be searching for it to figure out where to start if traveling southbound. For this reason I think the clearest start/end is Alvarado Gate and that we should officially set that to be the terminus, any effort arriving at it would have had to pass this signpost thereby having completed the full official trail, it is a clear physical marker with good permanence, and it is distinctive in photos.

End Location

Running through the parking lot to the sign board at Proctor feels funny to me. I think we should clarify the end should be the extra large Bay Area Ridge Trail / Skyline Trail signpost next to the Brandon trail signpost right where the trail dumps onto the road into the parking lot. It's a nice clear thing to touch at the end and know that you are finished, and should be decently resistant to change or permanent loss as a physical marker.

I found this online map of the De Anza trail, showing how it routes through Alvarado Park and Bort Meadows. https://nps.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=9f862c19b33… Interestingly at Bort the connection goes through the parking lot BUT the connection is also labeled as unofficial. Basically the trail has a gap and there's an unofficial way to connect via the parking lot.

Chris, first off - great job on your FKT on this route, that is a stout time! Secondly, I think it is commendable that you are trying to develop a consensus for an "Official" route for FKT purposes. As you very clearly and painstakingly laid out, the route has been done with many variations by many people since Jimmy's initial FKT standard was posted. Most of this is due to confusing and/or inadequate signage I think. I'm pretty sure that Jimmy and I did the exact same route, however things started to get confusing after Brian Gillis' FKT as he used some variations (including a different starting point I think) that were "standard" to him as he had apparently been running some version of this route periodically over the years as a fun run of sorts. So after Brian's FKT there were 2 different versions of the course out there in addition to all the places where signage is confusing or inadequate, etc.

While I used to live very close to northern terminus of this trail in Wildcat park, I have since moved to New Mexico so I can't go out and check the signage. Jimmy and I both started at the Wildcat gate and to me that has always seemed like the logical place to start - it's where the parking lot ends and there is an actual gate there. But I never took the trail that you took from Alvarado gate and in fact I had no idea that was possible, and I don't remember the signpost you mentioned near the Alvarado gate. 

I agree that the lower trail in Huckleberry seems right but I don't remember the signage there exactly. I do know that I've run the entire skyline trail at least 5 or 6 times and I've likely run the huckleberry section more like 20-30 times and I always tried to follow the signage so I assume that means the lower trail is "correct".

Regarding the Bort meadows section, I don't really remember much about that, except that it was confusing. It seems like it doesn't really make a difference so i'd agree with your evaluation there. 

Regarding the southern terminus, I don't remember the sign you are talking about but if it is where the trail comes out of the parking lot makes sense to me. 

I'll be heading out tomorrow morning for a go at this route. Going unsupported and live in Richmond so will be starting at the southern terminus @ Proctor and finishing at Wildcat. Looking forward to it and will let you all know how it goes.

Hi my name is Jared Forman and tomorrow morning I plan to challenge the unsupported male FKT record on the traditional N->S one way route. I will carry all water/gels and run solo. I plan to depart at first light around 6am.

Based on Chris's research and recommendations, I will be starting at Alvarado Gate and taking the Lower Trail in Huckleberry. If air quality is bad in the morning, I will postpone this attempt.

I will report back if all goes well!

I had a great day on the trail on Friday, but came up short after taking a wrong turn at mile 27 (right instead of left onto Brandon) and added an extra 3.7mi and 30mins looping back to Bort Meadows. I got it right the second time around and finished in 4:46.

It was a little smoky at the start, but conditions were perfect (high 50s and foggy) and I felt ready, so I went for it. Although I was starting to feel tired of this trail after running on it a number of times on the couple months leading up to this attempt, I had a newfound appreciation for its beauty seeing it in the morning fog with the sun rising. I don't plan on racing this again anytime soon, but you never know.

For those considering this unsupported, I carried 2.5L of water (consumed ~2.1L) and consumed ~1500cals.

Thank you Chris for trying to sort through this.  I'm open to whatever official route gets decided on, and I agree with Chris's recommendations.  It would be super helpful to have a final decision on these questions for future attempts.

1) My response to the comments made about the variations for our runs:

I can resend my one-way InReach tracking files to Peter for reposting, if that would be helpful.  It's still the low-res InReach tracker with less frequent points.

a) I have always used the Alvarado gate (big sign labeled "Alvarado Staging Area") on the north end of the route, for the one-way start and the out-and-back turn-around.  This decision was most likely made to match the first FKT tracks.  I see where my out-and-back track didn't go far enough (my "OK" check-in on the InReach wasn't at the gate like it should have been); however, see photo:
https://fastestknowntime.com/fkt/marcy-beard-east-bay-skyline-national-…

b) I have never taken the singletrack in the field from Belgum up to San Pablo Ridge; always the fire roads (the steep down and back up).  All the points on my InReach tracks are on the correct route, so I'm not sure where that "variation" in the out-and-back came from (a misunderstanding in my trip report?).

c) Regarding the Huckleberry upper/lower trails, whatever signage or research you found that shows one to be preferable to the other, that makes sense to me.  I believe I've been on both of them at one time or another, but I expect I always took the Lower trail during my FKT runs to match Jimmy's route (just don't have the tracks to prove it).

d) I believe I've always taken the little Buckeye trail (it's listed in my notes) instead of going through the Bort parking lot.  It feels like I just managed to catch the side trail once as I was about to fly past it, also that I ended up in the parking lot one time by accident, but I would very likely have retraced my steps to get back on the route.  Either option seems fine to me.  It's certainly a confusing little spot.

In summary, my only "variation" would be taking the Lower Huckleberry trail in each of my runs, and that's the version that Chris is recommending as the official route anyway.

2) Regarding my tracks, I've been using an InReach for FKT's in order to get real-time tracking.  I like to post my intention ahead of time, then turn on public tracking.  It makes me think that there's always a chance someone could be watching as I go by, and it's important that I try to stay on the official route and follow all the rules (and that it's actually me doing the running).  If I make a mistake, I go back to that spot and pick up the route from there.

My older InReach has a limit on tracking frequency, so that's why the points are spread out.

My new awesome InReach Mini has the added (excellent) ability to log points in addition to sending them to the public map, and I don't pay for those log points.  I'm experimenting with 30-second intervals vs. 1-second intervals for logging; the 1-second interval files seem quite large and unwieldy so I'll probably stay with the 30-second setting (it sure would be nice to have something in between).  Starting this summer my tracks are much improved beyond the 10- or 20-minute track logs.

I've also been using the RunKeeper app on my phone this summer (to help me track mileage for the GVRAT) and that doesn't seem to use much battery plus it still works when the phone is in Airplane mode.  I can download that track too, so now I've got two tracks that have much better resolution that my previous FKT runs.

I've looked at GPS watches, but so far all the ones I've found are gigantic and don't fit on my wrist.  I can't see buying and schlepping something that is only useful for tracking, when I'm already carrying the InReach, a reasonably sized watch, a camera, and a phone.

So anyway, long story, but that's what's behind the lack of visibility into my route for the EBST runs.  I tried to make up for it with my blog posts and pictures.

3) If we're cleaning things up, I'd suggest that both of my runs could be changed to Unsupported, as I only used the water fountains but had no other forms of support.

 

Thanks for weighing in!

Just to be clear when I detailed the variations I definitely wasn't making any accusations, just trying to be as clear as possible of what I could determine! Using an InReach with such a long time between points makes a lot of sense for why the track turned out the way it did, and may explain why it ends at Wildcat Gate (it likely took you less than 20min to go from there to the gate, snap the photo, and back, leading to an unfortunately timed gap lopping off the turn around).

As for the San Pablo Connection, this is the bit from your trip report that led me to believe you'd taken the single track over the hill on the out-and-back.

"I think someone added extra (and steep) bumps to the ridge at the north end of Wildcat."

It is vague enough it could well have not meant that in retrospect.

I think the most interesting bit to me is your start location! Both your start and your turn around based on photos were indeed at the entrance to the Alvarado Staging Area Parking lot, which is roughly where the online maps and first trail marker also put the start of the official trail. This is not however what is meant when we say Alvarado Gate, this is the gate: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alvarado_Park_(Richmond,_CA).JPG

I'm increasingly of the mind that your start location is perhaps the least confusing, and its also the closest to the marker.

No worries!  I completely agree that clarifying this route is an excellent goal.

The "extra bumps" is the phenomenon whereby there are additional uphills you've never noticed before that seem to magically appear when you're tired  :)

Ah, I see the park entrance at McBride Ave, thanks for clarifying.

I'm now trying to figure out why I used the "Wildcat entrance" at Park/Wildcat Canyon as my starting point!  Maybe as a compromise between the earlier runs (2 used the far gate and 1 started at McBride)?  I might have unwittingly contributed to the confusion here by adding a 3rd option, sorry.

With that in mind, plus others' comments, I'm now rather partial to using the gate at the far end of the parking lot.  It's not as nice for an out-and-back turnaround because you'd have to add distance to get water from the fountain.  And I could also see the argument that the official trail starts where I did.  But using the gate instead would clear up all the variations in previous runs, and it seems maybe less confusing than trying to figure out which sign is being referenced.

Just my 2 cents...

 

Chris Thoburn asked me to chime in on this thread.  I think agree with his recommendations.  (I guess this is a selfish point of view as it looks like that was the route I took!!) 

It seems pretty clear that the trail should follow the official East Bay Skyline National Trail.  I believe the French Trail is the only question here, but it's technically also part East Bay Skyline National Trail according to the map, and it's hard, so it should probably be included. 

Regarding the other points: (1) lower vs. upper huckleberry -- this part is just confusing when you're doing and I think I've messed this up before, but if the lower trail is part of the EBSNT, then that should be the route. (2) Bort parking lot -- seems like this doesn't really make a different, but if you see the trail and don't miss it, you should probably take the trail. 

Regarding the starting point - my apologies if I added to confusion by starting at the Alvarado Gate.  I didn't realize I'd done this differently than previous attempts.  I assumed that was the starting point because it's further north, but I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other. 

Regarding the ending point - I don't remember it being confusing... I think there's a parking lot that you get to after running along the road for a big that seems like the clear ending point, but also don't have a strong opinion here.  

This Saturday, 28 November 2020, I will again be taking on this route! And I'm going for two FKTs in one!

For this attempt I will be utilizing crew and going for a new supported FKT with a goal of completing the "out" route North to South in under 4 hours, after which I intend to turn around and attempt the to lower the out-and-back FKT with the goal being a round trip under 9 hours. I'll be starting from Alvarado Gate around 7am.

Start Location!

In terms of route, the discussion above resolved most questions except the start location. After further reflection, considering the general desire to simply "solidify it" from previous holders, and considering the very large number of attempts I've observed on the trail over the past few months (in part due to https://battleofthebay.run) which almost exclusively have used the Alvarado Gate start I believe that the decision should be to set that as the official start. I'll submit updated trail guidance and routing to Peter for the description here to help clear things up after this attempt.