This is the name of the southernmost bridge across San Francisco Bay. At the west end is our Menlo Park campus, where I usually work while I’m here, and at the east end is Newark, a salt-mining town, where I usually stay. So I’ve driven across that bridge a lot, usually in a hurry, often noting that there’s a walking trail at one end and a wildlife refuge at the other. Yesterday I stopped at both. Herewith the pictures, with remarks on tequila and hell.

The Bridge and Hell · The bridge runs flat across the water but has an elevated stretch in the middle to let boats under. Here’s that arch, first looking east from right underneath it, then back from way across at the other end.

Dumbarton bridge arch, looking east
· · ·
Dumbarton bridge arch from the East Bay

One time many years ago I was driving across with my old friend Lee Levin and the fog had set in; we could only see a short stretch of the road ahead and behind us. Apropos of nothing, Lee said “This is like Hell.” I was puzzled and he explained: “No choices.”

The Flats · Walking around the hiking trails by the water, you can practically see the bay silting up around the edges, making a good place for things to live, and then the sea chipping away at it; you wouldn’t expect it to look the same from one year to the next.

Water grass near the Dumbarton Bridge in San Francisco Bay

I took a photo of my shadow in the grass, and shooting right through the eye of the sun like this, you get all sorts of optical effects.

Photographer’s shadow, from San Francisco Bay walking trail near the Dumbarton Bridge

I was the only one in that little piece of park at the west end, and it felt a little weird, with the slanting sun, arching bridge, and howling traffic.

Tequila · The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a nice place for a walk at the end of the day, there’s a little circular trail maybe a couple of miles long that leaves the waterline and climbs a little hill for the vegetation and the view.

Hilltop view, Don Edwards Wildlife Reserve, San Francisco Bay near Dumbarton Bridge

When I was growing up in Lebanon we called these “Century Plants”, great big succulents that, every few years, shoot up a huge, dramatic miniature tree.

Agaves in the Don Edwards Wildlife Reserve, San Francisco Bay near Dumbarton Bridge

The Wikipedia says a Century Plant is an agave; in Mexico they cut the stem before it flowers and gather agua miel, whence Mezcal and of course Tequila.

But it also says that they die after flowering, but in Lebanon they didn’t so probably it was a different plant. Say goodnight to the agaves, and next time you drive across that bridge, give some thought to getting out and walking.

Agaves at sunset in the Don Edwards Wildlife Reserve, San Francisco Bay near Dumbarton Bridge

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May 04, 2006
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