blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Point Pinole

I have just come back from a 4 mile hike under the eucalyptus trees on Point Pinole, the nearest Regional Park to our hotel; though it cost me $30 in taxi fares to get there and back, it was well worth it. The weather's very fine and warmer, today. The eucalyptus trees were planted in the 1920s as a safety measure to reduce the effects of explosions from the production of dynamite at the plant once situated here.

To go further back in the history of the headland, it used to be where the Native Americans camped on fishing expeditions for crabs and shellfish until they began to die of cholera and smallpox in the 1830s. The Spanish called it the Punta de Concha and Francisco Maria Castro was given the first land grant in this area, raising longhorn cattle and sheep on the grass here, with his residence, the Rancho San Pablo, some way inland. (The part of Richmond where our hotel is situated is still called San Pablo.) Then Irish-American farmers bought the land and in the 1870s a Croatian fishing village established itself. Until World War I this was a popular weekend fishing retreat for wealthy gents from San Francisco.

The explosives manufacturing began in the 1880s, with the powder companies building a shipping wharf at the end of the Point, the remains of which I saw on my hike, next to the pier, which is still there (used now for fishing, again). From here, barges were loaded with dynamite that was carried to freighters and hence exported to the Philippines, to Central and South America and to Alaska. During the first World War, Point Pinole, under the jurisdiction of the Giant Powder Company, had its own railway station, school, bungalows and boarding houses for the explosives workers, many of them women and some of them Chinese; they were given "a privately owned recreation area called Giant Park with a dance hall, saloon, barbecue pits, bocce ball court, playground and picnic gazebos." After the stock market collapsed in 1929 the owner lost his fortune and closed the recreation area.

The Atlas Powder Co. then took over, planted the eucalypts and dismissed the female workers; the only women seen here after this were the so called "Dynamite Dorothys" of World War II.

Very quiet, it was, today, with very few other hikers and the wind blowing in the pale yellow grass and the leaves, the scent of eucalyptus and seaweed wafting over. I saw hawks, jays and goldfinches and a small lizard raised its head at me over a log. The views from the point of cliffs, beaches, marshland and the hills across the Bay were splendid.

Next door to the parking lot is the entrance to a large Detention Centre (prison).

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