Kurt Schwabe: Completing the 330-Mile Bay Trail in 30 Days

On the Bay Trail, Courtesy of Kurt Schwabe
On the Bay Trail, Courtesy of Kurt Schwabe
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The last time you left a job you didn’t like, what did you do? Sit around on the couch for a few weeks? Catch up on your TV?

Not Kurt Schwabe. Instead, the 45-year-old San Francisco resident decided to use his free time, photography skills, and love of the outdoors to come up with a unique project. He opted to walk the entire 330-mile Bay Trail around the San Francisco Bay in 30 days. Adding to his adventure, Schwabe accomplished his mission using public transit each day to get to and from his start and end points.

“I treated it as if it was a 9-to-5 job,” said Schwabe.

On the Bay Trail, Courtesy of Kurt Schwabe
On the Bay Trail, Courtesy of Kurt Schwabe

One day he started in San Francisco and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, then caught the ferry back to San Francisco at the end of the day. The next morning, he caught the ferry to his finish point from the day before, walked from there to Larkspur, and caught the ferry home from that terminal.

He thought of the idea while out on a hike with his dog. He’d just finished reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, and a sign pointing out the Bay Trail caught his eye. After searching online for more information, he started to flesh out the idea of walking all around the Bay.

The Bay Trail is a planned 500-mile corridor that will completely circle the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays with biking and walking trails. The route connects existing trails with newly-built ones. Maps are available online or you can pick up the 25-card box set at different bike shops and visitors centers. The Bay Trail Project is run by the Association of Bay Area Governments to encourage tourists and recreation. When Schwabe reached out to the organization to find out if his plan made any sense, they put him in touch with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. MTC sponsored Schwabe with a $300 Clipper card (a multi-use transit card), so that he could get to and from his walking routes each day.

On the Bay Trail, Courtesy of Kurt Schwabe
On the Bay Trail, Courtesy of Kurt Schwabe

It wasn’t until he worked out the details that Schwabe told his wife about the plan. Then, he started walking and kept going. He walked about ten miles every day last June until he went all the way around.

“There were a few areas where I did have to improvise,” said Schwabe. If you look at maps of the Bay Trail, solid lines show the finished parts of the trail and dotted lines shoe the uncompleted sections. “There were a lot of areas where I was walking on the dotted lines.”

Schwabe’s website included GPS tracking of where he was each day, so the public could follow along. As he walked through Point Isabel Park, a woman caught up to him after checking his GPS and walked along with Schwabe. She convinced him to make a stop at Albany Bulb and there he found all kinds of amazing art.

In terms of the outdoors, his favorite place (and one he highly suggests checking out) was Coyote Hills Regional Park, just north of the Dumbarton Bridge. There you’ll find hills overlooking the South Bay salt ponds and wetlands, with a diverse array of wildlife.

The Coyote Hills section of the Bay Trail
The Coyote Hills section of the Bay Trail Ingrid Taylar

In Oakland, he was met by the principal and a group of kids from Beacon Day School. The kids made signs and walked with him. They even auctioned off a hike with Schwabe at their school fundraiser.

Schwabe took photos of all the days: good and bad. Even if you don’t intend to walk all the way around the bay anytime soon, you can still see what it would look like to follow in Schwabe’s steps. His photos will be displayed in an exhibit at Oakland City Hall, on the 3rd floor, until May 31. Stop by anytime from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and get inspired for your own walks.

After Schwabe finished last summer, he wanted to keep going. He’d seen the bay from sea level, now it was time to see it from the heights of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. “I was planning a Bay Ridge trek, but then I got a job,” said Schwabe. You could always pick up where he left off.

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