Mission Accomplished: Bay Trail Trekker Comes Full Circle

Friends, family and other well-wishers joined Bay Trail trekker Kurt Schwabe for his homecoming on Saturday, June 29, 2013. As Schwabe, his wife Linda and their poodle mix, Oscar Wilde, walked north along San Francisco’s Bay waterfront, members of the welcoming party headed south, meeting him halfway on the final three-mile leg of his month-long journey. Together Schwabe and the entourage of a dozen or so people then headed for the Bay Crossings Store at the San Francisco Ferry Building, the very place where he launched his round-the-Bay trek on May 31.

A welcoming banner said it all: “You Did It, Kurt Schwabe: Ringing the Bay in 30 Days!” The weather also laid out the red carpet, dishing up rare warm and crystal clear conditions in San Francisco for the occasion.

And what a journey it’s been. Keeping a pace of roughly eight to 12 miles a day, with a couple of short days here and there, Schwabe covered 314 miles in his quest to circle the entire shoreline of San Francisco and San Pablo bays on foot. As if that weren’t challenge enough, Schwabe upped the ante by pledging to use public transit to get to the trailhead each day from his San Francisco condo.

Aided by Clipper® cards provided by MTC and a boxed set of Bay Trail maps from the Association of Bay Area Governments, which manages the Bay Trail project, Schwabe stuck to his pledge, using a car only once, to get to a remote and still unfinished portion of the Bay Trail route up in the North Bay. The former internet ad salesman treated his self-imposed assignment like a job, rising at the crack of dawn, even on weekends, and hitting the trail by 8 a.m. each day.

An experienced triathlete and marathon runner, Schwabe appeared no worse for the wear on Saturday, although he had to swap his tennis shoes midway during the trek for more supportive hiking boots. Homemade energy bars — the recipe for which is on his blog — fueled him during the sometimes grueling days.

Schwabe was joined at various points on his loop around the Bay by newspaper reporters, photographers and TV crews who helped to get his story out to the public. In Oakland, a group of school kids came out to cheer him along. Also popping up on the trail were naturalist types, local trail enthusiasts, and Bay Trail staff and board members who briefed him on the ecology and history of trail segments, and helped to point out gaps where the 500-mile trail system is still undeveloped.

An avid photographer, Scwhabe shot more than 600 frames along the trail, incorporating the best images into the informative and entertaining blog that he updated nightly — at walkingthebaytrail.com. (See his gallery of images.)

Schwabe said his website has garnered 15,000 page views from 22 countries across six continents. “The focal point of this journey was about bringing the Bay Trail and its sights, sounds and smells to you. To inform, inspire, and encourage you to explore your own backyard in ways you previously had not imagined — and to do so on public transportation (preferably with a Clipper card), not your car,” he wrote in his Day 30 blog post. “I had lofty expectations about how this message would be spread and they were exceeded beyond my wildest dreams.”

Schwabe got more than stronger calves out of the experience — it also has helped him formulate a new career direction that would combine his love of the outdoors with his talent for writing and taking photos. And still more Bay Trail territory awaits him — offshoots that he didn’t have time to explore in June.