Albany Bulb

We have family (Willow’s Auntie and Grandpa – my sister and dad) in the San Francisco Bay Area and so regularly find ourselves spending time in the area while heading from one adventure to the next. This is also when Willow gets to hang out with some of her doggie friends and I usually take a truck load full of dogs to one or another of our special doggie romp spots. We have several of those places in the East Bay (Pt. Isabel, Oyster Point and the Albany Bulb among others) and this post is about The Bulb.

Situated on the South side of the Albany Mudflats just past Berkeley and sticking out into the bay the Albany Bulb has everything a dog could ask for except potable water. There are trails all over the area and the vast majority are easy hikes, no special footwear or equipment necessary.

A Few of Our GPS Tracks Aggregated on One Map.
Just A Few of Our GPS Tracks Aggregated on One Map. We Have Covered This Park Well.

Right at the end of the parking lot, at the beginning of the main trail into the Bulb area there is a port-a-potty just in case you need a quick public restroom for when you are on the go.

Newly paved path leading from the beach to "The Bulb."
The Main Path Leading From Beach to Bulb Has Been Paved Since the Last Time We Were Here
Map of SF East Bay Area showing Albany Bulb and Pt. Isabel
Map to Give You an Idea Where This Is

When the weather is nice (and for a dog, when isn’t it?) the Buchanan Dog Beach is the first thing you come to after walking away from the parking area. It’s long and narrow and usually has small waves in the 2-3 foot range at best.

Buchanan Dog Beach with Golden Gate Fields in the background
Picture Found Online. Golden Gate Fields in the Background.
Willow Romping with Two of Her Pals on the beach
Willow Romping With Two of Her Pals and a New Friend

Sadly, it is also regularly strewn with garbage as the way the bay’s currents and wind works the beach serves as the end of the line for lots of flotsam and jetsam.

Beach Warning sign
Beach Warning

This is one of those places where in addition to our standard extra poop bags we always bring a grocery store sack with us to pick up that amount of trash. We usually seem to find an existing bag lying around (one time we found a Home Depot orange bucket) and so use that as the receptacle for our pick ups. As a bonus, when people see us picking up trash they usually thank us and then some of them proceed to start their own pick up as well. When they inevitably do not have a bag for the purpose we smile and hand them the one we brought with us. Recycling at its best – using an old plastic bag to pick up more garbage.

After walking away from the beach if you stay to the Southern (left) side of the bulb you can walk all the way around the outer edge of the “bulb” itself. Near the southernmost curve of the bulb you can find and walk on the yellow “brick” road.

walkway made of broken pieces of concrete painted yellow
Out Of Nowhere Appears A Path. Golden Gate Bridge In The Background.
Dogs on the yellow brick road
One More Looking Back Towards the Beach Area With Dogs For Scale

FYI – If geocaching is something you like to engage in the Bulb has numerous caches hidden throughout its trails and structures. Willow and I have logged several during our dozens of trips here.

The entire Bulb is also a kind of outdoor, found object “art” gallery with sculptures, paintings and the remains of Mad Mark’s Castle. Some of the pieces are more artistic than others but all showcase the vision and (possible) talent of someone who cared enough to fashion a bunch of pieces of found detritus into a cohesive whole.

Fallen tree with discarded shoes hung on the tips of many branches
The Shoe Tree. Kinda Creepy
Sculpture made from found metal scrap
This is One of Our Favorites. Willow’s Friend Juneau next to it for scale. That’s the USPS Bulk Mail place at Pt. Isabel across the bay in the background.
Evokes Thoughts of Marble Sculptures We Have Seen in Museums
Evokes Thoughts of Marble Sculptures We Have Seen in Museums, except for the Skateboard
Sculpture of two people sitting on a bench
Taking a Rest after Hiking Around Looking at Artwork
Sculpture of a Dragon
A Dragons Lies In Wait Ahead. Willow and Juneau Are Obviously Not Impressed.
Closeup of the dragon sculpture
Close Up. Here Be Dragons.

If you walk out all the way to the Western end of the Bulb you’ll find a kinetic sculpture that turns lazily in a slight breeze.

Kinetic Sculpture at the tip of the Bulb
It was Squeaking This Trip. Next Time We Brought Some Spray Lubricant.

Up on the bluff overlooking the Yellow “Brick” Road are found the remains of Mad Mark’s Castle.

Willow in front of the remains of Mad Mark's Castle
Willow “Storming the Castle”

Made out of found materials like grocery carts, chicken wire, concrete and anything else Mad Mark could get his hands on back in the day it has held up surprisingly well considering it gets the full brunt of weather off the San Francisco Bay.

view of the building materials used in construction
The Crumbling Roof Still Supported Willow and I
Another View of the Castle
Another View of the Castle

Inside is a built-in fireplace and a spiral staircase leading up to the roof/observation deck.

Stairway Leading Up to the Roof
Stairway Leading Up to the Roof
Another View of the Inside
Another View of the Inside

Back in the day when Mad Mark was able to actually live here he obviously had one heck of a view of the San Francisco Bay. Right behind the castle is this small maze.

Child or small dog-sized rock maze
Child or small dog-sized maze. Looks Challenging.

Elsewhere on the Bulb can be found a free, community lending library. The collection leans more towards crappy romantic fiction and self-help books but we have left a book or two on occasion to broaden the horizons of those taking advantage of it.

While humans might find themselves drawn to the “artwork” it is a rare occasion when the dogs don’t stick to doggie pursuits.

Three dogs walking in kelp water
Testing The Waters. This was Java and Brandi’s First Time in Salt Water.
Little miniature chihuahua, Brandi, testing the waters for the first time
What a Brave Little Girl. There are Crabs That Could Eat Her in Some of Those Rocks.
Willow sniffing flowers in a field of them
Sniffing Around in the Flowers, Rocks and Broken Concrete Hidy Holes for Critters.

FAIR WARNING: Skip the next picture if you do not want to see a rotting corpse.



Dead something or other that Willow found and REALLY wanted to roll on
Sometimes the Critters are as Stinky in Death as in Life (Skunk). Willow really wanted to roll on this.

First and foremost though, as a desert dog Willow gravitates towards water given the slightest chance.

Willow wading in the water with Brandi waiting on the sand
“Come On In, The Water is Fine.” Brandi is Not So Sure.

Point Isabel Regional Shoreline, another one of our favorite off leash dog parks is a mere 2 miles away. You can walk there on the San Francisco Bay Trail if you want and, in a car, it is two exits and 5 minutes away. When driving towards that area you can choose either destination and your dog(s) and you will have a great time. If you decide to visit the area or are just passing through, whether you have a dog, a pack, or none at all, you cannot go wrong visiting the Albany Bulb.


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