Drawbridge, CA

From Wikipedia: William Donlon “Don” Edwards (January 6, 1915 – October 1, 2015) was an American politician of the Democratic Party and a member of the United States House of Representatives from California.

Edwards was born in San Jose, California. He attended the public schools in the city, graduating from San Jose High School, before earning a B.A. from Stanford University in 1936, where he was member of the Stanford golf team. Edwards then attended Stanford Law School and was admitted to the bar in 1940.

Edwards was a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1940 to 1941, when he joined the United States Navy as a naval intelligence and gunnery officer during World War II. In 1950, he was elected president of the California Young Republicans. But he had switched parties by the time he was first elected to the House in 1962. He was the president of Valley Title Company of Santa Clara County from 1951 to 1975, and a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions of 1964 and 1968.

That quenches the curiosity of this twenty-year Bay Area resident, but why is his name on everything west of 880? Well, that’s actually kind of a neat story.

The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (DESFBNWR - pronounced “Dez-if-ben-wer” (I made that up)) was founded in 1974 as the first urban national wildlife refuge in the United States. It’s home to the endangered California Clapper Rail, salt marsh harvest mouse (awwweee), white pelicans, kites, hawks, ospreys, eagles, and millions of shorebirds and waterfowl who stop along the Pacific Flyway for some much-needed R&R. You’ve probably seen the iconic photos of the Cargill Salt ponds from above. Those are the pools of brightly coloured brine water. That’s part of the DESFBNWR. It extends over thirty thousand acres from the Dumbarton Bridge, south into Milpitas, making up most of the East Bay shoreline. The southern part is where today’s journey began.

There, buried deep inside the marsh, (mostly) inaccessible, resides a legend. A story I’ve heard from the generation before me. Recounts of a town before my time rang through my ears since I was a kid. A town kids used to sneak into. A town lost to history. A town slowly being reapportioned and reclaimed by mother nature, herself. This is the town of Drawbridge.

I did what anyone else would do. I tapped “drawbridge” into Google Maps on my phone. The last resident is said to have left in 1979, but good ol’ Google lead the charge! Or so I thought. The faith is strong in this one. My trusted navigator let me not to the mythical town of Drawbridge, but to Clipper Court. A commercial cul de sac with a trail entrance. “Well, yeah” I thought as I parked my truck. You can’t drive to Drawbridge. Consulting satellite imagery and constantly checking my exposed legs for ticks, I proceeded forth into the marsh.

I eventually came to this bridge. Sketchy doesn’t describe it. It led to the thin sliver of land I needed to follow all the way to Drawbridge. On the other side, I found a bicycle and twenty feet away, a man sitting on a dock. He had a tangerine and an iPod. I had to lose sight of my goal for a moment as I envied this stranger. What a way to spend an afternoon. Sitting under the sun on a secluded dock with his music and daily dose of Vitamin C. Idyllic. Unfortunately for me, this dock marked the end of my trail. I needed to turn left here, but my only option was to traverse marsh mud which might as well be sucking black tar. It was time to head back to the truck and find another route.

I tapped around on Google Maps for a bit longer until I found my entry point. It was an environmental education center at the southern and of the bay. I hopped on McCarthy to 237, exited Zanker, followed through some waste and water treatment facilities, turned right on Grand, and I was there.

I consulted my phone again to suss out my corrected and final path. As it turns out, there is only one easy way to get to Drawbridge. It’s taking a trail from the environmental education center and cutting over to a railway that leads directly through it. Supposedly. The trail is not a short walk. It’s not even a long walk. It’s a really long walk. Fortunately for me, Mr. Always Prepared, I wore a pair of Vans flats. This whole trip would be six miles of walking. Sigh. Not easily discouraged, I persevered down another trail I wasn’t certain would lead me to victory.

Along the way, I saw all the birds mentioned above and spring was in the air as I saw several pairs of Canadian Geese with their fuzzy little goslings (awwweeee). These folks were busy! I ran into these little families everywhere. I was even hissed at by protective mothers. I found the best thing to do when confronted with an angry mother goose, is not to run or make noise, but to walk slowly away. If they follow and hiss (they will), make sure you’re not between them and their babies, face the goose and make a “made you flinch!” sort of movement in their direction. You’re a goddamn human being. It’s a goose, not its crazy, velociraptor uncle. You got this. Make your little “I’m bigger than you, bitch” move and continue to walk further away at a normal pace. Please don’t scream or run or throw anything at them. You’re a person, not a dick. Hucking rocks and dirt clods at wild animals is a dick move.

So, I finally hit the railroad I was promised. This is great news! There’s a small sign that says “This area is closed.” That can be interpreted in many ways. Proceed with caution. I followed the tracks for an additional half mile to my destination, regularly looking behind me for giant, bone liquifying monsters that would take my life in an instant without a second thought. Trains. Like I said, proceed with caution. It was particularly sketchy as the wind was howling in my ears louder than anything around me, and I still had to cross a bridge. You can’t escape a train on a bridge. I looked down at the rails and they looked worn in the right ways, but also kind of rusty. I figured I was safe and proceeded across the bridge. I could see buildings!

Drawbridge was built in 1876 by the narrow-gauge South Pacific Railroad. It doesn’t look like much now, but ten passenger trains would stop there each day. It was actually quite the destination as an average of one thousand people would show up every weekend. The town had an astounding ninety buildings and no roads. Roads aren’t required for division, though. The north end was occupied by Protestants while the south was Roman Catholic. We can’t come together because we share a town when something as substantial as religion stands between us. If gods exist, they must get real tired of being the elephants in the room.

From analyzing more satellite data, I can see I approached only a small portion of the Bay Area’s only ghost town. More lies further up the track, but I had half an hour before the gates closed on the environmental education center, leaving my trucked locked into the parking lot. I plan to return some day and hopefully unlock more of this mystery. This forbidden ghost town. With the Bay Area’s history and occupants, I half expected to find some weird science or military experiments out there. Who knows. Maybe through the skewed, bleached threshold of the right half sunken building, lies an elevator that leads into a subterranean, experimental, military funded, science lab. Coyote Hills has missile sites and some other weird crap. Drawbridge is across the bay from NASA. Don Edwards was a special agent in the FBI.
It’s probably just graffiti and spiders, though.