Point Pinole

The typically racist New York Times

In July of 1892, an enormous explosion in what was then West Berkeley rocked so hard that windows across the bay on Nob Hill crashed to the ground. An unknown number of people died and many more were injured. The blast wasn't the first to destroy a factory of the Giant Powder Company – the first company licensed to use Alfred Nobel's recipe for dynamite. They'd already blown themselves out of locations in Oakland and San Francisco. After this explosion they relocated to the most distant Bay Area spot they could find – Point Pinole in what is now Richmond, but what they then dubbed Giant, California – a company town now totally disappeared.

There's a lot to say about this bit of history: about how Nobel tried to tame his own guilt for inventing Dynamite by establishing the Nobel Prizes in his will (and what a joke those prizes have become ever since one went to Henry Kissinger); about the life-threatening work of running a dynamite factory, and the mostly Chinese workforce, hired by white bosses who knew they could exploit local xenophobia and pay Chinese workers less to do one of the most dangerous jobs possible; about the sulfur mining in the Oakland hills that supplied the dynamite factories and that left a superfund site that still drains sulfuric acid downhill into a pretty little pond at Mills College. But instead of all that, I'm posting to say that Point Pinole is an absolutely lovely spot for a hike. Almost all the trails are flat and much is wheelchair accessible, the fishing is, apparently, not bad, and if you don't mind walking around directly on top of a major earthquake fault, the views are lovely.

There's not much left of the explosives factories. Apparently the old narrow gauge railway that moved explosives around the premises was purchased for use at Disneyland. Most of the buildings were destroyed. Bethlehem Steel bought the land to build a steel plant, but nothing came of it and finally the East Bay Regional Parks acquired the land in the early '70s. It's a lovely place to take a walk, whether you care to nerd-out about history or not. Point Pinole, here's a little of what it looks like:



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