Saturday a surprisingly large group turned out for what was billed as "a strenuous and technically challenging walk." Led by Stan Dodson of the Friends of Joaquin Miller Park (FOJMP), about 44 people and two dogs explored the park and looked at trail restoration work that's been done, and some work that still needs to be done.
We met at the bottom of the Palos Colorado Trail, the lowest point in the park, and a section that many people don't know about. After powering up with some tasty treats from La Farine Bakery (Stan is the manager of the Dimond branch), we walked up the trail that parallels Palos Seco Creek. It's one of the main tributaries of Sausal Creek, and always has a least a little water. Since we've had a few good storms (like the one that postponed the walk from last month) there was a nice flow of water and things were a vibrant green.
The trail took us to the site of the former Sinawik Cabin. It was built in 1949 for the Girl Scouts, but was in disrepair since the 1980s, before burning to the ground on July 4, 2013. From there we headed further up hill, along several trails that have been rerouted by FOJMP and other groups like Volunteers for Outdoor California. Still climbing, we went up the Cinderella Trail, where Stan showed us a unique area that showcases all the major ecosystems contained within Joaquin Miller Park.
We took an alternate route hoping to find some open restrooms, but alas, they were closed. The detour wasn't all bad, though, as it took us along one of the most beautiful and most-used trails in the park, the Big Trees Trail. After a bathroom break at another set of bathrooms and a bit of rest, we looped back past the Sinawik Cabin, then out of the park onto Castle Drive. A couple of hard-to-find urban paths and side streets took us to Mountain Boulevard, past the tunnel under highway 13 which connects to Dimond canyon, and back to our starting point.
Another great walk! Thanks to Stan for leading the walk, everyone who came out, and to everyone who donated after the walk. The donations were given to the Friends of Joaquin Miller Park to help continue the great work they've been doing on improving and maintaining the park.
A map of our route (which was a bit different than what was originally planned).
Sunday was a special version of the city's downtown walking tour of Chinatown, for a late celebration of the lunar New Year. I've been on the tour of Chinatown before, so I was expecting I'd only learn a few new things. Instead, Mayor Jean Quan not only came on the tour, she co-led it with Annalee Allen, the director of the city's walking tour program. While we went many of the same places and talked about the same people, Mayor Quan had a different and often personal experience of them.
We started in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza, which is home to various shops and restaurants as well as the Asian branch of the Oakland Public Library and the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. Mayor Quan told us about Chinese family associations and early organizations to help Chinese immigrants, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the experiences of her own ancestors.
After winding around past the Asian Resource Center building, a quick stop for some fresh from the oven fortune cookies, and a look at the Chinatown Dragon Mural, we came to Lincoln Square Park. Normally it's a busy, vibrant place, but because of the intermittent rain, it was empty. We checked out one of the markers for the 10,000 Steps project, a Chinese herb shop, and then we were back to our start. A great tour, and nice to have a different perspective on it—there's always more to learn.
Last night as we were leaving the Oakland Heritage Alliance awards ceremony, I noticed that this sign isn't there any more. I didn't catch the name of the Thai restaurant that's there now, but a mention on Yelp says Pearl of Siam closed June 30, 2013, after 25 years in business. Not a bad run!
Sure, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get." That's true, but life isn't that simple.
But life is like a box of chocolates in a lot of ways:
if you have more money, you can afford a bigger, nicer box of chocolates
if you have very little money, you wish could afford a chocolate
if prices go up, you may not be able to afford the box of chocolates you used to
all the chocolates look a little different, different colors, some more perfectly shaped, some with nuts or fruits, but they're all chocolates
people will form preconceptions about a chocolate based on what it looks like on the outside, regardless of what's inside
if the box of chocolates drops, odds are that if you're in a nice box of chocolates you'll get picked up first
There's another aspect of life to be learned from the life of Forrest Gump. There's no accounting for dumb luck. Photography instructors and others will tell you "good photographers make their own luck", which is shorthand for saying "put yourself in the right places at the right times, and you'll have better luck", but in the bigger picture (no pun intended), that doesn't account for people who can't put themselves in the right places at the right times for a variety of reasons.
All of which are thoughts that passed through my head when I spotted this scene as I cycled home from the grocery store. Having my camera with me was "making my own luck", and I had to adjust things for the exposure, but this was 95% "dumb luck".
Sunday I met up with a bunch of people I know from Twitter for dim sum. It's a mostly monthly event with a rotating cast of characters, led by @sonnylebythebay . We had to wait a bit for a table since we were a large group (11 and then 3 more!), but the beautiful weather made that no great hardship. Unlike most dim sum restaurants where they push the food around on carts and you point at what you want, Happy Valley has menus where you can order as desired. We mostly left the ordering to the doyenne of dim sum, @itsWanda, but some people added things as the order sheet went around. We ended up with a lot of food. I mean a lot. We made a good showing, but couldn't finish it all, so everyone left with a container.
The food was very good, and very reasonably priced for dim sum. Despite the mountain of food, it worked out to $20 per person with tax and tip. And the waitstaff was very patient with our large group. I'll definitely go again.