Wednesday, August 24, 2016

We're here! We're here!


It's been a busy month. But (mostly) busy in a good way:


That's only the highlights, and there's almost 1/4 of the month to go! Which is all to say, I may not get around to posting about all these events anytime soon... Especially since I have regular, paying work to do, too.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Oakland Urban Paths: Montclair and the Sacramento Northern Railway


On Saturday, there was a nice turnout for the Oakland Urban Paths walk exploring Montclair and the history of the Sacramento Northern Railway. About 50 people and 3 dogs joined us for a hilly walk with several sets of stairs.

Links to the websites I mentioned:

We started in Montclair Park near the duck pond, which dates back to the days of the J. H. Medau Dairy. A short distance away was our first stop, the 1927 storybook Montclair Firehouse. It was not designed by noted architect Julia Morgan, but Eldred E. Edwards of the Oakland Public Works Department. Because of seismic issues (the Hayward Fault is nearby), accessibility, and other problems, it has stood empty since 1989.

At the corner of Thornhill and Moraga, we talked about the Sacramento Northern Railway. It started as two railroads, the Oakland, Antioch and Eastern which ran from Oakland to Sacramento, and the Northern Electric Railway that ran from Sacramento to Chico. The railroad connected with the Key System and used their tracks beyond 40th and Shafter, and for a time, even crossed the Bay Bridge.

Around the block onto Fernwood, we came to the former location of the Fernwood estate. It was first the country estate of Legendary Local of Oakland, Jack Coffee Hays. The area was referred to as Hays Canyon or Jack Hays Canyon for many years. After he died, his wife sold the property to William Dingee, of Oakland Water Company fame. Dingee built an opulent 19-room Queen-Anne style mansion, and had additional landscaping done with gardens, terraces and waterfalls. He also added such features as a deer park and an elk paddock. Unfortunately the home (and lots of artwork inside it) were destroyed in an 1899 fire. The land was then sold to the Realty Syndicate.

After a quick stop at the Montclair Women's Club and the storybook Montclair Library (also not designed by Julia Morgan), we headed up our first set of stairs to Cabot Dr. Down Cabot and up Mountain Blvd. took us to another set of stairs up to Magellan Drive. The stairs continue up to Gaspar Drive near Snake Road, but we headed down to the Montclair Railroad Trail.

There we talked more about the Sacramento Northern, and about Highway 77, a highway that was planned but fortunately not built. It would have gone up Shepherd Canyon and through to Moraga; on the other side of Highway 13, it would have followed Park Blvd. and 14th Avenue over to I-880 (then Highway 17). People fought against the freeway plan, and with work by California assembly member Ken Meade, the plans were changed.

A walk through the parking garage(!) to see some murals, then past more murals on the drugstore and the yogurt store we came back to Moraga Avenue. Given the warm day, some people opted to head back to the start, but some intrepid souls joined me for one last hill and stairway. Across Highway 13 and then down Bruns Court took us to a pedestrian bridge which crosses both the highway and Moraga Avenue, to return us to our starting point.

Thanks to everyone who came out for the walk, thanks to our volunteer speaker carrier, and special thanks to Charlie for once again bringing up the rear to make sure we didn't lose anyone. Hope to see you on the paths!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

photo of the week: Reflected Sky


We had interesting clouds in the sky on Wednesday, and they made for even more interesting reflections off the Ask.com building.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Oakland Book Fesitval


Today was the second annual Oakland Book Festival. I couldn't make last year's, but this year's was great—lots of people turned out to learn about and talk about books and their impact on society, but mostly to celebrate books.

I was particularly interested in the session on Jack London, "The 100 Year Call of the Wild". 2016 marks 100 years since Jack London's death (and only 140 years since his birth; he died at 40). The panelists included Tarnel Abbott, great-granddaughter of Jack London, and a political activist in her own right; Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, college professor, and author of an upcoming biography on Jack's second wife, Charmian Kittredge London; Steven Lavoie, historian, poet, and librarian, currently in charge of the Temescal branch; Jay Williams, founding publisher and editor of the Jack London Journal, and author. The moderator was Jack Boulware, co-founder of Litquake.

Kudos to the moderator, Jack Boulware. You could do a whole conference on Jack London and his writing, so to keep things moving in the hour and 15 minutes available was quite a feat. Given the constraints, I'm sure everyone who attended wishes some aspect could have gotten more time, but there was one clear takeaway, even for those relatively new to Jack London: Jack was a complex and imperfect person; his writing and his beliefs were complicated, and evolved over time. To try to answer any question about him with a simple answer is to disregard the facts.

I'm guessing any of the other sessions were at least as interesting; I know for myself, I wish I'd had the time and energy to check out pretty much everything at the festival. But shoutouts to Nia King, Luan Stauss, and Brad Johnson for representing Oakland!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Oakland Urban Paths: Sibley Regional Volcanic Preserve


On Saturday, local historian and author Dennis Evanosky led Oakland Urban Paths on a hike through Sibley Regional Volcanic Preserve. It was quite a bit less urban than our regular walks; there were no stairs, no streets to cross, and instead of worrying about traffic, our biggest concerns were poison oak and cow pies.

Dennis told us some about the geology of the area. The peak, Round Top, is an ancient volcano. It sits between two faults, the Hayward Fault to the west, and the Calaveras Fault to the east. Over time, the volcano was tipped on its side. Much of this wouldn't be visible, except Kaiser Sand and Gravel quarried in the area for basalt, and resulting digs exposed more of the underlying geology.

At the bottom of several former quarries, labyrinths have been constructed. Unlike mazes, which have any number of false routes and dead ends, a labyrinth has a single path from the outside to the center. The size is usually measured by the number of turns, i.e., how many times the path doubles back. Walking a labyrinth can be an act of meditation; I would guess constructing one could be, too.

Along with geology, there were lots of wildflowers to look at, and a variety of birds, including crows, a red-tailed hawk, and in the distance, a turkey.

Our final stop gave us a view of another ancient volcano, Vollmer Peak (formerly known as Bald Peak) in Berkeley, the Caldecott Tunnel, and the site of the eastern end of the former Kennedy Tunnel. A great hike—many thanks to Dennis for leading it, and to the 45 or so folks who came out to participate.

The next regular OUP walk will be Saturday, June 11th, but we haven't decided which walk we'll do. On Saturday, June 4th, there will be a special walk in the Golden Gate neighborhood as part of Love Our Neighborhood Day. Note the different start time.

More photos from the hike: