It was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon following a day of rain, so everything looked especially green up in the Berkeley Hills. My loop was fairly leisurely today. I parked on Miller Avenue, which I don’t think I’ve ever been on before. And I went completely out of order because the paths were right there for the taking. I apologize.
There to greet me almost as soon as I stepped onto the sidewalk was this carpet of flower petals. But I couldn’t stay on the sidewalk for long because of a particularly creative parking job. (Maybe the driver was in a hurry?)
I found the top of Poppy Path (#38) pretty easily and headed down the winding, uneven steps. Just to the left as I began my descent was a very long iron chain that was attached to a pole of some kind at the top and dropped all the way to the ground with a few inches to spare. I could not tell you what its purpose was. To the right I could hear a muffled drumming.
I forged ahead.
At times the path almost disappeared under the encroaching greenery, but it was a gentle descent, so I wasn’t worried too much about my footing. To the right I spied a sight that could have been in an Irish countryside calendar, so rustic, unassuming, and natural it was. On one side of Poppy Path was an undeveloped (but fenced) lot with trees and wild grass that provided the illusion of open space. On the other side was a house painted in bold, bright colors, and I just had the feeling that the people who lived inside it were fun, creative types.
Poppy Path dropped me at the end of Keeler Avenue, where I could go right onto a paved street or left onto Keeler Path (#41). I chose left.
You may ask, what happened to #39 and #40? Well, #40 was a bit out of the way, so I’m saving it for another day. And #39? There is no path numbered 39. Just like there was no path numbered 34. So here I will take a narrative detour.
A few weekends ago I happened to meet an active member of the Berkeley Path Wanderers, so I asked her what the story was behind the missing path #34. It was such a mystery to me, so I was glad to have the opportunity to find out. I was sure she’d pipe right up with something like, “Oh, well, you know, there was this eccentric professor who accidentally set fire to his tie, which led to…” I was disappointed. Not only did she not have a colorful tale as an explanation, she hadn’t even realized there was no path numbered 34. She did offer possibility that I found rather unsatisfying–someone at the City of Berkeley must have made a mistake back when the paths were being numbered. Really? Or, she conjectured, there may have been a path #34 at some point, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t there any more. Maybe I should make up my own reason for the missing paths…
Keeler Path was a lovely stroll quite unlike any other paths I’ve taken so far. It began where Keeler Avenue ended, just a meandering dirt path that skirted Remillard Park before becoming a lush, narrow hiking trail. On one side was an uprooted tree, and shortly after that, a few low-hanging branches practically blocked my passage. In the middle of the trail, you’d think you were on an honest-to-goodness hike in a national park. Near the end, when the path was once again between two houses, there was a stunning maple with leaves the brightest shade of red I’d ever seen in nature.
Keeler Path ends at Sterling Avenue, where I walked past only a few houses before finding the top of Sterling Path (#56), which I realize is a full 15 paths early but which was, after all, right there. The path itself had sturdy aluminum rails and was adorned with cheerful greenery courtesy of the bordering yards. Among the fragrant jasmine was a lone rose.
The rails ended partway down as the neighboring grasses crowded between the steps. And I crossed paths with another walker, which is notable only because it has been rare on these forays.
Once I reached the end of Sterling Path, I walked along Cragmont Avenue, where I saw some beautiful houses nestled in redwoods that made me feel as if I were up in Tahoe at a ski lodge. The only thing missing was the snow. Which is okay by me. My favorite part of skiing–back when I did such things–was taking off my ski boots at the end of the day, sitting by the roaring fire, and drinking hot chocolate, possibly with a hint of Peppermint Schnapps in it. I finally figured out that I could save a lot of money and sore ankles by forgetting the whole skiing part and skipping right to the cocoa.