A historical plaque, critter encounters, and going under a street

I know it means “Garden of the Heart,” but I don’t know what it refers to.
the northern steps to the west entrance of Rose Walk

Today I tackled Rose Walk (#102), La Loma Steps (#103), and Rose Steps (#104). Having already walked La Loma Path and Rose Glen Alley, I’m feeling like some of these paths could be renamed to better distinguish them…

I walked up what has to be the grandest of all entrances to Berkeley paths, with two sets of steps that merge  just above the cars whizzing by on Euclid Avenue. At the top of the first tier of stairs is a handsome street lamp. When the steps end, a wide concrete walkway with an easy incline takes you through sunny gardens that have smaller paths to individual dwellings. The path acts as a common courtyard, allowing residents to have their front yard face a quiet path rather than a noisy street. I decided it would be a nice place to live.

Beyond the garden, the path continues, bordered by a rustic wooden fence with an uneven top on the right, juniper and other shrubs to the left, and lots of shade above from trees on both sides. Near the top is another set of wide concrete steps, which end in the shady curve of Rose Street where it becomes Le Roy Avenue. There’s no sign to indicate the eastern entrance, and in fact, I recall walking this same stretch of Rose Street after traversing nearby Tamalpais Path and seeing this end and wondering if it was one of the paths. It was!

west entrance to La Loma Steps

From there I headed south on Le Roy until I came upon the western entrance of La Loma Steps, which features a lovely trellis doorway covered with white blooms. The steps were apparently designated a historical landmark in 1995, according to the informative plaque at the entrance explaining the path’s origin and which I will quote from extensively here:

When the La Loma Park subdivision was created in 1900, the streets were laid out in harmony with the natural contours of the land as advocated by Berkeley’s Hillside Club. The rustic quality of the stone walls, brick paving, pergola and benches along the steps reflects the Club’s “building with nature” philosophy. Adjacent property owners donated land to create this public pedestrian pathway, one of many in the Berkeley Hills. The new steps allowed easy access to the streetcar line which had opened on Euclid Avenue in 1903.

After the 1923 Berkeley Fire swept through the neighborhood, the steps remained standing on a hillside of ruins and ashes. Features of the steps were rehabilitated after the Fire and again in 1992.

I saw this sign outside a house on Rose St. but I saw no strange dogs…

Thanks, Berkeley Historical Plaque Project!

On the Path Wanderers website, I found a link to an article in the Daily Planet that goes into more detail about the fire and the consequent reconstruction.

The brick path zigzags at right angles partway through and provides a few small benches and even a roof of greenery, where several properties seem to converge. Fences and a chain clearly mark the pathway that continues from LeRoy up to Buena Vista Way.

Just a few steps to the left, or north, is Greenwood Terrace, where I heard an older man’s voice and assumed he was conversing via Bluetooth on his hidden smart phone. I was delighted to discover that he had been talking to Milly, his eight-year-old canine companion, whom I got to pet.

img_2316Along Greenwood Terrace I found a tree-lined path next to a perfectly manicured green lawn with what would be a gorgeous view on a clear day. My map  showed it as Greenwood Commons, and some low chains and a few signs declared the area private and insisted on no dogs. Milly would have to walk the streets.


the entirety of the Rose Steps

After Greenwood Terrace dead-ended on Rose Street, I headed right, or east, where I came upon a young, gray tabby named Mitts, who mewed rather insistently and didn’t mind my attention but didn’t seem to want her picture taken, judging by her constant movement that resulted in several blurry photos.

I was confused by my map, which seemed to indicate that Rose Street turned into the Rose Steps, which continued in the same direction and became La Loma Avenue.

At the end of Rose Street, you are eye-level with the cars’ tires as they speed by on La Loma Ave.

The truth is that Rose Street comes to an end beneath La Loma where it curves south, and the Rose Steps are located near the eastern end of the street on its south side. This short path allows one to reach La Loma Avenue by foot. But first I trekked to the very end of Rose Street to see where it led. On the left was a tall solid fence that abutted a house that had no windows on two sides and faced a steep canyon.

Under the curve of La Loma Avenue

Beyond that was an empty lot that was for sale, which faced the canyon on one side and the industrial structure that supported the bend of La Loma on the other. I think I understand why the house didn’t bother with windows on its south side…

I think that because of the yet-to-be-built paths and one that I walked earlier (out of numerical order!), I have only 28 more paths in Berkeley to go. To reach my goal of walking them all in one year, I just need to do two per week through December. I can totally do that, right?




The ultimate urban hike–the Solano Stroll

photo collage courtesy of Solano Avenue Association’s website

I think I’ve missed only one Solano Stroll since we moved back to Berkeley 11 years ago. It’s just the funnest block party ever. And by “block,” I mean the mile of Solano Avenue that goes from San Pablo Avenue in Albany up to the Alameda in Berkeley. People who don’t live in the neighborhood have to deal with parking, but since I live a block off Solano, I just walk there.

I love the diversity of all kinds: toddlers and octogenarians rocking out to the Back Pages, belly dancers and tap dancers, people of many races wearing glittery costumes or t-shirts with slogans who are listening to music, watching martial arts demos, talking to political candidates, and checking out the local preschools, theaters, associations, and, of course eating everything fromimg_2279 Zachary’s slices on the street to sitting down at Fonda’s outdoor space for a meal and cocktails.

One thing I notice about Solano Strollers is their love of hats. Part of it is just trying to keep the sun out of their eyes, I’m sure, but yesterday’s stroll was cloudy about 97 percent of the time. Of course, many different kinds of head-wear were available for purchase at the Stroll, from knit children’s caps to wide-brimmed straw hats to cat-ear headbands. I get the feeling that a lot of people buy these and wear them right away but then forget about them after the novelty wears off because I don’t see many of these hats any other time of year. Just a theory.


After walking the length of Solano Avenue, avoiding kids on skateboards and scooters, refusing the leaflets handed out by the hundreds, resisting the churros and kettle corn, and just being among thousands of people, I slipped into the Albany Theater for a welcome respite. During the Stroll, old cartoons are shown continuously all day for free, and tired parents bring their children in to rest in the cool dark space. Of course these kids are probably imagining Dora the Explorer or Spongebob, and they are confronted with weird adult-oriented humor that sometimes borders on racist or misogynist using animation techniques from well before the Nixon administration, often with out-of-date references. I heard a toddler loudly exclaim to her mother, “I don’t like this.” One cartoon relied on the audience being able to read a note written in cursive handwriting in order to understand the action. Most children can’t read cursive until at least third grade, and really little kids can’t read at all. But it made me even more grateful for Pixar. And it was a good spot to update my Facebook status and take a breather.

my groupie pin!

My agenda for the Stroll always has two major components: enjoying my favorite Stroll band, the Back Pages, and arriving early enough to get a good seat for the Katie’s Dance Studio performance. Neither ever disappoints.

Although I am somewhat crowd-averse and never attend big arena concerts anymore, I relish being able to wander down on foot what is a busy thoroughfare the other 364 days of the year.

It’s comforting to recognize the people running the booths for local businesses and organizations. I smile knowing that Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley (which is actually not in Berkeley but in Kensington) will be there alongside the East Bay Atheists and the Berkeley Buddhist Priory. I love running into people whom I know from various aspects of my life: past students and their parents, fellow singers, neighbors, former colleagues, and people I’m sure I’ve seen around somewhere before, if only at last year’s Stroll. It feels like a huge family outing but with less stress.


And a lovely thing happened to me in a situation that could have been tense and embarrassing. I’d used my cash to buy my lunch earlier but saw many happy people exiting As You Wish, the frozen yogurt place. I was tempted by the idea of some frozen yogurt during the short warm spell in the afternoon. Luckily I spied the sticker that let me know I could use my debit card. I gleefully served myself a little chocolate, cookies and cream, pomegranate-raspberry tart, and something called Italian tart. Then I scattered some granola and crushed cookies on top. Yum. I put my frozen concoction on the scale, and the cashier gave me the total. I opened my phone/wallet to retrieve my MasterCard, but it wasn’t there. I searched all my pockets. No luck. I checked for hidden cash. Nothing. I apologized profusely and started to walk away from my cup of yogurt, but the person behind the register told me to take it anyway. I started to refuse, not wanting to take advantage of her kindness, but I realized she wouldn’t be able to sell it anyway, so I promised to come back with the money I owed soon. She just smiled. I’m going there later today to pay my debt. And I know that I’ll be a regular customer at As You Wish.

A park, a path, and parking issues

img_2239On the Path Wanderer’s website, Northgate Path is listed as #101. The 2010 Berkeleyside article I read dubs Northgate as the 100th path. But the numbers have been a little off a few times, so this seemed par for the course.

You could not step more than a few yards before encountering another sign prohibiting parking.


I saw on the map that Glendale-La Loma Park was just south of Northgate Path, so instead of driving to one of the entrances, I parked on La Loma and took the opportunity to traverse the park on my way to today’s path. It was another park I’d never seen before, nestled away behind some hilly scrub and private residences. One entrance was the head of a fire trail chained off at the end of El Portal Court where no parking was allowed.

img_2273In fact, this was where I saw the first of numerous NO PARKING signs in the neighborhood. Space is an apparent issue, and people seem to have strong feelings about it.

img_2236Glendale-La Loma Park is divided into sections: a baseball diamond, a climbing structure for older kids, a gated area for tot play with a cute stationary train, and a wild hillside. It’s a lovely, spacious park, and not a soul was in it but me. Probably because there’s no parking…

img_2243I left the park via Glendale Avenue, turned on Campus Drive and walked precariously on the edge of the road (since there was no sidewalk) until it intersected with Quail Avenue, which ends at the southern entrance to Northgate Path. The sign was fairly hidden by flora, and I might not have noticed it had I not been certain of the path’s location.

The path was long and fairly straight, bordered by eucalyptus trees, ivy, blackberry bushes, and a chain link fence tangled up in convoluted tree branches. img_2252Several identical signs were posted on the west side warning those who walked along there not to trim any of the plants without first checking with Charlie Bowen of the Path Wanderers Association. I’m imagining some renegade weeders tearing their way down the path with machetes and an evil plan; then they catch sight of the signs and curse, their afternoon of gleeful trimming foiled.

It’s not officially autumn yet, but a carpet of leaves covered the steps.

A few locked gates along the way made it clear that this public passage cuts between private homes. Most of the path was railroad-tie steps continuing downward as far as I could see. Toward the end, the precipitous descent required some carefully built switchbacks with railings, for which I was thankful.

I headed west on Shasta Road, which took me past a house that was getting rid of stuff and had placed it out in front for passersby to see. A small brush labeled “Frogger” was among the miscellaneous items, which I discovered has nothing to do with the video game I played in the 80s. A Google search revealed that it’s a golf brush. (I didn’t even know golf clubs needed brushing!) Most items were free for the taking, but some furniture pieces bore post-it notes with prices on them and instructions as to where to leave the money. That kind of trust in human nature made me smile. I wonder if it worked or if the tables and desk are still there.

Like I said, I saw many versions of this sign.

A bumper sticker on a truck parked on the street read “Under republicans, man exploits man. Under democrats, it’s just the opposite.” I had to think about it a moment, but then I laughed.

Shasta Road takes a sharp turn south, and according to my map, it was about to turn west for quite a spell before intersecting with any road that would allow me to head back east. This would have made for a much longer walk back to my car.

Bottom of shortcut trail built by boy scouts



But happily, a Berkeley Boy Scout troop had seen the need for a more direct route through Glendale-La Loma Park and had built quite a long trail up the wild hillside as a service project. Bless those boy scouts! It was a steep trek up many switchbacks, but it took me right back to the park, where it was a short walk to my car. I probably saved 20 minutes. Thank you, Berkeley Boy Scout Troop 24!



Goodbye, Seattle–I love your art!

This mural is on the side of the Southwest Seattle Senior Center on South Holly.
At Cheap Chickadee Thrift Store
a tile in someone’s front yard


Seattle was lots of fun!

Besides beautiful walks, an amazing central library, an improv show, some great food, and engaging company, I saw a lot of art.


I enjoyed the Henry Art Gallery (especially James Turrell’s Light Reign), but I loved discovering so much public art and the various forms it took. Peeking from behind street signs I saw a variety of colorful pieces.

These whimsical creatures are the products of Vikram Madan’s colorful imagination.
I’m assuming it says “Greatness Starts Here,”but it could be something else…
Just off a south Seattle street is this figure. All color comes from flattened soda cans.
In Seward Park near the playground

Update on Miniature Mobility: I wasn’t able to see the last piece because it had been stolen and not yet replaced when I returned home to Berkeley. But the artist herself assured me it would be more theft-proof and would be back up today (Wednesday). So if you live in the Seattle area, go find it!img_2206-2



Okay, this sign in someone’s yard isn’t art, but I enjoyed it anyway.





Another of Seattle’s hidden gems: Kubota Garden

me @Kubota

FujIMG_2181itaro Kubota was a talented landscaper who was born in Japan but made his home in Seattle, where he created an amazing display garden that fuses Japanese gardening techniques with plants that are native to the Pacific Northwest. The City of Seattle acquired this historical landmark in 1987, and now the 20-acre expanse is open to the public every day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. For free!

It’s a gorgeous place to go for a walk in south Seattle (on 55th Ave S). Waterfalls, ponds, lawns, hills, and lush greenery surround you in this peaceful atmosphere. But rather than describe it, I’d rather share my photos.IMG_2175IMG_2155IMG_2149IMG_2161IMG_2174


On a scavenger hunt for Seattle street art

1891 Horses hauling logs at Columbia Mill, Columbia. Ring isn’t part of artwork but is there to provide perspective.

Via serendipity on our vacation in Seattle, I learned about street artist and miniaturist Talia Silveri Wright, or little talia. (See previous post “Seattle is full of charms, some of them tiny.”) After finding four out of the eight pieces in her Miniature Mobility series (part of a public art program called Art Interruptions), I felt compelled to seek out more. Luckily, she has a map on her website, but a little snooping around is still required because the figures are so tiny that they are not immediately obvious. Half the fun is finding them, however, and our group of four was determined to do so.

1920 Rainier Beach shuttle bus

I walked right by the piece depicting horses hauling logs at Columbia Mill, despite the white label displayed prominently beside it. But Vicky turned around and saw it at once. Although the map lists its location as 6505 57th Ave S, it’s actually on the south side of South Morgan Street, several yards from where it intersects with 57th.

We walked south along Martha Washington Park before turning west on S. Holly Street. Then we trudged up the hill and crossed 55th Ave S where we had to look closely in rocky recesses to find the miniature Rainier Beach shuttle bus. The sign had become detached and was sitting a few feet away, so we anchored it under a rock to keep it close to the artwork.

1971 Picnic, Roller Skates and Bicycle (Ring used to indicate scale.

Our next stop was on Holly Street just west of Rainier Ave S–the Cheap Chickadee Thrift Store, which was closed because it was Sunday, but it looks like a fun place to visit. The artwork was easier to find despite its minuscule size because it’s featured more prominently and sits atop a window flower box next to the shop’s front door. It’s a picnic scene. Here’s an excerpt of the description from the website:


This is a snap shot from 1971 including a throwback picnic highlighting some vintage 1970’s inspired transportation. The micro miniature roller skates have beads for wheels and the bicycle is painstakingly crafted from scrap pieces of metal.

The tiny LIFE magazine cover from 1971 shows Germaine Greer with the accompanying headline: Saucy Feminist That Even Men like.

We did not see the entire series because we were getting hungry, and it was a much longer walk to Martin Luther King Jr. Way, where the last piece lives. So now there’s something to look forward to in the future!


Another Seattle gem–Seward Park

from the shore of Lake Washington during a light rain
This tree looked like it was about to run away.

According to our hosts, the distance from their front doorstep to Seward Park, around Lake Washington, and back home is almost exactly 10,000 steps. (Which I could have documented myself had I not lost my fitness tracker somewhere in the San Francisco Airport before we boarded our flight!) A gentle shower afforded us the opportunity to don our rarely used raincoats. As Californians, we’d pretty much forgotten what precipitation was, so a walk in the rain was refreshing. And it wouldn’t be a true Seattle experience if we didn’t get at least a little wet, right?

Tree next to the path that leads to memorial for a Campfire Girl Leader

The light rain turned to mist turned to cloudy skies turned to sunny all in the course of an hour and a half. We saw joggers in shorts, dogs on leash, and a few others strolling the path in rain gear. Around the lake, which is gorgeous, are a variety of trees, a few well-placed restrooms that were created to lessen their visible impact, poison oak with helpful warning signs pointing it out, a playground, and even a zip line, which I totally would have used hIMG_2198ad it not been raining at the time.


Along the way we saw artwork with no explanatory plaques nearby, which allowed us to enjoy them purely for their intriguing shapes and colors. This appears to be a transparent lime trilobite mounted on a desiccated saguaro spine. At least, that’s my vision…

One of several seats outside the Audubon Center that feature encased leaves

Although it was Saturday of Labor Day weekend, the park seemed underutilized. I appreciated the quiet but wondered where the people were. Maybe they were all at the much-publicized Bumbershoot, a Seattle festival that seems to have hundreds of acts, including music, theater, and comedy. I was happy to be away from the crowds enjoying the lush flora and the clean smell that follows a morning shower. What else could one want from a vacation?

Plus–I got in my 10,000 steps before lunch!

Seattle is full of charms, some of them tiny

Last year we took a big trip to London and Dublin, so this year I’d thought we would probably stay home. But my husband’s sister, Victoria, and her husband, Chris, recently moved into a new house in Seattle, which seemed like a perfect excuse for an inexpensive vacation.

Staying in this beautiful, open, sunny house with a view of Seward Lake and Mt. Rainier in the distance would be holiday enough, but we’ve also discovered some of Seattle’s hidden gems. Today’s gem: miniature street art.

The background image depicts a work crew shoveling snow after Seattle’s big storm in February 1916.

A few days ago Victoria had stopped to tie her shoe at an intersection in their neighborhood. Raising her head to resume her walk, she saw something she hadn’t before and took time to inspect it. Atop a small handle was a tiny streetcar covered in fake snow that could be moved along a proscribed arc. Behind it was an old photograph attached to a pole just a few feet off the ground.  She looked on each of the other three corners and found similar scenes and movable vehicles. She had no idea how long they had been there or why but wanted to show them to us.

So, of course, I Googled it as soon as we got home.

Artist Talia Silveri Wright, known as little talia, is a self-proclaimed miniaturist and street artist who lives in Seattle. Her Art Interruptions were commissioned by the Office of Arts & Culture in partnership with the Seattle Department of Transportation. The photographic images attached to the poles are courtesy of Rainier Valley Historic Society. Miniature Mobility, in the artist’s words, “honors the history of Seattle transit (especially in Rainier Valley)–from street cars to light rail–with a transportation-themed scavenger hunt.” How fun is that!

York Grocery Co. float in the parade celebrating the end of the streetcar

One corner’s artwork is titled “1891, The Early Street Car.” Another corner features the Street Car Barns & Work Car, from which you can see a tiny man, Louis “Pa Hip,” leaning out of the car that he built. The third corner depicts the parade that followed the demise of the streetcar, and the fourth memorializes the huge snowstorm 100 years ago. You can see them at the intersection of Seward Park Avenue South and South Morgan Street in Seattle.

Apparently there are four more in this series. So I already know what I want to do tomorrow!