Better not to wander paths when it’s about to turn dark

Bancroft Steps

It was 4:45 on a late November afternoon, and it was still light out when I parked my car on Warring Street on the edge of UC Berkeley campus, just south of Memorial Stadium. My first stop, the Bancroft Steps (#114) were perfectly easy to find, even without signage at the bottom. The broad concrete steps with autumn leaves scattered along the bottom are fairly shallow and easy to climb.

Orchard Lane


Despite the sign for Orchard Lane (#115) being tangled up in greenery, I managed to find the entrance on Panoramic Way and followed it up. A jogger passed me, and ahead I saw what I assume were college students. In fact, I felt like I’d been dropped into a photo shoot for a fictional magazine, University Life.




Where the path took a little jog to the left was a bench, where I found an abandoned umbrella. I imagined a frustrated person throwing aside the contraption that had collapsed in the rain, walking home, wet and cursing.

one of the many sections of Orchard Lane


About halfway up this first leg of Orchard Lane is a historical plaque that tells you that you are in the Panoramic Hill District, rich with architectural examples from Julia Morgan, Bernard Maybeck, and other architects who are probably famous in their sphere, but I had not heard of them. It is also home to many UC professors and early Sierra Club members.


A Bullwinkle giraffe



Part two of Orchard Lane (#116) continues on the other side of Mosswood Road and takes you up, up, up to Arden Road. I saw some wonderful, whimsical art along the way, including some decorative tiles along a garden path and two Mark Bullwinkle pieces, both above gateways.


After that I had to do a some guess-work to find  Arden Steps (#118) and Arden Path (#119), neither of which were marked as far as I could see. But it was getting darker every minute, so perhaps I missed the signage. I think Arden Path was a wider, gentler incline that seemed to disappear into a residential area where houses were further apart.

img_2477I descended  the long, narrow, steep stairway that I believe was the Arden Steps, landing on Mosswood Road, where I wandered around a bit trying to find the southern entrance to Mosswood Lane (#117) but to no avail.

So I began retracing my steps and met a friendly kitty named Riley, who wouldn’t pose for a photo, but I managed to get an action shot of him walking away.img_2478

I also found an interesting street sign that illustrates just how curvy and confusing the roads are in the Panoramic Hill District. It reminds me of a sign I once saw on the Pacific Coast Highway up in Washington State that simply said that either way you went at this particular T intersection would be south on PCH 1.

When I got back to the spot where the historical plaque hung on Orchard Lane, I decided to take what was apparently the southern entrance to Mosswood Lane and see where it ended.

If you squint, you can see Sather Tower above the fence posts.

But by this time, the sun had long set, and after walking a few steps, I had to make use of my flashlight app on my phone. A wooden fence lined the path to the left, or west side, but on tippy-toe, I could see Sather Tower, or rather the outline of Sather Tower. It was really quite dark. Even with my light, I could only see a few yards in front of me, and I had no idea if the path even went all the way through, since I hadn’t been able to find the other end on Mosswood Road. It was eerily quiet except for an occasional rustling in the trees whose branches hung over the path. I began to imagine that the sounds were caused from a psycho killer hiding in the trees, awaiting his next victim. Because of course this is where a murderer would hang out, right?  Despite the fleeting thought of what the headline would look like (“Missing Woman Found Dead on Unmarked Path”), I continued, determined to follow the path until its end. Or mine.

I couldn’t take photos for the last part of my walk because it was too dark. But here’s a tile that I saw earlier on my walk.

It wasn’t really much of a path, but it did meander behind some houses until it almost reached Mosswood Road, where I’d seen my new buddy, Riley.  I looked again for a clue that what I’d been on was actually Mosswood Lane, aiming my tiny-light-emitting phone in every direction, and I saw a small sign attached to a tree reading “Public path continues 100 yards uphill.” Not obvious, but I suppose an effort was made for those coming up Mosswood Lane to direct them toward Arden Steps, even if neither was labeled as such.

I was happy to walk on the road where streetlamps helped me find my route back to my car.  I knocked out six paths in my quest of walking them all in 2016. I now have 17 more paths and 38 days to walk them. Wish me luck!

Always something to see at Albany Bulb

View of the Bay Bridge and downtown San Francisco from the southern edge of Albany Bulb

img_2439I’ve written about the Albany Bulb before and probably will again. There are multiple paths to take and many views to appreciate, which is why I maintain that it’s a quirky Bay Area treasure.

My troop on Wednesday morning consisted of our big old red coon hound, Rufus; our 65-pound fur ball with boundless energy, Ruby; and our little schnauzer/ terrier mix foster, whom we renamed Zazzie because her original name was the same as our daughter’s best friend, which would have been too confusing.

img_2440Dogs have their own reasons for loving the Bulb: the puddles after it rains, the rocky terrain, the refreshingly cold bay water, and the network of interesting trails. (Rufus also enjoys a variety of smells that I’m not even aware of.) I love it for the artwork that appears out of nowhere; for the gorgeous views; and for the opportunity to experience this unique combination of nature, cultivated park, and dumping ground for interesting and colorful refuse.



It was rather quiet. Lone shore birds skimmed the water’s surface or posed on rocks in lagoons. Single snails made their own trails perpendicular to the ones created by the park service, crossing our path more than once. A few other dogs and their human companions greeted us with nods and smiles. A dedicated jogger and a cyclist each made cameo appearances.


Ruby could not resist bounding over the rocky shore to go for a swim in the bay, while Zazzie watched from her perch img_2438beside the walkway and Rufus kept a respectful distance. It did not feel as if we were just off a major freeway, but we were. I knew the cars and semis were close by, but I couldn’t hear them. The bay glistened, silver on blue, between the Bulb and Golden Gate Fields racetracks. To the south was downtown Oakland, and off to the southwest stood the Bay Bridge and San Francisco, the City by the Bay. Such busy places all around us but far enough away to be scenic rather than noisy.


After taking in a few moments of serenity, we piled into Red Emma (my husband’s Rav 4) and headed east back to Berkeley, where we would resume the rest of our day. But for just an hour, my compatriots and I were explorers.