Pokewalk No. 2: Rockridge BART and College Avenue

Chabot Avenue

Chabot Road offers idiosyncratic landscaping and a variety of architectural styles.

This walk sets you a challenge: Are you primarily interested in walking or gaming?

From the starting point at the Rockridge BART station escalator, you can see 38 Pokestops and five gyms. College Avenue is basically a sea of swirling blue cubes. If you want to get a workout, choose your pause points before you start, then grit your teeth and walk past the rest.

An advantage is the frequency of sidewalk benches that allow you to hunt without blocking foot traffic or looking obviously deranged. I picked a Sunday morning for this walk, which is a relatively quiet time on this busy commercial corridor.

MapHead north, past the Firestorm Community Mural and Chabot Middle School. You’ll pass the Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream factory and College Avenue Presbyterian Church, designed by Julia Morgan and built in 1917. One of my favorite buildings in this neighborhood is the Claremont Day Nursery, a tiny Spanish Revival dollhouse with a distinctively old-school sign.

At the Claremont Diner, turn left down Claremont Avenue, then take a sharp left to go up Chabot Road. This street offers a menu of idiosyncratic landscaping and different East Bay architectural styles.

After you cross College Avenue, you’ll pass St. Albert’s College, a brick seminary with an extensive garden. If you have time and energy, it’s worth extending your walk farther into this neighborhood.

If you want to keep catching Pokemon, you’ll want to turn right on Presley Way, then back down Miles Avenue. It’s worth stepping into the BART parking lot to appreciate the deep space mural painted by Vista College students. But also note the Mid-Century Modern fire station immediately behind the middle school.

Cross under the BART station and make a quick loop by turning right on Forest Street and right on Shafter Avenue. You’ll pass several possibilities for coffee or breakfast as you head back to your starting point.

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What’s so bad about Pokewalking?

Sausal Creek, Dimond Park

There is a Pokemon in the middle of this creek, which used to be under a culvert. Maybe dont tell your kids about this one?

OK, it’s a fad, and OK, some people aren’t using good sense about where and how they play.

But Pokemon GO is also making me look at my neighborhood in new ways.

I walked two miles this morning, visited 16 Pokestops, faced defeat in two gyms and caught eight Pokemon.

I also saw a hummingbird, heard a red-tailed hawk, searched for fingerling trout, enjoyed several murals, checked the titles in a Little Free Library and found a church I had forgotten existed.

I felt nostalgic about Pokestop landmarks that have already changed: the little fire truck in Dimond Park that has been replaced with a brand-new tot lot, the hand-painted stars that used to decorate the fence around the old Blockbuster store, now demolished to its concrete pad. Even my favorite Chinese restaurant, closed for many months, is honored with a stop labeled “Ocean Temple.” Old-timers have a definite leg up in finding these spots.

This transitory nature of the world can sometimes cause humorous results. The in-game map shows dancing green sparks in the middle of a field in Dimond Park, but that field is now a restored section of Sausal Creek. It seems unlikely you’ll catch them all without getting your feet wet.

Nothing forces you to keep your face in your phone while hunting Pokemon. If you are familiar with the area, it’s easy to check what the Pokestop landmarks are before you set out and put your device back in your pocket till you get there. Don’t worry, it will vibrate when you pass a Pokemon.

DimondPokewalkStart this Pokewalk at Fruitvale Avenue and Lyman Road, at the brick steps that mark the entrance to Dimond Park. From this point, you should be able to see five gyms and 20 stops. You can plot your own route, but if you want to follow the one I’ve mapped for you, head into the park and downhill toward your left, past the redwood groves. You’ll follow the paved path along Sausal Creek past the Scout Hut, then take a detour to the Recreation Center.

Coming back past Lyons Pool, cross Sausal Creek to Cañon Avenue, a lovely, shaded street winding between neat bungalows. Look for trout in the calm spot to the left of the bridge.

Turn left onto MacArthur and head downhill, turning right onto Dimond Avenue to take a detour past Paws and Claws. Use Bienati Alley to get back to Fruitvale Avenue and the heart of the Dimond shopping district: Farmer Joe’s Market, La Farine, several cafes and markets.

Take Fruitvale back to MacArthur, turn right and right again onto Lincoln, which runs past a swirling blue mosaic and one of Oakland’s old fire houses. Go left and uphill on Champion at the firehouse, passing the Dimond Gateway Mural.

You can cut your walk to two miles by continuing uphill on Lincoln, rejoining my route at Sequoia School. Or go right and walk along MacArthur to Bret Harte Middle School, enjoying several mosaic murals on your way.

Head uphill on Coolidge Avenue, left on Madeline, left on Laguna and right on Scenic, through another neighborhood of modest but well-maintained bungalows. You’ll know you’re near Sequoia School when you pass the playground and another colorful mosaic mural.

Go uphill a block to Wilbur Avenue, then sharply downhill on Wilbur to Whittle Avenue, already described in this blog. Whittle will return you safely to Dimond Park.

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Sausal Creek daylighting, Dimond Picnic

Sausal Creek has been restored to its natural state as it passes through Dimond Park. (For decades, it passed under the park in a culvert.) 

If you want to check out the new paths and planting, the Friends of Sausal Creek will formally open it on Sunday.


Port will close missing links to the Bay Trail

The Contra Costa Times reports the Oakland Port will improve trails on the Crowley property, the Embarcadero Cove and the Livingston Pier. Yay!

Nearby: Aquatic Park, Berkeley

A friend has been posting pictures of Monarch butterflies colonizing the eucalyptus trees at Aquatic Park in Berkeley. Traditionally, they visit a grove near Santa Cruz, but perhaps the milder winters have lured them farther north. There is something ironic about a Mexican butterfly seeking out an Australian tree in a Northern California park, and I wish all weary immigrants were welcomed as these are.

The day was sunny but only 49 degrees, bitterly cold by our standards, which may explain my lack of success. I spotted two Monarchs, one sunning itself on a leaf, the other making a lazy flight south, but never found the colony.

Aquatic Park itself is as charming as an estuary squeezed between a freeway and an active railroad line can be. From its southern entrance, off Shellmound in Emeryville, the paved path is nearly level and winds past several picnic areas and a playground before ending at Bancroft Avenue in Berkeley. I passed an unflappable blue heron into an alley of massive cypress trees. Coots, gulls and mallard-doodle ducks floated on the tranquil water, and a single-scull skiff went by.

Near the boating center, I startled a small hawk; a little farther on, a kingfisher. I regretted not bringing binoculars but truthfully, the day was too cold for standing still.

From Shellmound to Bancroft is about one mile, but feels shorter. It’s possible to continue north from Bancroft and across the iconic pedestrian bridge to Eastshore and Cesar Chavez parks, another mile and a half away.

Cool stuff nearby: The big orange warehouse you see across the railroad tracks at the north end of the park is Vik’s Chaat Corner cafe and Indian market. It serves some of the best street food and offers some of the best people-watching you’ll find on this side of the bay. The south end of the park isn’t far from the Emeryville Public Market.

Wheelchair access: Yes, with reservations. Although the path is nearly level and fully paved, the asphalt is in bad condition and may be muddy in some spots.


Illustrated Guide to Lake Merritt

The Bold Italic has published an illustrated guide to Lake Merritt that is as attractive as it is comprehensive. I agree with the commenter who says this would make a great poster.

Tulip Show, Mountain View Cemetery


The grounds of Mountain View Cemetery are in bloom, but the real show this weekend is in the chapel, where local garden clubs and florists are pushing the limits between arrangements and art.


No. 54: Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, Quarry Road and Quarry Trail

Quarry Trail, Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. (Mary Mazzocco)

The Quarry Trail is open to sun and sky.

Until recently, what Oaklanders would call the “back side” of Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve was officially off-limits. But about a year ago, the East Bay Regional Park District opened a trailhead just off Fish Ranch Road that makes a whole new segment of the park accessible to the public.

The route to the trailhead is just through the Caldecott Tunnel. By car, take the first exit, which turns sharply back towards Oakland. Continue straight up Old Tunnel Road a few hundred yards and you will see park district signs directing you to Quarry Road. (If you continue a little farther on Old Tunnel Road, you will reach one of the entrances to the Skyline Trail.)



Some of you may consider what follows to be more of a hike than a walk. Quarry Road, which is broad and paved, rises 200 feet in a little under a mile: not an impossible grade, but certainly one you will feel in your thighs. The hills around you are covered in yellow-flowered broom and the occasional modest-sized oak, and your route is open to the sun and sky.

A half-mile from the parking lot, or just about the point you may be tempted to turn around, the road makes a sharp S-bend, and a guidepost on the right points you through a cattle gate to the unpaved fire road called the Quarry Trail. This path, which is significantly more level, gives you a clear view of the Round Top Creek valley, a good place to look for raptors, although this morning it was the private domain of a lone hummingbird, who disdained to give way to the passing hiker as he sunned himself on a bare twig.

If you want a longer excursion, stay on Quarry Trail until it joins the Volcanic Trail, a sharp left turn about a half-mile from the cattle gate. This loops back to the summit of Quarry Road. Or continue a little farther to the Round Top Loop Trail — although most walkers will prefer to approach that from the Oakland side.

More information: About Sibley Volcanic Regional Park, and about the volcano. In fact, Andrew Alden’s OaklandGeology blog has several posts about Sibley, but he doesn’t use categories or tags, so the easiest way to find them is through Google.

Cool stuff nearby: When you return to Oakland by turning left on Fish Ranch Road to cross Highway 24, be sure to appreciate the Art Deco ornamentation over the original tunnel entrance. Other than a portable toilet in the parking lot, there are no nearby services.


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Instead of Wildflowers




So far this year, most of the flowers I’ve seen trailside are the ones we usually consider weeds: broom, vinca and sorrel. Maybe it’s the unusually dry winter. In any case, the cultivated blooms at the Morcom Amphitheater of Roses are putting on a spectacular show. Wistaria is out, like this one that covers the Morcom pergola. Dogwood trees are also in bloom –I find them most frequently in the Rockridge neighborhood and, more rarely, in Glenview.

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Feral fruit tree, Palos Colorados Trail, Joaquin Miller Park.