Tag Archives: Rockridge

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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No. 51: Rockridge Park, Prospect Steps and Locarno Path

Margarido boulder

This chert boulder on Margarido Drive, covered with a wistaria vine, shows how the “Rock Ridge” neighborhood got its name.

Pass through the stately white pillars marking Rockridge Boulevard, and you quickly come to Rockridge Park, a green triangle randomly planted and with few amenities to welcome the passerby. The neighborhood around it, however, is full of interesting architecture and pedestrian-friendly — if aerobic — steps.Map of Prospect and Locarno Steps

Head up Rockridge Boulevard South, and you will soon see the Prospect Steps on your left, up what looks like an extended driveway. An early morning jogger is already using them to climb the hill. Unlike the Oakmore Steps, these haven’t been rebuilt in a while, and their treads tilt crazily where the bare trees are flexing their roots.

After the steps cross Margarido Drive, you should turn around from time to time, to catch your breath as well as the panoramic view across the city. The steps change their name to West Lane as they continue past Manchester Drive, and as you come over the top of the ridge, you have a second vista across the valley of Temescal Creek toward the Montclair Hills.

Locarno Steps

Locarno Path steps

Turn right on Ocean View Drive, and right again on Alpine Terrace. At the very end of Alpine is the Locarno Path, which will take you down to Acacia Avenue. Mindful of their Italian namesake, someone has planted artichokes at the foot of the first flight of steps.

Turning right on Acacia, you pass the occasional newer home or fenced-off empty lot reminds you that the 1991 firestorm touched this neighborhood. But for the most part, the homes are in the traditional styles of the mid-20th century or earlier, and as Acacia drops down the hill, you again catch a glimpse of the view their residents get to enjoy every day.

You will have to step into the street at this point, as the sidewalk disappears, but there is plenty of room for cars to pass safely. Turn right on Margarido, step back onto the sidewalk, and admire the large outcropping of chert on the left side. The owners of the house beneath are using it to hold up part of an extensive wistaria arbor.

At the end of the block, Margarido curves to the right, and by looking sharply near the antique-style light post, you will spot the unmarked pedestrian way that will return you to Rockridge Park. The entire loop is just under a mile.

Cool stuff in the neighborhood: The area around the Rockridge BART station is full of cafes and restaurants, from the elegant Oliveto to the popular Zachary’s Pizza and Cactus Taqueria. Shoppers can also peruse a number of boutiques and Pendragon Books.

More information: About the hunt for the original “Rock Ridge” and the Margarido boulder from the Oakland Geology blog. A four-mile walk that starts at Rockridge BART and includes part of this route is described on the Oakland Urban Paths blog.

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No. 48: Claremont, Hillcrest Road, The Uplands, Plaza Drive and Parkside Drive

ginkgo trees, hillcrest road, berkeley

Ginkgo trees provide fall color along Hillcrest Road.

While the intersection of Claremont and College avenues is in Oakland, the neighborhood called Claremont is mostly in Berkeley. Hillcrest Road is about two-thirds of a mile from the Rockridge BART station — a pleasant enough walk in itself, along a commercial stretch of College and the broad, tree-lined and fashionable stretch of Claremont.

Chicken mailbox

Mailbox, The Uplands

For a 1.5-mile walk, start at Hillcrest and Claremont, heading uphill through a massive pair of stone pillars marking the neighborhood boundary. Two young ginkgos are covered in brilliant yellow leaves, and have shed a golden carpet over the sidewalk. As you climb, you pass an eclectic mix of brown shingled houses, Tudors and Mediterranean-style manors. It’s architecturally similar to the Trestle Glen neighborhood, but with a less-formal feel. You’re unlikely to find a rustic mailbox shaped like a chicken in Trestle Glen!

Hillcrest makes a sharp switchback as it climbs the hill. You could take a shortcut using The Steps, one of a half-dozen named pedestrian ways in the neighborhood, or stay on the sidewalk. California’s whimsical idea of “fall” means that, while you’ll pass flaming liquidambars and naked persimmon trees covered with brilliant fruit, you’ll also see roses and bougainvillia in full bloom.

I chose another passage, The Crossways, to cut downhill through a tunnel of trees to The Uplands. This street is popular with joggers and dog-walkers; it’s steep enough to provide a real workout. Turn left on El Camino Real and use The Cutoff, another pedestrian way, to drop down again to Plaza Drive. 

At this point, you have a choice: Turn left and use Plaza to return to Claremont Avenue, or right and use Parkside Drive. There is a mini-park at the corner of Plaza and Parkside, and a trail that threads the narrow median between Parkside and The Uplands. Both routes have their charms; the shingled houses along Plaza are especially lovely, but I also like the relatively modest bungalow on Parkside that has its own tiny polled-sycamore alley .

As you get close to Claremont Avenue and rejoin The Uplands, you will suddenly hear Claremont Creek chuckling beneath your feet. It comes above ground in the yard of a large white Victorian with a grapevine fence, then runs along Claremont Avenue down to Hillcrest. Perhaps drawn by the open water,  wild turkeys have been seen crossing Claremont in this block.

Getting there: Hillcrest Road crosses Claremont Avenue east of College Avenue and west of Ashby Avenue. Rockridge BART is about two-thirds of a mile away, and buses run along Claremont.

Cool stuff in the neighborhood: Dark Carnival Bookstore, at Claremont and The Uplands, specializes in science fiction, fantasy and  mystery novels. Its narrow aisles and overstuffed shelves make it a unique shopping experience. The complete geek will want to visit The Escapist comic book store, two doors down. If you want more elevating literature, head uphill a few doors. Turtle Island Book Shop specializes in antiquarian and out-of-print books, and Afikomen carries books with Jewish themes along with other Judaica. Both Star Grocery and the Semifreddi bakery and cafe nearby sell refreshments.

More information/accessibility note: Claremont Avenue and The Uplands are accessible (although strenuous) for reasonably fit people using manual wheelchairs. Plaza and Parkside drives would make a short, nearly level loop. None of the pedestrian ways I saw was accessible; most are too steep and others use steps.

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No. 28: FROG Park, Lower Rockridge and Temescal neighborhoods

The Clarke Street end of FROG Park.

The Clarke Street end of FROG Park, with one of artist Mark Brest Van Kempen’s telescopes visible where Temescal Creek disappears into an underground culvert.

A little over 10 years ago, a coalition of community groups came together to restore a three-block stretch of Temescal Creek, opening it up and landscaping it, adding a path and using it to link two playgrounds. And judging by the number of people using FROG (Friends of the Greenbelt) Park on a Sunday afternoon, their work has been a smashing success.

Start at Clarke Street and Redondo Avenue and walk upstream; you’ll pass a half-dozen kids and their parents playing in the grassy verge of the creek or in the tot lot under a stand of redwoods. Around the curve in the path, the creek becomes more natural, and a woman is throwing a ball across it for an ecstatic Australian shepherd to chase. You can step off the sidewalk and follow a narrow dirt trail next to the creek.

In the next block, the park passes behind the Department of Motor Vehicles. Sunday is farmer’s market day in the DMV parking lot, and several groups are eating market meals while sitting next to the creek. You may have noticed several concrete monoliths along the path with telescopes set at adult- and child-eye level. Each telescope focuses on a bronze sculpture. Most depict native animals; one is an Ohlone mortar.

A Victorian on Miles Avenue.

A Victorian on Miles Avenue.

The path ends at Hardy Street, where the creek flattens out into a wading pool full of splashing kids next to a wooden castle and train model. You can extend your walk into the neighborhood; the streets that run between Hudson and Cavour streets are narrow and tree-lined. You will see not only gracious bungalows, some with second stories, but a few grand Victorians.

Update: I don’t know how many parents would be willing to let their children play in the water in winter, but in case Count Olaf reads this blog, he should know that the wading pond and creekbed are dry right now. (Jan. 6, 2013)

Getting there: FROG Park runs parallel to Claremont Avenue between Telegraph Avenue and Hudson. Rockridge BART is nearby.

Cool stuff in the neighborhood: Really, too much to list everything. The Temescal shopping district, around Telegraph Avenue and 51st Street, includes Bakesale Betty, the Genova Delicatessen, a number of Ethiopian restaurants, and Temescal Alley, a hip collection of shops  off 49th Street between Telegraph and Clarke. The shopping district along College Avenue near Rockridge BART includes Market Hall and Bittersweet Cafe.

More information: About FROG Park from Friends of the Greenbelt; about the Temescal Farmer’s Market from Urbanvillage.

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