Huckleberry saddle

18 November 2013

The entrance to Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve is at a low point in the spine of the Oakland Hills, where the steep eastern arm of Thornhill canyon has cut headward toward the equally steep canyon of San Leandro Creek. Both canyons are steep because the rock between them is the tough Claremont chert. The saddle between the two canyons provides good views to the west and east, and a little path (labeled Huckleberry Path on the map) leads north from the Huckleberry entrance, a private entrance to the preserve for the residents of Elverton Drive. That’s where I got these pictures, first looking southwest toward downtown:

elvrtn-lakemerit

and due west, over the opposite wall of Thornhill canyon, toward the Golden Gate.

elvrtn-ggate

Turn around, and it’s just a few steps to find these views of the Las Trampas Ridge area—

elvrtn-trampas

—and Mount Diablo, which never ceases to surprise me when I see it from Oakland. I think of Diablo as a whole different domain, reachable only by a drive through the tunnel and not visible west of Lafayette. But here it is, looking downright neighborly.

elvrtn-diablo

Only a few Oaklanders get to see the view east; we’re a westward-leaning city.

The Oakmore block

7 November 2013

The Oakmore district is quite a distinct part of town. Here’s how its geology makes it so. I’ll call it the Oakmore block, although that’s a bit of a misnomer—it’s the eastern end of the Piedmont block.

oakmore-geomap

The neighborhood is defined by the light blue of Franciscan sandstone of the Novato Quarry terrane, bounded by three canyons. The canyon on the northeast side is occupied by Route 13, of course, which corresponds to the Hayward fault. Here’s the view across it, looking east from the easternmost corner of the Oakmore block (the end of Braemar Road) to Joaquin Miller Park. The top of the grassy slope is the overlook at Lookout Point.

joaquinview

Dimond Canyon on the west is the most dramatic boundary, but the bedrock is the same on both sides; there is some accident of geologic history that has maintained this deep streamcut. Leimert Boulevard defines that side of the neighborhood. Roadcuts about midway up Leimert expose a lot of strong sandstone like this.

leimertcrop

And on the southeast is an unsung stream valley cut along the edge of the Piedmont block. Whittle creek, I guess I’d call it, because Whittle Avenue runs up it, and the Head-Royce School is nestled in it. The valley grows into a nice amphitheater at its head. This is the view from there—the end of Melvin Road—across to the Greek cathedral and Mormon temple. Lincoln Avenue is the ridge road on the other side of this valley.

oakmore-temples

Over here I see more shaly bedrock, like this stuff exposed on uppermost Fruitvale Avenue . . .

oakmore-shale

. . . and bit more structure here where Wrenn Street meets Hoover Avenue.

oakmore-wrenn-hoover

All of this is expected in the Franciscan. The odd bit I haven’t figured out is near the end of Melvin, which looks to the naked eye like a volcaniclastic rock. Perhaps the boundary on the geologic map is a little off.

oakmore-volc

All I know is that when you take your eyes off the ground and look off toward the Bay, Oakmore is a mighty fine place.

oakmore-view

I don’t know exactly where the realtors put the southern line, but the dotted-line contact running from Sausal Creek along Whittle, marking the hidden thrust fault at the edge of the hills and the bedrock alike, works for me.

Actinolite decoration

26 October 2013

I enjoy seeing some of Oakland’s more unusual rock types when they show up in people’s yards. It shows that people like our rocks.

actinbartlett

This boulder of actinolite may not actually have come from Oakland, but it could have. Perhaps a resident spotted it in a streambed and said, “I give this to me.” It’s clearly not part of a professionally assembled landscape package.

Serpentine garden

19 October 2013

This house on Melvin Court has a splendid front yard based on serpentinite: serpentinized peridotite on the right, a serpentine-lined walkway with slate in matching colors, and inlays on the path composed of serpentine medallions. The house itself is painted serpentine blue-green. Click the photo for a big version.

serpgarden450

The Oakmore district is uniformly mapped as Franciscan sandstone, but just a little farther east it’s mapped as undivided Franciscan, so we might expect a mixture of possibilities here. The neat lines on the geologic map are as much hypotheses as they are conclusions. Other outcrops nearby look like volcaniclastic rocks, and some of this home’s neighbors use it effectively. I conclude, though, that this home’s landscape was composed with imported stones rather than assembled from what was lying around. But the rocks may well be Oakland natives from just up the way, perhaps even from the Serpentine Prairie quarry.

Baldwin Street boulder

6 October 2013

Out in East Oakland at the corner of 85th Avenue and Baldwin Street is this fine, underappreciated boulder.

85th-ave-chert

To all appearances, it’s good old Oakland chert, hard at work. I assume it was put here to keep vehicles from cutting across the corner, or perhaps to keep a runaway vehicle out of the building behind it. Who knows? I was just glad it was there to break the monotony. It’s free of graffiti, too.

The other end of Baldwin Street is east of the Coliseum, where it serves as a back entrance for staff and athletes, at the edge of Arroyo Viejo. That’s the creek you cross when you’re walking from the BART station to the game. So between stone and water, Baldwin Street pays more homage to geology than most of its peers.

Elverton exposures

25 September 2013

Elverton Drive is a very distinctive place in the high hills, not so much for its houses—though no insult meant to their owners—as for its bedrock. From end to end, it offers the best exposures anywhere of the Claremont chert.

elverton1

If it weren’t for the parking situation, this would be a great spot for a class exercise in field mapping. The strata are clear, the winding road offers a range of orientations to refine measurements, and the rock isn’t totally uncomplicated. Take this spot.

elverton2

What is the nature of the change between neat rows and rumpled layers? What can the student conclude from the evidence, and what should the student look for elsewhere to test those conclusions? I don’t know; I’m just asking and I didn’t inspect this closely. Besides, it might be on someone’s homework.

A few years ago, Elverton was blocked by a landslide. Residents could get in and out from either end, so it wasn’t that bad, but I stayed away until a few weeks ago. I think that this spot must be where it was. (If it’s not obvious, this is sculpted concrete.)

elvertonslide

Near the road’s east end is an old excavation, perhaps a small quarry, where you could examine these rocks at leisure and collect a specimen. But do notice the presence of fallen blocks, and if you feel an earthquake while you’re there, step the hell back.

East of Elverton, the chert crosses the ridgeline into the Huckleberry Preserve and trails into the back hills.

People’s Water Company

16 September 2013

This caught my eye by the side of Merriewood Road: an artifact of the early infrastructure in the Oakland hills.

peopleswater

It wasn’t until I checked just now that I realized how old this must be: The People’s Water Company was founded in 1906 and went bankrupt eight years later. At this time Oakland and the East Bay were seriously hampered by the limits of the local water supply, but somehow they ran pipes up here and got water to them, for a while.

Seems like a museum should have this. But the Oakland Museum of California is not a museum of Oakland, and the Camron-Stanford House, which started out as the city museum, is just a Victorian costume home. Who collects historic artifacts for the city of Oakland?


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