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?

Piedmont sulfur spring

8 September 2013

A comment to one of my posts talked about the sulfur springs of Bushy Dell Creek, in Piedmont Park. I said I couldn’t detect any and the commenter said where to look. So a few weeks ago I looked and found this small example.

sulfurspring

It’s just a trickle, but it offers a whiff of sulfur gas. More tellingly, it supports gray filaments of sulfur bacteria, seen here in closeup.

sulfurspringclose

These look like pollution, and I guess in our context that’s what they are. But whole microbial ecosystems center on a molecular economy of sulfur, oxygen, carbon and hydrogen. They’re mostly hidden underground near sulfur-bearing minerals, but here and there they get flushed out into the light.

Lakeside Park terrace

1 September 2013

Lakeside Park is one of the most parklike parks I know. Perhaps I feel this way because I imprinted on it at kindergarten age.

Click for larger photo

Youthful feelings aside, I think that geology makes the park this way: it’s set on the late Pleistocene marine terrace, planed and beveled by the sea waves during an interglacial highstand approximately 125,000 years ago. The planar setting, studded with trees to the limits of vision, suggests a vision of infinity, or at least limitlessness.

This spot is in front of Children’s Fairyland, where young children then and now can experience mind-blowing things everywhere they look. Show them these rocks, too: they’re ochre-stone and chert from our own hills.

Rock yard

23 August 2013

Years ago, a homeowner installed this yard facing Humboldt Avenue. I think of it as a California zen garden.

humboldtrockyard

These days, landscapers are obliged to buy rocks that come from out of town, produced in anonymous quarries by the big-rig load. This yard could have been furnished with stone from just a couple miles away. One of my many pipe-dreams is to set up a stoneyard where I’d salvage and sell recycled rock from local sources. The market would be vanishingly small, but if just a few people cared that might be enough.

Witter Field crossing

19 August 2013

Piedmont’s Witter Field occupies the valley of Bushy Dell Creek, in an opening in the topography where a large formal garden once sat. The creek is culverted here, but once in a while it needs attention, as it did last month. Out of sight is not out of trouble.

witterfield

It reminds me of the city streets: it seems like as soon as a nice new pavement is put down, a crew comes along to cut it open, as if the asphalt were there just to make a clean work surface.

The route 24 cut, south side

11 August 2013

A few weeks ago I managed to get a very nice view of the roadcut where the end of Gudde Ridge was trimmed to make room for route 24, east of the Caldecott Tunnel.

24southcut

That’s the lava flows of the Moraga Formation on the left. On the right edge is the coarse conglomerate of the underlying Orinda Formation. Click the photo for a 1000-pixel version. (The cut on the north side of 24 is shown here.)

This is not a view straight on; the ridge runs toward the lower right, so the steeply tilted rocks look vertical from this angle. It can often be hard to figure out the exact orientation of rocks, even in a splendid exposure like this.

Foothill’s foot

6 August 2013

Foothill Boulevard descends to Lake Merritt in this gentle slope down from the old marine terrace (Clinton terrace).

foothillfoot

For a mile and half east from here, Foothill runs along the terrace. East of 14th Avenue, where it’s a two-way street, it skirts the steep edge of the Fan at San Antonio hill where the contrast between the two geologic units is most dramatic.


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