Archive for September, 2011

Panoramic panorama

28 September 2011

Panoramic Way, the northernmost street in Oakland, is well named. Here’s the view west from there, across the Cal campus, Albany Hill (El Cerrito), Point Richmond and eastern Marin County in late May. This was a beautiful summer, once it got started.

view west from panoramic way

Click the photo for the 1200 x 900 version.


The Berkeley panhandle walk (#1)

19 September 2011

Here’s another stairs-and-paths walk from Charles Fleming’s Secret Stairs East Bay, one that he calls “Claremont: The Uplands” but I will call the Berkeley panhandle. It feature’s Berkeley’s share of the Piedmont block of Franciscan melange. Here’s the route map, showing the locations of the photos.

walk #1 route

The terrain consists of steep-sided hills, naturally, which is why there are stairways. On the south they overlook the flat-floored valley of Temescal Creek; on the west is Harwood or Claremont Creek, and on the east is the eroded swale along the Hayward fault, the approximate location of which I’ve marked with the big dashed line.

walk #1 terrain

This time I’ll throw in the geology too, since the panhandle is faded out in my master Oakland geology map.

walk #1 geology

KJfm is Cretaceous-Jurassic (age) Franciscan melange; the red blobs are notable chert outcrops, and I assume the teeny blue one is serpentinite. The gold is alluvial fan material. The curving black dashed line is the inferred fault at the edge of the Piedmont block with the teeth on the upthrown side. OK!

The gates of The Uplands were designed by John Galen Howard of local chert. Berkeley’s architects at the turn of the last century were enamored of the local rocks.

claremont gates

Eucalyptus Road winds around the rim of a promontory, and down at its tip is a big chert knocker, the one on the map.

eucalyptus knocker

But the area is also full of landscaping and building stone. The basalt of this home may have come from the Sibley quarry, but there are other sources of stone like this too.

dark stone house

Some of the nondescript melange crops out at the foot of South Crossways/the head of Roslyn Court; take a look around when you’re there.

roslyn court

A more extensive exposure appears where you enter Roanoke Road. Melange is mostly sandstone or shale that vegetation tends to like, so you don’t see it much.

roanoke melange

Now we go way up on the ridge, Berekeley’s counterpart to the highlands of uppermost Broadway Terrace. It’s much smaller, greener, and more exclusive, probably a lot like the Oakland neighborhood looked like before the fire. This structure, Fleming points out, is brick from the brickworks at Port Costa, including the decorative clinker bricks. I love this stuff.

port costa brick

Do look around, not just downward and outward but upward.

oak and home

The walk leads off the ridge and down to Claremont/Harwood Creek, on its way from Claremont Canyon to join Temescal Creek under the freeway near the BART station.

claremont creek

It’s a privilege to have living water in a neighborhood. Last comes this baroque grotto/pool thing in a front yard that was assembled of serpentine chunks much like Elks Peak.

serpentine extravaganza

Remember, all this is in addition to some grand and gracious homes surrounded by luscious landscaping. Those are Fleming’s main focus; my thing about rocks and stuff is a mere ancillary obsession.

Woodminster Cascades

16 September 2011

Oakland is blessed with excellent stonework dating from the Depression-era Works Progress Administration or WPA. When the WPA got together with Park Superintendent William Mott to build Woodminster, in 1940, an experienced cadre of artisans built its elegant features with a sure hand.


I should know more about the stone, but I don’t. It’s very similar to the stone used at Lake Temescal and the East Bay Botanic Garden in Tilden Park. It likely came from the Leona Quarry.

While you’re there, be sure to admire the amphitheater’s Deco concrete. And keep your eye open for WPA concrete in Oakland’s sidewalks and gutters. I’ve seen WPA marks from 1939, 1940 and 1941. This investment in public works has endured for more than 70 years.

Glenview walk (#23)

8 September 2011

This is another path-and-stairways walk from Charles Fleming’s book Secret Stairs East Bay; his description of the homes and streets is good, but I’m here to talk about the geology you’ll see en route.

The walk starts on Park Boulevard, which is one of Oakland’s premier ridge routes, maybe its best. On its north is Indian Gulch, later known as Trestle Glen, and on its south is Dimond Canyon. Trestle Glen Creek is now culverted, although its waters still run free upstream in Piedmont. Dimond Canyon and points downstream, of course, feature Sausal Creek. The whole idea of Glenview the neighborhood is that from Park Boulevard you could overlook glens—secluded wooded stream valleys—on either side. (Such honesty in marketing may seem quaint today.) The walk route (created using gmap-pedometer) traverses stairs and pathways on the Trestle Glen side:

walk 23 route

Here’s the topography, courtesy Google Maps, with the photo stops marked as well as the bedrock line between the Piedmont block and the Pleistocene alluvial fan at Oakland’s heart. See the Oakland geologic map for context.

walk 23 map

The walk begins on Park Boulevard, going up the gentle slope of the remnant fan. I would love to see what’s beneath these homes, but how likely is that?

park boulevard

As you rise, the hills emerge as does the occasional vista. The Glenview really is the everything-view.

temple vista

At this point the walk leaves the spine of the fan and wanders the slopes and floor of Indian Gulch. The mature palms and lush vegetation combine with steep slopes (though not the insane slopes of the high hills) for a distinctive charm.

steep streets

Again, watch where the trees allow a peep through. Homeowners with their upper stories are privileged over streetwalkers in this respect.

downtown harbor view

On Elbert Street, a patch of rustic funk, emerges bedrock—just a prosaic Franciscan sandstone here. Perhaps more crops out along the power line through this neighborhood, but I was here to follow instructions and did not check.


The walk delivers us to the floor of Indian Gulch, long since vacated by its namesake indigenes, converted from a park (with trestle) and turned into a classic upper-middle-class residential district. The narrow road and steep-walled valley give it a uniquely intimate feel. Farther up the valley, what looks like real woods is just the hinterland of what appears to be Piedmont’s largest private lot.

trestle glen

The walk leaves the valley floor at the foot of Barrows Road. Higher up you begin to glimpse the high hills again above the densely settled slopes.

glen slopes

It appears to me that the bedrock portion of the stream valley is a bit steeper than the alluvial-fan part, but not by much. The transition between them is quite subtle. The fan sediments are well compacted and bound with firm clay.