Archive for December, 2012

Lakeshore ridges walk (#26)

31 December 2012

Walk number 26 in Charles Fleming’s Secret Stairs East Bay traverses Longridge and its neighbor Calmar ridge, sticking to the paths and stairways. It doesn’t really give you the full experience of the ridges themselves (I plan to make posts for each), but it’s still fun to learn the local shortcuts. Here’s the route map on Google Maps terrain.


You can see that Longridge Road and Calmar Avenue are both ridge roads, which are especially desirable for developers and homeowners because everyone gets a great view unless the downhill neighbors decide to plant redwoods here, where the habitat is wrong.

The geologic map shows that essentially all the route is in the Pleistocene alluvial fan or, as I’m starting to think of it, the Fan.


The walk starts at the fine iron gateposts at the foot of Longridge Road. Locations of these photos are noted on the geologic map.


You ascend the ridge along its gently but persistently sloping crest, then sidestep into the private Oak Grove Park along its northern flank. The view here gives a glimpse of Mandana valley, between the two ridges, and the high spine of the Oakland Hills.


Most of the path is quite secluded, though. This entire neighborhood started out as grassland, like most of Oakland.


At the other end of the park is steep Paloma Avenue, providing good views of Calmar ridge across Mandana valley.


And here’s Mandana Boulevard, running down the floor of its stream valley. The creek here is entirely culverted and appears never to have merited its own name, probably because it was seasonal.


Now comes the hardcore stairway portion of the walk, straight up the flank of Calmar ridge and over its top down to Balfour Avenue, shown here. The stairway here is quite hinky, which distracts from the view of Grizzly Peak over the north end of the Piedmont bedrock block.


Another stairway takes you down to Walavista Avenue, running up its own valley. At the street’s upper end you hop over a subtle divide into the valley of a tributary to Wildwood Creek, traversed by a quiet, funky little path that butts onto another path connecting Carlston and Portal avenues as a continuation of Santa Ray Avenue. In 1912, this valley was a Key Route line.


You take the right hook onto Carlston and back down across Mandana valley, ready to climb Longridge again. The little pocket park across Mandana, on the right, is a good place to kick back on a bench.


The route takes a jog along Paramount Road, which happens to occupy the crest of the ridge here while Longridge Road is a little off to the side of its namesake. At the far end of Paramount, where the Fan leaves off and the Piedmont block begins, the terrain starts to change and Longridge peters out as a proper ridge. Right on the geologic line is the Crocker Highlands Elementary School.

From here the route goes along the south slope of Longridge and its stairways. This is part of the Trestle Glen neighborhood, but I don’t think of it as part of the glen itself, that is, Indian Gulch. Keep an eye out for views like this, from Longridge Road near the end of the walk.


Winter is a good time to take this walk, while the leaves are down. Here’s the detailed route map (click it to see full size).


Fleming calls this walk “Trestle Glen and Lakeshore Highlands.” The part of this neighborhood north of Mandana was developed as East Piedmont Heights.


Walavista valley, 1916/1925

25 December 2012

I have found a new time sink at the Online Archive of California, where this photo of undeveloped Walavista Avenue, from 1916, is posted as part of this collection.


The camera is on top of Warfield ridge, west of Lakeshore, just uphill from Fairbanks Avenue. The wooded gulch at back left is the charming little valley that Portal Avenue runs up, right at the Piedmont line. The Alameda Quarry, where Davies Tennis Stadium now sits, was just to its left, discreetly out of this developer’s portfolio photo.

Here’s roughly the same view in 1925. The view from there is still nice, but much more obstructed today.


The street on the left is Arimo Avenue, running up the smallest of the ridges south of Lakeshore, and the ridge on the right is populated today by Balfour and Calmar avenues. It is fascinating to see this topography in its original form.

Mammoths in Oakland

16 December 2012

The skull of a Pleistocene mammoth appears on this building at Telegraph and Sycamore.


Oakland’s youngest rocks are Miocene in age, around 10 million years. Next in age come the gravels and sands of Pleistocene time, within the last 2 million years or so. (I’m vague about this number because the definition of the Pleistocene just changed, and because I don’t know any firm dates for these sediments.) Any material from the time in between either was erased by erosion or never existed.

Because the great glaciers sucked more than 200 feet of water out of the ocean, Ice Age Oakland was part of an enormous grassland that extended across today’s Bay and far west of today’s coastline. State Parks paleontologist Breck Parkman has called it a California Serengetti (sic), teeming with large herbivores and predators to match, all of them extinct today except the condor.

Remains of these animals have been found in Oakland. When the Alameda Tube was being dug, fossils of ground sloths, short-faced bears, mammoths, camels and bison were recovered. Mammoth remains have been found in the Harris Street Tunnel, Montclair Playground, and 81st Avenue. A Pleistocene horse was found at Oak Knoll Hospital. A ground sloth was found at the Coliseum. When the next large-scale excavations happen in Oakland, the diggers may find these as well as fossils of dire wolves, mastodons, deer, llamas, pronghorns and smaller ground-dwelling mammals.