Posted by: walkingthefault | February 20, 2008

The First Walk – A Four Year Odyssey

I am almost finished with walking every street, path, lane, and stairway in Berkeley, California. I started in 2004 when I retired from EBMUD. I am not the first person to do this. Jennifer English finished in December 2007, even though she started after I did. But then, she’s a lot younger, and probably fitter too. You can read all about her experience at Walking Berkeley.

I started the walks when I retired from East Bay Municipal Utility District in May 2004. I had been very ill for a number of years, but I loved my work so much that I hung in there. But I knew that if I didn’t kick back and start to relax, and get as fit as I possibly could, I’d be dead within a short time. So I set out to smell every rose in Berkeley.

The first day I could barely walk two blocks without gasping for air. But I persevered, a little bit further every day, and got up to about a mile within a couple of months. Then two miles. Then four. I didn’t go every day. Maybe three or four times a week.

Just like Jennifer, I marked my progress on the beautiful map published by the Berkeley Path Wanderer’s Association. I didn’t find out about that organization and their map until I had pretty near finished walking all of the flatlands, so I had to go back and walk along many of the paths and trails that I had missed.

Berkeley Path Wanderers Map

After I had finished about half of Berkeley, it got too much to walk to my starting point every day, so I would drive my car to a strategic location, park it, and start my walk from there. That was especially helpful when I started up in the Berkeley Hills, because you don’t want to have to do a three mile walk up steps and hills when you have just walked three miles just to get there from home! Plus, it gets boring walking the same streets every time. But Jennifer did the entire City of Berkeley from home, because she doesn’t have a car. I don’t know how she did it!

The past year has been spent entirely in the Berkeley Hills, with much of it up and down the stairways and lanes that connect the various areas at different elevations. The views are spectacular. Every time you turn a corner there is something new.

View of Mt Tam Through Tree

But there is a dark side. The more I walked, the more I thought about, and read about, earthquakes in the Bay area, and the coming earthquake on the Hayward Fault in particular. And it’s not only the fault that is the primary danger.

Do you remember the Oakland Hills Firestorm of 1991? Many areas in the Berkeley Hills are ripe for such a disaster, with wooden homes perched on the edge of canyons, roofs covered in dead vegetation, and surrounded by flammable eucalyptus trees. It’s an ideal setup for a devastating firestorm, possibly set off by the fires that will result from the earthquake.

As my walk of every street in Berkeley wound down, and I knew I had only a few miles to go, my thoughts turned to what I should do next. I knew it had to be more walking. I had to keep fit. Should I do another City? Other than San Francisco (which is a bit too ambitious), I knew that nothing could match Berkeley, and the Berkeley Hills in particular, for sheer beauty.

Codornices Creek Falls

The answer was obvious. I plan to walk every street, pathway, and lane alongside or crossing the Hayward Fault in Berkeley, just like I did before, but this time studying and documenting what I see. Some of it is not going to be pretty. The first time around I saw decaying buildings, abandoned cars with tanks probably half full of gas, piles of dried out vegetation and logs, and garbage spilling out of their containers. It’s not all neat, well-kept, manicured homes occupied by affluent people.

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