Local, Walks & Hikes

Finding Time For French Trail

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Yesterday was the day to honor what we are grateful and thankful for.  Today is a day when you may be thankful for elastic waistbands.  As I have spent the past few weeks trying to make sense of the changes our country has voted for I have never felt more grateful for the wonderful bubble we live in here in the Bay Area.  On the East Bay hills within that bubble are beautiful forests that offer respite and fresh air; space to breath.  The smell of a cool, damp forest floor in late fall is glorious.  The added benefit of a few calories burned is perfect to calm the guilt of those two pieces of pie; the one last night and the one you will enjoy this evening.  So pack a turkey and cranberry sandwich, drive up the hill to the Skyline Gate of Redwood Regional Park and enjoy time alone, or with family and friends.  Tis the season to appreciate how lucky we are to call Oakland home.

The French Trail of Redwood Regional Park stretches for about 4 miles deep in the redwood forest groves.  The trail was named for an early local environmentalist Harold French, who was an associate of John Muir and an instrumental figure in the development of public land in the Bay Area.  The best way to access the trail is from the Skyline Gate entrance on Skyline Blvd.  From the parking lot, head to the right to the West Ridge Trailhead to begin your hike.  After about a half of a mile, you will see the start of the French Trail on the left.  The trail is a single track dirt trail; bikes are not allowed.

The trail will start to drop away from the ridge; a gradual decline that will soon take you into the redwood groves.  While the original old growth coastal redwoods are no longer standing due to the logging boom in the 1800’s, the ones that now stand in their place are 2nd and 3rd growth relatives.  At this point the trail will take you on some steep inclines and drops as it twists around the valley floor.  You will cross paths with Tres Sendas Trail, followed by Redwood Peak Trail and Starflower Trail.  The goal during my recent visit was to hike the entire stretch of French Trail, but some of these intersecting trails offer you the ability to shorten your loop if needed.

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french-9As you continue along you will then intersect with Mill Trail, Fern Trail and finally Chown Trail.  All of these will take you to Stream Trail which is a straight shot back to the Skyline Gate parking lot.  Chown Trail is your last option before the final 1 mile stretch to Orchard Trail, which intersects with French at its end.  While patches of sunlight peak through here and there, the redwoods offer a canopy for the majority of the walk; padded dirt paths are soft underfoot while twisted roots require the occasional hop or sidestep.  This area of Redwood Regional Park is a yearlong gem; cool relief in hot summer months and a foggy umbrella to catch the rain in the winter.french-12

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french-18Once you reach Orchard Trail you are officially at the end of French Trail’s stretch.  Take a left and you have a steep drop down Orchard Trail for about 1/3 of a mile before it hits Bridle Trail.  You turn left and are parallel with Stream Trail on the other side of the stream bed for less than a 1/4 of a mile.  It then joins up with Stream Trail and you have a 3 mile trip back to Skyline Gate.  The entire loop is 8 miles.  I completed it in about three hours with stops for photo taking and a short snack break.  Be prepared that the last 1/2 mile or so is an incline back up to Skyline Gate, perfect to offset that pie guilt :o)

If today doesn’t allow for a half-day visit to the hills of Oakland, I encourage you to schedule it in soon.  As the coming weeks will bring holiday preparation that often comes with stress and chaos, time spent in the forested hills of our blessed bubble is the perfect relief; time to breath, time to appreciate, and time to find the waistband relief we will all need.

Enjoy :o)
Adrienne

Trail maps were in abundance during my visit; available in the kiosk on the left side of the Skyline Gate parking lot near the bathrooms.  In addition, you can download a PDF version to your phone, available here.  You will find directions and other details about Redwood Regional Park in the same link.

Keep in mind that the ladybugs are in abundance at this time of year along Stream Trail; another wonderful treat of this loop!  I saw signs marking their primary locations on my recent hike.  You can learn more about this local phenomenon from my post last year.

 

Artisans, History, Landmarks, Local

Unleash The Mid-Century Monster

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It’s appropriate that the first time I heard of a monster next to Lake Merritt it was in a children’s book.  Not to be confused with the living version that supposedly lurks beneath the lake’s surface; the monster I am referring to was once green, is an undulating structure of dips and curves, and was once a playtime favorite for local children lakeside.  Situated on the beach just below the Lake Merritt bandstand in Lakeside Park, the sculpture has been in place for over sixty years; a treasure created by a local jewelry designer who wanted city kids to feel the same joy felt when climbing an old tree.  Wear and tear has worn the monster down to a state unfit for the youth of 2016, but I say we bring it back to its former glory.

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Momma

Words When I Have No Words

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This has been a hard week; in truth, its been a hard year.  While there is the obvious cause which streams across our screens and feeds, there are also the private ones.  A friend once reminded me how to just be alive is hard, to live each day from sunrise to sundown takes energy and emotion.  Along that journey each day we take actions to decide, help, work, listen, soothe, in the name of both ourselves and of others.  It is no wonder we battle stress, exhaustion, and anxiety.  To do so when faced with adversity that feels like a brick wall overwhelms us.

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Momma

Forty Images to Celebrate 40

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I turned 40 this week.  It’s a funny number; a milestone that can come with mixed feelings.  I think back to when I turned 30, how I didn’t really feel odd about entering a new decade.  Yet when I turned 31, I was unsettled; in my mind it meant I was officially “in my 30’s”.  So silly how we look at these things.  Just for fun I decided to look up the definition of age.  While the definition of the noun wasn’t that thought provoking, it was the verb definition that caused me to pause; “to grow old or older, especially visibly and obviously so”.  Hmm.  It’s something I have become more aware of every time my daughter wants to take a selfie with me on my phone; the lines and creases that seem so much more apparent.  Just as time adds lines and creases to our skin, it adds dimension to life that may or may not be so obvious, as the definition states.  Experience comes with time, some good and some bad.  It is our experiences that form us, they take us by the hand and lead us along a path into each new year, ever the wiser; or so we hope.

When I thought about how I wanted to experience my entrance to age 40, I knew early on what I wanted to do.  I wanted to be alone.  As a wife and a mom of two small children, what I often miss is long stretches of time by myself.  I’ve been told it’s a trait that runs through the women in my family; we value solitude.  Months ago I began sharing my dream for my 40th birthday; I wanted to wake up by myself, spend an entire day by myself, and then go to bed…by myself.  Reactions were mixed; some understood and some didn’t.  I decided that my husband and I needed some time away as well, so he joined me for one night, and I then spent two on my own.  The Slow Coast region along Highway 1 seemed to be the perfect spot to combine the beauty of nature with peace, quiet, and a bit of self-indulgence.  So as I have thought about how to keep these memories in a place where I can peek back I thought forty pictures from my time away shared with you, and with me anytime that I need to draw inspiration, seemed appropriate.  Enjoy :o)

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I have set a high bar for how I spend 50, I look forward to giving it some thought :o)

Below are some links on my favorite spots along this corridor of Highway 1.  I highly recommend you take some time to enjoy this beautiful and particularly mellow part of our coastline.

For more information about the Slow Coast and some of its highlights, visit here.

The lighthouse pictured is Pigeon Point Lighthouse, and they have a hostel there you can stay at!

The forest and waterfalls you see in many images are from an AMAZING hike that stretches from Highway 1 into the Rancho del Oso section of Big Basin Redwoods State Park.  It is the Skyline to Sea to Berry Creek Falls hike mentioned in this link.  I highly recommend going past Berry Creek Falls by about 3/4 of a mile to the additional set of falls tucked above, it is worth it!

I indulged in an 80-minute massage at Costanoa, a wonderful resort located on Highway 1 between Pescadero and Davenport.  They have an array of accommodations, spa and a restaurant.  I didn’t stay there but I have had several friends recommend their tent cabins for the ultimate glamping experience.  The outdoor hot tub was perfect on an overcast afternoon, timed right between a 15-mile hike and the massage sampler :o)

Pie Ranch is a must for fresh produce, eggs, and of course PIE!  It’s an amazing place with an incredible mission.

I picked a bouquet of dahlias for myself at the Pescadero Flowery, a spot located right in downtown Pescadero, such a wonderful and fun experience.  I think their pick-your-own season is close to being over, but keep this in mind for a visit next year.

Swanton Berry Farm is where we picked strawberries earlier in the summer, their farm stand is a great stop along the Slow Coast.  The hot strawberry apple cider on a cold morning was perfect!

I stayed at an Airbnb that was located closer to the town of Davenport, called Dragonfly Flats; a cabin located on the owners property.  It was a lovely spot, but quite off the beaten path.  It was about a 15-minute drive to get back out to Highway 1.  The gas stove and clawfoot tub were pretty nice though!

A few other highlights not pictured:
Wine Tasting at Sante Arcangeli Family Wines in downtown Pescadero, they have surprisingly lovely Chardonnays and wonderful Pinot Noir.  I enjoyed chatting with the owner and picked up a couple of bottles.
Artichoke Bread from Arcangeli Grocery Company is a MUST.  Pair it with some goat cheese with Harley Goat Farm.
Whale City Bakery in Davenport – GO!  A must for breakfast…
Highway 1 Brewing Company – my husband and I had lunch here right before he left, a mellow place right on the highway with decent food and good beer.  They have outdoor seating as well.
Need a good book?  Ann Patchett’s new book Commonwealth is a wonderful read.

:o)
Adrienne

 

All photos by Adrienne Schell, do not use without permission.

 

 

History, Landmarks, Local, Walks & Hikes

A Celebration…with the Necklace of Lights

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There are two causes to celebrate on this Friday morning.  Just about one year ago on October 19th, 2015, I wrote my first post as Oakland Momma.  I introduced myself, and shared my early morning trip into the fog of Mountain View Cemetery.  Since then, my blog has grown, changed, taught both myself and others, and it has shown me that of all things I can write about, what I love most is to share stories about Oakland.  The second cause to celebrate; in three days I turn forty.  While for some it may be a number that has come and gone, and for others it seems to be in the distant future, for me it is the present.  While it seems like a big number, a number I sometimes see looking back at me in the mirror, I am eager to take a giant step forward into the next decade and can’t help but wonder what it will bring.  Time truly does goes by fast.  On the one hand, daily life can be exhausting and days can creep by; yet on the other, when it comes time to put the Christmas tree up again each year I am blown away by its speed.

As I thought about the appropriate way to celebrate these two milestones the decision came easily; a necklace.  It’s the necklace that graces the top of this page in lovely artwork created for me by a friend; the necklace that curls around the jewel of our city.  Just as forty years of life and 367 days of blogging have brought ups and down, the necklace of lights has also been put up, to then come down, to only be put up once again.  It not only graces our shores, but it has traveled across the Pacific to grace the streets of a Chinese village that once sat without light.  It’s a story of a city fighting for a piece of its history to shine once again, and I am happy to share it here.

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History, Landmarks, Local, Walks & Hikes

Lake Merritt’s Feathered Friends

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I have had birds on the brain recently.  Just last week I was woken in the middle of the night by an owl right outside my window.  It’s methodic and deep hoot was so loud I sat up in my drowsy state and wondered if it was in the house.  This late-night wakening coupled with my son’s recent fascination with his North American Birds Encyclopedia has caused fowl to be on my mind.  If you are like me, you may not give birds a second glance, or thought.  I hear them, see them, dodge their droppings, and shoo them away when they come looking for my kid’s crumbs.  Since I have been more curious about them in recent days, I have started to pay a bit more attention to them; their warbles and songs, their colors and beaks.  I have known for quite some time that Lake Merritt is home to a bird sanctuary of sorts.  In fact, its shores are home to the first wildlife refuge in the United States.  This past weekend my family and I made two trips lakeside.  The first was to enjoy an evening along the shore to burn off the energy that came from some very blue ice cream.  The other was to attend the 1st Oakland Nature Festival, a wonderful event hosted by the Rotary Nature Center where I was inspired to learn more about our feathered friends.

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Local, Walks & Hikes

Slower Pace in Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve

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When I have time to myself, one of the things I often prioritize is exercise.  Over the past year and a half I have tried to incorporate it into my life in efforts to lead a healthier lifestyle.  I think I walk a fine line between priority and obsession.  Sometimes the desire to burn calories competes with the need to slow down my mind and take care of the most important muscle in my body.  This inner battle caused Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve to move down the list of places to visit in recent months; the 1.7 mile loop known as Huckleberry Path didn’t seem challenging enough.  The word “path” almost seems to denote leisure, as opposed to “trail” which feels more conducive to a stint of cardio.  It took a bit of convincing but I eventually told myself that time in nature IS part of the healthy lifestyle I have worked to adopt.  It doesn’t need to be a 5-mile hike; deep breaths of fresh air, fun with my camera, and a leisurely walk down into the forest and back up again were the perfect respite at end of the week.

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Artisans, Landmarks, Local, Restaurants & Drink

Giraffes and Aztecali

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What do giraffes have in common with Mexico?  It sounds like a trick question, or a goofy one-liner.  If you ask Google, you are pointed to a rather interesting spiritual society called “Free Giraffes in Mexico”, a recipe for “giraffes huevos rancheros”, and an unfortunate story of a giraffe dodging traffic on a Mexican road while trying to make a run for it from a local circus.  So the better question to ask: what do giraffes have in common with Mexico IN OAKLAND?  The answer is a section of town with two busy thoroughfares that run in one-way directions under Hwy 580.  Oakland Avenue and Harrison Boulevard transect a portion of the lower hills; parallel roads that connect the northern tip of Lake Merritt with the highway, MacArthur Boulevard, and the Oakland Hills.  Therefore, people often move fast; too fast.  The statuesque giraffes have been a part of this confluence of intersections for 32 years.  Aztecali, a casual neighborhood eatery with home-style Mexican fare, has just joined the area this year.  Both give cause to slow down and appreciate craft in two different forms; it makes giraffes and Mexico synonymous in my book.

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