I finally got up into the Berkeley hills the other weekend after having promised myself to get up there at some stage. Hopping aboard the 65 bus from downtown Berkeley it made its way up through the winding roads of the Berkeley Hills, past houses with no doubt whopping price tags and stunning bay views.
I hopped off on the northern edge of the Lawrence Berkeley Labs campus and began walking up Grizzly Peak Boulevard. I quickly noticed I was the only person doing so, everyone else was making their way up by car. I walked carefully making sure I was as visible to the traffic as possible as there isn’t much or any of a footpath, just a little bit of tarmac at the side of the road.
Now to explain the title of this post…
No I didn’t meet Iron Maiden up there, although that would been pretty fantastic! I was checking the map on my phone to make sure I was going the right way and whether there were any hiking paths coming up that I could use as a shortcut. Suddenly from the bushes about 10 feet in front of me at the side of the road there was a tremendous rustling and crashing sound. Oh……..F**k…..were my initial thoughts as my eyes shot up from the screen.
And there it was, a mountain lion. Thankfully the back of the mountain lion, it’s huge tail and hind legs disappearing through the bushes and down an embankment on the side of the road. The rustling quickly stopped however, as if the creature thought “Wait just a damn minute, I just got scared by my own lunch!”. I froze, literally could not move. Panic set in and I thought about thumbing a lift from the next car that drove past. There was no cars driving past, not for what felt like hours. Then suddenly yaaay freedom, save me…….rich……Japanese…..couple….in your top of the range Mercedes and fancy clothes and even fancier sunglasses that hide your we’re not stopping for anyone eyes. Onwards they went, probably shopping for a new mountain lion coat for his wife. Nope won’t be getting a lift off them.
From around the corner a distant rumbling grows louder, another vehicle, my saviour! Pickup truck….toothless man……banjos……Deliverance. My thumb stays down.
I’ll keep walking and hope it’s more scared of me than I was of it. Which thankfully proved to be the case as here I am writing this blog post. I made it to the top of the road where the treeline faded away and the grandeur of the Bay area revealed itself, not like a dirty old man in a dressing gown but more like the super secret hiding cover being pulled off a shiny new product launch. A product launch where the cover gets stuck and only reveals half the newfangled thing.
Clouds. God damn motherf……Clouds! But hey it’s San Francisco, we wouldn’t have it any other way right? I could see down to Berkeley Marina, the little sliver of wood jutting into the ocean, I could see Oakland with its high rise buildings and bustling port, I could see the Bay Bridge worming its way into the clouds and then that was it. No San Francisco, no Golden Gate Bridge.
But hey not to worry, there’s always another day, and there’s lots of nice things to see up here anyway. I made my way up to the first viewpoint where a number of cars were already stopped. The occupants eyed me up as I walked towards them and make my way to the edge. What a rubbish view! And by rubbish I mean rubbish, trash, garbage, litter, you get the picture. Strewn all down the hillside below the lookout point were beer boxes, sweet wrappers, cigarette packaging, the detritus of lazy inconsiderate lurkers without a notion of respect for the environment. The same view greeted me at every lookout point along the road, it took away from the nice views and scenery I have to say. Nothing worse than seeing the grandeur and beauty of nature sullied by man. Shameful.
I continued on and realised to get back down I’d either have to go back the way I came or carry on and walk down Claremont Avenue.
So the pros and cons of going back the way I came….
PROS: Get back to the bus and don’t have to walk all the way down into Berkeley
CONS: Get eaten by a mountain lion!
Onwards it was, via the delightful Tilden Park Steam train, which looked like a really fun thing for families and kids. I walked onwards and reached Claremont Avenue, which actually I was pretty excited about as I knew it was the road bombed by a pair of lunatics in a longboard video I had seen a few years ago. Having walked down that road, I can safely say that yes, those men are insane.
The road comes to an end at the back of the delightful Claremont Hotel which has a real old-fashioned vibe to it. We had a few drinks there recently and it’s a great spot to spend a chilled evening overlooking the bay.
So all in all it was a really nice day out and despite the disappointment of the weather, there are some truly spectacular views up there. I recounted my tale to Bob, in the house we are staying in and he asked me had I seen any rattlesnakes while I was up there. Rattlesnakes? Had I known that I would probably have thumbed a lift all the way up and not gotten out of the car till we were back in Berkeley! But hey, I survived, saw the wilderness and realised I need to plan these trips a little better. Anyhoo here’s some photos from the afternoon from one side of the LBL up into the hills and back down via Claremont Avenue. I’d recommend driving 🙂