Having taken the pressure off myself to write a second “science” blog (one of my two other blogs is Goodheart’s Extreme Science) I hope to get out more regular posts about my beloved Berkeley Hills.
But first, a word about that term, “Berkeley Hills.” When I use that term, I mean the geological formation that is part of the Pacific Coast Ranges, not just the hills immediately above the City of Berkeley.
So, peace, dear friends in Oakland, and other beautiful cities abutting these lovely hills! I know how beautiful the hills are above you as well, because I often hike there:
The Berkeley Hills are a range of the Pacific Coast Ranges that overlook the northeast side of the valley that surrounds San Francisco Bay. They were previously called the “Contra Costa Range/Hills”, but with the establishment of Berkeley and the University of California, the current usage was applied by geographers and gazetteers.
Tectonically, the Berkeley Hills are bounded by the major Hayward Fault along their western base, and the minor Wildcat Fault on their eastern side. The highest peaks are Vollmer Peak (elevation 1,905 feet/581m), Grizzly Peak (elevation 1,754 feet/535 m) and Round Top (elevation 1,761 feet/537m), an extinct volcano, and William Rust Summit 1,004 feet.
With that clarified, let’s take a look at some of my favorite recent images from the Berkeley Hills. I hope they inspire you to discover the amazing beauty of the Hills for yourself. In 15 or 20 minutes, up a trail, and you are in a place of great wonder and beauty, indeed, even a place of Faerie:
If you click on any of the images below, you can see a higher resoltuion 1600 x 1200 image.
Although my wife and I have only been here a year and a half, I already look forward to seeing the Hills do their dramatic change from emeralds to golds and browns as the virtually rainless summer begins. This year, because of the very heavy winter and late spring rains, the usual transition was much later than last year.
This is the near the beginning of the fire trail that runs up the north side of Claremont Canyon.
Here is a view of the historic UC Berkeley Cyclotron from one of the fire trails in Strawberry Canyon.
If you hike late in the Hills, you are often treated to the most beautiful sunsets. Here, I was walking back down from Claremont Canyon toward the Campus.
Because of the very heavy winter and spring rains, the Hills were especially lush this year, with explosions of wild flowers everywhere. This shot looks down into Claremont Canyon from Panoramic Way.
Many of the trees in lower parts of Strawberry Canyon are covered in beautiful lichen and moss. I’m always amazed how many species there are and how richly varied the colors can be.
When the California poppies start to pop up in the Claremont and Strawberry Canyons, and I know spring has really arrived. I have a special place in my heart for the poppies, because they are part of my earliest childhood memories when my family still lived in California.
I am a connoisseur of clouds, and I have to say that the Bay Area has some of the best cirrus clouds I’ve ever seen. I wish this photo could show more of the incredible traceries and webbing that these particular cirrus had, but at least you can get a feel for it. I am amazed at how many people don’t really seem to pay attention the sky or clouds. Some days, the sky can take your breath away. Look up!
There are some magnificent Sequoia trees about half-way up the Strawberry fire trail that starts on Centennial Drive. These hundred-foot plus trees are in the Woodbridge Metcalf Grove, which was planted by University of California students in 1926. (The little stone marker for this beautiful stand of trees actually reads “Woodbridge Metoale Grove”—not sure why.)
Spring in Claremont Canyon is just glorious, and the naturalist in me wants to get a good book on the local plants and start learning some names. I would love any suggestions from readers on good books about the flora or fauna of the area!
I was really struck by the color of these mushrooms growing on a log. Again, I wish I could identify species, because I’ve seen so many varieties on my hikes.
I loved how the moss was growing into the cracks of this rock—one of the more beautiful forms of erosion.
More poppies. Again, when I come upon a clump of these lovely ladies (they always seem like dainty ladies to me), they just make me happy. I like how the petals close up for the night, or when it’s too cold for them, or too cloudy. This seems like perfect behavior for the state flower of sunny California.
One of the things I immediately fell in love with about the Bay Area is how many beautiful trails there are to hike, and how accessible they are. A ten-minute hike out of Berkeley Campus or East Oakland and you can be in incredible beauty.
I love the winter storms we have here in the San Francisco Bay area. The mighty storms from the Pacific are really impressive, though most of them can’t match the fury and grandeur of the Nor’easters I enjoyed (yes, enjoyed, as I confess, I’m a weather nut) when I lived in Boston.
One of the interesting geological features of this area, and of Southern California, are landslides. Here’s a small one came across on Panoramic Way after a really heavy rain storm. You can read more about it here:
Here’s one of the beautiful little waterfalls in Strawberry Canyon. I often stop here and just listen and watch.
This shot was taken coming home after a long hike in Claremont Canyon. I was thoroughly wet and muddy and happy as a golden lab after a romp in the hills. As I was coming down Panoramic Way, the storm lifted and I was able to see Oakland and the Bay Bridge, and the City, in the distance. It was a magical moment.
This was without a doubt one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some real beauts growing up in the Southwest desert and in New England. (I’ll share more in a later post.)
Standing on the top of one of the taller hills above Strawberry Canyon, I couldn’t believe my great fortune to be there at that moment, looking at this beautiful Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and a sky on fire. I hope you see such a sunset one day. It is truly a great, great blessing to be alive on this beautiful planet and see its wonders.
May we meet as friends, some day, in the Hills of Great Beauty!