Good Deeds, Good Drinks

Do you like to leaven your volunteering with a catered gourmet meal and cocktail hour? Then spending a weekend in September restoring a portion of the Big Trees Trail in Joaquin Miller Park may be just the good deed you’ve been looking for.

Volunteers for Outdoor California is recruiting folks to help build new sections of the Big Trails Trail which have eroded in two spots leaving the root network of adjacent trees vulnerable. It’s two days of moderate manual labor, and plenty of sustenance to maintain the aforementioned labor. On Saturday, September 11 the work day begins at 8 am and ends at 3 pm. Happy hour starts at 4pm, dinner and entertainment begins at 6:15pm. Volunteers are encouraged to start camping at the site Friday evening. This will be the second time V-O-Cal has partnered with the City of Oakland to work on projects in Joaquin Miller Park. In 2007, 200 volunteers came out to build half a mile of new trail.

The Friends Of Parks Phenomenon

Especially for our nearby city parks and open spaces, the spirit of volunteerism is alive and kicking.  After months in the works, Friends Of Parks groups will be officially baptized for the Montclair Railroad Trail and Joaquin Miller Park.  These blessings should make things easier when attracting volunteers, raising funds and getting a few projects done.

Friends of Montclair RR Trail

Last year, we witnessed plenty of upset over Shepherd Canyon’s old railroad right-of-way.  This trail is well-loved by walkers, bicyclers and dogs heading back and forth to the Village.  To improve the path, a group of volunteers has been cleaning areas monthly and getting more organized about priorities.

Now these volunteers and others are invited to join the “Friends of Montclair RR Trail.”  The fledgling group will be holding their first annual meeting soon – on Saturday, April 10th, 12:30 – 2:30 pm at the Montclair Rec Center.  (More info here.)

Friends of Joaquin Miller Park

Nearly ditto for Joaquin Miller Park, after this crown jewel was left tarnished last year.  Park rangers had decamped from their office, and then were eliminated altogether.  In their place came bonfires and troubles, and then volunteers who decided what needed short and long-term attention – including projects like Joaquin Miller’s homestead restoration.

“Friends of Joaquin Miller Park” has evolved into a more structured group, which will hold their first formal meeting and all-day celebration – on Sunday, April 25th, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, at Sanborn Drive.  Come prepared to picnic and hike as well.  (More info here.)

Montclair Park Without Friends

Only kidding!  Beyond the Friends Of Parks phenomenon, we have long appreciated the volunteers who support Montclair Park, from planting flowers to leading weekly hikes.  Maintenance and clean-ups have become a problem with staff reductions, something that Park Director Mark Zinns has been trying to manage with help from all willing hands.

Teens may provide an answer, especially those invited to hang out at the park.  Besides having a place to go after school, “Teen Power Project” volunteers hope to encourage kids to participate in spring clean-ups.  By the way, there’s a kick-off for teens and families to celebrate with snacks, skateboarding and teen singers – on Wednesday, April 21st, 2:30 – 6:30 pm at the park.  (More info here.)

While there have always been volunteer efforts, it feels like neighbors are more involved than in earlier, more flush times.  There’s no question that a core group of volunteers are motivated to keep parks safe and cleaned up, to conserve remaining open parcels, and to honor the historical heritage around here.  The progress is slow and steady, but heartening.

Where To Walk When It’s Too Hot

Today we’re supposed to hit 88 degrees, even in Oakland.  Yes, we know more robust East Bayers from the other side of the Caldecott Tunnel can take triple digits, but these temps are plenty hot for us.

To honor and respect the heat, the Montclair Hiking Club called off their weekly hike which had been planned for a distant red-hot spot.  That makes some sense, but you can always walk – even in the worst heat imaginable – in our local hills.

Typical Huckleberry Relief

Assuming you aren’t getting out there by dawn, don’t give up hope on Spare The Air Days!  The not-so-secret trees, and their fantastic shade, never disappoint the mid-day walkers.  Here are our favorite, reliable paths even in summer doldrums:

  • Huckleberry Relief – 90% shade – Take Huckleberry Path on the left (.05), turn right on Bay Area Ridge Trail (0.37) and saunter for a while in the woods (1.33).  Then veer right to return on Huckleberry Path (2.39).  See trail map and trail head.
  • Huckleberry-Sibley Traverse – 65% shade – Take Huckleberry Path on the left (.05), turn left on Bay Area Ridge Trail (0.37) and take another left (0.49).  Then zig right (1.30) and zag left (1.38) to land on a paved road (1.41).  Proceed uphill to take in a Mt. Diablo view and finally reach Round Top (est 2.0).  Retrace steps to Huckleberry (est 4.0).  See trail map and trail head.
  • Redwood Stream Trail – 90% shade – From Skyline, take the classic Stream Trail out and back, even when there’s zero running water.  Stay in the shade by sticking to this valley floor until trail’s end (1.93), and return the same way (3.86).  The walk can be shortened, since it’s an up-and-back route.  See trail map and trail head.
  • Redwood Classic – 75% shade – From Skyline, take West Ridge Trail and turn left on French Trail (0.59).  Make a left on Tres Sendas (1.19), right on Star Flower (1.43), left on French (1.60) and left on Chown (3.28).  At bottom, take a left on Stream Trail (3.82) and return back (5.75).  See trail map and trail head.
  • Redwood Peak – 95% shade – Park at Chabot Space & Science lot.  Take West Ridge Trail through Redwood Bowl and follow signs to Redwood Peak, even though they feel like side trails.  Yes this is all redwoods, all the time here (est 1 mile, round trip).  See trail map and trail head.
  • Joaquin Miller Park – 65% shade – Start at Sunset Loop and turn left on either Wild Rose or Fern Ravine.  Make a right on Sequoia Bayview Trail, and then head down Sunset Trail to return (est 2 miles, round trip).  An alternate route takes you left on Sunset Trail and Palos Colorados Trail along the stream, and then heads back (est 2 miles, round trip).  See trail map and trail head.
  • Leona Canyon Escape – 50% shade – From Canyon Oaks, take Leona Trail past the vestiges of a running stream.  Take a left on Pyrite Trail (0.73) and head upwards until trail’s end (1.53).  Return back to Canyon Oaks (3.06).  See trail map and trail head.

Now we have removed all the excuses, as you can luxuriate in Madrones or Redwood trees which pretty much snuff out the sunlight all year.  Feel free to suggest some of your own favorite escapes from the heated days too.

Camp in Joaquin Miller Park, A Rare Occasion

2010 Update:   Camp in Joaquin Miller Park this year, on June 26-27th!  Please call Stephanie Benavidez at 510-238-3739 to sign-up.  It costs just $8 per person, and remember to bring your own camp gear.


If you have kids, then why not take them camping?  You probably have many excuses wrapped around the logistical maneuvers and long drives.  Save the hassles by participating in the Great American Backyard Campout – right here at Joaquin Miller Park.

Great American Backyard Campout

Once a year, you and your family can easily camp under the stars.  Oakland Parks and Recreation runs this great event at Joaquin Miller Park (map) – starting at 2pm on June 27th and breaking camp by noon on June 28th.

This camping staycation costs only $9/resident or $11/non-resident, which includes dinner, camp snacks, and a continental breakfast.  You do have to bring your own camping gear, though.

The main catch is signing up for a few coveted slots in advance.  Please sign up here or else call Stephanie Benavidez at 510-867-0669.

Looking for 168 Good Campers

This Saturday, Oakland Parks is looking for another 168 good campers to spend the night at Joaquin Miller Park.  There’s plenty of room left on the Great Meadow for your family.

As part of this year’s Great American Backyard Campout, you would join more than 20,431 campers (as of last count) across the country.

Just bring the family, some clothes and a tent.  You’ll have time to commune with Mother Nature, including these beautiful hikes in the Park.

For $8.50/person, Oakland Parks will serve you snacks, dinner and breakfast.  That’s camping in style, without any heavy lifting.

At this late date, I would reach Stephanie Benavidez at 510-867-0669.  You can also pay online.