What a difference a week makes! The Wednesday before the weather concern was the heat, but as our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group assembled last week at the Exedra there was the prospect of some rain.
Phone weather apps said the chance was only six to seven percent, but a few of the morning clouds were a gray not seen in months. We did not take them too seriously, but weekend water seemed like a happy, real possibility.
We would not get wet this morning and there was a strong turnout of 37 walkers at the Exedra.
Besides the cooler weather there was an extra incentive to come walk this week. Melba had suggested we would enjoy going back to see Christina Schneck and her wonderful garden. Christina gave the group a tour a couple of years before that was enjoyed by all, and a call to Christina confirmed she would be happy to have us come visit again. This is a long, flat walk, and that was the plan for the morning.
With the announcements completed, we started off taking a familiar route up Highland to Sheridan and Wildwood Avenues. However, rather than going through the Hall Fenway to Crocker Avenue, we wanted to see the progress that had been made on an unusual residential project on Crocker. On our walk two weeks before, we had seen the start of a front yard excavation that will create a garage for a long garage-less house. This Albert Farr designed home was built in 1906 when a garage was not considered necessary. Now, the house is getting one. The steep front yard is being deeply carved out and concrete retaining walls have to be built to ensure the hillside doesn't collapse on workers now, or the garage later. The construction is a slow process that we will monitor. We also saw a flag at half-staff on a pole to the left of the house. We were not sure if it was the Australian or New Zealand flag, but it was surely intended to honor Queen Elizabeth. [It was an Australian flag]
We continued on to, and up Hampton Road to its intersection with St. James Drive, where this street starts. We went down to La Salle Avenue where two, old, white columns mark this entrance to what was the St. James Woods development. This was a large real estate project about a hundred years ago. There were a number of entrances to this very large neighborhood, most with
two large, white columns. A larger set is just up La Salle at the continuation of Hampton Road. It was also noted that all the sidewalks throughout the development have a four tile per concrete section, inlay pattern. This original design has been continued to this day when sideways need to be repaired.
On we went up St. James. We were a little behind on our desired arrival time for being at Christina's house, and it was thought that a shortcut up Cambrian Avenue to a set of stairs back down to St. James would take less time than walking St. James as it loops through this area. This was not the best call because the steps are steep and don't have a railing. But we showed our grit and made it back to St. James unscathed. We continued on to Christina's house.
Christina was outside waiting for us and shared the history of the garden she has created. It started about 35 years ago when she began the transformation of a traditional grass front yard to the impressive garden it is today. It starts with the car strip at the street curb with a quilt-like
artwork of different succulents and other plants. The front yard is equally impressive, and composed of these and larger plants and trees, some of which have 30 years of growth to them. We posed for a group photo with Christina there.
Christina then led us around to her backyard where more of her gardening creation was on display. Tall redwoods provide shade for her forest of plants. There is also a large, brown vase-like fountain in the middle of yard that Christina said attracts fantail pigeons, hummingbirds, blue jays,
crows, and other birds. The fountain provides water, and also safety for the birds. Additionally, there are a number of metal sculptures by local sculptor Mark Bulwinkle, who works in cut steel, that decorate the yard.
The yard was great to explore, and it was fun to see what Christina's years of hard work have created, but the long walk had taken much of the morning, and it was all too soon time for us to return to town center. We thanked Christina for her hospitality and then made our way back via Sandringham Place, Cambrian, and St. James. It was a long walk of over three and a half miles, but seeing the natural beauty that Christina has created made it well worthwhile.