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Crest of the New Year Walk

January 5th was the first Wednesday of 2022 for our Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays group. It was a 52 degree, overcast morning, but New Year’s resolutions may have been at work as a strong showing of 31 walkers turned out at the Exedra at our normal 10:30 AM start time.

We had largely achieved our annual goal of walking every safe Piedmont street during 2021, but there were a few that we had not been able to get to. One was the challenging Crest Road. Crest is difficult because it is long and steep. It is also off of the upper portion of Hampton Road, far from the center of town, and people usually don’t go to it unless they live there. We may have walked it in years past, but even long-time members of our group couldn’t remember ever walking up it. Going to Crest might be a challenge, and take a little longer than a usual Wednesday walk, but it would be a good hike and a great way to start 2022.

Going down Highland Avenue our long line of walkers looked like a parade. We took our usual route to Hampton Park, going up Sheridan, Wildwood, and Crocker Avenues, and on to Hampton Road past Crocker Park. Crossing Highland to get on Sheridan required a bit of traffic control for our big group. Many of the walkers are also members of the Recreation Department’s First Mondays Reading Group, which had a stimulating discussion two days before about Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet. This is a novel about Shakespeare's only son, Hamnet, who died at age 11 from the bubonic plague; and some of the walkers/readers resumed their enjoyable conversation about the session.

As we walked, we also noted discarded Christmas trees at street curbs, and some still-up house decorations that were happy reminders of the holidays. We were pleased that an inflatable, moving Scoopy Doo and his friends were at the top of Hampton at Sotelo Avenue to wish us a New Year. We continued down to Hampton Park and reassemble there. Walkers who preferred not to make the Crest climb, or needed to be back at the Exedra by noon, had the option of returning via La Salle Avenue. However, our entire group posed for the attached photo on the park steps.

The rest of the walkers continued on. We noted the two, large, white columns on both sides of Hampton as we crossed La Salle. We talked about how these columns marked the main entrance to the large St. James Woods residential development of early Piedmont times. We also noted the sidewalks’ brown tile inlays that marked this neighborhood’s extensive boundary.

We quickly came to Crest and started our ascent. The slope of the street’s initial portion is moderate, but it increases significantly over about a quarter mile as you climb up to Somerset Rood. We took a right on it, but the degree of hike difficulty didn’t diminish. Somerset is also a very steep street. A little up it was a large, modern, multi-floor, white home with a metal gate blocking an even steeper driveway. The house is high up the hillside and almost looks like a fortress overlooking a valley below. Our hearty band of walkers pressed on, looking for a path on the right side of the street that an old Piedmont city map said would take us down to Huntleigh Road. The path no longer seems to exist because we looked and looked, but couldn’t find it. Instead, after another .4 miles, we emerged on Estates Drive. The cloudy view of Oakland and the Bay was beautiful, and maybe even worth the extra walk effort.

However, it was time to return to the Exedra and a direct route down Estates to the equally steep upper portion of Hampton was taken. We then retraced our steps to the center of town. We passed more reindeer, silver bells, and other holiday decorations as we went; and were only ten minutes later than our normal noon return time at the Community Center parking lot. We had covered over four miles of challenging, steep, little-seen streets, and it was a good Walking on Wednesdays start for 2022.


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