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Estrella Walk

Last Wednesday was the year’s last Wednesday and the last 2021 walk for the Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays group. All year long, since the group restarted walking together in April after their over a year pandemic hiatus, the group had enjoyed fair weather and dry walks. It seemed their Wednesday morning time slot was immune to the welcome rains that had come to the region during November and December; but the forecast was that this was to change for this last 2021 Wednesday walk. Weather apps called for rain at 10 AM, but as the group assembled at the Exedra, there wasn’t any, and they wondered if it was another false alarm.

A good, wet holiday week turnout of 14 walkers were on hand to confront the weather and enjoy one last 2021 walk together.

It was noted how much the group had grown since April and that there were now almost a hundred people registered with the Recreation Department for the activity. The appreciation for everyone’s participation and the enjoyment experienced from the walks was also noted.

Since April the group has walked almost all the safe streets in Piedmont. However, there were a few that they had not been able to get to. One was Estrella Avenue. It is a one block street that the group had missed in their walks around Dracena Park. Estrella was fairly easy to get to on a rain-threatening day, and there are a couple of hidden paths around it that the group could also try to find.

So, Estrella was the day’s first destination, but the route to it, down Magnolia to Bonita Avenues, and with the schools on holiday, offered the opportunity to take a close look at the new, nearly complete high school buildings. Instead of just walking past the front of the buildings, the walkers went down the passage between the two, new buildings and turned left up the back side of the new auditorium to inspect it. In the breeze way between the new and old buildings the group stopped and looked through the windows down into the library. PHS alums Sherry Jacobs and Dick Carter told the group that this now enclosed library was once an open air quad where students had their lunches. Other stories about the two, now gone, previous PHS buildings were also told before Sherry and Dick led the walkers back to Bonita singing the PHS fight song as they went.

The group started up Bonita and, as they passed the old carriage house used by the Dress Best for Less volunteers, the architectural plans for the new aquatic center were discussed. The carriage house will be removed to create the new center, which should be completed in 2024. As the walkers continued on they passed Havens School and the history of its construction and different buildings was discussed too.

The walkers continued down the well-named, very pretty Bonita Avenue, enjoying the many old homes with cedar shake shingles and a beautiful old Victorian home that is one of oldest houses in Piedmont. There were also: a handsome yucca plant, an original Piedmont street lamp, and an inflatable Santa riding in an airplane with a spinning propeller that was making one of its late flights during the holiday season. At the end of Bonita the group came to its intersection with Moraga and Estrella Avenues, and posed for the attached group photo.

The group walked down Estrella and also enjoyed the lovely homes on it, one with an interesting, cone shaped, terracotta roof above its front entrance. This is a street that gets little traffic because it runs between the more traveled Moraga and Ramona Avenues, and there is little reason to go on Estrella unless you live there; so it was not surprising that the group had not walked it this year.

At the bottom of Estrella the walkers took a left and turned on to Ramona Avenue. They soon found the 107 foot path between 300 and 304 Ramona that goes down to Park Way. This is one of the old shortcuts that Piedmonters took to get to Key System trains during the first half of the 20th Century. On Park the group went down it, and looked over at Dracena Park on their left. Long time walkers remembered a rainy Wednesday walk about two years ago when fearless tree cutters working in the park took down a set of huge, leaning eucalyptus trees that posed a threat to Park Way homes.

At the bottom of Park, the street takes a hard right and changes its name to Monticello Avenue. At that spot there is another hidden path on the left. This is a 169 footer that the walkers took over to Artuna Avenue and the base of Dracena Park. In the park the group inspected the surface of the tot play area for the first time ever. On past visits the play structure was fully populated with small people and there was never any space for the walkers. Today there was only one caregiver with her charge in a carriage sitting on a nearby bench, so the group had it all to themselves. They were impressed by how soft and bouncy the surface is. They then took the path up through the park and its majestic redwood trees. A number of dogs with their owners were also enjoying the beauty. The walkers stopped at Storyteller Bridge and the history of its original version and recreation by the Becker family as a Boy Scout Eagle project was told.

The walkers’ weather luck finally ran out as the group neared the top of the park. The group’s long awaited walking in the rain finally arrived. It was not a down pour, but enough for umbrellas to be deployed. However, the timing was good. It was time for the group to make a direct return to the Exedra via the park path that parallels Dracena Avenue, and Blair, Hillside, and Magnolia Avenues; so that they could get back to the Exedra by their noon return target.

The rain wasn’t bad and Lois Price commented that if the group had gotten some during the year, they would have missed one more experience during this eventful year. It had been a year full of Walking on Wednesdays experiences. Almost all of them had been excellent, walking Piedmont’s beautiful streets and being with friends. Another great part was that it would continue next Wednesday, rain or shine, with a fresh, 2022 start of Walking on Wednesdays walks.


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