It was another beautiful morning and strong turnout for the Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays group. There were 33 walkers and two K-9 best friends in attendance at the Exedra for what promised to be a walk with seasonal, natural beauty and some unique sites.
The warm weather that the region has been experiencing has made for an early spring in terms of trees and flowers blooming before they might be expected to. Long-time locals have noted plants that once bloomed in March are now flowering in February, January, or even late December. Climate change seems to be the reason, and is an existential problem, but the walkers certainly enjoy Piedmont’s beauty this time of year.
Daffodils made an appearance around town a week or two ago, and “tulip tree” magnolias were out in force too, but white and pink fruit tree blossoms were just starting to pop and a joy to see. Over the weekend it was noted that up Huntleigh Road, just off Hampton Road, there was a long line of trees with snow white blossoms on both sides of the street, and that they climbed all the way up its hill. Going to see this only-this-time-of-year sight seemed like a wonderful way to spend this beautiful morning, so Huntleigh was the group’s destination for the day.
Off the walkers went up Highland Avenue, crossing it to get on Sheridan Avenue, and went down to its intersection with Wildwood Avenue. The house on this corner always has lovely flowers in its garden, so the group stopped and enjoyed them. The walkers took their usual shortcut through the Hall Fenway, which is usually well populated with flowers. However, it seemed to be late for its daffodils and early for most of its other flowers. This was not a problem, as Crocker/Bear Park was just across the street. The group took a side trip through the park, and enjoyed the large tulip magnolias on its north side; as well as the Benny Bufano statue of a mother bear with nursing babies in the center of the park.
The walkers continued on and passed the huge eucalyptus trees on Hampton Road where St. James Drive ends, and came to the foot of Glen Alpine Road. A bus stop bench is there, and Harriette Louie and Marion Lim Yankowitz put it to good use while the others caught up. The group continued down Hampton past Hampton Park, where anyone not wanting to make the climb up Huntleigh could have headed back to the center of town via La Salle Avenue. However, everyone pressed on up Hampton to Huntleigh.
The group passed through the large, white columns that early in the last century marked the main entrance to the St. James Woods real estate development. They admired azaleas and rhododendrons with their first flowers of the year in a beautifully landscaped front yard.
Just a little further up Hampton the walkers arrived at their Huntleigh Road destination, and caught their first sight of the white, flowering trees lining both sides of it. The trees with their blossoms went up the street as far as the walkers could see. The group started up Huntleigh, enjoying its beauty when they were surprised and delighted to see Carol Long. Carol is one of the group’s original members, but has taken a pandemic break. She lives nearby and wanted to come see the group. Carol said the City planted the trees many years ago, and she believes they are a small plum.
These blossoming trees continued down Lexford, and the group followed them down its hill. There were also a very large cactus, a huge oak, and a swing hanging from a tree limb to note along the way. Further down Lexford, just before Hampton, the walkers came to a unique, brick home built in a storybook architecture style with a brick block maze in the front yard. There is also a circular brick chimney and a wavy brick wall, as well as a terracotta tile roof. Zillow said the house was built in 1939, but architect walker Jim Kellogg had more information to share from his days on the Piedmont Planning Commission. He pointed out the house also has a unique brick garage to the right, which was an addition, and that there is a swimming pool in the back. Jim said there was once a proposal to build a two-story pool house, but it never happened.
The group was enjoying this unusual house, and all the surrounding beauty, but it was time to head back. They came to Hampton, took a left on La Salle, a right on St. James Drive back to Hampton, and then retraced their steps to the center of town. It was about a three and a half mile walk over a little more than 90 minutes with natural beauty that can only be enjoyed this time of year.