A friend writes:

“Dan, do you know what the little monument is on Shasta just above the first Tamalpias intersection. You are my Berkeley expert. Thanks.”

In fact, I knew nothing about a monument in the locale he named, which is in the Berkeley Hills about a five-minute walk from the Rose Garden. But the appeal to me as a “Berkeley expert” sent me in search of an answer.

Walking up from the bottom of Shasta Road, which begins at Tamalpais, I thought maybe I’d see a little plaque or statue along the way. Nothing. On the south side of the road, an old set of concrete stairs led upward to some ivy and brush, but not to a monument of any kind. A little further along, just past a house for sale with an asking price of one million, three hundred ninety thousand dollars (six bedrooms, five thousand square feet, canyon view), I spotted the creation pictured above. I didn’t investigate further–this must be the monument my friend was asking about.

There’s nothing written anywhere to indicate that it commemorates anything. But there was something–someone, actually–better: the woman who owns the property and put up the piece, which she calls “The Monument,” about ten years ago. I interrupted her while she was doing some gardening next to the site.

She did it just to do it, she said, “to create a window onto the garden” that she’s built in the canyon below. “It’s whatever you want it to be,” she added. She also cleared the path to The Monument’s base, and said the site attracts people who have left a variety of offerings, including, once, a large boulder. I asked her about the central piece, the framed cloverleaf. It’s ceramic and came from Ohmega Salvage in Berkeley.

Our conversation ranged further: to the history of her house (built in 1911) and its mis-matched banks of windows, the history of the canyon above her home (formerly owned by the quarry company that worked the site of the current La Loma Park until 1910; a couple of the houses on the uphill side of Shasta at this point are built around elements of an old quarry office and the operation’s stone crusher), the year-round creek at the bottom of her canyon (the South Branch of Codornices Creek, which flows down a five-foot culvert from the west edge of La Loma Park; at that point, smaller pipes carry water from nearby springs and storm runoff from nearby streets into the larger culvert).

Conclusion of the foregoing: That’s the story of the Shasta Road monument and its immediate environs as reported by a reliable local source.

Berkeley Walk


Tuesday, my friend Pete showed up from Portland. We went for a walk from our place in the North Berkeley flats, elevation about 120 feet above sea level, up to one of the ridges immediately above Grizzly Peak Boulevard but still inside the city limits, about 1,200 feet in elevation. On the way up Shasta Road, we spotted a pretty well-hidden (though marked) public path that cuts across a sizable loop as the street climbs toward Grizzly Peak (for local reference: between Sterling Avenue and Miller Avenue; picture from the top of the path is below). We took the shortcut, which seems to go right through several private yards (“Dad, the party crashers are out in the yard again!”).

The air was pristine Monday, a little less so Tuesday, but still bright and clear. We walked down to the Lawrence Hall of Science in search of a water fountain and didn’t find any that worked; there’s a nice fountain up there, though (above). The sun set as we walked down to Shattuck Avenue, where we finally found water — in the restaurant where we ate dinner.

Tonight, the sky is smoky. I assumed the source was a big fire burning in the scrubby mountains southeast of San Jose, the Diablo Range, about 60 or 70 miles away. The smoke rolled across the sky early this afternoon, and it’s thick enough this evening that you can see it in airplane landing lights as they head into Oakland and San Francisco. Checking the weather advisories, it turns out that the main source of the smoke up here is a fire about 250 miles from here in the northern Sierra. The blaze has got the best conflagration name of the summer: the Moonlight Fire (that link is worth checking — some amazing pictures).


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