April 3, 2006 Day 2

Overcast and light rain most of the day.

Temperatures 55-60.

This is our first full day of hiking. The logistics for this urban hiking trip are almost overwhelming. Maureen drove in her car, following us to where we planned to end the day's hike, near the airport. She was going to then drive us back to where we ended the hike yesterday, but the traffic was awful and would have taken her the better part of an hour to go there and back, so instead she took us to the airport BART terminal and we took BART back to the Lake Merritt Station where we had ended yesterday.

It was raining when we got out of the terminal, well really a light drizzle, so we put up the umbrellas and started walking through Oakland to find the Bay Trail. The rain did not cause any real problems, as we both had rain pants and rain-proof jackets complements of Patagonia (thank you Yvone), and it was about 55 degrees, so we kept warm as long as we kept walking.

I decided I should walk as if I were not Peter Thomas, but rather John Muir who was ecstatic about the plants he saw, and it was great fun. Luckily Donna knows all the plants' names, so she could fill me in. The first wildflower I saw was purple. Donna said it was Checker, a mallow. With my Muir eyes, it was beautiful. The petals were rich shades of purple with reddish stripes at the center of each petal, and in the middle of the flower was a coral dot over an ivory pad. These were color combinations only an artist would imagine together. I think the dot was a pistol, anyway I know it was a sex part. Muir would probably have wondered if that flower was on the road to perdition.

We had really hoped to find the route full of beauty, an urban hiking path that millions would want to follow. We did find that path, but it was chopped up and placed in sections alternating with industrial heartland, factories, trucks, barbed wire and sidewalks, then bayside trails with vignettes of birds hunting food in the tidewaters and breathtaking views of the bay. The trail is under construction, and so is incomplete. The walk was a study in contrasts, an interesting juxtaposition of contemporary urban design and old rubble.

We ended the walk at the Oakland Airport, got in our VW and drove to the King's home in San Leandro where we feasted on the dinner prepared for us, and shared the story of Muir and our hikes. We checked our email and found many notes from well wishers who read the Chronicle article, and we also received the following:

I gather you have no intention of walking Mr. Muir's 1868 way from Oakland to San Jose. The way he took is still there: 14th Street Oakland, Mission Boulevard, Warm Springs Road, Milpitas Road, Oakland Avenue. It being public, no private permission is necessary. What is the point of walking the Bay Trail when he did not and would not have taken it, it being impassable and mostly underwater in those days?
Fred C. Dobbs

You know, by the end of the day we had been asking ourselves the same question. In Muirs's writing he raves about the Oakland hills and the beauty of the Diablo range, and from where we walked, though we could enjoy the bay, we could rarely catch a glimpse of the mountains through the storm clouds. So at the end of the day, before getting to the King's, we drove over to East 14th, the road Muir would have walked down. It is one of the main thoroughfares in East Oakland and San Leandro, and is lined with little shops and businesses. It surely would have been a fun way to walk. We could have windowshopped our way to San Jose, but we still would not have seen the hills, as the buildings block the view. We only had occasional views, as we crossed streets that ran straight to hills. We could see why Muir raved, but decided that we had made the Muir (right) decision to walk the Bay Trail: even though it is pocked by industrial waste it is the route that will lead us to encounter more wilds, more plants and more nature.