Challenges of Walking in the Hills

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I map out a route for a walk before I go out, and write it on a piece of note paper to keep in my pocket. I carry a map as well, but try to avoid pulling it out to look at it on the way. In some areas of the Berkeley hills, I am finding this to be a bit of a challenge. A few times I have made the wrong turn or been unsure about which way to turn, mostly because not all intersections have street signs or even markings in the pavement. Getting really lost is not an issue — I know the major streets in the hills and landmarks can be used to figure out which way one is heading — but walking all of the streets in the hills is proving to be a much slower process than the grids of the flatter areas.

Walking up the hills has not proved to be too much of a problem. There are some steep ones, but most are winding and views at the top are rewarding. Near the beginning of this walking project, I walked Marin Avenue, which is probably one of the steepest streets in town, 25% grade in some places. I walk a few blocks of it here and there on other routes to get to other streets, but generally I avoid it. And I am always a bit nervous about crossing Marin as well — it is similar to the steep streets in San Francisco, where cars will drive up and over a bit into the crosswalk area to avoid rolling back on the slope, and the visibility isn’t always the greatest. I ran across the Berkeley Hills Death Ride (inspired by the Markleeville, CA, Death Ride over mountain passes) which is a bicycling challenge on the some of the steepest hills of Berkeley. I remember seeing a listing for this ride one year where the riders were to meet at Peets Coffee for triple or quad espressos before doing the ride. Which reminds me that I forgot to mention in my entry about coffee roasters that Peets locations all over the Bay Area seem to be favorite meeting spots for group bike rides. The Peets on Domingo Ave. in Berkeley seems to be one of the more popular locations for starting rides through the Berkeley hills.

Direction confusion and hill steepness were not big surprises to me, and really have not been major issues. The most surprising challenge in walking in the hills has been residents who seem concerned to see someone walking down their street. Particularly on dead-end streets, but also on other non-major streets, I have had people stare at me from their cars or the fronts of their houses, obviously wondering what I was doing there. What I am starting to realize is that you do not get glances if you are walking down the street in a jogging outfit and headphones, or if you are walking with a dog, but someone just walking in regular clothes (and especially alone) and looking around is suspicious looking to many people. I can certainly understand the concern — burglaries do happen in Berkeley as they do everywhere else — but it is kind of a strange thing that just walking without some other obvious motivation, such as exercise or walking your dog, is a suspicious activity. Of course this doesn’t stop me, and if someone asked I would have nothing to hide, but it is an interesting observation.



  1. That is a privilege of someone who lives in an enclave. Not even all rich people are privileged that way: I grew up in an upper middle class suburb where it might be unusual to see someone walking (it was a suburb of LA), but not immediately suspicious. Living directly on Ashby, I don’t have that privilege. People are walking by all the time, particularly people on their way to BART. They’re not all regulars, either.

  2. Getta Life said

    I live and walk in the Berkeley Hills and have never once had anyone stare at me, let alone feel uneasy about it.

    This blog is very odd. What is the point of all this verbiage about walking down the street? An excellent example of the graphomania that Milan Kundera foresaw 25 years ago. Get. A. Life.

  3. Getta Life — Thanks for stopping by. In response to your “why” question about the blog, here’s what I wrote in my first post:

    “Does the world really need another blog? Although I started walking last year, I dismissed the idea of recording my experiences online. After several months of walking, though, I realized that others who live in Berkeley might enjoy learning more about the city where they live. I also hope that this blog will encourage others to get out on foot and explore the place where they live.”

    I don’t expect everyone to appreciate reading about walking and learning about the place where they live. My goal with this blog is not just to write for the sake of writing or to write because I feel like my opinions about this walking project need to be heard by the all of the world. What I do hope is that perhaps a few people will be encouraged by my experience to get out of their cars and explore, and if they are already doing so, to read about my experiences and think about and perhaps share their own thoughts and ideas. Everyone’s idea of what “getting a life” means is different. For me, the elements of this project — walking, discovering new and unique places, learning about the place where I live, sharing what I have learned with others, and connecting with others who have similar experiences — is a worthwhile way to spend part of my time.

  4. Spike said

    Don’t get many suss looks round my way. Walking for the mere pleasure of walking is common due to the high percentage of Dear Old Things.

    Getta life, get one.

  5. Stamatis said


  6. Noname said

    I stumbled upon this blog because I moved into berkeley hills and now getting into exploring them. I thoroughly enjoy your ramblings 🙂 and I do agree about people staring, it has happened to me and I live in a cul-de-sac. Well I always look as well to make sure when a person walks by.

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