Friday, December 18, 2009

Oakland Hills Walk 3 - Merriewood Steps - Figure 8 - 1.1 miles

This is longest stretch of interconnected steps that I know of in Oakland. About 400 steps and a climb/drop of two hundred plus feet in about a third of a mile. It makes a good workout, particularly when you do two steps at a time on the steep sections. These steps were restored in 2003, so they are in good shape.

View Oakland Hills - Merriewood Steps - the figure 8 in a larger map
Thirty to forty years ago, I lived on the top of Merriewood, and commuted to the city. A bus came down Upper Broadway Terrace and stopped right at Merriewood, so usually an easy trip down to Montclair Village and the express from there. However, one winter I had a different schedule, forcing me to catch the early express from Thornhill and Mountain, and the fast way down was the Merriewood stairs, in their unrestored condition. Broken steps, missing steps, fortunately the handrail was usually intact. That was a cold and wet winter, and there were several weeks where the steps were covered with ice. More than once my feet went out from under me and I was just hanging from the rail. Once I digitize all my old slides I may have a picture of those original steps. If so, will update this post.

Anyhow, the current walk I started at the bottom, at Thornhill and Merriewood. The steps initially go up steeply, but level for a while till the next pitch up to a little deadend street/driveway (Doncaster Place), and from there past a house which has integrated the steps landing into their entryway. Past that and then another climb. As you look up towards Valley View you see the steeply ascending stairs, but at the top just green hillside - no steps.

However, its not over yet. Go east on Valley View about 30 feet and you will see the final set of steps that go up to Merriewood. Go up these and right on Merriewood, unless....

If you really have to have more stairs, you can go left on Merriewood maybe five or six house lots, and you will see one more set of steps going up on the right to Abbott. If you take these and go straight till you hit Merriewood again. This is the brown alternate route on the Google Map.

If you didn't take that alternate, just go right on Merriewood and stay on it until Upper Broadway Terrace, where you turn right on Crown and loop back to Merriewood again. You could do this Crown loop either way. When I lived here, these were all small houses - maybe 20 to 40 years old, and nearly all had some remodeling. The different houses were known by their occupants, either recent or former. The doctor's house, brick and sturdy.

Peggy and Margaret's house, gradually deteriorating with its occupants. Chris and Kathy's house, quite a ways down off of Crown, John and Bonnie's house - he made skylights from scratch. Joe's house - best food and stiffest drinks on the block plus an endless supply of stories. Across Upper Broadway Terrace that big green house was the fireman's headquarters during the big Oakland fire. The fire was stopped there. It was one of the few on the west side of Upper Broadway Terrace to survive. The painter's house, known for the use of left over paint from house painting jobs. Over the years these small houses acquired character, as the quirks of the owners made themselves known. Now as I walk around, I notice that the square footage of the area has about tripled. The vacant lots now have buildings. The older homes have new additions. There are a few massive houses. The area still retains an individual character, but there are no longer household artifacts visible from the street. The things of interest are architectural. More fences, fewer yards visible.

After the Crown loop, you go back down Merriewood to the top of the stairs, but then just stay on Merriewood, walking downhill and keeping to the left at the next intersection. Imagine you are following the flow of water as it goes down the hill towards Thornhill. At the big five way intersection keep left. At the next one, Valley View, go right, downhill and then curve left on Merriewood till back at the starting point.

To preview the walk, see the 2 minute YouTube:

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