This is the 5th of 31 issues of Walking in Oakland, a daily newsletter by Nat Bennett. It's also the last one that's going to get posted up publicly, so if you've found these missives worth reading, take a moment to forward this e-mail to a friend, and share the home page on your social media of choice.
Yesterday I took my first long walk for this project. I mean, not a long walk, not by the standards of long walks, but a substantial walk. The first walk I wouldn't have done if I hadn't intended to write about it, and the first walk I really felt in my heels. The first step towards a truly long walk.
I got on Claremont Avenue and I kept walking northeast, towards and up into the hills, until I got to a point where it didn't quite feel safe to be walking on this edge-less canyon road. Then I turned around and walked home. In all, it was about four miles, and took about two hours.
This is Berryman South Reservoir. It's not marked on Google Maps, but it is visible, a big green circle tucked up against the Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve.
I walked up into the hills carrying very little. A credit card, my phone, and a Ricoh GR III with a fresh memory card and a nearly-dead battery. I considered bringing water, but decided I didn't want to fuss with the extra weight, the extra object, the extra entry in the mental ledger.
I wasn't really leaving civilization, after all. I stopped, on the way, at Souvenir Coffee Co., and I bought a lemonade.
I resist the romanticization of the wilderness. I'm as vulnerable to the romantic impulse as anyone with a cell phone and a Twitter addiction, but I resist it. As the crowds thinned out on my little walk, as I got away from street lights and crosswalks, I got uneasy. Passing cars started to feel slinky and predatory. The road became an obstacle. I started thinking about Gene Roddenberry, alien planets, and man's essential urge to explore.
And-- you know-- I'm still in Berkeley. The chittering in the trees isn't a Yautja. The heavy wetness in the air is the standard 73% coastal humidity. The giant spiders are inflatable.