New life for a not-so-hidden trail, guest post by Jim Rosenau

A heavily used foot path into the Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve was recently upgraded by a volunteer trail crew, Take To The Hills. T3H was formed two years ago by Steve Glaeser and myself to build stairways and make the trail safer for travel. Though the trail does not appear on any existing Park District or UC map, was never formally engineered, and was scarcely maintained, it has, for years, attracted both casual and experienced hikers traveling between Dwight Way and Panoramic Hill. Often misunderstood as belonging entirely to UC Berkeley, because it originates just above the Clark Kerr Campus, the trail, in fact, also crosses East Bay Regional Park District land. Despite its popularity, the trail, now labeled on Google Maps as the Clark Kerr Fire Trail, but referred to by others as the Derby Creek Trail, was deeply eroded and very hazardous.

Author, Jim Rosenau works on the stairs leading to upper Dwight Way.

Author, Jim Rosenau works on the stairs leading to upper Dwight Way.

Starting on Dwight Way just behind the Clark Kerr running track, the trail begins with a long stair climb through a eucalyptus grove. Once you get above the trees and past a graffiti-clad rock, the trail forks. The left fork, which was rerouted around a steep, erosive slope, leads quickly to a meadow with dramatic views and then on to upper Dwight Way. This section of the trail has long been used as a way to get up out of town for a quick view and hit of nature. Panoramic Hill residents count on it as an escape route.

The right fork leads through Derby Creek Canyon to the Stonewall-Panoramic Ridge Trail. It passes through a native woodland of oaks, bays and redwoods, a place that remains shady and cool all year. Though favored by the adventurous, the entrances to this woodland were somewhat obscured until T3H began working on them this past winter. Poison oak, log-falls and slippery mud slopes challenged anyone who made the trip.

In addition to building stairs, T3H, with permission from the landowners, cleared poison oak, installed a bridge over Derby Creek, widened and leveled much of the trail, cleared storm-downed trees, begun to control thistles and French broom, and installed erosion control measures. In the meadow near upper Dwight and Panoramic Way our crew installed recycled redwood benches with views of the bay. Two Eagle Scout candidates, Devin Craig and Gabe Walden, tackled sections of the trail this spring, installing about 50 treads and another bench.

In response to all the improvements, trail usage surged, particularly after the entrances to the trail were improved. Now that it is relatively easy to traverse Derby Creek Canyon to and from the Stonewall-Panoramic Ridge Trail, many are making this woodsy connector part of their route. Though muddy in places during the rainy season, it is otherwise very fit for hikers in sturdy shoes.

Steve Glaeser, path builder.

Steve Glaeser, path builder.

Take To The Hills was hatched at a trailside meeting about three years ago when Steve Glaeser and I first met to discuss what could be done about the failing stairs on UC’s land at the base of the trail. Steve is a path building leader for Berkeley Path Wanderer’s Association, an organization dedicated to improving the public paths throughout the city of Berkeley. Because the trail crosses the properties of multiple landowners, Steve and I immediately decided to create a new entity to conduct this project. T3H is an affiliate of Berkeley Partners for Parks which provides non-profit status and liability insurance for volunteers. T3H has raised over $4,000, most of which went to pay for locally-milled eucalyptus treads to replace and install stairs on steeper sections. We are working to raise another $2,000 to cover existing commitments and to complete work on the trail next winter.

What’s most satisfying to the T3H trail crew is the delight and gratitude that hikers express for the overdue improvements. All appreciate such a gem, so close to home. www.TakeToTheHills.net On the map to the right, UC Berkeley’s Clark Kerr Campus appears in light green and the Park District’s Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve in white/ivory. The renovated trail, represented by a dotted green line, traverses both public lands.