Ah, a half hour jog around the Lake today turned instead into a two hour walk and gawk. I must be turning into a pigeon. There must be a least a metric ton of birds at the lake.
If you go to the lake regularly you already know everything about the lake so can skip this paragraph on birds. There are hundreds of Canadian geese chewing the grass on the northern lawns of the lake. Enough people ignorantly hand out old bread to the geese which keeps them here instead of totally partying it out in Alaska during the summer. I guess animals can become lazy and domestic too. There are hundreds of pigeons and seagulls too. The most exotic birds I’ve seen are diving ducks and some type of white bird that looks like a squat puffin, but with long skinny black legs instead of ‘happy feet’ and spiky ‘hair’ in the back. I don’t know what these are.
The walk was beautiful. Full sun, hot, lots to see. I’ve never been inside the Lakeside Horticultural Center but it’s completely worth visiting. And, it is free admission. I didn’t see more than four people in the entire garden when I was there around noon today. It’s the size of a football field and entirely mazey like some of the gardens at Golden Gate Park.
Next to a red Torii gate dedicated to former city councilman Frank Ogawa, there’s a Japanese style bonzai garden run by volunteers. I was in a hurry but you can borrow a laminated guide to all the species of bonsai there. I think I spotted a bonsai ginkgo tree. The water fountains by the red gate are dry.
There’s an impressive community garden planted and maintained by Merritt College students. Compost bins. Edible gardens. Check out the grape leaves taking over a conifer tree! The grapes must make squirrels — and homeless guys — sufficiently happy in late summer. (I’m guerrilla gardening some in the Uptown area.)
I can see people easily taking in the garden for an hour: there’s just so much to see. If you are a rose fan, it’s not as fancy as the Oakland Rose Garden (also worth visiting) but you’ll see a few varieties. There’s a sundial which is from the 1920s and runs an hour late. I also really dig Alameda County/Stopwaste’s Bay Friendly Garden demo. Crushed glass “sand.” Plastic bag-reclaimed wood Trex lumber benches and bins. A shed made out of wood reclaimed from the former Oakland Army Base. That ought to pique the interest of some Temescal, hills and Dimond homeowners.
Then walk around the lake some more. I dropped by the boat house; apparently you can take all kinds of lessons in paddle boats and sailboats of various sizes for between $80 and $110 for 1-3 days of lessons. Sunfish, lasers and larger craft are available. I don’t knwo when the Gondola Servizio is up and running but that looks like a hoot. The boat house lady was really nice. There are even after work boat races from 5:30pm every Tuesday.
The sidewalk pavement is still being poured in various places. I can see the lake becoming an ever larger attraction due to the influx of higher-income (still upper “middle class”) residents.
The view from the East side of the lake is gorgeous: city skyline of downtoown buildings, the boat house and lakeside restaurant-to-be, the water fountains, the estuary bridge and gates. If you aren’t at the lake to jog, you should dress nice. You don’t have to, but it is a bit of a dapper, scenster type place if you’re into that. I wore normal thrift shop clothes though, except for my G hat.
If you get hungry, I saw two Mexican guys pushing ice cream carts today so that’s an option, plus there are restaurants on Lakeshore. (On Saturdays there is the Grand Lake Farmers Market under highway 580 on Grand Ave.)
City page: Lake Merritt
ps: I went to the Dunsmuir Estate movie night on Friday to see “My Fair Lady” but halfway thru the speaker system blew up. It was totally worth going though and I’ll be going again next time! It’s only five bucks admission. Everyone’s out on this gigantic lawn with lawn chairs, blankets, food, wine etc facing a big projector screen. You can see the stars overhead. It’s pretty quiet except for highway 580 which is muffled by many stands of trees. I envy the people who work at EBMUD HQ right down the block. They could eat lunch inside Dunsmuir every day if they wanted to.