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Secret Stairs: East Bay: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Berkeley and Oakland Paperback – July 1, 2011


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Secret Stairs: East Bay: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Berkeley and Oakland + Stairway Walks in San Francisco
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Santa Monica Press (July 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595800638
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595800633
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Charles Fleming is the author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles, the national bestseller High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess, and co-author of the New York Times bestsellers Three Weeks in October: The Manhunt for the Serial Sniper, A Goomba's Guide to Life, and My Lobotomy. A former staff writer for Newsweek, Variety, and the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, and a frequent contributor to Vanity Fair, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles magazine, and LA Weekly, Fleming teaches journalism at USC. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Silver Lake, California.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 14 customer reviews
It was a great hike up and down the hills of Oakland around Lakeshore Ave.
Carmen Canchola Brockmeyer
Most routes will take an hour or two so they are well within the reach of casual walkers as well as serious hikers.
Susan Alcorn
We have thoroughly enjoyed using both Secret Stairs walking guides--this one and the one for Los Angeles.
Cynthia Flannery

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Susan Alcorn on July 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
Secret Stairs East Bay is a delight! I do a lot of long-distance hiking when traveling, but it's the shorter hikes around home that keep me in shape and outdoors year round. I avoid getting in a rut by looking for new trails and challenges. This book -- with its hillside walks through the residential neighborhoods of Oakland, Berkeley, Kensington, Albany, and El Cerrito -- offers a great way to stay inspired. As author Charles Fleming writes, Secret Stairs is "part travel book, part local color, and part exercise." His intriguing guide takes you to 38 of our hidden staircases. As you take each hike, you'll enjoy reading the stories about the neighborhoods, homes, and famous characters (Bret Harte, John Muir and so forth) that have contributed to our exciting urban environment.

I also like that the book provides loop routes and that they start and stop in public parks or cafes. That makes it easy to combine your exercise plan with your social life. Each path's description gives the distance you'll walk, the number of steps, the level of difficulty, and public transit details. Most routes will take an hour or two so they are well within the reach of casual walkers as well as serious hikers. Secret Stairs East Bay is fun and interesting to read. If you want to make full use of it, get out your walking shoes and your water bottle, and start checking out the hidden staircases of the East Bay.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Steinmeier on April 30, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoy this book and our family has done more than half of the almost 40 walks in it. The routes are well planned out for difficulty, views, street crossings and points of interest and provide a unique view at neighborhoods that appear very different when passing by in a car. You'll be traveling back in time to a pre-auto dominated landscape where these stairs quickly connected new residential developments with streetcar lines. Descriptions of the route are relatively light and breezy; more focusing on landmarks than history but it's a walking guide not a historical guide. Finally like a lot of other creatures of the modern age, I've been trying to figure out how I wouldn't have to haul the entire book around on a walk. With a dog in one hand and kids that need a hand to cross streets it's a bit trying on days with no large pocketed jacket. I've photocopied the maps, but sometimes you need the text to find stairs that start out of the back of parking lots or other uncertain places (the text often is very useful at giving street numbers either side). I've taken pre reading the text and adding notes to photocopied maps which works most of the time. All in all a top notch resource that until now was only available for San Francisco proper.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By miel4oshun on January 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
I went on my first walk today. Loved it! Wondering if this could be a audiobook and/or smartphone app. It would make a great walking tour.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Doris D'Adamo on February 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Our first walk today was of Trestle Glen and Piedmont. This guided walk was very precise and even the approximate number of steps one would take were noted! The surroundings were described in great detail which included notes on the architecture, horticulture, and general points of interest. I love that the tour is on a loop so that we could end where we started. Of course, we had never been to this area before, we'd probably never discover it on our own or find a reason to see this charming area had it not been for the book. We can't wait for our next Sunday stroll and plan to take photos and date the outings in the book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Bought this book because I was planning a trip to Berkeley. It had several walks that were near my hotel (the Claremont). Doing the walks was fun and really added to my trip.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kathy Briccetti (author of BLOOD STRANGERS: a memoir) on December 18, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been taking a walk every weekend and discovering places I've never been although I've lived in the East Bay for 35 years. I hardly know I'm exercising because the walks include stunning views and interesting stories of neighborhoods past and present. I love checking out people's yards and houses, especially in the neighborhoods the book highlights. Generally accurate information; however on one recent walk, the direction was wrong and it took a long time for me and my walking partner to find the path (it was before a certain house, not after). I photo copy the map and description of each walk so I don't have to carry the book. I'd like to try all the walks!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Beck on July 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A few months ago while walking with my partner, I saw a staircase that, while unlabeled, definitely seemed to be public: fences on both sides, well-maintained pavement that matched the sidewalk. We guessed that as a right of way, it probably preceded the houses on either side of it. But it wasn't labeled on maps, even old maps.

Secret Stairs East Bay solved the mystery. The staircases in this book date back to the Key Route streetcar system. All over the hilly parts of Oakland and Berkeley, there are staircases that long-ago commuters took to get to a streetcar stop. Some even have benches for commuters to stop and rest, and the ones we've tried so far have at least one great view that's worth all the climbing.

We've only hiked four of the routes so far, though we'd like to hike them all. As Fleming points out, pavement quality and maintenance vary, and as we discovered on the Grizzly Peak trail, some homeowners adjacent to the paths really wish you wouldn't use them (though you're legally allowed). A few of the paths abut parkland, if you have the time for an extended hike.

Fleming is good about helping you find your way on paths that aren't always marked-- we haven't gotten lost yet. He also helpfully distinguishes between routes that are shaded and routes that are sunny, which is helpful in determining how much water you'll want to bring, as well as pointing out routes that would be too slick to walk in the rainy season.

If I have one quibble, it's that the difficulty rating seems to be based on the overall amount of climbing in the route, rather than how sustained the climbing is. (Thus, the Grizzly Peak trail is rated as the most difficult one in the book, though we felt it was easier than the Northern Upper Rockridge one, which has fewer flat stretches built into it.) But that's a minor criticism. All in all, this book makes an inexpensive and portable tour guide to the vistas and history of the East Bay.
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