Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Park at the End of the World

Last week I walked so far west in Oakland that I passed a customs station. And then I walked a little further.

I didn’t really get to another country, of course. I was just following Seventh Street to its very end at the Port of Oakland.

Seventh Street here is very industrial. At its western end it dead-ends at loading docks open only to trucks. But it also skirts my very favorite park in Oakland, Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. Middle Harbor is a very new, very green little park that feels like it’s smack in the middle of an industrial wasteland. On one side it’s surrounded by water and on two sides it’s flanked by enormous cranes. You can see container ships up close, and you get an interesting view of the Bay Bridge, which isn’t the Bay’s prettiest, but in context, it is nice to look at in a WPA, “lets-get-it-done” American kind of way. The view of the Bay itself is beautiful.

To get to the park you have to follow Seventh Street under interstate 880, which always used to feel like Oakland’s western border to me. Then you pass between a former army base and a huge rail yard. If you’re on foot, 18-wheelers pass you every minute, but you’ll hardly see any passenger vehicles. You’ll probably be the only pedestrian, although recently I did see a group of about spry 25 senior citizens dressed in floppy hats and nylon pants leaving the park at a serious hiking pace. I can’t imagine where they were going, but they probably wondered what I was up to, too.

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