El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area

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Hillside Natural Area from Marina Bay

Hillside Natural Area from Marina Bay

100 Acres from Moeser at the right, cutting straight up the hill to Motorcycle hill above the street lights.  The patch of green on the hill furthest to the left is the Fairview Property and is still privately owned and subject to development

Angel Island through the trees

Angel Island through the trees

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El Cerrito Recycling Center

El Cerrito Recycling Center

The El Cerrito Recycling Center was first built by volunteers in the early 1970’s, one of the first in the nation. The Recycling and Environmental Services Center was rebuilt in 2011-2012 to serve as the sustainability hub for the City’s environmental mission and programs.  It is is a unique community resource that provides El Cerrito and area residents and businesses a place to recycle a wide range of conventional and hard-to-recycle items, to exchange reusable items and to obtain information about other environmental concerns and efforts.

Lupine near Schmidt Lane

Lupine near Schmidt Lane

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Bench on Live Oak Trail

Bench on Live Oak Trail

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Wildflowers

Wildflowers

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Purple Needlegrass

Purple Needlegrass

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Hillside Natural Area Trails

Hillside Natural Area Trails

27 = Douglas Trail

29 = Navalier Trail

30 = Ridge Trail

31 = Live Oak Trail

32 = Forest Brown Trail

33 =  Lower Trail

34 = Ken Smith Trail

41 = Great Western Power Trail

Ridge Trail

Ridge Trail

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Berkeley Sunday Streets on Shattuck

Sunday Streets (also called “Open Streets”)  closes streets to automobile traffic for a day so that people may use the space for other physical and social activities. The streets become parks as people replace car traffic. People walk, bike, skate and dance and play. Everyone from businesses and community organizations to musicians and artists use the space creatively, engaging the public and providing spontaneity and discovery.

It sounds simple, yet it really is very different and exciting

Sunday Streets Route from El Cerrito

Sunday Streets Route from El Cerrito

Sunday Streets Berkeley takes place on Shattuck Ave for 17 blocks from Rose Street to Haste Street. It is a celebration of local businesses and organizations. Storefronts will be unobstructed, and business owners   will be encouraged to promote commerce and visibility by setting out   seating on the street, hosting activities, and otherwise inviting interest and community.

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North Entrance at Rose  & Shattuck

North Entrance at Rose & Shattuck

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PlanetXone Bubble Balls

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Shattuck and Vine

People get out and connect with their community and urban environment in a transformative way. This temporary publicspace inspires creativity and change for the better, on that day – andbeyond. As of early 2013, there are more than 70 Sunday Streets events in North America.

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The first Sunday Streets in Berkeley was on October 14, 2012. More than 42,000 people cameto Shattuck Ave to stroll, skate, cycle, dance, play in the street.

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Seaview

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Blue Angels 2015

Seaview Sunset

Seaview Sunset

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Gates of Heaven and Gates of Golden

Gates of Heaven and Gates of Golden

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Sunrise Sunday Morning

Sunrise Sunday Morning

4 Angel Island in the light on an October Sunday morning.

Sunrise

Sunrise

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Harvest Moon

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Turkeys hiding on the next door neighbor’s roof two days before Thanksgiving

 

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Ohlone Greenway – Bay Trail Berkeley Loop

This loop is about 23 miles, a couple of hours at a 12 mile per hour pace, a little more at a more leisurely speed.

Ohlone Greenway - Bay Trail Berkeley Loop

Ohlone Greenway – Bay Trail Berkeley Loop

Pictures are numbered on the route map.

Ohlone Greenway

Ohlone Greenway

1. The Ohlone Greenway is named  for the Ohlone Indians who once lived in the area, this trail doubles as a commuting corridor and a recreation destination for the cities of Berkeley, Albany and El Cerrito. While the Ohlone Greenway is certainly an urban trail, it weaves together a number of parks and green spaces, community gardens and interpretive kiosks to create a pleasurable and informative trail experience. The greenway’s smooth asphalt surface makes it suitable for a variety of users.

Berkeley Bicycle - Pedestrian Bridge

Berkeley Bicycle – Pedestrian Bridge

2. The City of Berkeley Eastshore Pedestrian Overcrossing was made to allow bicycles, pedestrians, and wheelchair users access to the Berkeley Marina, Eastshore State Park, and the city.  Opened in 2002, the bridge was built at a cost of $6.4 million. The bridge created an ADA -compliant route between Berkeley and its Marina/waterfront park region. Prior to its construction, the only wheelchair accessible route was via an undercrossing 1 mile  to the north. Bicycles and pedestrians could use a dark, hidden, and seldom-used path and stairwell that ran under and along the University Avenue freeway overpass.

The two 30-ft. tall sculptures were installed in October/November 2008, the work of Emeryville artist Scott Donahue, who won a national competition for the commission.  Called “Berkeley’s Big People,” the fiberglass sculpture depicts, among other things, the university town’s proud culture of civil demonstrations.  The other, on the west side of bridge closest to the marina, depicts East Bay leisure life: a bird watcher peering through binoculars, a jogger, a kite flier, and a boater. And there’s a disc-catching dog in mid-leap.

Frisbee Golf - Aquatic Park

Frisbee Golf – Aquatic Park

3. A long, narrow 9 holes out and 9 in. Water hazards (lake, ponds, streams) make it a ‘Pebble Beach’ course. Multiple tees and a practice basket. Great views of SF. Winds off bay can be treacherous.

UC Berkeley from Emeryville Marina

UC Berkeley from Emeryville Marina

4. UC Berkeley ranks number 3 in the US News & World Report list of the top 500 universities in the world

Claremont Hotel and 1991 Fire Zone from Emeryville Marina

Claremont Hotel and 1991 Fire Zone from Emeryville Pier

5. All the houses you can see in this picture are new since the 1991 fire.

El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area behind Albany Hill

El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area behind Albany Hill

6. El Cerrito Trail Trekkers helps support the Hillside Natural Area, including the Madera Open Space, which the city recently acquired linking the northern and southern areas into a unified open space park of over 100 acres.  Last year the El Cerrito Open Space Campaign raised $100,000 to help buy the land. This year we are raising funds to restore habitat, control invasive plants and improve trails.  Hillside Natural Area Trails

Snoopy and the Red Baron fight it out in Emeryville

Snoopy and the Red Baron fight it out in Emeryville

7. Berkeley artist Tyler Hoare first put up wooden replicas of the famous Peanuts characters in their airplanes, battling World War One flying aces, back in 1975.  Hoare said he first got the idea when he himself was stuck in traffic on I-80, gazing out at the Bay.

For nearly four decades, Tyler Hoare has been adding a bit of whimsy to the East Bay waterfront with his salvaged wood creations: some 30 large sculptures including airplanes inspired in part by Snoopy comics; a submarine, a pirate ship, a viking ship, and a ‘King Tut ship’ with a gold-painted Egyptian-style figurehead; and, before most of the wood pilings in the water rotted away, spindly, rustic, 6-foot-tall sculptures Hoare calls his “post people”.  Those sculptures are all gone now because the marsh is now part of McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.

Golden Gate

Golden Gate from Berkeley Marina

8. Left to right: Presidio, Alcatraz Island, Golden Gate, Marin Headlands

Berkeley Marina with  Houseboats

Berkeley Marina with Houseboats in the background

9. The Berkeley Marina’s 52 acres of water and 1100 berths can accommodate vessels 16 feet to 110 feet in length. Surge and rough water are eliminated by an entrance breakwater.  See the house boats in the background?

Golden Gate Fields

Golden Gate Fields

10. Golden Gate Fields was built just before World War II.  The inaugural meet was on February 1, 1941. In the period just before the war, the track was used as the scene of the crime central to the plot of the movie Shadow of the Thin Man. With the onset of World War II, the United States Navy took over the property as the “Albany Naval Landing Force Equipment Depot” for storing hundreds of landing craft destined for use in the Pacific theater. After the war, Golden Gate Fields resumed horse racing.

Attendance at horse racing tracks has dwindled in recent years, especially with the growth of off-track betting.  Golden Gate Fields is now the only horse racing track in the Bay Area and has races Thursday thru Sunday, except a couple summer months.  In 2012, Golden Gate Fields bid for the new Lawrence Berkeley Lab Campus, but lost out to the Richmond Field Station.

Albany Beach San Francisco View

Albany Beach San Francisco View

11. Albany Beach is part of Albany Waterfront Park. It is located across from the Albany Bulb and Golden Gate Fields racetrack.

The nearby Albany Bulb is transitioning from the City of Albany to the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.  In April 2014, more than two dozen homeless residents of the Albany Bulb  received $3,000 from the city for agreeing to leave the site and remove all of their personal property.  These are the key terms of a settlement agreement between the City of Albany and a group of housing advocates representing the Bulb’s homeless resident, effectively marking the end of the high-profile eviction battle.

Construction begins June 8, 2015 on a major rehabilitation project at the Albany shoreline. Portions of the park will be closed to the public until construction ends in November. 2015.

Mouth of Cerrito Creek, border between Alameda and Contra Costa Counties

Mouth of Cerrito Creek, border between Alameda and Contra Costa Counties

12. Cerrito Creek is one of the principal watercourses running out of the Berkeley Hills into San Francisco Bay in northern California. It is significant for its use as a boundary demarcation historically, as well as presently. In the early 19th century, it separated the vast Rancho San Antonio to the south from the Castro family’s Rancho San Pablo to the north.

Today, it marks part of the boundary between Alameda County and Contra Costa County. The main stem, running through a surprisingly deep canyon that separates Berkeley from Kensington, is joined below San Pablo Avenue by a fan of tributaries, their lower reaches mostly in storm-drain pipes. The largest of these is Middle or Blackberry Creek, a southern branch.

The creek is named for Albany Hill, formerly called Cerrito de San Antonio, a prominent  isolated hill on the shoreline of San Francisco Bay in Albany.  Cerrito Creek, joined by a fan of other small creeks, formerly meandered to the Bay through a large marsh just north of the hill.

With Alameda County settled more densely in the early 20th Century boom that followed the San Francisco Earthquake, the area just north of the county line at the creek became the home of jazz joints, gambling, and other pursuits requiring a light hand from the law. This lasted until a post-World-War-II reform movement in the City of El Cerrito.

The City of El Cerrito is committed to a long-term plan to “daylight” the still-culverted reaches of the creek at the south edge of El Cerrito Plaza, between San Pablo Avenue and the Ohlone Greenway.  The cities of Albany and El Cerrito have adopted a long-term plan for a pedestrian-bicycle route mostly along the creek, connecting the Ohlone Greenway to the Bay Trail. This plan is gradually being carried out.  Priority Conservation Area Application

Friends of Five Creeks established some natives and placed a litter can at the short reach exposed at the Ohlone Greenway, but these plantings have repeatedly been devastated by maintenance workers. Between Talbot and Kains, adjacent to the El Cerrito Plaza shopping center, a state grant to the City of El Cerrito led to the channelized creek being re-contoured in 2003, giving it a more natural flow pattern, native vegetation, and a creekside trail.

Point Isabel Dog Park

Point Isabel Dog Park

13. I haven’t visited every dog park in the world, but in my experience Point Isabel is the best.  There are beautiful views of the Golden Gate and Marin County from this landscaped 23-acre park at the west end of Central Avenue in Richmond. This is one of the largest public off-leash dog parks in the nation with over 500,000 dog visits per year.

Mouth of Baxter Creek, RIchmond

Mouth of Baxter Creek, RIchmond

14. Baxter Creek, previously known as Stege Creek or Bishop Creek), is a three-branch creek in Richmond and El Cerrito,forming the Baxter Creek watershed. The creek has three sources and flows from the Berkeley Hills to Stege Marsh and the San Francisco Bay.

The creek has been largely culverted over the years since the Rancho San Pablo and the subdivided Bishop Ranch, then known as Bishop Creek, were urbanized. Residents missed the creek when it disappeared under the asphalt and formed Friends of Baxter Creek. This group has aided in the restoration of several portions of the creek. Baxter Creek Park, Poinsett Park, and Booker T. Anderson Park are now in a more natural riparian condition.

This segment of creek at Gateway Park in El Cerrito was restored in 2005 after citizens formed a group-Friends of Baxter Creek-to advocate for the purchase of the land from the Santa Fe Railroad, and its restoration.  Baxter Creek Maintenance and Management Guide  Green Team volunteer clean ups take place the first Saturday of every month from 10:00 – 12:30.

Meeker Slough, Richmond

Stege Marsh, Richmond

15. Stege Marsh, also known as the South Richmond marshes,  is next to UC Berkeley’s Richmond field station.

The marsh is the delta at the mouth of Baxter Creek  which drains from a watershed extending into the Berkeley Hills in El Cerrito. The marsh is opposite Meeker Slough from where Meeker Slough Creek drains into Campus Bay, which is a part of the Richmond Inner Harbor of the San Francisco Bay.

The site was polluted by a UC Berkeley Field Station and a Zeneca sulfuric acid manufacturing center. Restoration is underway.   The marsh is so polluted that the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board named it a “toxic hot spot” and one of the “top 10 most polluted” sites in the Bay Area in 1998

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Eclipse Hike – Hillside Natural Area

Also called a Blood Moon this eclipse lasted for about 1 hour and 12 minutes.

Tom sets the stage

Tom sets the stage

September’s full moon is also called a Blood Moon, because it presents the fourth and final eclipse of a lunar tetrad: four straight total eclipses of the moon, spaced at six lunar months (full moons) apart. Phew!

Eclipse Hike Route

Eclipse Hike Route

Eclipse Began: Sun, Sep 27, 2015 at 5:11 PM
Sunset: Sun, Sep 27, 2015 at 6:17 PM
Civil Twilight: Sun, Sep 27, 2015 at 6:44 PM
Moonrise: Sun, Sep 27. 2015 at 6:51 PM
Nautical Twilight: Sun, Sep 27 at 7:15 PM
Astronomical Twilight: Sun, Sep 27 at 7:45 PM
Maximum: Sun, Sep 27, 2015 at 7:47 PM
Eclipse Ended: Sun, Sep 27, 2015 at 10:22 PM

Blue Gum

Blue Gum

These Blue Gum eucalyptus in the El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area are not included in the $5.5 million FEMA funded fire mitigation plan approved for Oakland, UC Berkeley and the East Bay Regional Parks.

Oakland and UC Berkeley came up with similar proposals, both of which called for the wholesale removal of eucalyptus trees, a highly combustible nonnative species that was widely blamed for fanning the 1991 firestorm. Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, strongly backed these plans, while some neighborhood groups staunchly opposed them on the grounds that they amounted to clear-cutting. The East Bay Regional Park District, by contrast, settled on a plan to gradually thin the eucalyptus and other vegetation over time.

In March, FEMA announced the approval of $5.6 million in grants to UC Berkeley, the City of Oakland, and the East Bay Regional Park District. But in its approval of the funds, FEMA advised UC Berkeley and Oakland to adhere to the “thinning” method similar to the one proposed by the park district — rather than their clear-cutting plans.

The eucalyptus trees pose a larger risk in the hills than in other locations, because there are so many of them and they’re clustered together. It’s not just that the trees are “quite flammable,” but that the eucalyptus groves in the hills are so dense.

In dense forests with closed canopies, flames can jump through the treetops, propagating what’s known as a crown fire. Thinning the trees and therefore reducing the canopy, he said, would help reduce the risk of a crown fire in the hills.

The Sierra Club and the group Claremont Canyon Conservancy contend that the thinning plan won’t be nearly as effective as permanently removing and replacing the eucalyptus trees with native vegetation. Norman La Force of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter, calls the thinning plan a “complete 180” from the earlier proposals. He noted the danger that eucalyptus trees pose in propagating fire, and questions why FEMA would not endorse removing more of the nonnative trees.

Although the Hills Conservation Network and the Sierra Club have opposite views about eucalyptus and the FEMA plan, both have filed lawsuits against the federal agency, raising issues of public transparency and alleging that FEMA didn’t fully consider other alternatives to the plan it put forth. Both groups said they’re concerned that the “unified methodology” is ambiguous and needs to be compared to more alternative proposals.

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From El Cerrito Trail Trekker’s Description of the Ridge Trail:   One of  the most popular entrances to the Hillside Natural Area is at  the end of King Court, at the meeting of King Drive. and  Shevlin,  just north of Moeser Ln. There begins the highest of the north-south trails, the Ridge Trail, #30 on our newTrail list.

With its higher elevation and more open vegetation, Mt Tam through the treesthe Ridge Trail offers some of the most spectacular vistas available in the park. From King Ct, the trail follows the upper rim of the old quarry before turning north towards its finish at the end of Regency Ct. Before that it crosses the Navellier trail (#29), which has entrances at both its top and bottom. Because of this connectivity, the Ridge Trail is an important thoroughfare for people who live in the surrounding area.

Now that the Madera Property has become part of the Hillside Natural Area, it is  even more important. Because just below the end of Regency Ct. is one of the main entrances to the Madera Open Space. The acquisition of this plot of land connects the northern and southern sections of the Hillside Natural Area.

Sunset

Sunset

Above the quarry at the end of Schmidt Lane

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Contemplating the sunset

Hillside Labyrinth

Hillside Labyrinth

The labyrinth is an archetype, a divine imprint, found in all religious traditions in various forms around the world. The path winds throughout and becomes a mirror for where we are in our lives. It touches our sorrows and releases our joys. Walk it with an open mind and an open heart.

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Live Oak in Late Afternoon Light

From El Cerrito Trail Trekkers description of the Live Oak Trail The second of the two major north-south trails is the Live Oak Trail. The Hillside Natural Area is a popular dog-walking spot and the Live Oak trail is probably one of the best used routes.

From its start in a stand of eucalyptus  trees, the trail then moves on to an open hillside, with two benches suitable for views, rest or just silent contemplation.  Moving on, we pass under the eponymous oaks and into the first of two small canyons that contain branches of  Wildwood Creek (or would, if we ever got any rain). The main channel of Wildwood Creek forms part of the boundary of the southern section of Hillside Natural Area, and higher up the creek can be seen in the Madera Open Space. Eventually these branches meet the main branch somewhere underground in the flats, and Wildwood is itself eventually joins Baxter Creek, which finds the bay in Richmond northwest of Point Isabel.
Between the two creek beds is another open hillside, and still another bench, and the trail reaches its end after the second creek, where it meets the steep Navellier trail (#29). Across Navellier trail the path continues, but now called the Douglas Trail (#27). Douglas trail exits the park at Douglas Dr., a circle off Potrero Ave.

DSCN4283On either side of the Navellier trail, new steps were installed in 2013  as part of an Eagle Scout project by Johnny Wu of Albany. This is fitting, since Live Oak and Douglas used to be referred to as the “Nature Trail.” Why? Because many years ago another Eagle Scout project laid out an interpretive trail along the route. Numbered posts can still be seen along the trails, and although the hillside has changed over time, you can still download the guide from the Trail Trekker website. The guide exists in two forms, a pamphlet that you and print out and take with you, and a longer 15 page report on the nature of the Hillside Natural Area, or at least as it was then. Maybe a future scout will produce a new one. Until then, Friends of Five Creeks have natural history links for the park on this page, and also have this page at inaturalist.org.

Live Oak at Sunset

Live Oak at Sunset

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Mt Tam

Mt Tam

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Mt Tam after sunset

Mt Tam after sunset

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Phone Astronomy

Phone Astronomy

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Super Moon

Super Moon

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Havey Canyon Full Moon Hike

5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Meet at the End of Rifle Range Road

Come enjoy the last full moon of spring rising over the East Bay Hills.  This five mile hike descends into the Canyon on the Rifle Range Road trail and then goes up the other side on the beautiful Havey Canyon trail which is shaded and full of native trees and shrubs.  The route connects with Nimitz Way at the top for stunning Bay views and a short side trip to a look out and old Nike Missile site.  Then back down Menzes trail in cattle country, back across Wildcat Creek Bridge and back up Rifle Range Road Trail.

Moonrise 6:53
Sunset 8:34

Havey Canyon Loop

Havey Canyon Loop

I counted an 1100 foot elevation gain so this is a moderately strenuous hike.  We go down one side of Wildcat canyon, up the other and back again.   Google counts the hike as 1 hour 45 minutes,  but that is a brisk pace.  I did it in two hours with time for pictures. We’ll plan on a leisurely three hours with plenty of time for pictures, snacks and a scenic detour.

Meet at the end of Rifle Range Road

Meet at the end of Rifle Range Road

Large coast live oaks, bay laurels, and a scattering of bigleaf maples and madrones grow on the park’s east-facing slopes. North-facing hillsides support some beautiful, nearly pure stands of bay laurel, fringed with coast live oak. Moist chaparral of coyote brush, poison oak, elderberry, snowberry, bracken fern, and blackberry grow in thickets high on the north-facing slopes.

Havey Canyon from across the way

Havey Canyon from across the way

The Havey Canyon  trail is shaded and full of native trees and shrubs.  If wet, it will be a very muddy walk with a steep creek to cross, but not an issue this time of year.

Rifle Range Trail

Rifle Range Trail

Dogs are allowed off leash under voice command in Wildcat Canyon, but we would prefer only leashed dogs for this hike.

Havey Canyon

Havey Canyon

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Havey Canyon Trail

Rifle Range Trail

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Havey Canyon Trail

Havey Canyon Trail

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Madrone Limb Over Havey Canyon Trail

Madrone Limb Over Havey Canyon Trail

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Havey Creek Trail Crossing

Havey Creek Trail Crossing

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Havey Canyon Trail

Havey Canyon Trail

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 290,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 12 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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