caption here. Photo: Jonas Duke
Zeke Gerwein (left) and Jacob Lehmann Duke on Terrace Walk. Photo: Jonas Duke

By Keith Skinner

“Every good hike brings you eventually back home.” Edward Abbey

At 7 a.m. on a Wednesday morning in early August, Jacob Lehmann Duke and his longtime friend, Zeke Gerwein, set out on an adventure they had been planning for more than a month. By the time they returned home that evening, they had accomplished something remarkable. Epic. Perhaps even a little crazy. They had walked every path in Berkeley in a single day.

“We walked between all the paths and never got on a bus, in a car, or on BART,” Jacob said proudly.

Thirty-six miles in 13 hours. Their route ranged from a nadir of 72 feet in the flatlands to a zenith of 1,297 feet at the crest of Summit Road: 5,405 feet of total elevation gain and 4,727 feet of total elevation loss. It was an incredible feat, especially for such young men: Zeke is 12; Jacob 11. 

“After 15 miles, we were exhausted but somehow kept going,” Jacob said of their experience. “After 25 miles, we rested at my grandma’s house and were barely able to move on.”

Zeke and Jacob, buddies since preschool, are big fans of Berkeley’s paths, using them regularly for both utilitarian and recreational purposes. Prior to the big day, the two had covered all the paths during numerous individual walks. Jacob is a math whiz who also runs cross-country, studies the piano and enjoys playing games with his family. Zeke came up with the idea for the mega-hike. He’s a self-confessed cycling freak who completed a month-long bike tour from Mexico to Seattle this past summer. But like his friend, he also enjoys a life of the mind: reading, writing, algebra, history and science. Both boys are preparing for their bar mitzvahs.

The two friends covered most of the alphabet, traveling paths from Acacia to Yosemite. They rambled from Vistamonte Trail in the northeastern corner of town to the Kensington border, then crossed the southern tip of Albany to West Berkeley. There they picked up the Ohlone Greenway into South Berkeley, crossed town to The Crossways, then doubled back and headed into the Claremont Hills, in and out of Oakland to Panoramic Hill. Then they sliced through campus into the central hills, up to Atlas Path, and through Park Hills to Wildcat Path at the Contra Costa County border. Then, finally, home again.

“I limped all the next day and wouldn’t want to go that far again at least for another few months — and possibly ever,” Jacob reported.

While the young men may have crossed extreme path wandering off of their personal bucket lists, they have agreed to lead a series of walks for Berkeley Path Wanderers Association (BPWA) that will include all of Berkeley’s paths. Zeke and Jacob have divided their colossal route into several smaller excursions averaging roughly six miles in length.

Jacob Lehmann Duke on Acacia Walk. Photo: Sophie Lehmann

The series will begin on Jan. 26 at 11:30 a.m., with the walks usually scheduled at monthly intervals. For some time, BPWA has wanted to devise a way to formally recognize people who walk all the paths. For the duration of this series, it will keep a log of the people who start and finish each walk. After the last walk, those who have covered the entire route will be presented with a pin or patch.

Given the length of each route — triple that of average BPWA walks — participants should be able to tolerate numerous hills and maintain a 2- to 2 ½-mph pace. The average duration of each walk will be roughly three hours. Participants should bring sufficient water and wear suitable clothes and shoes. Snacks, walking sticks and/or a camera may also come in handy. Once the the series has concluded, BPWA will publish the route of each segment in the self-guided walks section of its website.

As for Jacob and Zeke, they have since led a MeetUp walk — a “warm-up” for the upcoming series — and organized other walks for their friends and classmates. When asked about their favorite paths, Zeke names Covert Path. Jacob seconds Covert, but also lists Vistamonte, Indian Trail, Acacia Walk, Wildcat and Fred Herbert. Who says it has to be just one?

It’s encouraging and inspiring to watch a new generation of path wanderers emerge, to watch them fall in love with our city’s paths as have many of us before them. They are BPWA’s future. They offer hope that the legacy we treasure will be preserved for years to come and that generations of people will continue to enjoy the benefits of the paths in health, happiness and the buoyant spirit of youth.

Keith Skinner is President of Berkeley Path Wanderers Association

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