Read Wild-cat Canon of Byways Around San Francisco Bay, free online book, by William E. Hutchinson, on ReadCentral.com.

It was on February 22, Washington’s Birthday, that Hal and I started in the early morning from Berkeley, for a trip to Wild-cat Canon. The birds are singing their Te Deum to the morning sun. The California partridges run along the path ahead of us, their waving crests bobbing up and down as they scurry out of sight under the bushes, seldom taking wing, but depending on their sturdy little legs to take them out of harm’s way. A cotton-tail, disturbed in his hiding, darts away, bounding from side to side like a rubber ball, as if expecting a shot to overtake him before he can get safely to cover He need not fear, as we have no more deadly weapon than a camera, though we should certainly train that upon him if he but gave us a chance. High overhead we hear the clarion honk, honk of wild geese, cleaving the air in drag-shaped column, while the dew on the grass dances and sparkles in the sunshine like glittering diamonds.

After a hard climb we reach the top of the hill, and look down at the town just awakening into life, and out across the waters of the bay partly hidden by the blanket of fog rolling in from the ocean.

Did you ever stand on the top of a high hill in the early morning, when the eastern sky is beginning to put on its morning robe of variegated colors, with all the blended shades of an artist’s palette, and watch the town, nestling in the valley at your feet, wake up after its night of slumber? Here a chimney sends its spiral of blue smoke straight in air; then another, and another, like the smoke of Indian scouts signaling to their tribes. The lights in the windows go out, one by one; the sharp blast of a whistle cuts the air, the clang of a bell peals out, the rumble of a wagon is heard, and the street cars begin their clatter and clang. All this comes floating up to you on the still morning air, until an ever-increasing crescendo of sounds is borne in upon you, telling that the town has awakened from its nap, stretched itself like a drowsy giant, and is ready once more to grapple with its various problems.

We pass a grove of tall eucalyptus trees on our left, their rugged trunks like an army of tattered, unkempt giants. From the brink of the old stone quarry, we gaze down into its prisonlike depths, the perpendicular walls looking as if they had been carved out of solid rock to hold some primeval malefactor; then we descend the hill on the other side to the canon.

The view on every side is magnificent. Rising out of the canon, on the farther side, the rounded domes of the hills, clothed in velvet green, roll from one to another like huge waves of the ocean, while far to the right old Grizzly stands majestically above the others, its top crowned with waving verdure, like the gaudy headdress of some mighty warrior.

We descend into the canon by a well-marked trail, and the shade of the trees is most grateful after our walk in the sun. We follow downstream, where the speckled trout lie hid in the deep pools, and the song sparrows sing their sweetest, and at last find ourselves at the object of our quest, opposite the caves.

There are three or four of these, large and small, which were used in former times by the Indians. We had fully intended to climb the face of this almost perpendicular cliff, to explore the caves, and photograph the interiors with the aid of flashlights, but decided that the climb was too hard, and the ground too wet and slippery for safety. As a false step or an insecure foothold would send us to the bottom with broken bones, if not broken necks, we contented ourselves with photographing the face of the cliff from a safe distance.

Retracing our steps, crossing the stream, and making a long detour, we tried to reach the caves from above. It was a hard, tedious climb, over rough and jagged rocks, but after nearly an hour’s struggle, slipping and sliding, holding on to every shrub that offered the semblance of a grip, we reached the top. Then by a more tedious and dangerous descent, we reached a large flat rock just above the caves. Crawling out upon the rock, and venturing as near the edge as we dared, we found it almost as impossible to reach the caves from above as from below, and finally gave up the attempt.

But we were well repaid for our rough climb, for a more magnificent panorama could hardly be found. We looked for miles up and down the canon, in either direction, so far below us that the head grew dizzy. The trees followed the tortuous course of the canon, and two men that we saw far below us looked like pigmies.

Far above us a sparrow hawk circled above the trees, and we were told that an owl had a nest somewhere among the rocks. We did not look for it, but certainly nothing but an owl, or some other bird, could ever hope to scale the rocks successfully. We rested a long time on the top of the rock, enjoying the view, and regaining our wind for the climb to the top. This we accomplished without accident, save for the few scratches incident to such work. It was the season when the flowering currant puts on its gala dress of pink blossoms, and the banks of the creek for a long distance were like a flower garden. On the higher ground the beautiful Zygadene plant, with its pompon of white star-shaped flowers, and long graceful leaves, grew in profusion. Maidenhair ferns, the only variety we saw, sent forth their delicate streamers from every nook and cranny, forming a carpet of exquisite texture.

When we reached the top of the hill on our return, and looked down upon Berkeley, the sun was obscured by a high fog, and a cold wind came up to us from the bay, making us step lively to keep the blood circulating. We reached home late in the afternoon, worn, and leg-weary, but well satisfied with our holiday in Wild-cat Canon and the beautiful Berkeley hills.