Best Staircase Walk - 2008
Vallejo, between Jonesand Mason
In a city replete with charming yet utilitarian streets turned staircases (the only way to scale our more clifflike hills this side of a funicular railway), the stretch of Vallejo between Jones and Mason is especially rewarding. Start at the cable car tracks on Mason and ascend vertiginous Russian Hill past an eclectic landscape of grassland, succulents, and leafy foliage. Just before Taylor, there's a landing with benches and boulders and Ina Coolbrith Park, a pocket-sized refuge limned with flowerbeds and towering Monterey cypress. Continue across Taylor and up an even more oasislike flight of steps with its encompassing ferns and flowers, handsome old lampposts, trees and saplings, and worn wooden fencing that gives the place a dappled, arbored ambience. At stairway's end you're on top of the world, your efforts rewarded with a dazzling panorama of bridge, bay, distant hills, and North Beach tumbling below. The half-block of Jones stretching behind you, incidentally, is a practical museum of residential architecture ranging from brown-shingled mansions to Mediterranean villas, many of them designed by groundbreaking postquake architect Willis Polk.