Best Hikes near Walnut Creek

We know the next storm’s a comin’ to the Bay Area soon – 3 feet expected up at Trucke, but you can’t deny you’ve enjoyed this crazy beautiful warm weather for the past couple weeks. I don’t know about you, but I’ve taken full advantage of it and gone hiking as much as possible with my dog, Bodie.                                                              IMG_4109

 

 

Funny enough, I found this story about the best hikes in the East Bay recently, and I’m dying to try a few that I’ve never been on before. Once this next storm clears, I’m going to hit the trails! Here is a list of the top five East Bay hikes, combined from the story linked above and my own experiences.shell ridge 1

  • Camp Force Overlook, Mt. Diablo (0.7 miles – easy) – according to the article, this starts just past Rock City and takes you through an area of crumbling stoves where famous Boy Scout leader Raymond Force and his troop used to camp. You can also watch some epic rock climbing from a distance
    (bring binoculars!) on the face of Gibraltar Rock.
  • Shell Ridge, Walnut Creek Open Space (3 miles – easy) – technically, the trail we’re talking about here is the Indian Creek – Twin Ponds loop that takes you up to the Rockspring entrance in Walnut Creek, past Bullfrong pond, and up and down many moderate slopes. The best part is the breathtaking view of downtown Walnut Creek and beyond you get on clear days.  This is the hike I tend to do the most and Bodie absolutely loves to be off leash and running abound.  IMG_3549
  • Bruce Lee Spring Trail, Mt. Diablo (3.1 miles – moderate) – this trail winds through the hills behind Clayton and affords you a nice view of the borges ranchMt. Diablo summit. There will be a little bit of a creek crossing and plenty of uphill hiking, but it’s well worth it in the end. According to the story above, your best bet is to go from the Bruce Lee Spring Trail to the Hetherington Trail to complete the loop.
  • Borges Ranch, Walnut Creek Open Space (9 miles – difficult) – the longest hike on this list isn’t a terribly steep climb (unless you opt to climb up into the Castle Rock area, which is clearly visible for most of your hike), but will bring you on a long, ambling loop that starts and finishes at the historic, unique Borges Ranch. It feels like you’re in the Wild West for a moment when you walk by the old homestead!
  • The Amphitheater, Mt. Diablo (4.3 miles – difficult) – this hike starts just off Morgan Territory Rd., and gives you expansive views of the Delta and Mt. Diablo. To get to the “amphitheater,” follow the Morgan Creek Rd. trailhead to Jeremiah Creek Trail, take a right and then a left on Old Finley Rd. The history and beauty of the spot will amaze you.

Do you have a favorite to share?

Market Commentary – Carol Rodini (Part 2)

As promised, I said I would write a couple of blogs from a Carol Rodini speaking event I attended. The first blog gives her thoughts on how China and Saudi Arabia may affect the real estate market in the coming months. Today, we’re discussing a general Bay Area real estate overview.

Carol said thatSF houses we (in the East Bay) are usually 6-8 months behind the other side of the Bay – meaning San Francisco and the Peninsula. What is currently happening there (and we may see this in the later part of the year) is that the media is reporting a growth of inventory. This type of news has adverse effects on real estate. In reality, there are two types of real estate: desirable and non-desirable. The media bundles them together, but Carol pointed out how they are different.

Prices have gone down on high-end properties, and buyers are getting hesitant and willing to stand by and watch what happens. For example, a house in San Francisco that was listed for $1.5 million sent out 30 disclosure packages. One buyer submitted a pre-emptive offer of $1.75 million all cash and the seller didn’t take it because they thought they could get more and wanted to market it a bit longer. On the offer due date, none came in. So they went back to the cash buyer and that person said no.

A few takeaways:

1. You can’t be over-priced in this market.

2. Buyers in the city are no longer playing the competition game.

3. Sellers need to be aggressive with their pricing, by pricing it slightly under market. The reason? Millennials buy with their stock options. And with the market volatility and changes, this is making them a bit more hesitant.

The East Bay will have a great spring. We traditionally see a bit of a slow-down in the summer, and depending on what the stock market does, we may follow in the steps of the city. Our average price point is much lower and we are seeing a bunch of first-time home buyers that can’t afford San Francisco or the Peninsula who are looking at the East Bay – at least until the prices drop on the other side of the Bay.

Livermore Valley Wineries

vineyardIn a follow-up to my post “East Bay Booze Boom,” I thought I’d write about the amazing wine scene that’s also blossoming in the Livermore Valley.

I have toured there several times and always find the wines to be delicious, the sites beautiful, and the people friendly. And it’s so close to home!

Although wine has been cultivated in Livermore since the 19th century, it has only recently started to gain popularity. Wente Vineyards has long been the largest producer in the Livermore Valley, making around 700,000 cases of wine annually.

The region has a predominately gravel-based soil and lies on a unique east-west orientation, unlike many other wine-growing valleys. Due to a reliable onshore afternoon/evening breeze off of the Bay, there is a wide fluctuation in temperature between sites, making the growing conditions similar to St. unnamedHelena or Calistoga.

The Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association has a great website that allows you to research different wineries, and plan a self-guided tour through the wine county. To the right is a list of some of the top wineries in the region.

Another great way to explore the area is on the Livermore Wine Trolley! This trolley is the newest way to explore wineries throughout the Livermore Valley.

They offer an all-inclusive wine tour, where you will be transported through lush rolling hills, beautiful canyons, and award-winning wineries. You can also book the trolley for your group’s own private charter.

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One other perk of staying local for your wine tasting tour is that the prices are much more affordable than those in Napa. For example, the top-rated wine tasting in Livermore on Yelp is at Bent Creek Winery.

There, you can pay a $10 tasting fee to try 11 of their wines, and then even apply that $10 towards the purchase of a bottle!

You don’t have to go all the way up to Sonoma, Napa or Healdsburg to get quality California wine anymore.

If you’re living in the East Bay, you can make an easy day trip out to Livermore with your friends to sip on some unique, local wine.

If you have been to any of these Livermore wineries, let us know how your experience was!

 

Can China & Saudi Arabia Affect the Real Estate Market?

On January 11, I attended a speech by Carol Rodoni about the Bay Area real estate market with an emphasis on the East Bay. My blogs are going to spread out over a handful of posts to give bite-size tidbits of her speech, which I always find very entertaining:

3dp_china3dp_map_flagCarol started off by saying that 2015 was an extraordinary year in real estate and outlining a few global situations to keep in mind that may have an impact on our 2016 real estate market.

China devaluing their currency:

Carol sees this move as a growing pain and a way to try to support their economy. Every Nov. 11, China celebrates “Singles Day,” the biggest on-line shopping day of the year. Nov. 11, written out as “11/11,” represents four singles, which is also referred to as “Double Eleven.” This past November, Alibaba broke its own record and increased sales by 60 percent, or $14.3 billion. By comparison, American sales on Cyber Monday were $1.35 billion. I don’t think we need to worry about China.

Middle East and the price of oil:

Oil now costs less than $27 per barrel and is still dropping, when only a few years ago it was $109 per barrel. Saudia 4695206-Oil-prices-dropping-vector-illustration-of-fuel-barrels-with-currency-icons-and-a-down-arrow-signify-Stock-VectorArabia has refused to cut down production, perhaps in the hopes of pushing out a few competitors. Saudi Arabia has a tremendous advantage, as their technology to extract oil is inexpensive compared to other countries; this includes the U.S., where fracking has become a provider of jobs in the Midwest. Saudi Arabia may be okay with lowering prices to eliminate smaller competition, like Iran, now that oil sanctions have been lifted.

As a result of how chaotic the world is, Carol doesn’t believe the Fed will raise rates more than twice in the next year. She said she believes the next rate hike won’t happen until June, and felt the hike in December was at the wrong time.  All this still makes for a great time to purchase or refinance as rates are still hovering below 4%.

 

Things to do Around Walnut Creek for Christmas!

ice skating WCLIt’s that time of year again when the tree lots spring up, lights blink on every corner and familiar movies play on every TV: it’s Christmas time!  If you are like me, it caught up to me quickly, as I barely got my tree up, with Christmas Cards still needing to be created – maybe they will be New Year cards (now if I can only my Costco certificate for the print shop I bought 2 months ago).  Thus with only a few days left until Christmas, there is still  a lot of things to do….

Even though Walnut Creek is nestled in the cozy Bay Area where snow is a day trip away, the town gets into a wintery spirit for the holidays. With students coming home for winter break and relatives flying into town for Christmas and New Year’s, families are reuniting all over the Bay Area.  After catch up is played, meals are devoured and egg nog is drunk, here are a few fun, local holiday events around Walnut Creek for the whole family to enjoy:

Walnut Creek on Ice

For just $15, you can enjoy some quality ice skating time right in downtown Walnut Creek. The ice rink, which has been a fixture in Civic Park for many winters now, throws fun events and never gets overly crowded. For more information about Walnut Creek on Ice, visit their website.

Santa visits at Broadway Plaza

A winter classic is taking the kids (of all ages!) to visit Santa Claus, ask for a gift and take a photo. This year, you can head right down to Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek to see him. Make sure to hurry on this one, though; he can only hang around through Christmas Eve, before taking off on his sleigh to deliver his gifts!

091220-N-XXXXX-001 FUJISAWA CITY, Japan (Dec. 20, 2009) Petty Officer 1st. Class James Durrance acts as Santa during a visit to distribute toys to children of the Misono Orphanage. The community service project was supported by the First Class Petty Officer Association of the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63). (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Holiday Train in Blackhawk

Take a little drive to Blackhawk and get a nice meal with the family, before rewarding your kids for their patience with a fun train ride at Blackhawk Plaza! All you need is to make a purchase at the plaza, and you’ll receive a ticket for the train too. Nothing says holidays like a wintery train ride for the little ones.

Volunteer in the East Bay

There are endless volunteer opportunities around the East Bay, especially around the holidays. From helping distribute food, clothing and toys to less fortunate families, to caroling at local senior centers, there are tons of ways to help give back with your family this Christmas. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.

Catch a Christmas movie

Everybody has their favorite Christmas movie, but many people don’t realize that they can watch some of the classics from the Century Theaters in Walnut Creek! For example, this Wednesday night the theater will be showing Miracle on 34th Street, and then It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve. What better way to spend some warm, relaxing family time than getting a Christmas classic on the big screen?

Do you have any other fun ideas for this week and weekend around Walnut Creek? Happy holidays!

Just in Time for Thanksgiving!

FullSizeRender-2Having a bad hair day?

Apparently you’re not the only one…This wild turkey, spotted near Walnut & Marshall, just discovered that he’s bald!

Vanity withstanding, he is definitely not alone!  I was driving away in my Mini after an Open House at my listing in Clayton, when I came around the corner and — to my surprise — found a gang of turkeys (yes, “gang” is the technical term for a group of turkeys)!

I have seen a few gangs here and there around Walnut Creek, and many at the Lafayette Reservoir! This got me thinking: do we have a turkey problem?

Lo and behold, it’s been an issue in the East Bay since the early 2000’s. Apparently, the turkeys continue to move East, oftentimes destroying gardens, nicking paint on cars and leaving cement-like patties of you know what along the way.

FullSizeRender-1Here are a few facts about the wild turkey that were new to me:

  • There are almost 7 million wild turkeys nationwide
  • They have 5,500 feathers and males have 18 distinct tail feathers
  • Ranging from 5-20 pounds, they can run at speeds up to 25 mph and fly at 55 mph

Watch yourself around gangs of turkeys, too! By nature, they have a proud demeanor and protective instincts, with vision three times better than humans – maybe the turkey above couldn’t believe what he was seeing!

So, think twice before trying to score a free Thanksgiving meal when you see these guys on the street.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

 

 

East Bay Booze Boom!

The Bay area is leading the nation in innovation, and not just in the tech sector. A new industry on the rise in the East Bay is the alcoholic beverage market!

75e4cb_70530afefa2c4ac597c7198da59bd280With the craft brewing industry on the rise, many local entrepreneurs have hopped (get it?) on the bandwagon, starting many new breweries in Oakland, San Francisco, and even Concord! Many of these East Bay brewers are really pushing the envelope by making unusual beers, like sours, rare varietals, and other creative concoctions.

One such brewery in the sour beer market is Rare Barrel in Berkeley. They go the extra mile by aging their beer in oak barrels for about a year to develop the lovely tart flavors in their brews. Some other notable East Bay breweries are Linden Street Brewery and Pacific Coast Brewery in Oakland, Jupiter and Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley, and EJ Phair in Concord. Don’t sleep on 21st Amendment Brewery, famous for their Hell or High Watermelon beer, which just opened a huge new brewery in San Leandro. Or the popular Calicraft Brewing Co. based right here in Walnut Creek which is my favorite; I love their Buzzerkeley champagne beer.

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Beer is not the only game in town, however. The wine and liquor industries in the area have also been growing in popularity. St. George Sprits in Alameda has become well-known for their brand, and Hangar One vodka is named after the old World War II-era hangar where the distillery is based. Although they recently sold the brand to be produced next door, the distillery is excited to have more space to focus on new experiments in distillation. Some of their more creative liquors include Green Chili Vodka, Absinthe Verde (I know this one from personal experience and it was not a good one), Agricole Rum, and several Fruit Brandies. They have a great guided tour for $15, which includes a tasting of six spirits! They even have a small outdoor seating area where you can hang out with a drink after your tour and check out the San Francisco skyline from the other side of the Bay.

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Many wineries have also begun to spring up throughout the East Bay. Although this may seem like a new development, the East Bay, especially the Walnut Creek area, was actually one of the main wine-grape growing regions until prohibition in 1920. One such winery making a revival in the area is Urban Legend Cellars in Oakland. They source grapes from other local regions, and use various blending and oaking techniques to produce unique and delicious wines.

Walnut Creek has also been put back on the map with Shadowbrook Winery. This vineyard grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, right on the foothills of Mount Diablo. Mark Lavezzoli, the Winemaker there, combines traditional and innovative techniques to create some very tasty vino. The entire team there is very excited about Walnut Creek’s potential to produce a first-class wine.

With so many great beverages to try right here in the East Bay, it’s hard to find a reason to leave and another great reason to own a home in this amazing area.

Have you been to any of these places? Please share your thoughts – we would love to hear from you!