Albany Hill Hundreds of Years Ago

In California’s past thousands of native people in hundreds of different groups lived here (and their descendants still live here). The landscapes were different. Tule elk and pronghorn antelope, for instance, grazed in huge herds on native grasslands and grizzly bears roamed hills and valleys.

Laura Cunningham, an artist and naturalist trained in biology and paleontology, spent years studying and painting forgotten landscapes of California, publishing many of them in a book, A State of Change (Heyday 2010).

The following are reproductions of her art work showing how the area around Albany Hill may have looked hundreds of years ago.

San Francisco Bay November Sunset 400 years ago. Oil on cotton rag paper, 9 x 13 inches, 1998.
Albany Hill, summer
Clouds Over Bay 200 years ago. Oil on cotton rag paper, 9.5 x 9 inches, 1999.
Mid December Sunset at the Golden Gate 300 years ago. Oil on cotton rag paper, 7 x 10 inches, 1999.
El Cerrito Grizzlies 500 years ago. Oil on cotton rag paper, 7.5 x 8 inches, 2005.


East Bay Hills
Oil on cotton rag paper, 7 x 21 inches, 1998
From the East Bay Hills a thousand years ago, Albany Hill can be seen, as well as the Golden Gate across San Francisco Bay. Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta) fly over purple needlegrass (Stipa pulchra). Early observers noted how the hills around the Bay lacked trees in most areas, and was a vast open grassy land.

More of Laura’s art work

Marian with ivy ball; pulling ivy in oak woodland, Albany Hill
Marian with one of her ivy balls

Last Saturday of the Month Work Party, Aug. 25, 9:30 am – 11:30 am

We’ll be pulling ivy and scatter grass in the oak woodland. Gloves and tools provided. Wear sturdy shoes, long sleeves and long pants. Meet at the south end of Santa Clara Ave in El Cerrito, next to Cerrito Creek (3499 Santa Clara Ave, El Cerrito in Google Maps). If you arrive late, look for us above the trail on the east side of the hill. More info:

Late May Evening Nature Walks

big oaks in woodland, E side Albany Hill
big oaks in woodland, E side Albany Hill

Weds, May 23, 6 pm – 7 pm and Thurs, May 31, 6 pm – 7 pm

Join us for these mellow walks in Creekside Park and up the oak woodland trail, looking at plants and listening to birds. Meet on  sidewalk of Pierce St at the bridge/culvert over Cerrito Creek, southwest of the Pacific East Mall and northwest of the driveway entrance to the Bayside Commons Condos. We’ll walk into the park on the path along the south side of Cerrito Creek. More info: 510-289-5346,

2 Wildflower Walks


Wildflower and native plant hike on Albany Hill, Thurs., May 17, 9-11  amLearn about native plants, animals, and a little geology as we climb about 340 feet up the north and east slope and head back down on the west.

Wear long pants and closed-toed shoes with good traction. Bring water and hiking sticks if you use them.

Meet at the SW corner of Pacific East Mall parking lot, 3288 Pierce St. (AC Transit 80 or 72, or El Cerrito Plaza BART).

Free; co-sponsored by Albany Senior Center/Friends of Five Creeks. Info: Margot Cunningham, Tending the Ancient Shoreline Hill,

 Wildflowers and other plants on Albany HillSaturday, May 19, 10 am. Join Margot Cunningham on this 1.5 – 2 hour walk to learn about the great diversity of native plants growing on this small urban open space.

We’ll start near the north side of the hill, cross Cerrito Creek, walk along the riparian/oak woodland edge, head back through the lower meadows, then ascend through the oak woodland to the crest, about a 340-foot climb.

We’ll see more meadow and woodland plants on the crest and west side, then return to the start. See lists of plants, bryophytes, fungi and other organisms found on Albany Hill at

Meet at the south end of Santa Clara Ave in El Cerrito, next to Cerrito Creek (3499 Santa Clara Ave, El Cerrito in Google Maps).

Public transit: 0.5 mile walk from EC Plaza BART, 0.2 mile walk from San Pablo Ave/Carlson Blvd. stop on AC Transit 72 line.

Free; co-sponsored by East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. More info: tashorehill@gmail.com510-289-5346.

Evening Nature Walk

cities east of Albany Hill; view from oak woodland

Weds, May 2, 6 pm – 7 pm
Join us for a mellow walk in Creekside Park and up the oak woodland trail, looking at flowers and listening to birds. Meet in the meadow south of Cerrito Creek, accessible either by crossing Cerrito Creek from Santa Clara Ave in El Cerrito, walking north from the end of Madison in Albany, or walking east along the pathway on the south side of Cerrito Creek from Pierce St. More info:

Meadow Planting on Albany Hill

Saturday, March 24, 9 am-11:30am

Learn about plants and animals on Albany Hill while helping TASH plant natives in a meadow.

Meet at the south end of Santa Clara St in El Cerrito, next to Cerrito Creek. We’ll cross the creek and walk to the east side of the hill to plant in a meadow and adjacent oak woodland.

Map of meeting place:

Wear long sleeves, long plants, sturdy shoes. Bring a water bottle. Gloves, tools, snacks, and extra water provided.

Volunteers under 18 need to have their parent/guardian sign a waiver. Contact to get a copy of the form. Also, groups of 4 or more people, please RSVP to

If greater than 50% chance of rain predicted for that day, the event will happen 4/7/18 instead. Check this web site for forecast beforehand:

Broom Pull Feb. 24

For our work party this month we’ll be meeting at the south end of Santa Clara St in El Cerrito, crossing Cerrito Creek, then walking to the NW side of the hill to pull French broom and plant some natives on Saturday, Feb. 24, 9:30-11:30 am.
As usual, wear long pants and shirts, sturdy shoes, and bring gloves and a favorite tool if you have them. Extra gloves and tools provided.

Native Grass Planting and Hike on Albany Hill

Elymus glaucus from Albany Hill, grown from seed

Sunday, January 21, 2018, 9am – 12:30 pm. Help Friends of Albany Hill plant dozens of native grasses to help stabilize a slope on Albany Hill. Gloves, tools, snacks provided. Bring water bottles and wear long pants, long sleeves, and close-toed shoes. Optional hike up the hill afterwards to see monarch butterflies.

Meet on Jackson St in Albany just north of the intersection with Hillside Ave (628 Jackson in Google Maps;

We’ll work in a light rain. If heavy rain, event will happen Sunday, 1/28/18. Teens under 18 and kids need to have a parent or guardian sign a waiver form. Groups of 4 or more please RSVP. For more info:

Bird Walk, Monarch Walk, and More

snowy egret in Cerrito Creek, near Albany Hill
snowy egret in Cerrito Creek, near Albany Hill

Morning Bird Walk, Thurs, November 9, 9:00-11:00am. Join bird expert Ralph Pericoli for a walk around the base of Albany Hill. We’ll be looking for birds that have returned for the winter as well as resident species. There’s the possibility of seeing about 20-25 species here. Meet at the Madison St entrance to Albany Hill (where Madison dead-ends at its far north end in Albany). Walk ends at Pierce St entrance next to Cerrito Creek.

monarchs roosting on eucalyptusjust above fire road on crest Albany Hill
monarchs on Albany Hill

Monarchs and More Walk for 50+, Thurs, November 16, 9-11 am. Margot Cunningham, Co-Chair of Friends of Albany Hill introduces you to the standalone hill’s refuge for migrating monarch butterflies and other treasures, plus fascinating human and natural history. Easy walk along the hill’s summit is followed by optional hike downhill to Cerrito Creek and back up (< 1 mile, 340 ft. elevation change). Meet at the top (north end) of Taft Avenue on Albany Hill. Info: Co-sponsored by Friends of Five Creeks and Albany Senior Center.

Watch for details on these events happening later this month and in early December:

1. November 25, last Saturday of the month restoration work party
2. December 2SaturdayMonarch Count, Native Plant Seed Ball Making, and more
3. December 3SundayAfternoon Hike on Albany Hill