Book Review: Stairway Walks in San Francisco
Stairway Walks in San Francisco, by Adah Bakalinsky, Wilderness Press, 2004, 212 pages, $14.95
“A good walk is an organism of mysterious nuances that can affect us in subtle ways, from quiet harmoniousness to ebullience, from languor to exuberance,” writes Adah Bakalinsky in her celebration of stairway perambulation, Stairway Walks in San Francisco. Bakalinsky’s love of walking—specifically, walking in San Francisco—is evident on every page of Stairway Walks, recently released in its 20th-anniversary edition. This exhaustive guide to San Francisco stair climbing invites the reader on hikes that provide a unique visual and historical perspective on the city.
The stairways of Stairway Walks do not disappoint. Bakalinsky shepherds the reader up and down each flight, highlighting obscure facts and historical curiosities along the way. She is especially adept at finding new ways to experience tourist destinations like Chinatown, North Beach, and Nob Hill. The author’s ability to point out the little known recesses of these well-trodden locales—such as the Telegraph Hill apartment house from the Bogart classic Dark Passage—will give even the most jaded local something new to see. Our guide also shines in her explorations of less well known districts such as Potrero Hill, Bernal Heights, and Forest Hill.
One minor quibble with Stairway Walks is the slightly confusing interface between the neighborhood maps and the accompanying historical, architectural, and horticultural details. Even so, Stairway Walks traverses a San Francisco that is not covered by the average guidebook, and is therefore likely to please tourists and residents alike.