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Best Staircase Up A Waterfall 

The Cascades, Joaquin Miller Park

The East Bay has plenty of dazzling Bay views, but just one through a sliver-wide clearing of second-growth redwoods, past a reflecting pool, two fountains, and a gentle waterfall. The Cascades, part of the 500-acre Joaquin Miller Park, is a 242-step granite staircase that ascends next to the falls. The staircase, divided into flights for easy climbing and multiple vantage points, was built in 1937 and dedicated to California writers. (Joaquin Miller, the park's namesake, was a Midwestern Pony-Express-rider-turned-California-poet.) The waterfall's refreshing gurgle and the mountaineer's-eye view of downtown Oakland may well be antidotes to writer's block, and they're surefire remedies for the malaise of a sweltering summer day. The best view is from the top, where it's easy to jump across the narrow stream to a tiny island and perch on bench-size boulders underneath the Woodminster Amphitheater's art deco statues. From here the cargo ships on the Bay and Marin County's peaks are tiny, so bring binoculars.

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