All the Berkeley paths in 1 day: 11- and 12-year-olds

caption here. Photo: Jonas Duke

Zeke Gerwein (left) and Jacob Lehmann Duke on Terrace Walk. Photo: Jonas Duke

By Keith Skinner

“Every good hike brings you eventually back home.” Edward Abbey

At 7 a.m. on a Wednesday morning in early August, Jacob Lehmann Duke and his longtime friend, Zeke Gerwein, set out on an adventure they had been planning for more than a month. By the time they returned home that evening, they had accomplished something remarkable. Epic. Perhaps even a little crazy. They had walked every path in Berkeley in a single day.

“We walked between all the paths and never got on a bus, in a car, or on BART,” Jacob said proudly.

Thirty-six miles in 13 hours. Their route ranged from a nadir of 72 feet in the flatlands to a zenith of 1,297 feet at the crest of Summit Road: 5,405 feet of total elevation gain and 4,727 feet of total elevation loss. It was an incredible feat, especially for such young men: Zeke is 12; Jacob 11. 

“After 15 miles, we were exhausted but somehow kept going,” Jacob said of their experience. “After 25 miles, we rested at my grandma’s house and were barely able to move on.”

Zeke and Jacob, buddies since preschool, are big fans of Berkeley’s paths, using them regularly for both utilitarian and recreational purposes. Prior to the big day, the two had covered all the paths during numerous individual walks. Jacob is a math whiz who also runs cross-country, studies the piano and enjoys playing games with his family. Zeke came up with the idea for the mega-hike. He’s a self-confessed cycling freak who completed a month-long bike tour from Mexico to Seattle this past summer. But like his friend, he also enjoys a life of the mind: reading, writing, algebra, history and science. Both boys are preparing for their bar mitzvahs.

The two friends covered most of the alphabet, traveling paths from Acacia to Yosemite. They rambled from Vistamonte Trail in the northeastern corner of town to the Kensington border, then crossed the southern tip of Albany to West Berkeley. There they picked up the Ohlone Greenway into South Berkeley, crossed town to The Crossways, then doubled back and headed into the Claremont Hills, in and out of Oakland to Panoramic Hill. Then they sliced through campus into the central hills, up to Atlas Path, and through Park Hills to Wildcat Path at the Contra Costa County border. Then, finally, home again.

“I limped all the next day and wouldn’t want to go that far again at least for another few months — and possibly ever,” Jacob reported.

While the young men may have crossed extreme path wandering off of their personal bucket lists, they have agreed to lead a series of walks for Berkeley Path Wanderers Association (BPWA) that will include all of Berkeley’s paths. Zeke and Jacob have divided their colossal route into several smaller excursions averaging roughly six miles in length.


Jacob Lehmann Duke on Acacia Walk. Photo: Sophie Lehmann

The series will begin on Jan. 26 at 11:30 a.m., with the walks usually scheduled at monthly intervals. For some time, BPWA has wanted to devise a way to formally recognize people who walk all the paths. For the duration of this series, it will keep a log of the people who start and finish each walk. After the last walk, those who have covered the entire route will be presented with a pin or patch.

Given the length of each route — triple that of average BPWA walks — participants should be able to tolerate numerous hills and maintain a 2- to 2 ½-mph pace. The average duration of each walk will be roughly three hours. Participants should bring sufficient water and wear suitable clothes and shoes. Snacks, walking sticks and/or a camera may also come in handy. Once the the series has concluded, BPWA will publish the route of each segment in the self-guided walks section of its website.

As for Jacob and Zeke, they have since led a MeetUp walk — a “warm-up” for the upcoming series — and organized other walks for their friends and classmates. When asked about their favorite paths, Zeke names Covert Path. Jacob seconds Covert, but also lists Vistamonte, Indian Trail, Acacia Walk, Wildcat and Fred Herbert. Who says it has to be just one?

It’s encouraging and inspiring to watch a new generation of path wanderers emerge, to watch them fall in love with our city’s paths as have many of us before them. They are BPWA’s future. They offer hope that the legacy we treasure will be preserved for years to come and that generations of people will continue to enjoy the benefits of the paths in health, happiness and the buoyant spirit of youth.

Keith Skinner is President of Berkeley Path Wanderers Association

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  • Neil

    Wow, that’s great. Good going!

  • Rachel Anderson

    This is a terrific story — a great goal and accomplishment. Congrats Zeke and Jacob!

  • Heather_W_62

    What a cool thing to do! Berkeley kids are the best.

  • guest

    Just finding the best path to walk through all segments sounds like a good Travelling Salesman type math problem!

  • guest

    Well done lads!

  • serkes

    What a great story! Did they happen to use an app like runkeeper? Would love to see the route they took.


  • Ian

    Indeed. I wonder if they used a TSP solver to create an optimal route. Although the elevation changes would require some adjustments to the edge weights, as well as the fact that in an urban setting two adjacent points may not actually be passable. Did they release a GPS log?

  • Alastair Humphreys

    That’s great! These boys will enjoy the blog of – well done both of you!

  • Alina

    woo-hoo! good job, boys. i am a path fanatic myself and lead meetup hikes along the paths. i’ve mapped my own pathaton walk – i hope to get to it one fun weekend this summer.

  • Alina

    You guys are my heroes! :) I’ll try to join you and earn my patch!

  • Alina

    I went through that exercise a few month back. I took advantage of the fact that the paths show up in google maps. No elevation, but one can map a route on google and get a sense of the mileage. I mapped a 2-day pathaton for myself. I hope to do it on a weekend sometimes this summer.

  • sabine

    Congratulations Zeke and Jacob! You are amazing!

  • Adrian Reynolds

    Amazing…kids these days!

  • Charlie

    I was on the MeetUp walk the boys lead a few weeks ago. I think they said that one of them spent some quality time studying the map and came up with a route to hit all the paths. The other one looked at it and said it was a terrible route, and he sat down to make a route he thought was much better. I think the final route they chose was some kind of hybrid that they both worked on together.
    They are both really fun people! AND excellent walk leaders, no small thing for middle-schoolers leading a motley assortment of mostly adult walkers :-)
    When BPWA posts the routes of the segments the boys have come up with to cover all the paths, it will be a true community resource and treasure!

  • serkes

    Here’s the link to the wonderful Berkeley Path Wanderers Association map.


  • Japhy Writer

    This is great. I want to be just like them when I grow up!

  • Tizzielish

    great story

  • Spacechick

    I’ll have to take my Adderall to keep up with these guys…..