Monday, January 18, 2016

Bay Area Fairy Doors

     A touch of magic has sprinkled the Bay Area with tiny fairy doors. In and on trees, on the sides of homes, on cement curbs--the locations of the fairy doors are as numerous and creative as the doors themselves, and more are popping up every day. People are even getting together to have fairy door creation parties. There's not just one group responsible for the doors; in many cases it's individuals driving the phenomenon. Stumbling upon a fairy door can awaken the kid inside, and seeing someone else discover one warms the soul. Of all the Bay Area activities I've enjoyed over the years, hunting for fairy doors has been my favorite and really, most rewarding, activity. And guess what? It's free!
     So how does one go about finding these precious portals? There are fairy doors tucked away in Berkeley and San Francisco, but so far I haven't found a comprehensive map of them. One must simply take long walks with sharp eyes, though news stories about famous doors can guide you to the most popular. But Alameda is probably the best place to start. Not only are there several fairy doors on an island that's easier to navigate, but there's a Facebook group, Alameda Island Fairy Doors, devoted to the doors that provides a map (which is printable) of their locations. Every time a new fairy door is discovered, the map is updated to show its location. And really, Alameda is one of the loveliest places to take a stroll.
     My sister and I chose to hunt for doors in the Park Street area. There's a park one block over from Park Street that provides free parking, and here is where we began our journey. We walked down San Jose Avenue toward Park and turned left on Oak toward Alameda South Shore Center. The star on our map told us we should see a fairy door somewhere nearby, and my sister was the first to spot it, a door about four inches tall attached to the foundation of a fence. Upon closer inspection, we noticed a black cat was painted on the door, and from a nearby porch, a black cat watched us with curiosity. Finding the door gave me the same thrill I felt hunting Easter eggs as a child, and we hurried on to the next star on our map. Each new door was unique, each had wonderful little details to admire, and each one provided a tiny adrenaline rush. Trees and power poles were the most popular places for the fairy doors we found, but occasionally one was attached on a house or on a wall. All in all, we found ten fairy doors, leaving plenty for our next hunting trip, including two we couldn't locate but hope to find next time.
     If you want to see a lot of doors with not as much walking, the Park Street clusters are the best choice, and there are plenty of places to take a break. But if you want a more challenging hunt, the West End is a better choice. The fairy doors are spaced out, and the area is more bike friendly. One of the great things about fairy door hunting is that one is never done with it. New doors are being added all the time, so there will always be something to discover in the future. If you've resolved to be more active this year, but hate the tedium of a gym workout, fairy door hunting might just be your thing. It's play in disguise, and it's definitely the most magical Bay Area Miss-Me-Not.