Sunday, June 3, 2012

SF - Pier 39 - Apr. 22, '12

Walking Distance: 2.1 mi.
Walking Time: 3 hrs., 1 min. (4:54 - 7:55 p.m.)
Start and End Point: street parking, metered space, San Francisco, CA

I parked my car on the Levi's Plaza Park (inland/west) side of The Embarcadero, the palm-tree lined avenue that runs along the Bay in San Francisco. Most of today's walk (shown as double red lines on the Bay Trail Map) was atop sidewalks/concrete, with some wood surfaces at Pier 39. Before crossing the road to Pier 23, my starting point, I enjoyed walking up the sidewalk and reading about buried ships under the concrete. Paved over and relegated to become Bay fill from previous centuries, these ships were, in part, a casualty of previous boom and bust cycles dating back to the California Gold Rush from the mid-1800s and earlier.

By the time I crossed the road and muni tracks at a crosswalk to the Bay Trail side of The Embarcadero (street), and started heading up the sidewalk on toward Pier 23 Cafe, the weather had cooled considerably. And the wind had picked up as well. I've learned that if it's sunny in the mornings, it will often be windy in the afternoons by the Bay. The wind is good for whitecap watching and sailing, but not so great for underdressed tourists and walkers, or for holding a camera perfectly steady.

I passed a fairly large construction site (future segment of Bay Trail and/or Americas Cup 2013 related perhaps); and I followed the sidewalk as it curved to the left/west toward Pier 39. I turned right/north to walk around Pier 39 -- a robustly-developed pier with dozens of small, retail shops.

There were several different boats offering rides operating out of this area, including an America's Cup style boat (look for the ultra-tall mast), smaller sailboats, power boats, a tugboat. The RocketBoat, painted in flame-colors, was on its way out to give passengers a bit of a thrill-ride on the Bay. (Blue and Gold Ferry boats are located further northwest of Pier 39.)

Through this maze of diverse boat traffic (check out all the boat-related, dotted white lines on the Bay Trail map), you'll be able to catch glimpses of Coit Tower and Alcatraz Island (itself looking boat-shaped from this angle) on all but the foggiest of days.

I circled Pier 39 and stopped to watch the group of sea lions, local denizens who had hauled themselves up on wood docks on the west side of Pier 39. This loud and proud raft (the name for a group of sea lions) is a draw for visitors and local resident photo-snappers alike. The size of the group waxes and wanes over time, but there are usually always a few that are visible on the west side of Pier 39.

Beyond the sea lions, lay Forbes Island, a tiny isle with a restaurant that can be accessed by boat.

After I'd walked around the Bay side (external perimeter) of Pier 39, I wandered through the wood plank covered and paved inside promenade area (with stairs leading to upper level(s)), out to the end and back, passing the carousel, a boatload of small shops, places to stop/explore, and places to eat and drink along the way.

Upon returning to Levi's Plaza, pink petals from trees in bloom had settled gracefully on the water in the park, adding some color in what had become, at that point, a cold, drab, overcast evening. I revived myself with a hot meal at the Fog City Diner on the way back to my car. Their "Don't Worry" clock above the entrance also made me smile.

Wildlife Sightings:
14 sea gulls; 3 Western/Clarks grebes; 12 pigeons; 13 sea lions

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