Sunday, July 29, 2012

Golden Gate Bridge - July 17, '12

Walking Distance: 3.6 mi.
Walking Time: 3 hrs., 47 min. (11:33 a.m. - 3:20 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Marin Vista Point parking lot, Marin, CA

Today was a great day to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge (shown as a solid red line trail on the Bay Trail map). Thank you to Cindy for joining me today. We started from the Vista Point parking lot on the Marin (north) side of the Bridge; and, from there, it was a very short and easy walk to the sidewalk/bridge approach, to walk south across the bridge toward San Francisco.

This (east) side walkway for pedestrians faced inward toward the Bay and City, and offered sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay, Fort Point (at the foot of the SF side) and Lime Point (near the footing/end on the Marin side), San Francisco, Alcatraz and Angel Island. It was a bit crowded, with mixed bicycle, pedestrian and bridge crew work vehicle traffic jostling for position on the east side of the bridge walkway. (The west side (facing west, out toward the Pacific Ocean) was closed, and opened to bicycles after 3 p.m. we were told.)

During my first walk around the Bay, I crossed the Bridge at night, during the colder months. It was too dark to see any wildlife. A highlight of today's walk was looking down into the water, viewing boats that were passing underneath the bridge, and watching harbor porpoises (including a mother and offspring) swim and surface in the waters below. Identifying birds from above was fun as well. Unfortunately, I did not have a working camera charger (and therefore working camera with a zoom lens) on this walk, and was not able to catch the harbor porpoises in action. The porpoises are apparently making a comeback which is great to hear.

The fog drifted across the bridge in drifts during the walk (south) across the bridge, but cleared during our lunch stop at the Information station/gift shop and The Bridge Cafe. We walked a bit around on the San Francisco hillside before walking back to the Marin side of the bridge where we'd parked. There were patches of blue sky and warm sun on our walk back, and cloud shadows drifted over the surface of the Bay.

Wildlife Sightings:
33 sea gulls; 4 harbor seals; 5 harbor porpoises; 1 sea lion; 2 snowy egrets; 2 terns; 2 brown pelicans; 17 cormorants; 2 pigeons; 2 little brown jobs (LBJs); 12 Western/Clarks Grebes (near Fort Point)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fort Baker - July 15, '12

Walking Distance: 2.9 mi. (estim.)
Walking Time: 1 hr., 48 min. (1:30 - 3:18 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Street parking, Near Cavallo Point, Marin, CA

This segment was the second part of a two-part walk, on the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge. I am scheduled to walk across the Bridge in a few days. So, I've skipped ahead to the North side of the bridge for a few posts this week. Thank you to Ken for joining me on this walk.

Following a break to eat lunch at the Cavallo Point restaurant at Fort Baker (great food and drink here), we walked out (south) to Moore Road, past the fishing pier, and under the Golden Gate Bridge, where the road started to turn uphill and became Conzelman Road. (Conzelman continues up to Marin Headlands on the west side of the Bridge.)

On the way back we walked out to end of the fishing pier and back. And then we followed Sommerville road and path/trail around Horseshoe Bay. We passed the Travis Marina and Presidio Yacht Club and to end of marina and out to Point Cavallo, then northish past the old military batteries;  we took the road/path and stairs leading up to East Rd. (that continues north to Sausalito).

We walked back toward Cavallo Point (east) on East Road, toward McReynolds Road, climbed up the stairs to Merrill Street -- then up some more stairs to the Chapel on the hill.

Unfortunately, for us at least, there was a yoga class going on in the chapel, so we couldn't go inside. So we headed down to the Cavallo Point store, bought a drink and a snack, then headed back to the car.

Wildlife Sightings:
5 cormorants; 17 sea gulls; 1 Western/Clarks Grebe; 3 turkey vultures; 3 Canada geese; 2 brown pelicans; 2 balls (1 tennis ball, 1 baseball); 1 (tiny) lizard; 3 pigeons.

Marin, Vista Pt., Ft. Baker - July 15, '12

Walking Distance: .8 mi. (estimate)
Walking Time: 50 min. (11:10 a.m. - 12:00 Noon)
Start and End Point: Marin Vista Point (North end of Golden Gate Bridge), Marin, CA

This was a short walk, part 1 of 2 today, from the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge (Marin Vista Point parking lot) to the dirt service road that curves around and goes down under the Golden Gate Bridge.

This curved dirt road (visible from Google Maps insert at right), downhill from the Vista Point parking lot, ends under Highway 101/Golden Gate Bridge, at a controlled access point, where only employees are allowed to pass through a gate). However, it is an excellent vantage point for views down into Horseshoe Bay (on Fort Baker side), across the Bay toward Angel Island and San Francisco, and of the Golden Gate Bridge from the north side.

Note: To cross underneath the Bridge or access Moore Road which turns into Conzelman Road -- and goes through to the Marin Headlands (west side of the Golden Gate Bridge), you need to approach this from the Marin Headlands (west) side, or follow Bunker Road down (north) to Fort Baker - take a right on Murray Circle and stay right to continue on Moore Road. Watch for speeding bicycle traffic coming down the hill. 

After walking back up to Marin Vista Point, we walked a bit farther down toward Fort Baker, turning around just past the intersection with Alexander Avenue.

Wildlife Sightings:
13 sea gulls; 5 little brown jobs (LBJs); 3 swallows; 2 brown pelicans; 2 white butterflies; 1 bumblebee; 1 turkey vulture.

SF, Fort Point - July 7, '12

Walking Distance: 1.6 mi. (estimate)
Walking Time: 2 hrs., 50 min. (12:49 - 3:29 p.m.)
Start and End Point: diagonal (free) parking space, southeast of Fort Point, San Francisco, CA

This afternoon I walked from the paved (asphalt) parking lot area (southeast) to the Crissy Field Warming Hut/Cafe (where I left off on yesterday's walk) and out to the end of the Torpedo Wharf/fishing pier to look for the brown pelican I saw yesterday. After spotting what I'm fairly certain was the same pelican sitting with two fishermen, I turned around and walked up (northwest) to Fort Point.

Fort Point is, as the name implied, is a historic fort located on a point, at the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Bridge recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. Fort Point pre-dated the Bridge by 70+ years.

I had the chance to see the "International Orange" exhibit (named for the official paint color of the Golden Gate Bridge) at Fort Point.

The exhibit consisted of works from several artists, including a room of period-inspired Fiesta Queens gowns, designed with images representing the different San Francisco Bay Area counties; a collection of tent camera photographs; a beautiful widescreen video projected on a wall of SF Bay scenes; an International Orange "store" -- and many others.

Exhibits were located throughout (on different levels of) the old fort structure, intermingled with historical exhibits.

I concluded my Fort Point visit by climbing up the brick-lined stairwells to the always breezy roof level of Fort Point. The underside of the Golden Gate Bridge, where one can listen to the ker-thumpity thump of cars rushing by above.

After seeing the exhibit, I walked back (southeast) along the narrow, asphalt road (Marine Drive, shown as double yellow lines on the Bay Trail map), toward the Crissy Field Warming Hut/Cafe.

I took the winding trail with flights of stairs leading uphill. The trail was a packed dirt trail in places. I passed some historic signage and enjoyed the view of the Torpedo Wharf below, and saw what might have been some old bunkers.

Eventually I reached the Golden Gate Bridge Information building and store, on the way to the pedestrian/bicycle approach to cross the Bridge. I looked around the store and also stopped at the Bridge Cafe to buy some Icelandic yogurt and chocolate; both structures had been recently renovated.

If you're lucky, you'll see a panoramic view of the Bridge, fog-free from the top of the hill. Or, the tops of the bridge towers could be shrouded in mist, as they were today.

Wildlife Sightings:
27 little brown jobs (LBJs); 3 pigeons; 1 cormorant; 1 brown pelican (same one as yesterday? - on pier/wharf); 5 Western/Clarks grebes; 5 sea gulls

Palace of Fine Arts - July 6, '12

Walking Distance: 2.2 mi. (estimate)
Walking Time: 2 hrs., 2 mins. (4:18 - 6:20 p.m.)
Start and End Point: 2-hour parking spot, on Baker Street (near intersection with Jefferson St.), San Francisco, CA

Another lovely summer afternoon walk that shaded into evening on the San Francisco Bay Trail.

After a quick stop to see the new Inn at the Presidio (uphill from the Bay Trail and south east of today's walk), I parked just south of the Bay Trail, on Baker Street, adjacent to the Palace of Fine Arts and the Exploratorium. I didn't have any time today to explore the Exploratorium (which will be relocating to the Embarcadero), but I did stroll through the Palace of Fine Arts grounds at the end of this walk.

Heading north from Baker Street, I crossed the crosswalk at Marina Blvd. and followed the Golden Gate Promenade/San Francisco Bay Trail (west) into Crissy Field, stopping at the Beach Hut Cafe (next to the Crissy Field Center), for a chocolate bar and water break first. I then moseyed west along the combination paved and packed dirt path toward the beach/marsh area to do some dog- and people-watching, in one of the best, legal dog frolic areas in San Francisco.

I continued to follow the Bay Trail (west), passing the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, Ocean Climate Center, and related buildings to the north along the Bay. (The grass-covered Crissy Field was on the south side of the trail.) I'm glad they preserved these buildings; I'm a fan of this architectural style, or frankly any building that has a few curves and interesting/elegant architectural style.

I continued (northwest) on to the Crissy Field Warming Hut/Cafe, where I saw a young Brown Pelican hanging out within inches of the Trail -- a somewhat unusual sight. Tourists were stopping to take pictures, posing their young tots next to this bird, who after a while flew off to land at the end of nearby Torpedo Wharf. This pelican was apparently what Judy Irving, Executive Director of Pelican Media, called a "pier bum" -- fishermen were feeding it. I hoped it wouldn't get caught in any fishing line/hooks and then continued on my way.

After walking out on the wharf/pier and talking to a few of the fishermen who recognized this pelican as a recent regular, I walked back toward the Palace of Fine Arts, retracing my steps except for a short amble out to the beach.

On the way back to the car, I cut through the Palace of Fine Arts grounds along a small lake, where I saw pond turtles, ducks and duckings lazing around in the water, and a swan family on the grass -- all a few dozen yards from where I'd parked the car. Seeing the five, fuzzy young swans with two adult swans in the shadows was a nice finish to the walk.

Wildlife Sightings:
3 crows; 56 little brown jobs (LBJs)/songbirds; 26 sea gulls; 10 pigeons; 1 brown pelican; 1 cormorant; 1 swallow; 1 potato bug (jerusalem cricket?); 2 fabric kites; 1 great blue heron; 1 tern; 3 unidentified brownish shorebirds (UBBs); 2 = plovers?, 1 killdeer; 2 adult swans + 5 baby swans; 3 turtles (1 with long neck); 5 ducks + 5 ducklings

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fort Mason - Crissy Field - July 1, '12

Walking Distance: 2.9 miles
Walking Time: 2 hrs., 11 min. (4:09 - 6:20 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Parking lot, near yacht harbor and Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA

I started this afternoon's walk in the fog at the marina near Fort Mason.  I back-tracked to go up through the park (Fort Mason Green) and over the hill behind Fort Mason, to the International Youth Hostel, at which point I turned around.

I walked back through the Green/park, enjoying dogs romping, people relaxing and having fun, and international visitors riding by on rented bicycles, speaking in at least four different languages.

My guess is that a few of them may have been commenting that they thought it might be less cool and foggy in California in the summer, and that they didn't realize that San Francisco would be this hilly. But, I could have been mistaken. Even on foggy days, I still love it here.

Once I'd returned to the Fort Mason parking lot, I walked into Fort Mason and around the facilities. I stopped at Greens Restaurant, a great place to eat with a view of the boats and marina, but they weren't quite open yet. So I continued walking.

I then followed the sidewalk/path west, along the San Francisco Bay toward Crissy Field. Along the way, I passed a some beautiful succulents and colorful flowers, and boats in the marina; and I watched a black-crowned night heron intently fishing on the pier.

I walked out toward St. Francis Yacht Club and the Golden Gate Yacht Club, on the way to see the wave organ, located out at the end of a point/breakwater. Once there, I stopped to listen to see if the "organ" was producing any special sound effect, but heard nothing. Perhaps it was just meant to be a sculpture after all. I did see several people enjoying this point though. It offered a relatively peaceful point, to gaze back at San Francisco and the Marina area.

I then returned to the main path and on to the edge of Crissy Field, making a short photo stop at Lyon and Marina to snap a pic of Palace of Fine Arts (a remnant of an international faire/exhibit last century) across the street, and walked back to car.

Wildlife Sightings:
22 little brown jobs (LBJs); 4 crows; 167 sea gulls; 2 blackbirds; 80 pigeons; 1 Western/Clarks Grebe; 2 cormorants; 3 brown pelicans; 2 black-crowned night heron; 2 swallows; 1 great blue heron