Monday, June 18, 2012

SF Maritime Park, SF - June 15, '12

Walking Distance: .6 mile (2 miles total)
Walking Time: 1 hr., 45 min. (1:35 - 3:20 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Metered parking space, on Jefferson St., San Francisco, CA

I breezed through the Aquatic Park/San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park area on a previous walk. I returned to this area today, to visit the Maritime National Historical Park Visitor's Center and the Maritime Museum (Bathhouse), and to walk out to the end of the curved breakwater/pier.

The Visitor's Center was worth the stop. The entrance was located on Jefferson St., across the street from the Hyde Street Pier -- roughly where the double yellow/gold lines turn into a solid red line on the Bay Trail Map.  Part visitor center and part San Francisco Bay history museum, the space and exhibits were well put together and provided a good perspective on the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800s, as well as other major developments that shaped the waterfront.

Exhibits dated back to the days when the locals traversed the Bay in tule boats -- and there was, in fact, a tule boat on display. Also of interest were pictures of Italian feluccas, Chinese junks, old ferry boats -- and information and pictures explaining the role these boats played in the evacuation of San Francisco immediately following the earthquake and fires of 1906.

After I exited the visitor center, I crossed the street, walking north toward the water. I turned left (west) and continued on to the paved Promenade path (solid red line on map, shared pedestrian and bike path) that hugged the shoreline, along the beach, and out to the end of the curved breakwater (Municipal Pier), passing fishermen and a few tour groups on Segways.

The end of the pier provided one of the closest viewing points (on land) so far to Alcatraz Island, and also offered good views of the city skyline. On a clear day, you should be able to see Coit Tower on top of Telegraph Hill and the Transamerica Pyramid in the distance, and the nearby Ghirardelli Chocolate sign and square, located a short distance up the hill from the water. The Golden Gate Bridge is also visible on a clear day.

On the way back I stopped at the Maritime Museum (Bathhouse). There were no tanks of fish, and few exhibits on display (other than some nice ship models in glass cases). Rather, in the large open area (with great acoustics), the public can view large, painted murals that covered the walls. These colorful murals were preserved from the 1930s, when funding for WPA projects resulted in a number of significant public art works in the San Francisco area.

Visitors can step out through doors to a second story balcony of this art deco style building (with attractive curves), and gaze out over the beach and Aquatic Park. You may see swimmers in the Bay below, from the Dolphin or South End swimming/rowing clubs. Or one can look at the large works done with tiles, covering outside walls behind you.

On the way back to Jefferson Street, I walked by Victorian Park, a large, grass-covered area, where several people were sitting and enjoying the sunshine.

Wildlife Sightings:
38 sea gulls; 12 pigeons
May 1938

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Angel Island - June 4, 2012

Walking Distance: 5 miles (estimate)
Walking Time: 2 hrs., 58 min. (11:00 a.m. - 2:58 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Ferry dock, Angel Island, CA

Angel Island, the largest of several small islands in San Francisco Bay, requires a ferry or boat ride to get there. The perimeter trail around the island is coded as a "purple" line, or connector trail, on the Bay Trail map.

For my second walk around the Bay, I decided to divide the Angel Island walk into two parts. Today was part #1, that included a partial walk around the perimeter of the island, and a trip over the top of Mount Livermore. (When I cross the Golden Gate Bridge and reach Tiburon (ferry stop), I plan to revisit Angel Island and will walk the perimeter path on the other side of the island, that runs past the immigration station.)

On the hour-long drive up to the Tiburon ferry terminal, it was raining. However, it cleared up just in time for our walk. By the afternoon, patches of blue sky started to poke out now and then. The Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline in the distance, were alternately visible, and then invisible, shrouded in mist.

From Ayala Cove, our group walked up the hill, heading to the right, southwest, to the Perimeter Road. We passed an old military hospital, old Batterys, and other historic landmarks along the way, as well as clumps of yellow lupine and other wildflowers. Some buildings were in better shape than others. It would be wonderful to see some of these restored.

We stopped at a picnic table for a lunch break, and then continued until we reached a fork in the trail, uphill from the old Nike Missile site.

A few of us headed (left) and up the mountain, following the Ida Trail for a beautiful 360 degree view from the top of Mount Livermore. The top of the mountain had been removed/flattened out earlier, but was recently restored to a more natural state.

We took the Sunset Trail leading back down (north) to Ayala Cove. This trail was partly wooded and offered a bit more shade than the Perimeter Road trail, with views of Tiburon and north bay in the clearings.

Near the ferry stop, there are restrooms and a small place to stop and eat. We had time to buy a small snack before our ferry arrived. This small cafe closes up shop fairly early (often before the last ferry leaves), so you may want to pack some food and water with you.

Wildlife Sightings:
10 little brown jobs (LBJs)/songbirds; 5 crows; 4 sea gulls; 2 turkey vultures; 1 black beetle; 2 butterflies/moths; 2 mockingbirds

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

SF - Fisherman's Wharf Hostel - May 18, '12

Walking Distance: 1.4 mi.
Walking Time: 2 hrs., 15 min. (10:10 a.m. - 12:25 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Hyde Street Pier, in San Francisco, CA

Today I covered a short segment of Bay Trail - from Hyde Street Pier up the hill toward Fort Mason (shown as a solid red line on the Bay Trail Map).

A friend (thank you Julie!) showed me Hostelling International's San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Hostel. After climbing up the short, but relatively steep paved (asphalt) road, (west) up the hill toward Fort Mason from Fisherman's Wharf proper, the entrance to this hostel was to the left up a short road.

Note: The paved trail/road heading uphill from the end of Van Ness Ave. is likely too steep for wheelchairs and some other wheeled vehicles. Easier/more level access may be from the other (non-Bay Trail) side (Bay Street and Franklin Street).

We stopped for something to drink at the Cafe Franco at the hostel, and took a quick tour of the common areas of the hostel, before walking over to the nearby Community Garden to admire the individual plots and flowers in bloom. I'd recommend the hostel as a place to stay for those coming in from out of town to walk/ride the Bay Trail.

I will return (back-track) in June '12 to finish walking the curved breakwater/pier (that begins near the very end of Van Ness Ave.) that I missed today, and also to visit Ghirardelli Square and the Maritime Museum (old Aquatic Park Bath house building from the 1930s) we passed due to time constraints.

Wildlife Sightings:
3 sea gulls

SF - Hyde St. Pier - May 14, '12

Walking Distance: 1.5 miles
Walking Time: 2 hrs. (2:20 - 4:20 p.m.)
Start and End Point: metered parking spot on Jefferson Street, San Francisco, CA

Today I continued my start-and-stop transit along the waterfront sidewalks of San Francisco, at a snail's pace. There were too many interesting spots to see and people to meet and photograph in this city. Despite the fact that I have walked through this (Fisherman's Wharf, Cannery) area between Pier 39 and Hyde Street Pier several times before, and that it has a reputation as a tourist trap, I still find it interesting.

The Fisherman's Wharf area was relatively crowded for a Monday. Many people were out-of-town visitors. A group on segways zipped by on a tour, all slanting slightly forward.

I had already eaten, so I didn't stop for a crab lunch this time around. I did dawdle, however, to look at the crabs in tanks, piles of crabs, and crab dishes packaged up and ready to go. And I paused in front of Boudin's bakery window to look at a large loaf of baked bread in the shape of an alligator/crocodile.

Street performers abound here. One man, spray painted from head-to-foot with silver paint, was perched atop a milk crate, moving robot-like; and the man who disguises himself as a bush and pops out to scare people periodically, was in the area. You'll also pass a Ripley's believe-it-or-not museum, where I saw a horse (or a donkey?) made entirely of bottle corks.
I turned around after I passed the Hyde Street Pier, an old ferry pier with several large historic ships moored there now. I walked down the this pier to look at some of these older ships/boats, but did not continue all the way to the end (admission required).

Despite the activity in the area, I did see a great blue heron taking a snooze out on the rocks near the pier. If you stand on the pier and look west toward Aquatic Park, you'll see a beach area, and may catch a glimpse of some bay swimmers from one of the swim clubs stationed nearby.

I also stopped at Rosie's Roses, a shop on Jefferson Street, at the Cannery, a large brick building now occupied by shops and offices. I was looking for chocolate (for my other blog, Chocolate Banquet). In addition to flowers, plants and other items, she also carried chocolates. I passed many interesting small businesses like this along my walk. I always enjoy talking with small business owners.

Wildlife Sightings:
10 sea gulls; 5 pigeons; 1 great blue heron; 4 little brown jobs (LBJs)

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

Saturday, June 2, 2012

SF, Terry Francois - Apr. 15, '12

Walking Distance: 3.1 mi.
Walking Time: 2 hrs., 16 min. (5:42 - 7:58 p.m.)
Start and End Point: Street parking on Berry Street, in San Francisco, CA

Parking is a bit challenging near ATandT Park if you're driving into San Francisco. However, there are garages; and this walk was close to a CalTrain ride into the City. I found a parking spot on Berry Street, and walked between some buildings to Mission Creek Park, and walked along the water to the 4th Street (Peter R. Maloney) bridge (1916). I crossed the bridge and headed south and to Mission Rock to Terry Francois.

Terry Francois (shown as double red lines on the Bay Trail map) runs along the water's edge, and past buildings with a strong maritime theme -- e.g. the Mariposa Hunters Point Yacht Club and what I believe are some Port of San Francisco buildings. When I reached Agua Vista Park and fishing pier, I admired the view and continued south to Illinois -- to be more precise, the intersection of Illinois and 18th (where I'd left off on a previous walk). I turned around and walked back up Illinois -- shown as a set of yellow double lines on the Bay Trail Map. The yellow/golden color indicates the trail likely consists of surface streets that may or may not have formal sidewalks.

On the way back I stopped by the Gluten Free Grocery, a small establishment stocked with gluten free food items. This was great news for me (I don't eat wheat/gluten), so I loaded up. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming. A cat and a dog sauntered by me, open to being petted if I was in the mood. The owner was very helpful and pleasant.

Food bag in hand, I continued. Across the way was The Ramp, a single story wood structure with an altogether different feel. The attire was casual and the food was relatively straight-forward bar fare, nothing too fancy. There was outdoor seating on the water; mostly tables with a partial waterside view. I'm guessing people might stop by this rustic bar, in the China Basin-Potrero Hill area, for a beer after a San Francisco Giants baseball or San Francisco 49ers football game.

It may have been my imagination, but I noticed a lot more people and families enjoying this stretch of the Bay Trail today than I remember seeing two years ago. That's a good thing. The secret is out.

I made sure to pass by the Junior Giants Field (a small-scale ball field), and the statue of Willie McCovey before crossing north over the 3rd Street (Lefty O'Doul) bridge (1933). I passed one of my favorite signs ("Watchout for all flying objects, not limited to baseballs and bats") following the Bay Trail (all paved asphalt or sidewalks from here) around ATandT Park, past the marina with a view of the Bay Bridge, and up the Embarcadero toward Townsend. I turned around when I reached the point where I'd left off on a previous walk.

Wildlife Sightings:
79 sea gulls; 6 blackbirds, 2 red-winged blackbirds; 1 cormorant; 1 hummingbird; 13 little brown jobs (LBJs); 8 pigeons; 12 doves; 3 bumblebees; 12 Western/Clarks grebes; 2 ducks.