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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

SF Urban Thru-Hike Part 2: Community Focal Points

The Mosaic Staircase at Moraga and 16th
The SF urban thru-hike was diverse, challenging, and beautiful. I was constantly navigating and never on autopilot. My senses were fully engaged at all times and I was constantly surprised by the hidden gems tucked away around every turn.

I fell in love with stairways on this trip. I know that sounds weird, but I really did. I would get so excited every time I would see one. Each had a different design and ornamentation. It was such a fun game trying to find where they were hidden between houses and at the terminus of dead end streets.

Many of the stairways were surrounded by spectacular gardens. These pedestrian passages were community centers and the glue to many of these neighborhoods. Without a connecting stairway between two streets, residents might never interact with each other, much less grow vegetables and raise bees together. Stairways are also the focal point of a lot of exercise groups. I ran into many of these groups on my hike as well as a few folks who were using Adah Bakalinsky's book to explore the city.

I was also pleased to see that there were a lot of native plant gardens. These green spaces provide important habitat for endangered butterflies such as the Mission Blue and the Green Hairstreak. I actually had some really great nature moments during my hike. In Golden Gate Park I saw a Red-Tailed Hawk catch a vole. And in the Presidio there were three baby cygnets with their parents.


Even cement couldn't keep the Poppies from thriving:


Here are some of the stairways:


Some of the stairways were in the sidewalk next to the road. That's how steep these SF roads are.



The 42 hills of San Francisco also make for numerous stunning views. Whether shrouded in fog or illuminated in sunshine, this city is gorgeous. I learned a lot about the power of the elements on this trip. Mountains aren't the only places that have powerful weather. The weather alternated constantly between blowing cold fog and skin burning sunshine.

On top of Twin Peaks I felt like I was climbing through the blowing fog of Mt. Washington:


San Francsco is also a very quirky city filled with unexpected surprises:

Seward Stone Slides 
I could've used one of these
Banksy perhaps?
Wave Organ
Other great sights:

Corona Heights
From Mt. Davidson

Glen Canyon
Alcatraz
Lombard Street


Sutro Baths



The Batteries. This is where the stairway counting got tricky.
Finishing my trip with a hike through the Marin Headlands, Muir Woods, Mt. Tam and Pt. Reyes was a great transition to hiking the PCT next week. I like the progression of moving from urban spaces and parks to less urban to wilderness. I felt like I was walking along a connecting thread that links our cities to the mountains. Hopefully this will help me understand our connection and impact a little bit more. 



Bobcat Trail!
Mt. Tamalpais Fire Tower
On my way out of Muir Woods I ran into this fellow on the road. A Pacific Giant Salamander. I rare find and one of my favorite amphibians. This one was almost a foot long.


The End of the Hike in Pt. Reyes