Walks and Hikes [rough draft]


Every summer since 1989, I've led 2-3 days of Coastwalk's San Francisco Bay walk. It's a group project–part of the success of our local Coastwalk is we plan everything via potlucks, starting early in the year. Many people contribute their expertise to making a successful 4-6 day walk, soliciting cooks, arranging lodgings, thinking about logistics, writing letters, arranging insurance. I couldn't do what I do best without everyone's help. My specialty is figuring out a route through the city, or across the Golden Gate Bridge into the Marin Headlands, from one lodgings to the next, and figuring out all the logisitics including public transit, lunch stops, restrooms, etc.. Our route changes every year; some years we stick to the Bay side of the city, wandering the Embarcadero or Chinatown. Other years we head west along Lands End and Ocean Beach. I can hardly remember all the variations we've done over 20 years.

I used to lead regular walks for Golden Gate Hikers and tours of San Francisco's Japantown for Elderhostel and the National Japanese American Historical Society. But I don't do much of that anymore.

My regular walking gigs are getting out for a daily walk with my partner Shizue, and taking our grandkids out for walks in nature once a week. We go look at old ships, big sheep, puddles, shadows, and leaves. Hard to say who leads whom. The kids are 2 and 3-1/2, and they are changing so fast, taking stuff in. It's cool. They aren't necessarily fascinated by the same things you and I are. Perhaps views are more intriguing when you've been from here to there, and looked back from there to here.

In 2008-2009 I had the great pleasure of helping author David Weintraub update the 2nd edition of his guidebook Top Trails San Francisco Bay Area. For the first edition my sole involvement was drawing the maps (and laying out the book); this time I had responsibility to walk and field check all 44 hikes. I drove about 1500 miles in my trusty VW, mostly as long day trips.Challenges included planning my departure and return to avoid rush hours, and remembering to rest. Joys of the project included hitting the road early in the morning, being out in nature and communing with oak trees, dirt, grass, cows, turkeys, coyotes, and snakes. I got very religious about changing my socks before and after my hikes (Mom was right) and generally speaking my feet were pretty happy even when I was hiking 20-15 miles a day. Plus I lost 10 pounds (temporarily). I'll expand on this project in a future blog post.

Favorite Walks in San Francisco's Richmond District

Lobos Creek Dunes:

One of our regular walks is the strip of sand dunes and coastal scrub along Lobos Creek, at the southwest corner of the Presidio. The dunes are home to several endangered plant species, including dune gillia and sand verbinum [little yellow flowers and little purple flowers], and the coastal scrub is a fragment of the vegetation that used to blanket the city's sand dunes (areas now covered by streets and houses). The big hummocky dunes were built in the 1990s on the site of an old softball field and an overflow parking area for the Army Reserve (which occupied the red brick building now home to the Presidio Trust). Some of the sand came from the city's sewer transport tunnel under Lands End, best known as the cause of a spectacular sinkhole that swallowed two houses along Lincoln Blvd. several years ago.The restored habitat has evolved to the point where coastal scrub plants are starting to dominate and anchor the sand. Plants that seed in bare, windblown sand no longer find a place to grow, so GGNRA's habitat volunteers periodically pile of fresh sand at random places along the trail to mimic the loose sand found in the original dunes.

Lobos Creek runs along the south edge of the dunes, beneath a dense canopy of willows and Coast live oaks. The creek is fenced off because it is the Presidio's drinking water supply; you can see and hear it briefly where the boardwalk bends against the fence. Past the creek is a row of mansions; if we are having a serioius case of house envy, we head home via West Clay Terrace (1 block north of Lake St. via 22nd and 24th Aves.) so we can admire both the front and back of these Craftsman-era homes.

The Lobos Creek Dunes Interpretive Trail boardwalk runs east from Lincoln Blvd. near the Presidio Trust maintenance yard driveway. The dunes stretch eastward about 10 city blocks; the trail goes about halfway along this corridor before looping to higher ground. Theoretically the trail is wheelchair-accessible, though there are occasional steep stretches and it ends unceremoniously with no proper turnaround. There's a wide spot about 2/3 of the way along, where a short side path goes to a bench and an overlook (a nice place to do stretches and other exercises).

The boardwalk ends at a set of wooden stairs which leads to a 4-way junction with a wide, sandy trail from Lincoln Blvd. and Baker Beach. We turn right up the trail and ascend through an aging cypress plantation, enjoying occasional glimpes of the dune habitat in the valley below. At the top of the trail we turn right on Battery Caufield Road past the old Public Health Hospital (now being rebuilt as apartments). In 2010 a new trail will skirt the edge of the parking lot with an overlook of Lobos Creek Valley. If' we're out for a short walk, we angle right and exit the Presidio at 15th Ave.; for a longer walk we continue east past the old hospital buildings, along then under Highway 1 to Mountain Lake Park and beyond.

Since we live near Golden Gate Park, one of the special features of this walk is we can vary our route through the Richmond District, zig-zagging past our local produce markets, delis, and grocery stores. If we're feeling decadent we plot a course past all the restaurants on Geary and outer Clement; if we're on a diet, we pick alternate streets that avoid temptation. As a general walk, you could make it a loop and enjoy the streetlife on Geary or Clement, or the mansions of Lake Street, or you could use MUNI to start near the beginning of the trail and return from the other end. MUNI 1 California, 38 Geary run parallel to the dunes; 28 19th Ave. and 29 Sunset stop near either end.


Baker Beach to Golden Gate Bridge: Coastal Trail and Batteries to Bluffs Trail

From the Richmond District, head north on 25th Ave.. Cross Lincoln Blvd./El Camino del Mar and go one block further to a T-intersection with Scenic, and angle right. 25th Ave. continues one more block then bends sharp left as Seacliff Ave; go left 1/2 short block then turn right on 25th Ave. North. Keep right amidst the mansions and arrive at a cul-de-sac with an iron fence and an open gate. Pass through the gate and find a wooden stairway which descends north through a willow grove to Baker Beach. At the bottom, veer left. Lobos Creek emerges from a pipe and takes a sinuous course through the sand to the ocean; pause to admire the ripples and patterns. Keep the creek on your left and make your way down to the water's edge, then head north along Baker Beach a ways.

more to come...sand ladder to Lincoln, Battery Crosby trail, down stairs to Marshalls Beach, up stairs to Lincoln, etc.

GGNRA Lands End: Coastal Trail and Mile Rock Beach

I'll tell you about it. Cliffs, landslides, stone steps, a hidden beach and a labyrinth.

More to come...

©2010 Ben Pease