Browsing Cities

A blog/photoblog about places I go

Chutes and Ladders in San Francisco September 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiesmillie @ 4:50 pm

If you live in San Francisco and don’t mind a bit of exercise you must get this book:

A few weekends ago we did two neighborhood stairway walks from the book, taking us to beautiful parts of the city with views I never imagined existed.  It was also a great way to get a lot of exercise and do some exploring, without having to drive outside of the city.

First, we started in the Buena Vista Park neighborhood:

East of Buena Vista Park

East of Buena Vista Park

Then we headed through some gorgeous neighborhoods around Upper Market.

Upper Market

Upper Market

Mt. Diablo in the distance

Mt. Diablo in the distance

It still amazes me how many steep streets are converted to stairways like this one:

Hidden stairway

Hidden stairway

This stairway took us to Kite Hill Open Space, which I had never heard of before. We didn’t see any kites but the wind was in full force nonetheless.

View from Kite Hill

View from Kite Hill

Heading south of here we found a stairway route that took us to the Seward Street slides which we were anxiously hunting out after Yelp featured them in their “Staycation” newsletter. As mentioned in the yelp review, there was plenty of  waxed up cardboard awaiting use at the slides.

Sorting through cardboard sleds

Sorting through cardboard "sleds"

It’s hard to capture how extreme the angle is on these slides, but it scared the shit out of me. They are steep and fast, and honestly if I had gone down these as a child I probably would have cried.

Sally and Oliver

Sally and Oliver

Im winning!

I'm winning!

Coming out of the chute with perfect form

Coming out of the chute with perfect form

Later we took Muni west to Golden Gate Heights and hiked up Grand View park (aptly named):

Grand View Park

Grand View Park northeast view

The fog was starting to roll in off the ocean and over Golden Gate Park:

Grand View Park west view

Grand View Park northwest view

Coming down from Grand View Park were the mosaic tiled stairs (as featured on the book cover). Funny enough, we ran into two other groups of people in this area carrying around the same book. One was a couple in their 70’s who had done every walk in the previous edition and were working on the added walks in the newest edition, and doing some favorites again like this one.

Mosaic Stairs

Mosaic Stairs

Otter

Otter

So now we just have to plan our next stairway hike. Any recommendations?

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Save Fort Ross? September 9, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiesmillie @ 12:17 pm
Tags: ,

During my recent trip to Salt Point State Park, which I blogged about here, I also discovered Fort Ross State Historic Park. Prior to this trip, I thought Alaska was the North American trading territory of choice for the Russians in the 19th century. But apparently they snuck all the way down to what is now the coast of Sonoma County and operated their trading post there from 1812 to 1841.

Shortly after our visit, Fort Ross was  featured in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, describing the Russian Ambassador’s trip to California in protest of the Governor’s proposal to close Fort Ross (among other State Parks bleeding money).

Fort Ross

Fort Ross

After reading the article, I was going through my pictures to use in this blog post and a previously unnoticed theme emerged: abandonment. Truly, it’s as if the park was already shut down. There were a handful of visitors besides us, but most of them got lost in the rolling wisps of fog, and none of them ended up in the photos. So it’s not a stretch the imagination to figure out how the park ends up losing $800,000 a year.

We first walked down to the shore cliff, and ambled down this road, admiring the views, which were mostly shrouded in fog.

Empty Road

Tunnel made of trees

Then we entered the walls of the Fort:

Two lone cannons

Two lone cannons

Fort Ross: Quiet on a Sunday morning

Freshly chopped wood and a flagpole

Cannon

Waiting for battle

The one remaining original structure is dedicated as a National Landmark and is the Commander’s House

Commanders House

Commander's House

National Historic Landmark

National Historic Landmark

I enjoyed the visit, learned some interesting new things, and would be sad to see the place closed, but I have to admit that one of the only reasons we visited in the first place was because our camping reservation at Salt Point State Park gave us free admittance.

So again we are back to the money issue. They either needed to guilt me into making a donation (I did return their shiny brochure for them to reuse), or they needed to sell me something once I was there.  It wasn’t until reading the Chronicle article that I found out the park might be closed. If they had drawn my attention to this I probably would have offered a donation upon my departure.

On the other hand, the Russians aren’t offering to help out either, despite their complaining. A friend of mine who works for the US State Department and is currently living in Moscow explained to me that:

“Russians get very excited about any opportunity to demonstrate that they are a serious player on the world stage – and a big Fort that shows that the Russian military made it deep into California is a good talking point.  Also, even if it weren’t, the government of Russia doesn’t usually pass up a chance to stick it to America.”

So there you have it. My solution? Russian government offers tariff-free cheap imports of Russian vodka to California. Fort Ross sells authentic Russian vodka shots and let’s you keep souvenir shot glass made in China. Win-win-win.The profit margins would be phenomenal

Or they could try to capitalize on the interesting attraction across Highway 1. The San Andres Fault Line:

San Andreas fault line

San Andreas fault line

 

Coastal California Camping: Salt Point State Park September 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiesmillie @ 2:59 pm
Tags: , ,

For my birthday in August I wanted to go camping  so we planned a weekend trip to Salt Point State Park. When looking for a campground in northern coastal California we chose Salt Point because:

1) it had one available tent campsite left at the time we made reservations in July

and

2) it had good reviews on Yelp (which were very useful when planning our activities).

….

Salt Point State Park

Salt Point State Park

Saturday morning I made a mean breakfast of scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and instant coffee on our killer Coleman camping stove. Needed to have a big breakfast for all the hiking ahead.

Start the day with a hearty breakfast

Start the day with a hearty breakfast

Our campground was just on the other side of Highway 1 opposite the ocean. To get to the beach we hopped across the highway and then hiked about a mile through some dense, but pretty vegetation.

Hike to the beach

Hike to the beach

We ended up at Gerstle Cove where the park had an information center. The park staff was super friendly and answered all our questions about the trails in the area, whale migration patterns, and tidepools. Unfortunately low tide was occurring around 2 am during the weekend we were there so we didn’t get to check out the tide pools at the prime time.

The coolest thing inside the information center was a stuffed osprey (sea hawk) hanging from the ceiling with a fish in its claws. It sounds rather disturbing but the reason it was so cool is that we learned that the osprey is the only bird that carries its prey aerodynamically;  it turns the fish so its head it facing forward when it flies through the air. Like this.

Gerstle Cove

Gerstle Cove

We hiked the Salt Point Trail from Gerstle Cove to Stump Beach Cove along the sea cliff.

Stump Beach Cove

Stump Beach Cove

After lunch we headed the other direction from our campground (east) to hike to the prairie and pygmy forest which were in the state park. After hiking over a mile up to about a 1,000 feet above sea level we came to the prairie. With the sudden change of vegetation,  there was no way we were going to to miss “the prairie”, but just in case, there was a nice sign letting us know.

The Prairie

The Prairie

Then we continued on to the pygmy forest, thus named for its miniature trees. The trees don’t grow to normal heights due to a lack of soil nutrients and a hard ground layer. Personally, the pygmy forest was a bit of a let down for me. Maybe since I’m already short the impact was less. 🙂

Pygmy Forest

Pygmy Forest

Nothing like roughing it in the wilderness with a nice bright lantern, a bottle of wine, and some card games.

Campsite fire

Camp fire

We were lucky enough not to see any fog all weekend until we started to head home on Highway 1 Sunday afternoon. On our way we also stopped at Fort Ross State Historic Park which I wrote a separate blog post about here.

Fog creeping up Highway 1

Fog creeping up Highway 1

We stopped at this taffy shop in Bodega Bay and purchased a pound of the best salt water taffy I’ve ever had. This led me to wonder why it’s called salt water taffy, clearly it’s not made with salt water right?

Wikipedia reveals that no one exactly knows why: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_water_taffy.

Particks Salt Water Taffy

Patrick's Salt Water Taffy

Salt water taffy

Salt water taffy