Gratitude for our trails

Thanksgiving and Gratitude

Sunol Regional Park, Alameda County, CA

Here in the S.F. Bay Area, the days have been so mild with daytime temperatures in the 60s and 70s, it’s hard to believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving. However, when it starts getting dark at 5 PM, and colder, we realize we have to work a bit harder to fit hikes into our shorter daytime hours.

This reminds me that I have much to appreciate about where I live, why I try to support environmental causes, and how grateful I am for the thousands of people here who work to protect our environment.

Sunol Regional Park, Alameda County, CA

In particular, I am reminded of the importance of the regional parklands around me, which…

  • provide hundreds of miles of trails that I can hike. 
  • bring ever-changing displays of flowers, trees, and other plants. 
  • have quiet places to clear my head and exercise my body.
  • inspire my writing and photography with its scenic beauty.
  • support wildlife—from ladybugs covering entire branches; herons stalking their prey; hawks soaring overhead; flickers hammering cavities in tree branches to build their nests.  
  • offer the opportunity to gain perspective on our place on this earth.
  • allow free, or inexpensive, visits to all who want to come. 

And, people are instrumental in what happens…

  • by envisioning the setting aside of parcels of land to create parklands.
  • when they work to acquire properties that would otherwise turn into developments.
  • by volunteering to help with fund-raising, to interface with the public at the kiosks and gift shops, and by organizing work parties for weed control.
  • when they become park employees that build fences and picnic tables, clear out invasive plants, repair storm damaged trails and roadways, and educate park visitors. 
  • by voting in tax measures to support and improve our parks

Galen Rowell, photographer, climber, author (1940-2002) in  Bay Area Wild: A Celebration of the Natural Heritage of the San Francisco Bay Area wrote,  “The San Francisco Bay Area holds the most extensive system of wild greenbelts in the nation, with more than 200 parks and other protected areas lying within forty miles of the city.”

We are truly blessed to live here. 

Our Strategy for Nifty Ninety

Mural in Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill, S.F.

It wasn’t very long after Ralph and I started doing some of the high points on the ‘Nifty Ninety’ Peaks challenge that our friend Patricia became interested. Like us, she wanted to do some new local hikes on a regular basis, found the selection of peaks on the list interesting and within our hiking abilities, and wanted to spend time with friends.

Choosing which peaks to do first…

Patricia suggested a strategy—that we do all of the peaks within a category on the list and then go on to another category. For example, we could do do all of the National Parks peaks, then all of the California State Parks, and then those of the North Bay, etc. 

We toyed with her idea for a bit, but then decided that other factors should be prioritized—such things as the difficulty of a hike, the weather, and the time needed to commute back and forth. We also considered such things as when the wildflowers would be out or the waterfalls flowing. After all, the peak hikes were supposed to be fun as well as good exercise, so we wanted to optimize the conditions whenever possible.

Mount Tamalpais, Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Marin County.

We get on the way

With those considerations in mind, we started out by doing the shorter or less strenuous hikes first. We figured we would get stronger and more confident over time. Sometimes we were able to do two, even three peaks, in a day—such as when we did San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, and Nob Hill. 

The hardest ones may be ahead!

Now that we have reached more than 75 peaks, we have done most of the easy and moderate ones—which means, of course, that the peaks remaining on our list are more difficult to reach. Namely they will require hiking more miles or driving a longer distance, will be more technically difficult because of the trail’s steepness or slippery nature, or the elevation gain to the peak.

However, we are now stronger and feel more confident. We think that all are now within our capabilities. So, it is we hope, just a matter of waiting for the weather we prefer and the time needed to get to the destinations.

Time will tell!
Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn, aka backpack45

Visits to Russian Hill and Nob Hill

Visiting S.F.’s Famous Hills

On the same gorgeous March day that we climbed San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill and visited Coit Tower (see description here), we also climbed Russian Hill and Nob Hill. This sounds more formidable than it really is — these are 275′, 300′ and 325′ in elevation. Still, climbing all three requires some up and down on San Francisco’s famous hills and by the end of the day we were ready for a stop for some cool brew.

But first
We were in the city with our friends Patricia and Tom to tackle three peaks listed in the ‘Nifty Ninety Peaks’ challenge that the Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club has issued.  We started our day with a ride of BART over to San Francisco’s Embarcadero Street station, stopped at a nearby Peet’s Coffee and Tea at 1 California Street for coffee and scones, and then headed for the first peak of the day: Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill, which is in the earlier post.  

After our tour of Coit Tower and studying our maps, we set out for Greenwich Street. Greenwich took us straight for several blocks and right up the hill into the Russian Hill neighborhood. We crossed over Hyde Street to what looked like the highest point around ( the Alice Marble Tennis Courts/George Sterling Park) but when we referred back to the GPS, it indicated there was an even higher point several blocks away. So we set off and by trial and error (the tall apartments and other buildings didn’t make this easy to do visually).   

We really didn’t mind wandering around a bit — especially when we spotted the “First Swensen’s Ice Cream Parlor” on the corner of Hyde and Union Street and were able to treat ourselves to cones. It was a perfect San Francisco day — warm enough to enjoy ice cream, not hot enough for it to melt away. 

We made a few wrong turns — in large part because Russian Hill Street is tiny and not easily found even on GPS. The short street is lined by upscale homes occupied by residents who probably prefer to keep the number of visitors down. It’s likely they don’t want the tourists that visit well-known curvy part of Lombard Street, which is not that far away. 

(If you decide to look for this point, it sounds complicated but here goes: Off Vallejo Street, East of Jones Street, and opposite Russian Hill Place. Google has this site as “Russian Hill-Vallejo Street Crest Historic Place.”

On to Nob Hill 

interior Grace Cathedral, S.F.

From Russian Hill, we walked another 6-7 blocks to reach Nob Hill. We went first to the beautiful Grace Cathedral where we admired the interior with its stained glass windows, a Benny Bufano statue, and peaceful ambiance. We walked the outdoor labyrinth (there is another  inside). 




We headed uphill again passing the social club known as the Pacific-Union Club a1000 California Street. Wikipedia says, “The clubhouse was built as the home for the silver magnate James Clair Flood. The former Flood Mansion…was designed by Willis Polk. It is considered the first brownstone constructed west of the Mississippi River. Along with the Fairmont Hotel across the street, it was the only structure in the area to survive the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.”

At the next corner, we came to the highest point of Nob Hill, the intersection of California and Mason Streets, where the 4-star super-fancy Mark Hopkins and the 4-star Fairmont Hotel reign. At the Fairmont, visitors can sit at the Tiki Bar serenaded by a live band that is seemingly floating on an island in a pool. As I recall, back in the 1950s, there was a faux rainstorm/hurricane as part of the experience. Then, as now, your tasty drink is served with a tiny paper umbrella. 
Since we all had well over our 15,000 steps for the day, had walked more than 7 miles, and had climbed the three peaks, we decided to take the California Line cable car down the hill.

We had our beer and snacks at Schroeder’s (German beer hall), and then made our way back to Market Street and the Embarcadero BART station for our train ride home. 

Terrific day and terrific way to check three more peaks off our list!  
Hikes done March 8, 2018.  Our Nifty Ninety Peaks #24, 25, 26

Nifty Ninety Peaks challenge takes us to San Francisco

Loving this Nifty Ninety Peaks challenge! 

The Sierra Club’s Nifty Ninety Peaks challenge doesn’t just get us to the hills and mountains in our nearby regional, State, and Federal parks, the challenge also takes us to San Francisco. Earlier this month, we had planned to climb Monument Peak near Fremont in the East Bay, but the recent/threatened rain had made the trails muddier and slipperier than we wanted to try. 

We decided to take an urban walk. The Challenge lists 10 peaks in San Francisco:
Twin Peaks (counts as one), Tank Hill, Mount Sutro, and Mount Davidson (which we had already done);
Hayes Hill, Corona Heights Crag, and Bernal Heights (which we have scheduled for early April); and Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, and Nob Hill. This beautiful March day we did the last three.   

Our “team,” which mainly consists of my husband Ralph, our friend Patricia Schraffarczyk, and me, was joined by another friend, Tom Coroneos, for this outing. Boo, Patricia’s lively dog, who loves our hikes in the wide open spaces, stayed home because he wouldn’t have been happy staying on a short leash on this city hike. 

Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower
After a short stop at Peet’s Coffee near the BART Embarcadero station, we set out for Coit Tower,
also known as the Lillian Coit Memorial Tower, atop the highest point of Telegraph Hill. The elevation of the hill itself is given as 275-285 depending on where you search for info. The tower itself adds an impressive 210-feet, but since we took the elevator to the top, I don’t think we’ll take credit for that additional height. 

The tower was was built in 1933 using “Lillie Hitchcock Coit‘s bequest to beautify the city of San Francisco. At her death in 1929 Coit left one-third of her estate to the city for civic beautification. The tower was proposed in 1931 as an appropriate use of Coit’s gift. 

The art deco tower is popular with visitors in part because of its terrific 360 degree views. One can see downtown San Francisco, twisty Lombard Street, busy Pier 39, the trendy Ferry Building, as well as Angel Island, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate and Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge. We were thrilled that we had come on a day with blue skies and puffy white clouds, but it would have been just as much fun if we’d been there to watch fog creeping in over the bay.

We also were captivated by the murals on the first floor. Most are frescoes that were created at the time of the tower’s construction and reflect the artists’ beliefs in (to varying degrees) racial equality and to leftist and Marxist political thoughts. 

It’s free to enter the tower and view the murals at ground level; $8 (adult) admission is charged to take the elevator to the top for the views or to go on the tours held periodically  to see the murals in the spiral stairway. Because none of us had visited the tower in several years, we were very happy to see that the recent restoration work had returned many murals to their former glory. 

This is San Francisco at its best! It’s often considered a tourist site, and it is, but there’s no reason for residents to miss out! 

Hike was March 8, 2018. Our Nifty Ninety Peaks #24, 25, 26.