Saturday, January 7, 2012

At Home

Happy New Year, cyberhood!

Quick post to kick off 2012, but one with lots of pictures, detailing a newly improved hike within the San Francisco city limits. It's named the Batteries to Bluffs Trail (an offshoot of the Coastal Trail), and the two combined will lead you from the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge to the hills above Baker Beach.

The hike is not that long, just about 3 miles round-trip, and although there are a few significant ups and downs in both directions it's not that difficult. It is, however, right in our own backyard, and is accessible by car, on foot, by bike or by bus. If you're visiting or live in the northern part of the city you don't have to drive; simply make your way to the lovely Fort Mason District and catch the #28 bus west to the GGB (consult SF MUNI schedules and routes). Once off the bus - after you take in the impressive views on this side of the bridge - you want to find the paved bike path by the visitors center that leads under the roadway (not down to Fort Point).

The Golden Gate Bridge, of course,
with the Civil War era Fort Point below.

The dirt track Coastal Trail starts on the outside of the bridge and heads south, passing some old military installations that you may want to explore along the way, and immediately offers spectacular views of the coast and the mighty Pacific, back toward the bridge and north to the Marin Headlands. The trail here is bit confusing (there's actually several footpaths lacing about the bluffs), but keep heading south and you'll soon see more signs.

Batteries to Bluffs officially opened in 2007, I learned, but the area is still a work in progress, especially at the beginning of the trek (still the Coastal Trail, I guess) where some construction gear competes with the natural beauty. Once past Battery Godfrey (est. 1895) the views open up to naked cliffs (pun intended), and the actual new trail begins. As it starts to descend you'll probably see some hardy park employees along the way, picking through the hillside bluffs in an effort to eradicate invasive plant species (hopefully avoiding the significant amount of poison oak). It's a massive restoration project, funded partly with generous donations to the GG National Parks Conservatory, but once finished the entire seaside will be cloaked in native flora. You'll recognize the park employees because they'll be wearing clothes. Yup, you're in nudie territory here.

The Batteries to Bluffs trail now allows hikers safer access to what's apparently called Marshall's Beach (hmm...been coming here for years and never knew that), the stretch of sand north of Baker Beach (part of which is also nude); when the tide's out the last significant beach before the Golden Gate rises above you.

The beginning of the Coastal Trail seems like it's gonna be wheelchair friendly when it's finished (albeit ATV wheelchair - LOVE California!), complete with access to an impressive, state-sanctioned lookout point just before the stairs begin. At the nadir of the descent, at the spur trail to Marshall's Beach, there is a newly unearthed natural spring that gurgles down from the hills above. I don't know the name of the spring (or if it even has one), and the surrounding earth is a bit raw right now, but it's a welcome surprise nonetheless.

Time to climb. It's not that strenuous, but it is up. Up to some more beautiful views and rugged coastline, ending soon with a postcard perfect perch above that gorgeous crescent of urban sand: Baker Beach.

(FYI. When the tide is nice and low, and should you crave some real risky and risqué exploration, at certain spots you can get beachside and wend your way (i.e. bolder hop) along the coast at waters edge, keeping an eye on the ocean at all times. Be forewarned, tho: it's dangerous, not recommended or sanctioned, and the wildlife can, in fact, be wild.)

The Batteries to Bluffs trail rejoins the Coastal by Battery Crosby (est. 1900). Here you can sit a spell and admire the view, or continue on and access the log steps down the dunes to Baker Beach proper for a picnic (beautiful sand and surf, great people-watching, picnic tables and restroom facilities). And should you desire an all-day trek you can continue walking the rest of the Coastal Trail to Land's End, Sutro Baths, the Cliff House and Ocean Beach (another 2 miles). Or you can turn around and retrace your steps.

Any which way you're gonna love it.

*  *  *

The following pics are from September 2011. As you can tell many are with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, but the views are so spectacular and so rewarding from this vantage point that I had to include them all.

The start of the hike,
with the cove at Baker Beach in the distance.

Battery Godfrey detail.
I love the old cement and iron shapes.

Looking back on the Coastal Trail.

The descent on Batteries to Bluffs trail.

After the climb.  Getting closer to Baker Beach.

The view from above to the beach below.

On the return hike.

Wildlife (not guaranteed): I've seen gray whales, harbor porpoise,
Pacific white-sided dolphin, bottle-nosed dolphin, sea lions, pelicans,
cormorants, snowy plovers, oyster catchers.

A short video from September, taken from the rocks by Marshall's Beach.

These are from a recent visit in January 2012. Weird weather; more like our glorious month of February, because January is usually rain, rain, rain. Don't know what's up with Mother Nature this year, but we'll see.

As I sat and watched, the bridge would disappear in the fog
then re-emerge in a matter of minutes.  It was gorgeous.

Marsall's Beach with a good low tide.

One final video. Same view but different weather.

The following pictures are from Land's End (Sutro Baths, the Cliff House and Ocean Beach), which is another 2 mile hike from the south end of Baker Beach. For visitors without a car (and city dwellers alike), a grand day out might include this itinerary: hop on the #38 Geary bus to the end of the line at 48th Avenue, spend a few hours exploring Land's End, then hike all the way back to the Golden Gate Bridge, where you can pick up the #28 bus to Fort Mason in the city (or do it in reverse).

Land's End above Sutro Baths, with the GGB in the distance.

The remains of Sutro Baths (1896-1966),
a fun place to carefully explore.

On Ocean Beach, with the Cliff House beyond.

Ocean Beach: beautiful, wide and long.

Happy trails,
Peter J. Palmer

No comments:

Post a Comment