Monday, August 2, 2010

San Francisco Bay Trail: Fort Mason to Fort Point, SF

5.8 miles, 2.9 SF Bay Trail

Fort Mason to Fort Point in San Francisco is one of the Bay Trail segments I walk or ride the most--I love the Crissy Field lagoon and restoration area.  This particular Sunday evening I was feeling both chagrined and encouraged because I'd danced until early in the morning then slept much of the day away.  I had to drive to the city in late afternoon and rushed to fit a bike ride in, despite the gathering dusk.  I'd started my Bay Trail rides down near Foster City but compromised this time on a closer segment.

The choice wasn't an accident.  I'd been to Crissy Field the day before as well, at a memorial for Rex Sforza, a friend who died in his early 50s, far too young.  He was a graphic artist at Apple and coach of a softball team with whose members I've been becoming friends.  Rex was more a friend of friends than someone I was close to but I'd attended to be supportive, then gone dancing for balance.

Fort Mason
While I was at the memorial, a big group of mostly guys, lots of dogs (Rex couldn't pass a dog without stopping to pet it), I stopped in at the "Warming Hut" at the west end of Crissy Field.  Lots of groups of picnicers, lots of the barbecues despite the chilly foggy weather, and I was moved by the smell of hotdogs and hamburgers past my routine vegetariansim to get a hot dog.  Very San Francisco, it was grass fed beef.  I've heard that you have to get used to less fatty beef; this one was underwhelming.

The Warming Hut is a restaurant/gift shop and I snagged something I've been trying to find for several weeks.  It's a folding packet of six San Francisco Bay Trail Maps produced in 2007 by The Bay Trail Project and ABAG (the Association of Bay Area Governments).  It's also the most up-to-date version of the Bay Trail other than the Bay Trail Project website.

Alcatraz Island
Fort Mason to Fort Point
Across from the Marina Safeway I parked below Fort Mason, the headquarters of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and followed the shoreline west along the Marina Green.  Fort Mason includes old World War II warehouses turned into non-profit spaces along with Greens, a famous vegetarian restaurant.

It's a completely flat route and the evening weather was crisp.  The views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin, Angel Island and Alcatraz are world class.  You wind past the Marina then curve right toward the water at the edge of the Presidio, marked by a wall of Monterey cypress, the most recent addition to the National Recreation Area.  Besides the salt air I could also smell pearly everlast near the cypress.  It mystified me for years because it grows in urban areas as well as open space, but it's unmistakeable, a scent of maple syrup and nutmeg.

Dune restoration at Crissy Field
Already I was feeling joy.  Great views.  Crisp air.  Setting sun.  Every other person I passed was smiling.  The others were chatting with friends or lost in thought.  Rex's death is tragic; you can't help be reminded that life is short.  My best friend, photographer Bob Walker, died young too, in 1992 at age 40.  It's right to feel sad but it's just as right to attempt joy every day, because life is short.  Anyone who's not living each day to the hilt or who's deferring happiness to some later date is taking a big chance of missing it entirely.  I've known that for years but it's easy to let day to day busy-ness distract you from it.

Face it, we're lucky to be alive, and those of us who live in first world countries lucky in plenty of other ways too--I didn't earn being a white American male with a significant income, though it has allowed me tremendous freedom.  That's part of the reason that I'm using this blog to remind me to give back, in addition to my fitness goals.

Crissy Field Lagoon
The path crosses a flat bridge over the mouth of the Crissy Field lagoon.  San Francisco was once mostly sand dunes and associated dune vegetation.  Before California's huge water diversion system was built and its dams started retaining sediments, the Sacramento-San Joaquin river system dropped huge loads of sand out the Golden Gate.  Longshore currents carried the sand south, and wind and waves deposited it at Ocean Beach and points south.  The winds carried the sand back to the east, all the way across the city and spilling over Nob Hill into what's now the financial district.  99% of the city's dune habitat has been paved over and built upon, but like the bay itself, in the last few decades we've started reclaiming and expanding the habitat.  Even before the lagoon was created, dune restoration had begun at the Presidio.

The "Warming Hut"and the Golden Gate Bridge

Much of the Marina District was wetlands until filled in for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition "a world's fair held in San Francisco, California between February 20 and December 4 in 1915. Its ostensible purpose was to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, but it was widely seen in the city as an opportunity to showcase its recovery from the 1906 earthquake. The fair was constructed on a 635 acre site in San Francisco, along the northern shore now known as the Marina."  The only remaining part of the Exposition is the Palace of Fine Arts.

Crissy Field served as a dump for debris from the 1906 earthquake then had many more lives, as an early airfield, a parade ground, then a parking lot popular among wind surfers.  Between 1997 and 2000, in a project coordinated by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, a 100-acre area was restored and a 22 acre tidal lagoon created.  Volunteers installed more than 100,000 dune plants.  The Conservancy operates five nurseries in the parks, among many other projects.
Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge

According to its website:  "Each year:  •We collect over 1 million seeds.  •We propagate over 400 of the 622 species native to the park.  •We grow 90,000 to 170,000 plants for up to 50 different habitat restoration projects throughout the 75,000 acres of the park. •We have now begun propagation of replacement trees for the Presidio's historic forest and are propagating the unique historic roses and plants of Alcatraz."

It's a short distance beyond Crissy Field to reach Fort Point, a Civil War era fort built to protect Caliornia's gold and San Francisco bay.  Golden Gate Bridge was constructed directly above the fort.  A few more pictures and I turned around and retraced my route.  It was only about 40 minutes round trip but the perfect beginning of a new week.

The Palace of Fine Arts, at dusk

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