Hike #18: Twin Peaks (Urban Hike #6, part B)

March 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Location: San Francisco, Cole Valley

Distance: 5.2 miles

Entry fee: $0

Following the completion of Urban Hike #6 Part A and another half hour wandering around Cole Valley,  we decided that since we could see Twin Peaks just fine from where we were standing…why not go there?

Twin Peaks is situated at the geographic center of San Francisco and is the second highest point in SF after Mount Davidson (which, I will admit, I had no idea existed.)  The Spanish name for the peaks was “Los Pechos de la Chocha”…or “Indian Woman Boobs” (I’m not even joking…though chocha has a different meaning today and sounds dangerously similar to another obscene word in Spanish.)   During the 1800s (when California became a part of the US)  it was renamed Twin Peaks.  The peaks each have their own names: Eureka Peak/North Peak (which is the one we hiked to the top of), and Noe Peak/South Peak.  As part of a 31 acre natural preserve, the peaks remain relatively undeveloped and is one of the few habitats that remains for a number of endangered species, including the Mission Blue butterfly (though we didn’t see any of them up there, unfortunately…they look cool.)

We weren’t entirely sure where we were going, so we just started walking towards the tower at the top of the hill…we wound around Upper Terrace to Piedmont, down Ashby and onto Clayton, where we started following the signs for Twin Peaks.  We made our way up the hill where, upon reaching the top, we traded shoes (Jen was getting blisters from her flip flops) and took in the amazing view. The top of the peak is usually pretty crowded with tourists and tour buses (since you can actually drive up to the top.)

The hike back down provided a few more awesome views of the East Bay, St. Ignatius, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Hikes #17 & 18: An unexpected success!  Sometimes spontaneous hikes are the best

Lessons learned: don’t hike in flip flops; there are no bathrooms at the top of Twin Peaks

Flora and fauna: japanese tourists

Hike #17: Buena Vista Park (Urban Hike #6, Part A)

March 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Location: San Francisco, Upper Haight

Distance: 2.5m

Entry fee: $0

So with Molly temporarily in Canada, my good friend Jen (who happened to be visiting this week), joined me on my first sans-Molly urban hike.  We actually set out on this two part “hike” unaware that we were going on any kind of hike at all (Jen was wearing flip flops).  But two major landmarks (on top of major hills), 8 miles, and one shoe swap later, I decided that this should absolutely count as an urban hike…or two.

We started out at my apartment and headed through upper Haight to Buena Vista Park, the oldest official park in San Francisco.    According to certain sources, is has also “long been known as a nighttime ‘cruising ground’ for gay men, who meet in the park for anonymous sexual encounters.”  Nice.

The incline is relatively steep (but has stairs) and gives you some really nice views of St Ignatius Church and the Western Addition.  After wandering around the crest for a little while, we headed down into Cole Valley, where we stopped by an incredible open house with views that overlooked the city and Bay.

Lessons learned: I will never be able to afford any of the awesome property in SF

Flora and Fauna: magnolia

The Quants by Scott Patterson

March 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

This novel looks at the quantitative methods used to build some of the largest funds on the financial markets, and the managers that ran them, through the 1990s and early 2000s.   The nature of these funds and their enigmatic leaders will make this an interesting read for people who follow Wall Street culture.  For those who don’t, way less captivating.  This book also touches lightly on theories behind the quant funds and, in true Wall Street novel fashion, is written like a thriller.  But unless you find CODs, the Gaussian copula, and statistical arbitrage riveting, the word “thrilling” might be a stretch.

The size of the collapse and way that the system imploded on itself really is fascinating, and for that reason alone the book is worth taking a look at.

Rating: worth reading / meh


March 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

I am very sad to report that Molly, fellow ambulator and contributor to this blog, has been exiled to Canada temporarily.  She will be back soon (but not soon enough).

We miss you Molly.

Hike #16: Coit Tower (Urban Hike #5)

March 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Location: San Francisco

Distance: 2.3 miles

Entry Fee: $0

I have a new goal in life, and that is to live on Telegraph Hill.

We started this hike at the pool we swim at on the corner of Washington and Drumm.  I brought my camera and, upon trying to take the first picture realized I had taken the memory card out of it the night before.  Slick.  It really was unfortunate, because the weather was beautiful, the views were stunning, and the neighborhood on the way up is just amazing.  So all the pictures posted on here were stolen from the internet.

Some history on the tower: contrary to popular belief, Coit Tower was NOT designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle (sorry Molly).  In 1929 Lillie Hitchcock Coit passed away and left 1/3 of her estate to the city of San Francisco to “add beauty to the city”.  Lillie was a volunteer firefighter and apparently had a thing for firefighters…she was even the mascot for Knickerbocker Engine Co. No. 5.   So this was probably where the fire hose theory originated.

To get to the tower we went up the Filbert Street Steps.  Telegraph hill is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, with the highest concentration of pre-1870 structures.  (The 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire destroyed most of the city, but the crest of Telegraph Hill along with the Waterfront, Jackson Square, and parts of Russian Hill were spared.  Some of the houses on Telegraph date back to the 1850s.)  Originally called Loma Alta, the current name arose during the Gold Rush when several businessmen set up shop at the top of the hill because they could watch ocean traffic coming in and out of the Bay.  They would relay by telegraph the name of the ocean liner and likely cargo to their subscribers, which would allow the subscribers to buy and sell certain commodities prior to the ship’s arrival, giving them a leg up on the competition.

The grade of Telegraph is pretty steep.  The whole side of the hill is covered in lush vegetation and public gardens, with all sorts of bright flowers and trees, with little (and not so little) cottages tucked down little narrow paths.  It is awesome.  Because of the terrain there is virtually no traffic in the area (the paths we were walking down had room for foot traffic only.)  We got to the top and enjoyed the amazing view from the statue of Columbus that stands in front of the tower.

We spent the majority of this hike (up and down) trying to figure out the best way to befriend one of the tenants on the hill so we could be invited to houseparties there.  We even considered crashing a party that we passed…but didn’t want to risk getting blackballed from future events.

Hike #16: success!  This is a great place to take any tourist friends that might be in town

Lessons learned: Filbert Street and 22nd Street are two of the steepest navigable streets in the Western Hemisphere (at a maximum grade of 31.5%)

Flora and Fauna: we didn’t see any parrots ON the hill…but we did see them down by the gym.

When Mountain Lions attack

March 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

Accompanying the many warning signs for poison oak along the trails that we’ve been hiking have been similar signs announcing the fact that we are in mountain lion territory.  Mountain lion attacks are not all that uncommon in California, I remember hearing about them when I was a kid.  There have been a number of recent incidents in the area, and ever since hearing this story a few years ago about a Northern California woman who fought off a mountain lion that attacked her husband and LATCHED ON TO HIS HEAD while they were out hiking, I figured getting a little more info out there on how to avoid this situation couldn’t hurt the hiking community.

First, some additional info on mountain lions (aka North American Cougar):

  • Prefers habitats with dense underbrush and rocky areas for stalking
  • Territorial
  • Usually avoids people
  • Weigh between 100-150 lbs
  • Most active at dawn and dusk
  • Attacks are most frequent during late spring and summer (when adolescent mountain lions leave their mothers in search for new territory)

How to avoid mountain lions:

  • Hike in groups
  • Make noise when you hike (not usually a problem for us)
  • If you hike with kids, keep them close to you…they go after smaller targets
  • Never squat or bend–you will look like four-legged prey to any type of large cat (they suggest avoiding this if you are ever hiking in mountain lion territory, but I’m not sure how realistic that is…during the course of a hike some of us have to tie our shoes and/or pee)

What to do if you come across a mountain lion:

  • DON’T FLEE–they will chase you down
  • Make intense eye contact, yell, and appear larger and more menacing (some suggest showing your teeth and growling…if you have the wherewithal to do that when facing down a lion that wants to eat you, more power to you)
  • Put plenty of space between yourself and the ML…you want to make sure it doesn’t feel cornered; back away slowly, but make sure you don’t turn your back on it
  • Jab it in the eye (unclear how you’re supposed to do this while slowly backing away)

If you are attacked by a mountain lion:

  • DON’T PLAY DEAD or roll into the fetal position (you do that with a grizzly bear)
  • Fight back, never succumb
  • Hit the ML on the head as hard as you can repeatedly
  • Claw or throw sand in its eyes

Some other words of wisdom I came across in looking all of this up:

  • “Never approach a mountain lion and try to pet it, no matter how friendly they may seem.”
  • “If indeed you are attacked by an animal in the wild report this attack to Fish and Game, or the Ranger in the area as soon as possible.”

Hike #15: San Bruno Mountain State and County Park, Summit Loop

March 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Location: South San Francisco

Distance: 3.5m

Entry Fee: $5

Molly, Paul, and I decided to give San Bruno mountain a try on Sunday morning (Paul had been wanting to do this hike for a while.)   After a Saturday night out of drinking and (more) Mexican food with old friends, we woke up to a bright sunny morning and headed for the trail around 10:30am.

San Bruno mountain sits in between Daly City, South San Francisco, Brisbane, and Colma.  It was first discovered by Gaspar de Portola in 1769, but wasn’t really explored until 5 years later when a few other Spanish soldiers climbed to the top and named it after the patron saint of one of the soldiers, Bruno de Heceta.

The instructions said this hike was best in spring…but be aware, if you do go in the spring, the foliage is OUT OF CONTROL.  This is kind of awesome…new flora everywhere you turn and some really beautiful spring flowers…but poison oak is rampant.  And aggressive.

The first half of the trail runs relatively close to some busy roads and sections of the trail are severely overgrown.  As you get to higher elevation, the traffic sounds fade away, the militant greenery lets up, and you get some nice views of Daly City and Colma.  The elevation isn’t bad but the trail is mostly exposed.  Even in the cooler weather, with the clear skies and bright sun we got pretty hot on the way up (something to keep in mind if you’re doing this hike in the summer).

After about an hour and a half of wading through the overgrown trails and dodging Viet Cong poison oak we (sweatily) arrived at the peak.   At the top of the mountain sit two large transmitters for KNTV and KRON…not the most beautiful addition to the hilltop, but they’re kind of impressive close up…and you get some more great views of the surrounding cities as well as San Francisco, Marin, and the East Bay.  One thing to note, the way the trail is situated he hike up is almost 2/3 of the entire route.  The way down goes by much faster.

Hike #15: hot success.  Another short route close to the city, a nice hike for a clear day…though it did seem longer than 3.5 miles.

Lessons learned: wild cucumbers are toxic if ingested; groups of old people with walking sticks like to do this hike

Flora and Fauna: lupine, manroot (aka wild cucumber or old man in the ground), johnny-jump-ups

Hike #14: Ring Mountain Open Space Reserve

March 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

Location: Marin County

Distance: 3m

Entry fee: $0

What a beautiful day.

We also started this hike off on a schedule…I had to be back in the city before noon.  So I picked Molly up at 9am on a sunny Saturday morning and we headed off to the Ring Mountain Open Space Reserve just across the Golden Gate bridge: not too far away, not too long.

The early part of this hike was nothing to write home about…trails were muddy (but we’re pros at that), kind of hilly, some views of San Quentin and the north bay.  The instructions also mentioned that “there are many informal trails cut into the hillside, and it is often a confounding proposition to stay on the real trail.” Troublesome considering our history.

But the scenery started to change about a mile in and we entered some terrain unlike anything we’ve seen on past hikes.   Rolling green hills with large boulders and random clusters of California live oak and shaded thickets.  The whole area is very reminiscent of Lord of the Rings or something.  At the top of the hill we got some amazing views of the Bay and the city from all directions.  It was absolutely gorgeous.

We did have a few disagreements about which was the right path to take, but that is the beauty of short hikes where your destination is the top of a hill.  If you just keep heading towards the ridge and you can’t be THAT far off track.  And this trail has plenty of markers to let you know you are indeed following the right path.

Hike #14: a short, sweet success.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a sunny spring morning in the Bay Area.

Lessons learned: the Miwoks were the Native American tribe in Northern California (apparently I’m the only person who lives up here that didn’t know that…the tribes in Marin were the Coast Miwoks…other Miwok subgroups include Lake, Bay, Plains, and Sierra Miwoks)

Flora and Fauna: California Poppies, Yellow Mule Ear, Miwok carving

Miwok carving

This Too Shall Pass

March 12, 2010 § 1 Comment

Again, another post about a totally non-hike related topic, but I wanted to see if I could embed a video.  And this OK Go video, with a Rube Goldberg masterpiece created entirely by volunteers that took more than 60 takes to get right, was just too cool not to embed.

More information on the video here.

Hike #13: Taco Hike

March 10, 2010 § 3 Comments

Location: San Francisco (mostly the Mission)

Distance: 6 miles

Entry fee: Tums, open mind, roll of toilet paper

All the craziness of a beer with the happiness of a taco  ~jesse

With 9 people joining, this was our biggest hike to date.  So to start off, I would like to thank everyone who joined and made it the raging, colon-cleansing success that it was.

First, some taco facts are in order:

  • Tacos date back at least to the 1500s.  When Cortez arrived he found Aztecs eating fish tacos
  • Nobody knows why the Spanish called them tacos
  • There is a main-belt asteroid called 14917 Taco

Our hike took us from the Western Addition to Upper Haight and down to the Mission (where we did most of our taqueria-ing.)  There were a few rules:

  • Only mexican beers, tequila, micheladas, and horchata can be drunken
  • If we come across the bacon wrapped hotdog cart you have to eat one
  • Free beer to anyone who spots the El Tonayese taco truck

First stop: Papalote on Fulton.  Known for it’s burritos (not tacos) and tofu (obviously a higher-end taqueria), we decided to give the marinated tofu taco a try.  Coupled with a few Coronas it was a nice, light, tangy intro to the night. Salsa at Papalote takes the cake, you can put it on anything.

From there we headed to El Balazo on upper Haight.  Happy to find it up and running after hearing about the raids a few years ago, I really enjoyed the decor.   The chile verde taco was pretty good with a nice kick to it, but the carne asada taco fell a little short with sub-par meat.  Cabbage salad there gets two thumbs up.

So, with 2 tacos down, next on the list we were scheduled to meet Ferg at Little Chihuahua on Divisadero at 7:30…almost a mile away.  Time: 7:15.  Onward and upward!

After a brisk hike/light jog over to Divis, we met up with Ferg and found Little Chihuahua…completely packed.  La Taqueria, a must-visit on our hike, was still 2.5 miles away and closed at 9pm.   It was kind of a long way to go without further sustenance, but since we were feeling a little crunched for time we decided to skip Chihuahua and go the distance in one fell swoop.

So we booked it allllll the way down to the Mission (over 2 and a half miles) and got to La Taq at 8:20 where we met up with Summer, Ryan, and Mike and ordered….TACOS DELICIOSOS!  (And one burrito…dammit Mike).

Ryan and Summer introduced us to the crispy tacos, which I now highly recommend.  Loaded with guac and just the right amount of crisp to both the meat and tortilla, these tacos were completely awesome.   Words overheard through half-chewed taco meat: tendermoist; overstuffed; more bang for your buck; perfectly crispy; delightful.

After (basically) getting booted from La Taq at 9pm, we walked a few doors down (literally) to El Farolito.  The super popular taqueria was packed, per usual, so we decided to check out El Farolito bar next door.  Turns out, the bar isn’t quite as hot a hangout for hipsters.  AND, apparently top secret info, you can order food from the taqueria at the bar!  Genius.

That aside, reasons El Farolito completely rocked our world included (but were not limited to):

  • The custom “buy six beers get one free” beer special imposed by the bartender when seven of us ordered beers
  • 7 tacos cost $12
  • Tacos come with their own plastic cup of full jalapenos
  • The amazingly enormous SUPER TACO (the result of some sort of miscommunication during the ordering process)
  • The custom tequila special of double tequila shots for the price of one, also imposed by the bartender
  • The tequila
  • The bartender

And, according to Summer, the veggie tacos here beat out the ones at La Taq.  It was hard to leave. But after we finished our tacos and jalapenos and beers and tequila (and after Summer, Molly, and I got hugs and kisses from the old dudes sitting by the front door), we did.

Feeling pretty stuffed from our one-two taco punch, we headed down the street and ran into our first…BACON WRAPPED HOT DOG CART!  Rules are rules.  Down the hatch.

Really stuffed at this point, we continued our walk along Mission when out jumped…ANOTHER BWHDC!   Ryan, always a stickler for rules, got another one.  The rest of us opted out…rules are made to be broken.

At that point we decided we needed to get off of Mission IMMEDIATELY to avoid another bacon hot dog sneak attack, and veered into Doc’s Clock for a beer.  Unable to finish his hot dog before we went in, Ryan put it in his pocket to keep it warm.

After a beer at Docs everyone was feeling pretty disgusting…but we had one taqueria left on the list!  We made our way up Mission when, half a block in, I heard a shriek of horror (terror?)  Hidden behind a post on our side of the street…a third bacon wrapped hot dog cart.  And Ryan, who had just finished the second one from his pocket, was buying one (but this one with no mayo).

We made it to our final stop, Taqueria los Coyotes, without further incident, where we finally met up with Jesse and Tierney and one wasted girl who thought Los Coyotes was a great place for a nap.

Overheard during our final stop: hard to finish; good salsa bar; delicious produce; angry gigantic limes; soggy tortillas; phenomenal meat; greasy.

Watch out for the habanera sauce.

24 tacos, 6 bacon wrapped hot dogs, 1 burrito, 6 miles, and innumerable jalapenos later, I can say with confidence that Hike #13 was a (bloated) success!!

Best taco (based purely on taste and quality): La Taqueria (meat); El Farolito (veggie)

Best overall taco experience: El Farolito

Lessons Learned: get the crispy tacos at La Taq; meat sweats are not just an urban myth

Flora and Fauna: bacon wrapped hot dog

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