Hike #16: Coit Tower (Urban Hike #5)

March 23, 2010 § 1 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.

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