Hike #20: The Apartment Hike–Second Installment

con’t from previous post…sorry for the delay

This next stretch would take us through the Tenderloin, under a freeway overpass, and up Potrero Hill.  Fueled by celebrity gossip and Bud Light, we attacked this leg with a vengeance.  But no sooner had we walked down the hill from Molly’s place and into the Tenderloin did we see….our second red double decker bus.  What it was doing in the Loin, I do not know.  But we hustled our way into the nearest bar, which just happened to be…

Bar Stop #2: Harrington’s Pub, the Tenderloin

“Smells like cigarettes and omlettes.  My superior deduction skills tell me it stinks like cigarettes most likely because they let people smoke inside. As for smelling like omelettes… shit, I dunno.

~Yelp review, Harrington’s Pub

Indoor smoking, toothless patrons, and “Michael Collins–the Lost Leader” posters lining the walls…Harrington’s is exactly what you would expect an Irish pub on the corner of Turk and Larkin to be.   But we were on a schedule, no time to dawdle…5 minutes and 18 Bud Lights later, we were back out on the street and moving.  We had gone less than two blocks when we ran into…red double decker tourist bus #3.  NOOOOOOO

Apparently the Tenderloin is a tourist hotspot.  Unfortunately (fortunately?) we were heading towards Market and 8th, an area that doesn’t have a whole lot of bars, so we couldn’t get to one immediately.  But within a few blocks we stumbled across…

Bar stop #3: Holiday Inn Hotel Bar, SOMA

I am not entirely sure this bar was meant to serve non-guests (we had to prop the bathroom door open with paper towels because none of us had a room key to open it), but the bar was deserted and the bartender, Mandy, loooooooved Molly, so whatever. After a little bit of confusion regarding orders, Mandy hooked us up with some beers (Molly and Eden got strawberries).  With a chug and quick mugging with Mandy, we were on our way.

Upon walking out the door, there was a collective gasp as…yes.   A FOURTH double decker tour bus drove by–our third bus in about 8 blocks.  Lucky for us, it was blue, not red.  Close call.

OK!   Through the scary parts of town and free of tour buses, we headed towards the I-80/ 101 underpass–Freeway Crossing #1.  Erickson did the favor of providing us with a plethora of Bubblicious flavors for the bubblegum rule.  I think we all underestimated exactly how wide the freeway is, because the only person who came close to making that goal was Erickson.  Carl also made a concerted effort, but everyone else gave up after a few tries.

With the failed gum freeway crossing attempt behind us, we were finally on our way to our next scheduled stop.

Sixth Stop: Ferg’s, Potrero Hill

For the final push of this stretch we had to make it up Potrero Hill, which is hard to do when you’re not 9 miles and 8+ cocktails deep.  But with some major effort the whole team made it to Ferg’s apartment where we were greeted by large bags of Doritos and some more Bud Light.  Just what the body needs after a strenuous climb.

We enjoyed the view, stretched, prepared ourselves for the next leg, which would also be relatively long, and headed out West and towards our…

Seventh Stop: Summer & Ryan’s, the Mission

Over Potrero Hill to the second freeway crossing (where Molly and I were the only two to even unsuccessfully attempt the three legged race….rules were slowly falling by the wayside) and through the Mission (aka Baconwrappedhotdogcartland) we went.  Chadeyne came across a liquor store that sold cutty bangs. In need of a refreshing beverage, most of us imbibed.  And almost barfed.

Another mile (and without bacon wrapped hot dog cart incident) later we arrived at Summer and Erickson’s, where Summer had been so kind as to order up some Papalote burritos, which were DELICIOUS and exactly what we needed to motor us around Twin Peaks, through our longest leg, and to our final destination…

Eighth and Final Stop: The Hesslers, Inner Sunset

At 3 miles, this was the longest leg of our trip and it definitely felt like it.  The sun started to set, the group started to spread out…but about an hour or so after leaving our
seventh stop WE ALL ARRIVED!

Though Chrissy had to work the whole day and was not able to join (a major bummer), she and Carl (who had joined us at Harrington’s) were kind enough to open up their home as the final stop.  Pizza, beer, and a beautifully decorated funfetti cake wrapped up our tour, where 7 of the original 8 hikers (plus an additional 10 or so hikers that were picked up along the way) celebrated victory…then went home and fell asleep by 9:30.

Finish time: 8:30pm, only 90 minutes behind schedule

Lessons learned: 14 miles goes by quick when you’re dodging red double decker tour buses

Flora and Fauna: the cutty bang

Hike #19: Angel Island

Location: San Francisco Bay

Distance: ~6 miles

Entry fee: $15 round-trip ferry ticket (per person)

This past Sunday morning Paul and I decided to hop on the ferry and cross the bay to Angel Island.

During the ice age Angel Island was connected to the mainland.   About 8,000 years after that the island served as a fishing and hunting site for the Coast Miwok Native Americans (interesting side note, similar evidence for the existence of Miwoks on Angel Island are also found on Ring Mountian…which devoted followers may remember from Hike #14.)   The northwest Ayala Cove is where Juan de Ayala, commander of the first vessel to enter SF Bay, first anchored his ship…and where we first started our hike.

With the recent rain the island was super green with lots of wild flowers mixed in with the charred tree stumps and fence posts from the 2008 fire.   Since this was our first trip to the island, we weren’t entirely sure what we wanted to do or where we were going.   There is a paved road that runs around the perimeter of the island (aptly named Perimeter Road) that is open to bikes, which are popular among campers on the island.  (Campsites out here are few and far between, and making a reservation often requires booking months in advance.)  Paul really wanted to get up to the highest point on the island, Mount Livermore, so we opted out of walking the entire perimeter and took the North Ridge Trail for the first half of our hike…along with a Russian family of about 15.  After 30 minutes of weaving through Russian children…passing them, having them catch up…we finally broke away and beat them to the summit.  YES.

Upon arriving at the top we found…a bunch of people eating (all the picnic tables were taken) and a FANTASTIC view of San Francisco, Marin, and the East Bay.  After taking it all in, we followed the back half of the Sunset Trail down to where it hits the Fire Road.  From the Fire Road we headed down to the Perimeter Trail, which we followed back to Ayala Cove.  Aside from the Russians, we encountered few hikers on the first part of the hike.  Once we hit the Perimeter Trail traffic picked up a little bit as well…but nothing overwhelming.

deserted hospital

On the way back down we passed by a number of old, abandoned buildings.  Known as the “Ellis Island of the West” in the 19th and 20th centuries, Angel Island served first as a military base (and for a while as a quarantine station for soldiers re-entering the country), and then an immigration station.   Restrictions imposed by the Chinese Exclusion Act (also referenced in Hike #10) resulted in a number of immigrants spending years on the island waiting for entry between 1910 and 1940.  There are a number of run-down buildings that used to be hospitals, schools, and homes, as well as small communities that formerly served as military housing located in clearings near the water.  These communities were particularly weird…they are very neat and clean, with manicured lawns and blooming gardens, but emtpy…which makes the whole place kind of creepy.   These parts of the island seem very surreal, they reminded me of the town in the movie Big Fish.

Early spring is a really great time to do this hike if you want to see some cool flowers and butterflies.  Butterflies were everywhere on this hike (as were bees), and there were some really awesome wildflowers in full bloom.  No slugs or ladybugs, though.  And fortunately no mountain lions.

We made it back to Ayala Cove a little bit early and had a beer at one of the cafes there before catching the boat home.  The lawn at the cove was packed with families and kids playing and lounging on the grass.  I got super sunburned.

Hike #19: really awesome success…a great day trip, highly recommend.

Lessons learned: upon exiting the ferry, get a quick start and watch out for tourist groups

Flora and Fauna: red spotted purple butterfly (I think); iris; california indian pink; california sister; coyote brush

When Mountain Lions attack

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

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

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

Hike #12: Tilden Regional Park

Location: East Bay, Contra Costa County

Distance: 6.3m

Entry fee: $0

We started this hike with two very specific goals: don’t get lost, and get Molly back to the city by 12:30pm.

The drive up into the Berkeley hills was beeeeautiful…completely amazing views of the whole Bay.  (It was supposed to rain all morning, but the rain never came.)  It took us a little longer to get to the trailhead because South Park Road was closed due to salamander migration.  Yes, that’s right.  Salamanders migrate.  Where to?  Good question.  Apparently the great newt commute happens every winter as newts make their way to the rivers and streams to lay their eggs, then up to the hills for the dry season (and by now I would hope you all know the difference between a newt and a salamander.)

Anyway, we didn’t see any migrating newts (unfortunately), but we did find the real trailhead this time around.  Off to a good start.

If you are planning on doing this hike during the rainy season, be prepared for some serious mud.  There are also signs everywhere warning you about the copious amounts of poison oak all along the very narrow, super slippery trail.  So don’t fall off the path.

We made our way through some cool eucalyptus groves and saw a few rabbits…but nothing super exciting.  About 4 miles in we decided to take the spur up to the stone lookout at Wildcat Peak.  This is about .01 miles off the path and totally worth the extra 5 minutes.  In addition to the Bay you get views of Briones Regional Park and San Pablo Reseviour to the east for an incredible 360.

The 10 lbs of mud on our shoes and lack of traction made this hike more perilous than most.   Less than 2 miles from the finish we did have did have one hiker go down in a dramatic flailing of arms and legs (down a really non-dramatic slope) into a puddle of muck.  The fall was quickly followed by a hoard of cross country runners prancing nimbly by us through the mud.  Salt in the wound.  Totally unnecessary.

The final stretch of this hike is 1 mile of paved road that is crowded with runners, dogs, old people, and baby strollers. We didn’t get lost.  And we were back at the car before noon.

Hike #12: RAGING SUCCESS!  This hike is a great option if you’re looking for something a little longer with some seriously awesome views.  The trailheads are a little bit confusing, but careful attention to the directions will get you to the finish line.  Apparently this trail gets crowded in the summer, but aside from the runners we didn’t encounter any other traffic on our trip.  Do it in the winter if you want a good butt workout. And consider wearing padding.

Lessons learned: eucalyptus is an invasive plant introduced to California by Australians during the gold rush…the government encouraged planting them with the hopes of using it as an additional source of timber for the railroads, but the wood was unsuitable and now the trees are just everywhere; salamanders migrate.

Flora and Fauna: monkeyflower, eucalyptus, high school cross country runners

Hike #11: Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve–Alpine trail loop (we think?)

Location: San Mateo County

Distance: 3m (but I have no idea how far we went…guessing right around there)

Entry fee: $0

I am not even sure how to really start this entry because the hike as described in the book is absolutely 100% not where we went.  This is becoming a theme that should probably be addressed.  But I would like to thank Molly (and Paul) for waking up at the buttcrack of dawn on their day off from work to join me.

This hike started off on the wrong foot (ha) in a number of ways.  First off, it is listed as a “perfect hike to do with kids” and a great option for people with disabilities.  So really, how complicated can the trail be? I assume that we can get it done in about an hour.

Paul and I pick Molly up at her apartment at 5:45am (which I thought was a little late to get going, but considering the length and difficulty of the hike, didn’t think we would have a problem finishing in a timely fashion.)  We drove down the Peninsula, where the trail head proved to be a little further off the freeway than anticipated.  Arrival at trailhead: 6:45am.  I am already stressing about being late to work.   Entrance to the trailhead was locked, so we parked our car illegally on the side of the road…and proceeded to walk in a huge loop around 2 parking lots, struggling to figure out where to enter the park.  LESSON ONE: if you aren’t totally sure that you’re at the right trailhead, DON’T START HIKING.

After picking a trail, we eventually hit some signs for the Horseshoe Lake, which is where the book instructed us to go, and ended up…back at the main road.  Not where we were supposed to be.  Looks like we may have been hiking on the right trail in the wrong direction?  We turn around, find a new trail, think we know where we’re going…yadda yadda…I’ll spare you the details, you’ve heard this story before.  All the while my distress regarding getting to work on time is growing.

We finally made it up on a ridge…(the wrong ridge, but a ridge nonetheless)…and did get some nice views and the whole area up there is really gorgeous.  Unfortunately, at this point it was close to 8am and I was experiencing full blown anxiety about a 9am appointment that needed to be dealt with immediately.  So when we hit a familiar part of the trail again (how we got back there?  not sure), we decided to head back the way we came.  Super bummer, there is a mountain called Mount Umunhum that I was looking forward to seeing.

Hike #11: MOST HUMONGOUS FAILURE YET.  We are going back to do the real hike at a later date.

One sidenote: we did catch a coyote chowing down on a deer that had been killed by a car.  He had picked one leg bone clean and was digging into the torso.  There were organs laying around…it was gruesome.

Lessons Learned: start at the right starting point; leave earlier than you think you should for morning hikes

Flora and Fauna: egret, coot, poison oak, coyote

Hike #8: Henry Cowell Redwood State Park

Location: Santa Cruz

Distance: 4.8m

Entry fee: $6

While spending the weekend in Santa Cruz with Emily and Ashley, two of my closest friends from high school, I figured it might be a good time to knock out a hike in the area.  Despite a rapidly escalating case of poison oak, I figured a short, flat stroll outdoors on wide, paved roads, far away from any questionable foliage with some old friends might be a nice way to spend the weekend.

Not entirely what happened.  It would be misleading to say we did this hike as described in the book.  We definitely went hiking in the Henry Cowell Redwood State Park, but our hike was 8 miles (not 4), the grade was pretty steep in some areas (not “steady and mostly downhill”), we never made it to the observation deck (despite convincing ourselves that we had), and half the time the river was on our left when it should have been on our right.

How did this happen? There are many theories.  Ashley blamed the book.  Emily blamed the guide (me).  I kind of blamed Ashley, because I was under the impression that she had done the hike before (sorry Ash) and because I lacked any other defensible rationale for our situation.

About 10 minutes into the hike we (read: I) reference the book and see that, though we have apparently walked the right distance and are in the right location, the river is on our left instead of our right.  So we are walking the wrong direction.  Weird.

Oh, well…we turn around and continue walking another mile or two following what we believe is the right trail despite the fact that we a.) are not seeing any white, sandy trails as described in the book (we blame the rain and mud and point to some white rocks on the side of the trail…”yeah, see?  there’s the white sand!”), b.) have yet to see the name of the trail we are supposed to be walking along on any trailhead post (we blame the book/trailheads being outdated),  and c.) had long since passedthe mileage marker for the observation deck according to Emily’s pedometer.

Almost 3 miles in we come across a small clearing with a bench that looks out over the valley all the way down to Santa Cruz.  “The observation deck!” we cry, wanting so badly to believe we are going the right way that we ignore the fact that there is absolutely no deck whatsoever near these benches, no “360 view” of Santa Cruz, and that there is a hill rising up behind us when the book says this deck is located on the highest summit in the area.

From here things became even less logical…we decided to take a detour (some people were getting bored with the paved road) and, going off of our location on the map (which wasn’t our real location at all), start down a muddy hill towards the river, thinking it would take us back to the car.  Wrong.  Dead ends into fallen trees and the rushing river.  There are beware of mountain lion signs everywhere, which has Emily nervous.  I pick up a big stick and start swinging it around to protect us as we walk.  Back up the hill.   Back to the fireroad which takes us to…a major thoroughfare, where a nice gentleman shows us that we have actually strayed so far south that we are now off the map entirely.

Long story short (too late), 5 miles later we made it back to the car.

Hike #8:  failure.  But good times anyway.  And we saw a really cool huge bright yellow banana slug.  Those things never get old.

Lessons learned: don’t give me the map

Flora and Fauna: blackberry bush (which I kept confusing with poison oak)