Presidio of San Francisco Footloose Hike with Michael – 29 September 2014

There are lots of sword makers in our world today so it is refreshing to hike around a classic army base that has been repurposed and renewed as a national park.
In fact, we celebrate twenty years ago today, 1st October 1994, that the Presidio of San Francisco became a national park. It has been a location here in San Francisco since 1776 with its first building first in the city, the Presidio Officer’s Club. Echoes of its military history go back through the pages of the 20th and 19th Centuries to its founding as the most northerly outpost of the Spanish Empire in the same year as the American Revolution.

Why so late? The Manila Galleons had been sailing by in the Pacific Ocean since 1565. They had discovered that the Pacific trade winds moved “in a gyre as the Atlantic winds did, they had to sail north to 38 or 40 degrees North latitude (off the east coast of Japan) before catching the the eastward-blowing winds (“westerlies”) that would take them back across the Pacific.” – Recalling “gyre” in Louis Carroll’s wonderful “Jabberwocky”

Why didn’t they discover the huge San Francisco Bay until 1769? Michael told us it was not the often blamed fog obscuring the bay but nautical practices of the Galleon Captains and perhaps the Royal Spanish Navy. Upon reaching Cape Mendocino they purposely sailed out about 20 or 30 miles into the Pacific in order to avoid the rocky California coast and and catching a southbound current along the California coast to smooth their trip back to Acapulco. It was not until 1769 when the Portola Expedition got that first view of the San Francisco Bay and when Juan de Ayala sailed into the bay on August 5, 1775. Ayala struggled to gain entrance to the bay because of the tremendous currents. Michael told us that the water flowing through the Golden Gate is enormous with twice a day tides dwarfing the flow of the Mississippi at its delta. This quantity of water is known as the tidal prism and is equal to one-fourth of the Bay’s total volume. Ayala finally made a safe port in what later became Racoon Strait in what is known today as, appropriately, Ayala Cove. He picturesquely named the island he’d found Isla de los Angeles or Angel Island honoring a Catholic religious feast.

Reconnoitering with Michael: Carol did a great job planning our expedition across this remarkable landscape. She added a new tactic to our strategy allowing a longer hike by adding a shuttle bus return to the mix. Thanks much Carol! Here with the Monterey Cypress background we catch up and get things together. The U.S. Army upon its acquisition of the Presidio planted Monterey Cypress, Monterey Pine and Eucalyptus along with eastern dune grass to stabilize the dunes. These were densely planted as windbreaks and to separate the Presidio physically from the rest of San Francisco. This was a military base and separation was the order of the day.
One of the ongoing debates relates to replanting some of these questionable landscape choices such as Monterey Pine and on the building side of the equation rehabbing construction that might better be torn down. What do you save and cherish, what do you plant, what do you happily put in the rear view mirror?

You can just make out one of the many tunnel openings from earlier fortifications and imagine the excitement of small boys or girls building magical domains on a summer’s day.

Some morning fog on the Marin hills with traffic on an incoming configuration of 4 SB to 2 NB. The National Parks and the Presidio Trust have been extensively adding and improving paths and walkways all over the Presidio with many like this one wheelchair accessible.

A Michael meditation on Atropa belladonna, Devil’s cherries: Who would have guessed that the Forest Service would have this kind of artful as well as scientific entry.

Stabilizing a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate with California native plants, some Lizard Tail (Eriophyllum staechadifolium) bushes are blooming yellow.

Some Brown Pelicans fly across of our view looking out the Golden Gate.

We visited the Pt. Bonita Lighthouse on that point to the right of the picture during our Rodeo Lagoon Hike, September 15, 2014.

The small dark spot on the left was a lighthouse at Mile Rocks located just off San Francisco’s Point Lobos. It was built in 1901 after a fatal shipwreck.
Essentially a “cylinder on tip of a rock, families could not live on the station because it was so small, the noise of the fog signal was deafening . . . automated and then closed in the 1960’s, . . . the base is used as a helicopter landing.”

In the visitor view area there was a fascinating description of the fog horns on the Golden Gate Bridge, some base and some soprano and how they help shipping incoming and outgoing the Gate.

How do you spell relief? Relief map with a view, Angel Island and Alcatraz (sheltered by Sarah’s hand) both named by Ayala except by Alcatraz he was referring to Yerba Buena Island, previous site of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Command and footing for the Bay Bridge. There were many pelicans there so the name Isla de Alcatraces, “Island of the Pelicans” was fitting. In 1926 in a lateral transfer, the name moved across the Bay (perhaps by ferry?) and landed on the Alcatraz that we all know and love.

In a salute to the season, Michael dove in a melange of native Blackberries and Lizard Tail and found a lovely lady Pumpkin Spider in her autumnal plumage. She was a Four-spot orb-weaver (Araneus quadratus). As he talked, she spun – you can see the thread stringing from her abdomen and on his fingertip. After sharing and enjoying her time on stage, Michael put her carefully back on the berry leaf from which she came.

We remembered and saluted Charlotte from E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web”.

Pumpkin Spider

We hiked down past Fort Point, past the Warming Hut now in rehab, and along the trail by Crissy Field. Along the way the former Coast Guard Station was looking like a transplant from the Carribean. It now has a small museum about the Farralones Marine Sanctuary.

The ongoing replacement of the seismically incorrect, old Doyle Drive with the new Presidio Parkway. You can just spot the cavalry stables beyond. On the other side we are walking by the old Presidio Pet Cemetery.

A thoughtful Michael is showing us the two differing leaves of the Blue Gum Eucalyptus. “The broad juvenile leaves are borne in opposite pairs on square stems. They are . . . covered with a blue-grey, waxy bloom, which is the origin of the name “blue gum”. The mature leaves are narrow, sickle-shaped and dark shining green. They are arranged alternately on rounded stems . . .”

Along our way some rehabilitation going on at the National Cemetery. Scott and I were noticing the curious rendering of U. S. on the sides of the gate.

We are in the historic Powder Magazine on the Main Post and Sarah, a Presidio Trust intern, is telling us about Andy Goldworthy’s TREE FALL. The Magazine was constructed in the Civil War, she pointed out that some housing was nearby, but the officers quarters were at quite a distance. This sculpture illustrates what happens underground in a tree’s growth. Sarah said that the cracking is intentionally part of the natural process, something that Goldsworthy has developed on other projects. The clay from the Presidio is mixed with human hair from the area and was there another ingredient? The two day process was very demanding for Goldsworthy and his team of volunteers requiring two 12 hour + days in order to have the process blend into a unified whole. A new Goldsworthy sculpture will be presented at the opening of the rehabilitated Presidio Officer’s Club this weekend.

The magazine is in the former parade ground area, we head to lunch.

The Presidio Officer’s Club looking spiffy will have its grand reopening this weekend. We anticipate the celebration by a picnic near a relic cannon whose vintage is?

Thanks for thinking of the shuttle Carol, a neat way to hike back in just 9 minutes!


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