The San Francisco skyline
The view from where we stayed in Belvedere
While I believe most of you reading this are well aware of Adina and my upcoming plans, for those of you who I have not seen or spoken to recently, here's the latest: I'm writing you from Las Vegas and I'd be lying if I said Kauai was still my home. Adina and I have packed up our stuff... disposed of most of our possessions... And San Francisco was our first stop in a 32 day cross country road trip. We will arrive in New Jersey in mid July, but the end of this road trip is not the culmination of all this. In mid August, we are off to Sweden, reentering the academic world for a few years. While there are still some variables in the mix regarding where we will be, you can likely find us in Gothenburg, on the west coast of Sweden, come autumn. I'll spare this blog all the why's, how's, and so forth, but we see this as a good opportunity for us, despite trading December's warm water perfect waves to a backdrop of sun and lush dramatic mountains for a dark, cold, long winter. And while we already miss Kauai so much (and we
are confident we will one day return), we are genuinely excited about our opportunities in Sweden!
Unlike past blogs of foreign cultures and fairy tale landscapes, you probably know more about San Francisco than I do. With the exception of a family trip when I was young that has faded from memory, this was my first visit to San Francisco (Adina's as well), but as I will assume you've been to this famous American city, the words in this blog will forego descriptions of a city you perhaps have been to (we will let the photos do the talking), and instead share with you our day of hiking and owl watching north of the city in the Marin Headlands.
During our time in SF, Adina and I were graciously hosted by my brother and his fiancé for four nights and by our friends Karen and Chloe (friends made on Kauai from a few years back, in case the name sounds familiar to any of the Kauai folk) over the weekend. On the Saturday morning of our San Francisco stint, we woke up in Karen and Chloe’s cozy apartment, right around the corner from Haight Ashbury, overlooking Golden Gate
Park’s Panhandle. Once we were all ready to commence the day, the girls brainstormed a Saturday itinerary for us, in mind of the fact that we had spent the past 3 days exploring the city and wandering SF’s many neighborhoods. Also, as it happened to be the most beautiful day in San Francisco all year (90 and sunny throughout the city), as we were repeatedly told by SF residents, we all hopped in the car and set off north, across the Golden Gate Bridge.
After a brief stop for some caffeine in Sausalito, we continued on, and into the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, parking at the Tennessee Valley Trailhead and beginning our hike on the trail so named. The trail gently meandered its way through the mountains of the Marin Headlands, eventually poking out on the coast, and on this day (and probably not most days), we had perfect views of San Francisco south of us and rocky California coastline to the north of us. From here, rather than continue on to the Tennessee Valley Beach, we hopped onto the Coastal Trail which hugged the coast and continued north amongst the dry, but still green, hills that were
spattered with unfamiliar flowers. An hour and half later, we emerged at Muir Beach, a small stretch of dark sand, inundated with city folk, but beautiful nonetheless.
As comfortable as it was to sit in the sand with a breeze on our face after a couple hour hike in the sun, the adventures for the day were only just getting started, and so we had a quick snack and continued back by way of the Coastal Fire Road and Fox Trail, which took a more direct path back to our car and also offered up some great views of Richardson Bay, the Tiburon Peninsula and downtown San Francisco.
Back in the car, we drove north and inland, seemingly the only car headed in that direction as hoards of beachgoers crawled back to the city in painfully slow traffic. We cruised and in no time we were in the Muir Woods National Monument, a grove of Redwood trees that, while not the tallest nor widest in California, they are still ginormous and the most convenient to get to from San Francisco. This was a place I had not expected to get to on this trip, but had really hoped
These trees are so massive but hard to capture the perspective in the photo.
We entered the gates of the park around 7 PM, and the forest, normally flooded with tourists during midday hours, was nearly all but ours alone. The trees were so amazing…. So dizzyingly tall, so seemingly wise. Walking through the forest felt like walking in some fairytale setting. We strolled through the forest for 30 minutes or so, and as we made our way to the exit, we came upon three giant Northern Spotted Owls. On a branch hanging over the creek which runs through the forest, one of the owls struck a stately pose, unphased by the camera flashes and dozen or so people staring at it from a short distance away. It didn’t move for the next twenty minutes, other than swinging its head from side to side every few seconds. As beautiful and entertaining as this bird was, it was the other pair of birds that stole the attention. These two birds danced for the crowd. Creeping along a tree branch, they would roll their heads in circles face to face, briefly spread their wings, and then seemingly kiss one another on the nose. We wondered what this dance communicated between them. As it
seemed their dance was not about to end, we decided to continue on to the park exit, but as soon as we had taken our first steps towards the exit, the stately bird leapt from its branch, soared down the creek and perched on a tree stump only a few feet from the trail. The owl waited for us to scurry down the path and gaze upon it for a few moments, before it sprung from the stump and flew directly over our heads, nearly within reach, and into the darkening forest. Thank you Muir Woods!
When we got to our car it was nearly dark, but lucky for us, we did not intend to return to the city on that night. Chloe’s grandmother owned a cabin, set on the waters of Belvedere Cove in the small town of Belvedere, staring right across the water at downtown San Francisco. We knew the plans were to stay in Belvedere, but we had not expected this. The San Francisco skyline shimmered in the water below, as we had the most satiating picnic style dinner on a wooden deck that extended out over the inlet. It was the perfect cap to a
truly wonderful day.
In all, we had 5 full days in San Francisco and we feel really good about the time and absolutely perfect weather. Special thanks again to our hosts Karen and Chloe and Cary and Ali for letting us crash with them, taking good care of us, and pointing us in all the right directions. And most special thanks to my brother who graciously picked us up from the airport at 3:00 AM after a nightmarish flight from Kauai.
As previously mentioned, now that San Francisco is through, the real adventure begins as we are getting in a car and heading east on a not so direct course. We have many stops planned and nothing set in stone, so we will see where we wind up and if I can keep up with our travels, there will be more travel blogs very, very soon.
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