A word that seems to be used frequently among the walkers is ?magical?. It certainly was apt for this day.
Reaching San Francisco has been a milestone many of the hikers have been looking forward to. It represents a perceived significant change in the walk; a change from more rural to more populated counties. And the change here is so abrupt. Within a mile we pass from the open lands of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to the cosmopolitan city of San Francisco.
At our nine AM start at Rodeo Beach, we were introduced by San Francisco Coastwalker Fran Gibson to our guide for the day, Ben Pease. Ben is a trail-guide author and mapmaker and was ideally suited to be our leader. Also, our old friend from the Los Angeles Times, Al Seib, returned to see us through the day. And we found out that our walk today was on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle!
For the first 6 miles or so, we walked first upon Rodeo Beach and the trails of the GGNRA. As we started we were filmed again by KGO TV, the ABC affiliate for the San Francisco Bay Area. But the real beginning was at the start of the Golden Gate Bridge. Here we were met by many friends of Coastwalk, so we were a group of twenty five or so as we started across. San Francisco lay before us in all its beauty.
It is difficult to describe the sense of excitement in the group. Beautiful bridge, beautiful city, media attention, photographers running backwards in front of us: all raised our spirits. But most importantly, all of us knew that unlike the other people walking the bridge that day, we had put in 466 miles before we started across. At the south tower we were again met by KGO, this time with a reporter who interviewed the three Northern California members of the troupe. Also seen were cameramen for two of the other television stations in the Bay Area. The official walk ended at the south end of the bridge, and several of the group left to get a jump on our free day tomorrow. The rest of us continued walking with Ben through the newly renovated Crissy Field area of the Presidio. We could not resist taking a short detour out to the end of the breakwater at the St. Francis Yacht Club to sit by and listen to the wave organ, a construction made of 1906 earthquake rubble whose pipes pick up and amplify the sounds of the waves.
This was followed by a snack at Greens, a vegetarian restaurant at the Lower Fort Mason complex followed by a few minutes in the San Francisco Library?s used book store. Then it was up and over the Fort Mason complex and a walk through its community garden and down to the San Francisco National Maritime Historic Park and the Hyde Street Pier.
Here is where we will spend our night. The San Francisco Coastwalkers, Fran Gibson and Marsha Popper, have arranged for us to spend our night on the Balclutha, a full rigged sailing ship. Found in the mud of Sausalito by Karl Kortum, brother of Coastwalk originator Bill Kortum, the Balclutha (then named the ?Pacific Queen?) has been fully restored and is open to the public along with the other ships in the Maritime Park. After dinner we were all treated to sea shanties by Ranger Peter Kasin. Bed for us tonight will be anywhere we wish aboard the ship. Those of us who choose can sleep outside on the decks and watch the lights of this city as we slowly and gently roll with the waves. (Jon Breyfogle; photos, Linda Hanes)
Left: View of San Francisco from Coastal Trail. Right: Hikers reach San Francisco.