First, I drove through the grueling traffic of San Jose on US-101. It wasn't my choice of route, but I figure I'd get there at some point. I left the RV at 7:30 a.m. and got to Fisherman's Wharf at 9:01 a.m. The Maritime National Park didn't open until 9:30 a.m. so it gave me some time to walk around the wharf. Parking was a snap. On the Hyde Street Pier were historic sailing vessels.
In the Visitor's Center (located in the Argonaut Hotel Building), I met the nicest guy behind the desk. If he had a scarf on his head he could have passed for a mate on Captain Jack Sparrow's crew...the guy was tattooed from head to toe with gaged ears and piercing...and he was probably 70 years old! An interesting, but nice man - perfect for the rough seafaring scoundrels of the old days. The Visitor's Center itself was exquisitely done with a beautiful portrayed of sea life in the bay and docks. I would highly recommend a visit there. Here are a large number of photos showing how nicely done it was.
Across the street from the Maritime NHP was the Fisherman's Wharf cable cars into the city and Ghiradelli Square was just up the street a few streets. Since I've been to Ghiradelli Square multiple times I didn't venture over but instead headed over to my next stop of Fort Mason along the San Fran's 49 Mile Scenic Drive there along the edge of the water. All the years I lived in the Bay Area - like 25 years - I always wanted to know how to get to the under side of the Golden Gate bridge and today I finally found it! You just follow the road around Fisherman's wharf toward the bridge. Easy Peasy. I wonder why my parents never took us kids there before...? Matter-of-fact, I think we only rode the trolley once. Hmmm.
Fort Mason has a guided tour of 9 stops that is about .5 miles long and takes about 45 minutes to accomplish. In a nutshell, Fort Mason was used (1) as a defense of the Bay as it sits higher up on the coastline; (2) during the Gold Rush, San Fran was just 1,000 people, and as people came in to find their fortunes, San Francisco boomed into a large city so Fort Mason took control and also gave temporary shelter; (3) "Black Point" occurred on Fort Mason which was a civilian neighborhood helping get real estate off the ground. The dark bluff's laurel trees offered refuge from the rapidly growing city, thus the name; (4) Anti-Slavery Movement - as southerners came to San Francisco they brought their slaves to dig for them. CA US Senator David Broderick wanted to ensure a free-state but his opponent, Supreme Court Justice David S. Terry disagreed. Finally, they decided to settle it with a duel. On Sept 13, 1859, the two met at Lake Merced, south of the city. After Broderick's gun misfired, Terry shot him and wounded him severely. Broderick's friends rushed him to Haskell's Black Point on Fort Mason where he died 3 days later after reportedly saying, "They killed me because I am opposed to the extension of slavery and a corrupt administration"; (5) Jessie Benton Fremont, wife of explorer John C. Fremont and daughter of Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton lived on Fort Mason. She and her husband also sought to eliminate slavery; (6) Military Life at Point San Jose was the prominent bluff point at Fort Mason overlooking Alcatraz - an ideal location to protect the city from Confederate Attacks; (7) Fort Mason supported community help. During the April 18, 1906 San Fran Earthquake, Fort Mason was used as an aid to those without homes at this time. Also, the World's Fair in 1915 happened in San Francisco and Fort Mason was used as the fair's amusement and concession area; (8) Fort Mason also supported the Pacific with a coastal artillery post; and (9) People's Park. By the 1950's the port's role had diminished and in 1972, Congress created the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Next, I went to Crissy Field, which is an instructive educational area for children where they attends camps. Crissy Field has a lot of grass and walking along the shore...but no on the seashore itself. The Golden Gate starts to get bigger as you head westward. I will stop here and say that there were hundreds of people on bicycles...going to ALL the destinations I went to today and then some. I came to learn that they were rented electric bikes helping with all the hills making it a fun excursion for family members of all ages. If I were to do this again, this is what I would have done...just an FYI...you can do more things on bikes without the issues of finding parking.
The next stop was Fort Point National Historic Site. This is AMAZING! It's an old military fortress dating back to 1861 during the start of the Civil War! It was begun in 1853 under the direction of the Corps of Engineers. It is a prime example of the military's sophisticated coastal fortifications with massively 7-foot thick huge, thick brick walls. It's in amazing shape since it never saw action, of course, during the Civil War. I walked up all three levels - the second and third levels with hidden rooms with artillery, rooms with furniture, solider uniforms, etc. Along the top level you could peer over the walls of the fort. The coolest thing is that the fort is UNDER the Golden Gate Bridge! And, a secret - if you're parked there at the fort, do yourself a favor and hike the 280 steps to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge instead of trying to leave and find parking up top at the bridge. It's less frustrating and faster than leaving and dealing with traffic above the fort. The fort also housed a lighthouse since before the Golden Gate Bridge was built, it was the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. Speaking of artillery from before, in 1861 there were 69 guns aka cannons in the fort consisting of 24-, 32-, 42- pound balls and 10- and 8-inch Columbiads. After the Civil War, the Army installed 10-inch Rodman guns in the lower case-mates; these could fire a 128-lb. solid shot over two miles! At it's greatest strength, the fort mounted 102 cannons. The fort also had a "hotshot" furnace where they would head the cannon balls red, load them and fire them at hostile ships to set them ablaze. The Garrison consisted as many as 500 men from the 3rd US Artillery, the 9th US Infantry and the 8th California Volunteer Infantry. Unfortunately, with winds and the fog from the ocean into the bay, even during the summer months, soldiers developed rheumatism and sever colds. I think Fort Point would be a kids dream place to explore - it was so interesting and really fun!
Before we leave Fort Point, I do have to say that there were two of the BEST Park Rangers I've ever met at any location across the country. The man on the left, especially, was so happy and friendly. I wish the world could clone him!
I drove to the end of Fort Point and snapped this great shot of the Golden Gate before heading up the hill to the bridge:
And then I got this nice shot of Fort Point from above looking down at Fort Point:
After Fort Point, I drove up the hill to the Golden Gate Bridge and parked in the overflow lot just across the street from these homes below at the Presidio. There is a parking lot closer to the bridge but it's nearly impossible to get a place to park at this location AND the tour buses are a nightmare to maneuver around, so if you drive up to the bridge, just do the overflow lot. There are about 5 handicap spots there. It is a pay lot, so bring some change or your credit card. The price isn't bad, only a couple dollars. From here, you can walk up the quarter miles pathway to the bridge and visitor's center and 2 eateries. There is a bathroom but there are lines because of all the people, so if you do Fort Point first, go there...save yourself a headache and wasting time in a line. These are photos I took along the pathway to the bridge.
After the bridge, I drove over to the Presidio and the San Francisco National Cemetery at the Presidio. It's always a beautiful site to see white graves of soldiers and sailors in a beautiful, reverent setting. I also drove by the Palace of Fine Arts and downtown to the Transamerica Pyramid Building where my dad once worked in the banking mecca of San Francisco. In San Francisco you stop at nearly every street for the lights, so I had ample time to snap the Transamerica. I even ate a sandwich while I was maneuvering traffic. I must be either insane or pretty good driving in the city.
Here's a Visitor Map. Ask for one at any site. They are tear-off sheets:
After I finished with my San Francisco excursion, I had to return to the John Muir National Site in Martinez to get my sticker (they were closed yesterday...I still have to post on this) and also get the Port Chicago Naval Magazine stamp. Of course, I started to leave The City at 2:30 p.m. and since it was Friday AND Easter traffic, it took nearly 45 minutes just to get to I-80 and then another hour to get to Hwy 4. If there were no traffic, it should have only taken 20 minutes total to get to my destination, but such is the life in the big city. Since this location is in Concord it is still on an active military installation and civilians are not allowed on the premises until summer months with guided tours, so I could only view the documentary at the John Muir Visitors Center. I'll post more on this excursion on another post in the near future...stay tuned...I promise to be not as lengthy as this...
I have really enjoyed being back to where my roots are. I'm so sad to leave. Tomorrow, we leave the Bay Area and are driving to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and the on to Mt. Shasta for the night.