Walking Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

 

Up, up, up and over Presidio’s hills and through the Richmond District from our hotel, Golden Gate Park calls to me. Aside from the De Young Museum, Japanese Tea Garden and Conservatory of Flowers, it can be a wild place, and a bit disreputable for walking. Even so, I have this weird idea that I shouldn’t come to this city without visiting its Park. But I had decided our trip to San Francisco should be car-free. The walk there and back is easily 10 miles and includes some impressive hills. Navigating the transit system from our Cow Hollow neighborhood hotel is complicated. After several days of long walks, resting our feet is the wiser choice. Instead, we accept the challenge and walk.

Passing lavish mansions and neighborhoods dotted with square-block mini-parks, we use the city streets as cut-back trails to ease our climb. Even so, I notice horizontal scoring on sidewalks with steep inclines and a time or two I walk up sidewalk steps. It’s impossible to ignore the climb, and even more impossible not to wonder about our return trip after visiting the park. Many people think downhill walking is more challenging than the uphill. I’m not sure I want to develop an opinion on the subject. There’s always taxis, I assure myself.

Instead of counting the steps I am taking, I try counting the number of older luxury homes currently getting facelifts. There are many. I peek into the interior of one and realize that it is a shell-home. The inside is entirely gutted, waiting – no doubt – for a total modern refit. I am perplexed at the notion of paying five million US dollars for a home you are planning to gut and re-do. As I walk through the lovely neighborhood, I’m glad that amount of financial encumberment is someone else’s concern. My concern is whether or not my feet will last this lavish walk I am intent on completing.

Happily, I enter the Richmond District and discover a new Chinatown. For several blocks down Clement Street I walk along a tempting row of Asian restaurants and markets. The old Chinatown is world-famous and miles east across the city. This new one is vibrant, unassuming, with an aroma like a whole neighborhood where I should come for lunch. Or breakfast, if I had planned better.

This part of the walk goes along fast, and before I can say Haight-Ashbury, I stand at the head of Golden Gate Park. Its many entrances are busy welcoming all types of vehicles. Tour buses, taxis, private cars and a few people on foot follow each other into a different world in the midst of this city life. All of a sudden, grassy pathways and forested walkways present themselves in place of busy streets. Three-story high buildings seem to disolve into centuries-old trees that envelope paths leading into 1,017 acres of wilderness. I know better than to get lost in that tangle, and head to the Academy of Sciences along an asphalt path.

But three busloads of school children are let off to enjoy a day of hands-on learning, and I wonder if the Botanical Garden might be a better idea.

It is a great idea.

From the first step to the last, I am charmed by this exquisite rest stop. The gift shop, then the meadow, then the scent garden and the several meditating visitors display this as a place of respite inside a nature reserve tucked into a large and otherwise busy city. I want to stay longer than I should, and decide I need to learn as much about the occupants of the Butterfly Garden as I can.

Inside the park, I add miles onto my day, walking past Stow Lake and around the outside of the south end of the park just to see what is there. It probably isn’t wise, all this walking, but tomorrow I leave San Francisco. I feel I should see as much as I can.

I’d intended just to put my walking feet on a couple of the thousand acres of Golden Gate Park, to touch my memories. I recall a photograph of me as a toddler sitting on a daisy-sprinkled meadow there. As a college student, I had attended several New Games events there.

But largely, I’d avoided this park, another of San Francisco’s iconic places. Wild, unruly, disreputable, even dangerous at times during my life, this had seemed a place I should avoid. But, today, the park updates my stereotypes and leaves me impressed at what it offers a city and its countless tourists.

I have some time to contemplate all this. There is a long walk back that awaits me.

 

 

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17 thoughts on “Walking Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

  1. Oh your aching feet! 😦 😦 My back gives me a hard time some days too. But all in an excellent cause. πŸ™‚ If God, or anyone else come to that, ever sees fit to send me to this city, I shall ascend to these heights and look down with equal joy. Many thanks for your excellent company. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RJo – I can’t imagine a bad back and walking those hills! Perhaps it would be the devil sending you to SF…but in any case, you’d have a great time – there’s truly something for everyone there. And if you look on a map, this visit really was only covering the north tip of the city. Glad you enjoyed it πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Beth and Joe – we would be there if we could – nothing sounds more fun than a walk with you guys (although you would no doubt find our skills as guides lacking, as we walk a lot and know very little :)) I think you would really enjoy the Botanical Gardens. Our son had sworn us to go see the Science Museum, which is spectacular, I’ve heard, but the Gardens called once we were there, and with a long walk ahead of us. we couldn’t do both. Hope you do get there, and wish you great walks – Susan

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : A lady and a folly | restlessjo

  3. Beautiful, indeed! This was another walk that brought back memories for me too. Hubby and I had no idea that this park might be dangerous when we walked there, young and invincible, in the late 80s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tiny – I grew up one hour south from here, and remember times when GG Park was a scary place. Today, the museums and the flow of people in and out being so many to the park that anyone can feel young and invincible!

      Like

  4. Susan, thanks for the tours of San Francisco. My wife and I went twice in the 1990s and had a wonderful time. Reminiscing just now, I cannot believe it was that long ago. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Me too. My daughter said she wanted a new phone for her 21st BD. I said you just got one. She said that was three years ago. She convinced me that was 1/7 of her life and 1/20 of mine.

        Liked by 1 person

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