A Long Walk

Last Saturday, the 1st of June, I skipped my usual weekend sleep-in and got up at dawn to go on a walk. OK, nothing terribly unusual there. But this wasn’t just going to be a stroll out for morning coffee, or even a hike in the hills. I needed to be over at Candlestick Point in San Francisco–yes, where the stadium is–to start an all-day hike around the San Francisco shoreline. The entire San Francisco shoreline, all the way up the eastern bayside, past landmarks like the old Hunters Point naval base, Phone Company Park, the Bay Bridge, and Fisherman’s Wharf, then across the northern shore past Fort Mason and the Marina and the Golden Gate Bridge, then south past Land’s End and Cliff House and along the beaches all the way to Fort Funston.

That’s 23 or 24 miles, depending on detours along the way. Molly Samuel, a colleague and friend at the Public Radio Station where I work, dreamed up the project and scouted out the route and then walked it last June with about 15 people. (Another Public Ratio Station in town actually did a cool little feature on the event afterward.)

I think the best reason to take a hike like this is no reason at all–because it’s there, because you can. But for me, there was something else: There are big slices of the city I’ve never really seen, especially its southeast corner, where we started–Bayview and Hunters Point–and this was a way of starting to stitch together pieces I know with new pieces I don’t really have a sense of. I’m pretty confident we may have walked adjacent to one of the poorest census tracts in the city–the Double Rock housing project, out by Candlestick Park–and through the wealthiest–the Seacliff neighborhood between Baker Beach and Land’s End. And walking along Ocean Beach is always a little bit of a surprise: a magnificent strand that seems to stretch forever into the mist fronted by a diverse collection of neighborhoods, some blocks looking pretty affluent, some looking pretty hard-scrabble. It was a trip I wanted to record; the result: lots of pictures.

The biggest surprise of the walk for me: Although it took eleven and a half hours to complete, including stops for lunch and snacks and regrouping along the way, I never felt fatigued and the day never dragged. I don’t really think I looked at the clock once except out of curiosity. I think one reason, maybe the main one, was that the group was so sociable and comfortable and there was interesting conversation every step of the way, or engaged silence if that was what you wanted.

Molly said she noticed last year that you see certain landmarks ahead of you for a long time and they sort of work their way into your consciousness as a way to mark your progress. And that was true: the Bay Bridge was out there in front of us for a long time. Then the Ferry Building. Then the Palace of Fine Arts and the Golden Gate Bridge, until you arrive at the top of the bluff at the northern end of Ocean Beach with those miles of sand spread out forever. You’d see those sights, gain slowly on them, then be slightly amazed that you’d already arrived at them and then surprised again to take a glance back to see them disappear.

That’s it, except to say thanks to Molly and everyone else for a fun day out of doors.

Here’s the slideshow.

3 Replies to “A Long Walk”

  1. Hey Dan, thanks for writing about it; this way I don’t have to! (More importantly, thanks for coming.)

  2. Sounds great, and enjoyed the pictures. Saw some of them piecemeal as you posted them. The longest I did in San Francisco was with Sakura from Ocean Beach through Outer and Inner Sunset, Cole Valley and the Haight and eventually through Pacific Heights and back to Bush Street. That one’s only about 6-7 miles (I haven’t gotten the new version of google maps under my belt to give you the correct mileage, that’s the shortest route’s distance which goes through Golden Gate Park)

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