Saturday, September 14, 2013

Concrete Mixer Upper - Sidewalk Mistakes Cast in Stone

The beauty of the Internet age is that we have the power to undo almost everything we create. With the simple click of the delete button, our mistakes are erased and forgotten.

Unfortunately, not everything today is part of the Internet age, and the evidence of this is all over our city streets. 

In case you haven’t noticed, you’ll find the name of the street stamped into the concrete at most San Francisco street corners. The DPW contracts the stamping job to a third party, and while they get it right most of the time, there have been some laughable typos cast into the concrete.  

One of the first sidewalk typos I remember seeing was on 22nd and Church. On the southeast corner of the street, I found “22 ND” stamped with a backward N. Just one block later, I found 23RD with a backwards and upside down “3”. Since spotting those, I’ve been scouring the sidewalks for typos, and I’ve found a number of gems.

There was “Buchnana” where Buchanan was supposed to be. There have also been the two-typo stamps where “Sacarmneto” was written instead of “Sacramento”. The typos are scattered throughout the city and come in a few varieties (mixed up letters, missing letters, numbers replacing letters (1 for I is a common one).

I’ve started collecting typos in a Pinterest board here, and have found a photoset on flickr that has over one thousand typos. I would love to see all the concrete mixer uppers you’ve found. Email me at if you find other ones not yet on my radar.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Urban Hiker SF Celebrates 1 Year in Business, 500 Hikers, and 2 New Routes

Hikers on a hike
This month, we at Urban Hiker SF are proud to celebrate our first anniversary! For the past
12 months we have helped you discover the stairways, hills, and hiking trails of San Francisco while you learn the history that shaped the City by the Bay.

500 Hikers and Counting
Since last August, we’ve toured San Francisco with over 500 hikers from over 10 countries! We’ve expanded our services to cover corporate events, and have run events with airbnb, Akamai, Eventbrite, and Google. Lastly, we’ve run dating events with and couples events with  
New Hiking Routes
When we launched our business last year, we had three hiking routes, “Urban Jungles,” “Stairways to Heaven,” and “Walk on the Wild Side.” In the past year, we launched two new tours, “Presidio Exploration” and “Tales of the City”. Presidio Explorationexplores the historic Presidio neighborhood and includes points of interest such as the Lyon Street Steps, two artworks by Andy Goldsworthy, Inspiration Point, the San Francisco National Cemetery, plus a number of the
SF National Cemetery Overlook
neighborhood's hiking trails. “Tales of the City,” named after the eponymous book series by Armistead Maupin, tours North Beach, Telegraph Hill, and Russian, Hill and covers sights including the Filbert and Greenwich Street Steps, Coit Tower, Lombard Street, Sts. Peter and Paul Church, and Macondray Lane.

Urban Hiker SF in the News
In just one year’s time, we have made an appearance in a number of press outlets. One of our most notable press mentions was an article with on “10 of San Francisco’sQuirkiest Homes”. We also authored two articles on SFBay.CA including “San Francisco:Playground for Adults” and “Forage for a Salad on SF Trails” and we were interviewed on Celia Castelli’s radio show, Lost in Transition.

Reviews and Ratings
Our goal is to provide you with a first-rate, memorable experience. With your help, we’ve reached 17 5-star reviews on Yelp and a top 20 rating (of 260) onTripAdvisor for activities in San Francisco. 

We wanted to share the great news since none of this would be possible without you. We thank you for your continued support and hope to see you out on the trails soon!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Market Street Barbie

When I was little, I had Barbie dolls - lots of them. There were the standard Barbie dolls like Malibu Barbie, and then there were the ones my dad would get on his business travels like Indian Barbie and Chinese Barbie (who was then called the cringe-worthy “Oriental Barbie”). I loved dressing up my dolls, doing their hair, and inventing make-believe lives for them. While arguably not the best role model for little girls, Barbie had one clear benefit - she gave me the ability to exercise my imagination and creativity. Now as a 34 year old woman, the dolls (and my childhood) are both long gone. But somewhere up in Upper Market, the spirit of Barbie is still alive. Yes people, I have found Market Street Barbie. 

I run urban hiking tours with my company Urban Hiker SF. On my Urban Jungles (Castro/Upper Market/Twin Peaks) hiking route, I pass by the intersection of Market and Glendale Streets numerous times a week. It is here where I have found Market Street Barbie. Up on a balcony with a great view of downtown, she presides over the neighborhood. Her clothing is sometimes glamorous, sometimes lewd (think yellow bikini stuffed with a large special something from Good Vibrations), but always amusing.

Here are some photos I’ve collected over the months. I’d love to see more if anyone else has some. Check out the last photo in this set - Barbie’s wearing some special threads for Pride Week!

Market Street Barbie wearing what looks like an outfit I owned in the 80s.

Market Street Barbie dressed up for Christmas

Market Street Barbie wearing a bathing suit and hoping the summer will come...someday.

Market Street Barbie wearing the largest bra I’ve ever seen.

Market Street Barbie keepin’ cool in a sundress.

Market Street Barbie - Pride Edition! Happy Pride, all!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Got Glass?

I recently received an invite to the Google Glass Explorers program. What this means is that I am one of approximately 10,000 people who were chosen by Google to try out Glass and see what comes of it.

If you're not already familiar with Google Glass, the new wearable technology device helps you take photos, videos, and run Google searches all from voice commands. 

I got my Glass on June 5 and think it could have some fun applications for urban hiking. Many people don't know what I mean when I say that I run urban hiking tours, so I'll be able to show them what it's like to climb on a hiking trail to Twin Peaks (see below), walk through a eucalyptus forest in the city (video), or slide down the Seward Street Slides (video)!

 Weekend hikers heading up to Twin Peaks. Photo taken #throughglass.

If I had a constant Internet connection, which I could get from a wireless hotspot on my phone, I could share the photos and videos I take with my hikers - instantly. While I do go over a number of historical facts about the sites we see on tours, I could also look up additional information and photos to answer people's questions. 

If Glass one day has an app store like our smartphones do, I would love to create one that would be a self-guided video and audio guide for my tours. Hikers would receive directions from Glass on where to turn to get to the next stop, and once they were there, they would get all the historical information that I normally give to them.

We'll see where this goes, and in the meantime, comment to let me know if you have ideas on how I can make the most of my Google Glass!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Top 10 Quirkiest San Francisco Houses

Recently we published a slideshow in the SF Chronicle on 10 of San Francisco's Quirkiest Homes. This is the original blogpost that inspired me to reach out to the Chronicle.

San Franciscans are known for being quirky. We've got an entire website dedicated to the topic. We're the city that hosts Bay to Breakers (exhibits A, B, and C), and we flock to Burning Man for Labor Day. We have an bike race on Big Wheels Bikes and a hunky Jesus competition...on the same day! 

 While many of us carry our quirk inside of us, some of us wear it on our bodies, and some choose to express it through our homes. As we scour the city with Urban Hiker SF, we've taken note of some eccentric houses and buildings all over the city. Here's a list of 10 of our favorites:

1. The Bike House - You think you like bikes, but not as much as this guy (or gal).

  • Neighborhood: Laurel Heights
  • Location: Blake Street between Geary Boulevard and Laurel Hill Playground



2. The Jungle House - What can I say, it's wild! 
  • Neighborhood: Noe Valley
  • Location: Church between 22nd and 23rd Streets

Image courtesy of geekstinkbreath on Flickr

3. The Mondrian House - An homage to a Dutchman by the beach

  • Neighborhood: Outer Sunset
  • Location: Great Highway between Rivera and Quintara Streets


4. The Buddha House - This home is a trompe l'oeil. In addition to the Buddha on the garage door, 100% of the 'stones' are painted onto the house.

  • Neighborhood: Castro
  • Location: 17th between Church and Sanchez Streets

5. Old Vedanta Temple 
Not really a house per se, but people from the Vedanta Society do live here. Learn More on the SF City Guides site. 

  • Neighborhood: Cow Hollow
  • Location: The corner of Webster and Filbert Streets

6. The Rainbow House - Because your whole neighborhood should know your stance on gay marriage.

  • Neighborhood: Noe Valley
  • Location: Clipper between Douglass and Diamond

7. The Yoga House - A zen retreat in the shadow of Bernal Hill

  • Neighborhood: Bernal Heights
  • Location: Folsom between Ripley and Stoneman Streets


8. The Addams Family House  - Houses need haircuts too sometimes.

  • Neighborhood: Castro
  • Location: 17th between Church and Sanchez Streets

Image courtesy of Bernalwood

9. The Chalkboard Garage House - God bless these folks. These are surely the most trusting people in all of San Francisco. 
  • Neighborhood: Bernal Heights
  • Location: Mullen Avenue between Montcalm and Franconia Streets

10. The International Orange House - Because because it's a long drive from Bernal Heights to the Golden Gate Bridge.

  • Neighborhood: Bernal Heights
  • Location: The corner of Precita and Shotwell

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Spring is in Full Bloom in San Francisco

On a recent hike, I was asked what comes to mind when I think of spring. I liked this question because it's not something I hadn't really thought about before in any concrete way

As I thought about it, I realized that for me, spring means the change in light and the burst of color from new flowers. 

Springtime flowers in Redfield Alley in Russian Hill

Since starting Urban Hiker SF last summer, I have gained an acute sense of the changes in weather and season. 

During the summer, the bushes and trees burst with fruit exhibiting nature's abundance throughout the city. As fall comes, the rain transforms the brown, dusty hilltops into lush green hideaways. And there are much more subtle shifts too too. There's a changing of the guard for the city's flowers seemingly every few weeks. There's always something new to look at.

Now is a great time to get out for a hike because there is evidence of spring almost everywhere you look. On a recent hike in the Presidio, I saw gorgeous lilies growing wild by the dozen. On hike yesterday in Russian Hill, flowers filled up a tiny garden with color. My 1:30 pm hikes, which usually end with a darkening sky and a cool breeze are now warm and light the whole hike through. 

 Lilies in the Presidio

In spring, the world just seems greener. What comes to mind when you think of spring?

Monday, March 18, 2013

When Size Doesn't Matter - Five Pint-Sized Parks Worth a Visit

We've all heard of Golden Gate Park and Alamo Square, but have you heard of Juri Commons or Bernal Heights Mini Park? With over 220+ parks and open spaces scattered throughout the city, it's easy for some of the smaller parks to be overshadowed by their larger and more famous neighbors. Some of these pint-sized parks are fun to visit, and can be combined with other nearby sights to make a trip worth your while. 

Jack Early Park (North Beach/Telegraph Hill)
View from Jack Early Park via @gwdexter on Flickr
Jack Early was a former neighborhood resident who passionately planted the steep hillside where this park is located today. After ascending 63 stairs, you arrive at a postage-stamp sized perch with a stellar view of the Bay. Get ready, this is one of the tiniest and most romantic viewpoints in the city. 

Bernal Heights Mini Park (Bernal Heights)
The Slides of Bernal Heights Mini Park
If you've been on an Urban Hiker SF tour, you surely remember the Seward Street Slides. If you liked those, there is second set of slides in the unofficial park known as Bernal Heights Mini Park. Over the years, these slides have had their ups and downs (pun intended). At the slides' opening in 1979, then Mayor Dianne Feinstein raced down the slides and defeated district supervisor, Lee Dolson. In the late 90s, the slides were almost shut down due to what were estimated to be prohibitively expensive repairs. Volunteer labor and a petition signed by neighbors saved the slides.

Juri Commons (Mission)
The inviting entrance to Juri Commons
Believe it or not, the Southern Pacific Railroad used to run right through the Mission District in the early 20th century. Some buildings and homes (like this one) still conform to the railroad line, and so does Juri Commons. Juri Commons is a well-maintained diagonal strip of land between Guerrero and San Jose and 25th and 25th Streets. It houses a playground and a few benches where you can relax.

Al's Park is quirky through and through.
Al’s Park (Upper Market)
While Al's Park isn't an official park (yet), it's a great reflection of the spirit of San Francisco. A thin strip of land in what one can only assume is someone's backyard, Al's Park is full of interesting plants, furniture, and quirky art pieces. I am not sure who Al is, but he is a San Franciscan through and through. 

Hawk Hill with Mt. Davidson in the back.

Hawk Hill Park (Forrest Hill)
Not to be confused with its similarly named neighbor to the north, Hawk Hill Park is nestled into the Forrest Hill neighborhood. From this sandy and grassy overlook, you can see Mount Davidson and take in sweeping views of the ocean. This park makes the list because most people don't know you can actually visit the park - they think it's just a hillside. The best point of entry is on San Rita Avenue.