Monday, January 27, 2014

2014 Resolution: Hike all the Trails in San Francisco!

After college, I sat at various desks at various jobs for 10 years. When I realized 10 years had come and gone, I was in a state of shock. The years were blending together and flying by with nothing too memorable about them. As time went on, I found myself grumpier and grumpier about my work and my commute. I wasn't in a good place. 

Without a real place to go afterward, I quit a cushy job in January 2012 in order to take a few months off to reflect. At first, the feeling of freedom made me giddy. But then it made me nervous. I thought, "What am I going to do with myself now?"

And then sometime in May, had the idea for Urban Hiker SF. The idea for the company allowed me to combine my love of novelty, exploration, and the outdoors with the business knowledge I've accumulated over the years.

In February, it will be 1 1/2 years since I launched UHSF. We're running a number of tours weekly, and meeting wonderful people from all over the world.

But, while we do this, I want to keep exploring. When I initially planned my Presidio Exploration hike, I remember reading that the Presidio had over 25 miles of hiking trails. I couldn't believe that we had a trail network that extensive in a city so small -- and that was just in a single neighborhood.

The 25 miles fact got me curious, and I started cataloging all the trails I could find.

First, I discovered that there were three major trail systems in our city:

These trails range from 350 to 1,200 miles and are part of larger systems that extend way outside the boundaries of San Francisco.

I next found sand, dirt, and paved trails in the following public parks:
The Ecology Trail in the Presidio
And then there were the Presidio Trails
I had originally read about:

And then there were historic hiking trails too:
And lastly, I found trails on islands that are part of San Francisco.

Realizing its never too late to come up with a New Years resolution, I made it my resolution to explore all of these trails! I'll be posting about them here, so we can all learn more about the nature inside the city.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Urban Hiking and Wine Tasting on Yerba Buena and Treasure Island

The desire to visit Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island had tugged at me for years. I found it fascinating that there were two islands sitting in the bay - one man made and one natural - that were part of the city I lived in. They were close by, yet completely unfamiliar.

My birthday in December provided the perfect opportunity to finally explore the two islands. My dad and his wife were in town from LA, and after numerous visits to San Francisco, they were excited to see something new.

At a happy hour a few months back, I had met a winemaker from Oro en Paz, and learned that there was wine tasting on Treasure Island. With that as my inspiration, I planned out a birthday itinerary.

While you can certainly do this itinerary by car, you can also try it as an urban hike! To do so, check out this map. 

Here are two hiking options:
  • Yeba Buena Loop: 1.5 miles (red) = 1.5 miles
  • Treasure Island Loop: (blue) = 2.75 miles
You can combine the Yerba Buena Loop with either the Inner or Outer Treasure Island Loops. Below are five recommended stops along the way. For either hike, a great place to park is in front of the Treasure Island Museum.

Note: You'll notice that this map doesn't cover the northwest part of the Island. This is because much of the island is currently closed off to pedestrians.


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Blue Park, Yerba Buena Island
Blue Park. Photo by  
Ryan Alexander  
(scloopy) on flickr
Stop 1: Yerba Buena Island
(Yerba Buena Loop)

Once called Sea Bird Island, Wood Island, and Goat Island, Yerba Buena Island's current name comes from a local species of the mint family. 

The island was once an Ohlone habitat, and since the 1850s, it has been marked by a long period of military presence. The first bases were set up in the late 1800s, and over time they have been run by the army, the navy, and now the United States Coast Guard.

While there are not many official sights to see on the island, it's fun to take a walk there and explore some of the island's parks. One of the parks on the hiking route, Blue Park, has a eucalyptus-lined trail that offers great views of the Bay Bridge.

Note: You may see some signs that the streets of Yerba Buena Island are for residents only, but these are public streets in San Francisco for goodness' sake! I had no problem exploring the island, but very strict rule abiders may want to skip this stop.

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Stop 2: Lunch at the Treasure Island Bar & Grill
(Treasure Island Inner and Outer Loops)


Old and new Bay Bridge side by side
Old and new Bay Bridge View from outside the Treasure Island Bar & Grill
Once you've worked up your appetite, you'll want to grab some lunch. We chose the Treasure Island Bar & Grill for its solid no-frills food and great east-facing views of the old and new Bay Bridges.


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Stop 3: The Winery SF
(Treasure Island Loop)

Cask room at The Winery SF
Cask room at The Winery SF
Next up, you can take a quick walk to The Winery SF. The Winery SF is housed in a 20,000 square foot warehouse that includes a great-looking cask room that you see from the tasting room floor. If you think you can't get great wines in an SF-based tasting room, you may just be wrong. The 2011 Pinot Noir earned 97 points from Wine X magazine and the Viognier from the same year received 96 points...and a Gold Medal in San Francisco Chronicle's Wine Competition...and a silver medal in the  American Fine Wine Competition.



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Stop 4: Treasure Island Wines
(Treasure Island Loop)

Wine tasting at Treasure Island Wines
My dad and his wife Mary keeping warm with wine
After The Winery SF, we headed to Treasure Island Wines, the first operational winery on the island, which opened its doors in 2007. Treasure Island Wines is housed in a former naval base, and features a rotating cast of  local winemakers and wines. On our visit, we gathered by the patio heaters and fell deep in conversation with Heartfelt Wines winemaker, Dan Morgan. Dan offered up a number of solid selections, but we especially liked his Chardonnay and Petite Sirah. 

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Stop 5: Fat Grape Winery
(Treasure Island Loop)

If you have the energy for more wine tasting, Fat Grape is 100% worth a visit. The winery, based in the old Navy Brig, houses all the barrels that winemaker Patrick Bowen uses to make his wine. Patrick is a purveyor of fresh wines, all red, and all sulfite-free. He is spirited and friendly, and will keep you chatting throughout what could end up being a 20-wine wine tasting. One thing to note with fresh wines is that they need to be refrigerated, so ask Patrick for an ice pack if you're not heading home immediately. Another reason to visit? Fat Grape is the only winery on the island that is open 7 days a week.

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 Stop 5: Bliss Dance
(Treasure Island Loop)

Bliss Dance Sculpture on Treasure Island
Bliss Dance Sculpture. 20-somethings at her feet
By this time, it was getting dark. We were heading toward the solstice and the days were short. Before heading back to the "mainland," we stopped at Bliss Dance, a breathtaking large-scale artwork I originally saw at Burning Man in 2010. As the sun set, a bunch of techno-playing 20- somethings jumped out of a van and congregated at her feet. It felt like Burning Man all over again.
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I hope this post gets you motivated to get out there and explore. If you do do this route, I'd love to hear about it. Feel free to let us know how it all went in the comments of this post. 

Happy hiking, 

Urban Hiker SF