Great City Parks: Golden Gate Park

Of the Great City Parks on our Hennacornoeliday list, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco fits most perfectly to its host city.  Whereas the National Mall is infinitely greater than D.C. and, in our opinion, Boston deserves a greater Common, Golden Gate is a perfect fit for San Francisco.  Although 20% larger than Central Park (in a city many times smaller than New York), Golden Gate Park never appears intrusive to the city as a whole.  Rather it is like many opposites in the Pacific Northwest (water and land, mountain and valley) in that it is often hard to perceive the true border of city and park.  The homeless sleep in semi-permanent tent cities and office buildings have green facades.  The iconic Haight- Ashbury neighborhood is surprisingly kid friendly and upscale while some parts of Golden Gate Park seem to turn its back on families.  It is these contradictions that ground the park into its urban setting (and at the same time green the concrete).

Our two days wandering San Francisco were spent mostly on the perimeter of the great park with frequent crossovers and explorations.  Within or close to the Golden Gate Park exists the nations oldest Japanese Gardens, a children’s museum , wonderful playgrounds, the majestic Palace of Fine Arts, the Conservatory of Flowers, museums, stadiums, and walking trails.  Also periodically a menacing fog can be viewed advancing into the park to chill your summer bones and obscure any city or mountain views.  Several residents informed us that the warmer it is in Sacramento, the colder it is by the bay due to the interior heat drawing the fog toward the coastal mountains.  The summer we visited San Francisco we drove over a couple of weeks to the most northwest corner of Washington and saw exactly one sunset due to the blistering heat east of us.

Other things beside the Golden Gate Park that make San Francisco great are book stores, coffee shops, China Town (thus far my favorite China town in the U.S. and Canada), restaurants, and the friendly and sophisticated city folk who seem to appreciate their city as much as the tourists.  Public transportation is wonderful and even thrilling as the light rail system complements the assorted trolley and buses.    Also every corner seems to be a trolley or bus stop which is a great thing when the terrain suddenly becomes too steep to walk any further.  In San Francisco, distances between points are less relevant than the existing grade as it is always easier to walk a flat mile than a mountainous quarter-mile.

Quick travel tip:  Look into Berkley as a base to explore San Francisco.  The train ride in goes under the bay which we thought was pretty cool (and Corey and Henna enjoyed pretending to look for sharks out the train window) and takes only a few minutes.  Hotel prices are of course much cheaper and parking in Berkley is not too difficult.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express and had no complaints.

Random Oregon Pics

It is still Fall here in Chicago, but my thoughts have turned to Oregon.  These are some oldish pictures of some of our favorite places on the wet side of the mountains.  Enjoy.

The picture above and below were taken at Sunset Bay State Park.  The Oregon coast rocks.

Silver Falls State Park, about 45 miles south east of Portland is pretty cool too.  We especially enjoyed hiking behind the falls.

Olympic National Park

We are headed home.  Hennacornoeli style.  Sunday night we were dropped off by car ferry at Port Angeles.  We hit the Safeway, got some gas, and then bedded down at the Port Angeles Inn.  The price was high, but it had a wonderful view of the town and the dock.  Late into the night I heard teenagers whooping it up just out of sight.  Or maybe they were vampires- this is Twilight area.  Today, Wednesday, I woke up only 135 miles away.  Although further south, we were also further west and in road miles further from home than when we dropped off in Port Angeles.  But we squeezed every ounce out of those 135 miles.  We circled the perimeter of Olympic National Park and hiked in the Elhwa Valley, camped at Mora, saw a sunset at Rialto beach and marveled at the distant sea stacks, were able to play on and around the sea stacks at Ruby Beach, hiked in a rain forest at Hoh (Santa’s favorite rain forest, Hoh, Hoh, Hoh), and then camped on a ridge almost overlooking the ocean last night.  We also scavenged for drift wood for a fire, collected crab parts and interesting stones, and watched driftwood houses being built.  Henna, although decidedly homesick, was asked if she wanted to book home or take this detour and she decided on the detour.  A chip off the old block.

West Coast Swing

June 14, 2011

The west coast of Vancouver Island, following route 4, or as we referred to it as “The Road To Tofino”, was like traveling to another continent.  We found ourself in a rain forest, complete with the appropriate, rain soaked weather, along the ruggid western coast of the island.  We settled into our campsite among the trees, moss and rain glad to have found a place to all home.  We started our day, as Noel previously posted, very early in the morning along a deserted beach at low tide.  The tide pools were teaming with sea creatures, star fish, battling hermit crabs and bugs that could both swim and make us scream as they scurried towards us on land.  At that moment, we felt very possesive of that small piece of the beach.  The beach is swaddled with rain forest along it’s edge, and the paths leading to them are labeled 1,2,3, so that travelers can find their way back to that parking lot.  At any moment a wolf, black bear or cougar could walk along these shores looking for breakfast at low tide (although no story of the such will follow thank goodness).  We then headed off toward the small town of Ucuclet to find our whale watching tour for the day.  This town is exactly what you think of when one ponders a fishing village.  Every kind of fishing vessle lines it’s harbor while small but not trendy shops dot the streets.  Our tour was decided and we took off with our tour guide named Marla upon a zodiac named Hell Fish.   Marla was a spunky, adorable gal who was as instilled confidence.  She was young but had already been working this harbor for 7 years.  She also was a fisherwoman in Holland. I find it amazing the lives peope lead, no two are ever exactly alike.  I wanted to take her and put her in my pocket for the remainder of our trip.  But Henna knew she belonged free to roam the water.  Our tour was a wild ride, as we searched the broken Islands (chain of islands just off the coast), into open waters in search of a whale.  We did spy bald eagels, habor seals, seal lions fighting, black comorat birds and the elusive sun.  One highlight was a massive bald eagle nest perched upon a cedar tree.  Marla noted that because of it’s size it must be around 15 years old, and is home to a very old eagle couple.  Around 2 hours into our tour, and no whale yet to be spotted, Marla heard word of some humpback whales that were found far out in open waters.  She kicked the kodiak into high gear and we flew and bounced along to get our look see.  It felt funny to be searching for the whales, I felt like an intruder on someones lives.  At last we saw them, and to see Henna’s face light up when she witnessed the tail come out of the water made my heart happy.  We were watching a mama humpback, her calf and a companion hoping for some future mating privledges.  We watched the whaled breach up to feed!  Wow.  In the meantime, I got to visit the bathroom on this rocky boat…..quite an experience. 

At last we found our sea legs and found that our back cab had been open for the entire three hour tour!  Only the secod time we have done that, but it ended fine, nothing stolen.  We quickly visited the local acquarium which follows a catch and release policy.  Every exhibit is set free back to the waters at the end of the season …how nice. We then visited Tofino for a wonderful sushi dinner while watching sea planes land and take off in the harbor.  Tofino is a bigger community that ucucllet and is a big surfer town.  Before we took one last hike into the rain forest along the schooner cove I looked back at Henna and she was asleep!  I knew we had a busy day when she falls asleep.  We  found ourself once again along a beach with no people.  Ahhhhhhh…..At that moment it began to mist as we headed home to crash in the tent and sleep while the rain pattered above.  What a day.   

From Surrey, B.C. to Ladysmith, B.C.

The distance between Surrey and Ladysmith is 100 miles give or take.  To travel that distance one needs not to get sea sick, patience to wait for a ferry, and enough money to pay for the one way fare (about $80 for two adults, a child, and a loaded down Subaru).  The passage lasts about an hour and a half and offers amazing scenery.  We were told we might see whales but were not that lucky.  I scanned the seas with my binoculars and got very excited the first time I spied a dark mass only to discover it was some driftwood.  I have no pictures of the passage because I wisely (sarcasm) left the camera in the car.  I also should let everyone know that even if I had taken pictures, I currently have no way of uploading them to my computer (I lost the miniscule cord needed to perform that task).  I am hoping to replace the cord and when I do I will upload many, many photos.  I promise.  We got off the ferry and stumbled through Nanaimo.  I was surprised to be back on HWY 1- island version.  Four lanes here but moving at at Jamaican, laid back rate.  Speed limit 80 KPH (about 50 MPH).  We got lost headed to our cousin Lucretia’s house and had to call her from Ladysmith.  Once there we had a lovely evening with Lou’s friend Roy, David and daughter Mariah (whom is my daughter’s age and has been a sporadic pen pal to her and is now a bff), Pam and Dan.  Lou made a wonderful dinner and an amazing pie for dessert and conversation touched on the Canadian education system, fishing, and travel.  After being on the road for over two weeks we felt at home.

Prior to the ferry trip we spent the day at Stanley Park in Vancouver.  Vancouver is a hard city to label.  We entered via W. Hastings street and were amazed at the grittiness of it.  Shirtless young man in handcuffs, questionable woman on the telephone, open drug sales, and a true sense of chaos just around the perimenter of the downtown.  Downtown looked like any downtown and then the park which is a jewell- a forest in the middle of a city with beaches, totem poles, bike trails, and plenty of child friendly parks.  And busloads of tourists, many of whom were on some sort of cross Canadian tour.  It cost us $3 an hour to park.  If I drove a tour bus it would have been $40 an hour.  Our first stop was an Aborigional (Native American) “village” complete with traditional dancing and a miniature train ride accompanied by a story that I had trouble following.  We then drove around the park and did some light hiking in the “cathedral” forest.  Leaving the park we saw a glimpse of the city that people fall in love with- interesting little shops and resteraunts, plenty of coffee shops, and people of every nationality walking about.  I would love to see Vancouver again.  Today we are off with David and Mariah hiking to the water to maybe see whales.