San Francisco Bay is dotted with islands. One of them, Angel Island, is a state park with camping facilities. The only way to reach Angel Island is by ferry and the campsites are a mile or more hike from the ferry landing, making it a backpacking adventure. The campsites are basic — there’s water, an outhouse, a picnic table, and a bear safe (for raccoons, since there are no bears on the island) — but no cabins or indoor plumbing.
It’s like a lot of backpacking camping locations across the country: you’re surrounded by trees and wildlife and can see some awesome views. Except that the view includes San Francisco and the other cities that line the bay.
Depending on the fog and our location on the island (which isn’t very large, so we walked all around it), we could see the Golden Gate, downtown San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, the San Rafael Bridge, Tiburon, Sausalito, and a number of smaller cities, all while walking in the woods.
And we got there via public transportation: BART and the ferry, plus a little walking. We felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, but instead we were surround by one of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. Weird, but charming.
Angel Island is also a microcosm of U.S. history. The Spanish landed on it in 1775 when they discovered San Francisco Bay. It quickly became a cattle ranch, which did a lot of damage to native vegetation. Then in 1863, the U.S. Army built its first base there to protect San Francisco from attack by the Confederate Navy. (I have my doubts as to how much threat the Confederate Navy posed to the West Coast, given that they would have had to go around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America to get there, but I suppose the part of the Army stationed on the West Coast during the Civil War needed something to do.) It had various military bases — including Nike missile sites — until 1963 (when it became a state park), and also served as an immigration station.
This history is documented by a number of buildings on the island, some of which are still in use as housing for park rangers, but most of which are falling down.
For the last 50 years, the California Department of Parks and Recreation has operated the island and nature is making a comeback.
It occurs to me that I’ve done a lot of posts lately that could be titled “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.” While I have been out visiting national and state parks more frequently of late, I suspect the real reason I’m doing these posts is that I finally broke down and got a good smart phone, meaning I actually have a camera handy when I see something I want a snapshot of.
But let me exhort you all once again to get out and enjoy the natural beauty around you. National and state parks are one of our best resources here in the U.S. Go visit them. And don’t forget to write your members of Congress and state legislators to encourage them to keep the funding coming. We can’t all live out in the country — city life is much more practical for most people — but we can all enjoy our parks.