Vacationing Close to Home

We went to Angel Island State Park — located in San Francisco Bay and reachable only by ferry — for the Fourth of July weekend. Our goal was to climb to the highest point on the island — Mt. Livermore — and watch fireworks from all the cities around the bay.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any fireworks. The problem wasn’t us. It was the weather, specifically the fog. Here’s a view of the Golden Gate Bridge on the afternoon of July 4:

Golden Gate BridgeAnd here’s the Bay Bridge, the one that connects San Francisco to Oakland and Berkeley:

Bay BridgeReally, truly, there is a bridge under all that fog. And beyond it lie the cranes of the Port of Oakland.

The sun was still shining when we started up Mt. Livermore, but the fog began to roll through before we got close to the top. We didn’t even get to see the sunset.

We heard the fireworks, though. Obviously the shows went on without us. And on the night of the third, we even saw a nice show from Richmond from our campsite.

Ah, well. Fog is a fact of life in the Bay Area. And we saw other things.

Angel Island isn’t very large, and the climate changes back and forth as you walk around it, depending on how much sun, fog, and wind hit the different parts. So at one point you can walk past ferns and other very green stuff that soaks up moisture from the fog despite the drought:

FernsAnd then you walk a few hundred feet on the fire road that circle the island and you see sights like this:

Brown grassWe saw lots of birds: cute little ones (we think they were juncos) that hopped fearlessly around our camp site, soaring raptors looking for dinner, and buzzards (also looking for dinner). We heard owls as well. We set up a round-board target and started to practise the archery pro tips we learnt at and could see our hits getting better one sling at a time.

Raccoons are a major problem at campsites, so much of one that there are hardened steel boxes to store your food in. According to my sweetheart, one stuck his nose under our tarp to sniff at my backpack. I woke up to him telling it to shoo, so I missed it.

By the way, here’s the tarp we use as a semi-tent. It’s pitched using hiking poles at one end and stakes in the ground on the others, plus a few lines tied to trees. It doesn’t protect us from all the elements, but it’s great where the main problem is fog and maybe drizzle. (My sweetheart came up with this design. He’s an engineer. It’s what they do. I’m impressed. I could come up with the idea, but not the execution.)

tarp-tentThere are also lots of deer on the island. We saw this fellow as we came down from our abortive attempt to watch fireworks:

buckHe stood stock-still and let me take his picture.

As we left on Sunday, we came across this doe and her half-grown fawn:

doe and fawnYou may have to look closely at the top to see the fawn, which is relieving itself while semi-hidden in the bushes.

Even without the fireworks, we had a nice relaxing time. After my strenuous hike last month on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, this outing seemed the proverbial walk in the park, even when we were hiking to and from our campsite with packs on. And there were lots of people around during the day, though not so many at night. There are only a few campsites on the island. Some of the park employees live there as well, but it gets quiet at night, except for the big ships and the foghorns in the Bay.

Here’s how we got there and back again:




Vacationing Close to Home — 11 Comments

  1. Beautiful pictures! I really enjoy hearing about your hiking trips.

  2. If you stand on Angel Island and look north to Sausalito, you can see where my sister used to have an apartment. She was about ten minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
    A fun thing to do in Sausalito is to go to the Bay drainage area display. It’s in a warehouse space. Jim would love it — it’s like the mother of all high school science projects, the entire Bay area drainage basin done in paper mache with flowing water. It is huge, depicting the entire basin from Sacramento to San Jose, and they can tinker with it by adding water, raising bits, etc. so as to see what will happen if there is construction and so on.

    • That’s the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model, created in 1957 to model the San Francisco Bay — originally to determine dam placements (they discovered dams were a Bad Idea) before computer modeling. The original version was the immediate area around the Bay and out to sea a bit; later they decided to expand it upstream to the Delta. At that time my grandfather, a civil engineer, had just retired, and he volunteered and worked on the second part of the project.

      • You should. It is entirely utilitarian (no gift shop, no interactive displays, no flat-screen graphics, nothing) but it is wonderful. It would combine nicely with a drive up to the top of Mount Tam, which is nearby. The view from up there is amazing, and there are ravens.

        • I’m not sure I can get Jim to drive to the top of Mt. Tam if there is a way to reach it on foot. But we will follow through on the rest of your recommendation.

  3. We haven’t even attempted fireworks for the past few years–in part because of Fog, and in part because Emily-the-Dog regards the entire holiday of the 4th as an attempt on the life and sanity of dogs, and requires paw-holding (she spent the evening lying on the couch between us, watching The Music Man with us, panting and shuddering, until about 11:30, when the worst of the pop-bangs were done. A dog’s life is not always a cakewalk.

    • Our cats were also miserable, I’m sure, but since their response to such things is to hide in some dark place in the apartment, we wouldn’t have been much comfort to them anyway. Maybe you should take Emily to Angel Island for the 4th. The firework sounds might be far enough away so that she wouldn’t react to them. It’s apparently OK to take dogs out there (but you should check).

      I’m in complete sympathy with Emily, btw. I hate loud explosions, too. I like seeing professional firework displays from a distance, but I don’t want to be around the idiots setting them off in the neighborhood. I’ve been looking at all the reports of deaths and injuries from firecrackers the last couple of days and shaking my head.

      • My greatest disappointment was July 4, 1976, when the Bicentennial fireworks were planned to be an especially spectacular show, done over the Bay so everyone all around it could enjoy them. Alas, fog. Couldn’t see an inch over the water and barely even heard any bangs.