Even if you haven't been to San Francisco before, you are probably aware of the many hills the city is situated upon. Walking around the city gives you a heckuva workout to say the least. I think that's why most people who live in the city aren't fatties. So, when we arrived by ferry to Alcatraz island, I thought we'd get a rest from walking up and down the streets of San Francisco.
No such luck.
Alcatraz is essentially a huge hill in the middle of the bay. Once a military post to protect the new city and it's gold mines, it was converted into a federal prison once the need for such a post was outdated. The prison was built at the acme of the big hill and one has to ascend up 4 steep inclines to start the tour.
Having already walked to the ferry boat from Fisherman's wharf, we were huffing and puffing rather heavily by the time we could start our audio tape tour (well, I was, Lynn is in shape.). The tour itself was one of the best parts of the trip. I am fascinated by mysteries as I already posted last month. The Alcatraz escape is right up there with the DB Cooper hijacking as far as peaking my interest levels. What I found strange is that the audio tour and park rangers never call it an escape but rather an escape "attempt". They acknowledge that the 3 men got over the fence and into the bay but since they deem it likely that they got killed by the frigid waters and torrent currents they never say that it was possible they escaped. Myself, I hold more faith in Clint Eastwood to think that the water could have taken him.
After the tour we headed back to the piers and wharf and had a decent meal on Pier 39. I loved sampling the local brews of Sierra Nevada, Anchor Steam and some Portland wheat ale that was very tasty. I figure since we were were going to Napa, there was no sense in partaking of wine until we arrived there. (and I'm glad we waited) The long day of walking caused an early night for us again and I think we still hadn't adjusted to the new time zone completely.
The next morning we had to check out and make our way up to the Napa valley. We decided to do a driving tour of the rest of San Fran and I even made my way down the treacherous Lombard street. Lombard street is so steep that they built switchbacks for a stretch of the road. Even scarier was parking on the next street down so we could get out and take pictures of the street. We had to park perpendicular to the street and it felt like our car could tip over with just a stiff wind. It was hard just getting my door open as I had to fight gravity to get out of my seat. Soon after we made our way to a few spots in the Golden Gate park. The park was beautiful and had all sorts of flowers and plants we didn't recognize and had an interesting pillar with statues in one part surrounded by a pond. The statues face away from the viewer with their heads down as if they were purposely trying to ignore us and/or moon us.
After the parks we ventured out to the Golden Gate bridge. I wasn't expecting much as I thought it was "just a bridge", but I must admit it has some mystical quality about it. It's a truly impressive bridge and it has much more much character than say the Walt Whitman. Driving across it, however, wasn't any more thrilling than any other bridge. (My favorite bridge drive is the Chesapeake Bay bridge) We set the GPS system to take us to Muir redwoods park and of course we encountered even more hills. Lots and lots of twisty and curvy hill side roads led us towards the park. I was very glad that I was not drunk or impaired in some fashion.
We eventually came across a roadside vendor and since all we had for breakfast was some coffee we bought some really delicious cherries. It was fun driving thru the curvy roads and spitting pits over the cliffs. Once we got to the park we started out on a 3 mile hike thru the woods. Being on the east coast, you just never get to see trees with trunks so wide and tall. I highly recommend going on this hike. Of course, the hike consisted of walking up hill and walking alongside a narrow and winding trail on the ridge. It was alot of fun and scenic.
The rest of the day consisted of traveling to Napa and checking in at the B&B- more on this soon...