Saturday morning in San Francisco. As usual, I wake up around 9am, sun or no sun. I’ve come to rely on my internal clock far more than I’m used to in this city. Being from the Deserts of Arizona, I learned to wake up with the sun. Summers meant rising a bit earlier, winters a bit later. It felt natural to have the cliched morning experience of the “sun warming my face” as I’d blink my way into a new day.
Well, now I live in San Francisco, where mornings are a bit bitchier (or maybe it’s me that’s bitchier?) Here, the Sun and the City have a rather complicated relationship, in which neither knows who is in charge. I feel like the child of a tumultuous marriage, who gets the short end of the stick as I wait perpetually in confusion as to which parent will reign supreme that day.
Today, it is Mama Sun. She has awoken me this fine morning with a soft nudge, whispering that the City is busy with work today. Get out there kid before he comes back with his gloomy mood and foggy disposition.
I wander out my door in jorts, a tee, tennis shoes, and a hat (wool sweater and scarf in tow of course….because although I love her, I know what a fickle woman the Sun can be), and head to my favorite SF bakery, Arizmendi. A 10 minute stroll down Valencia, including a pit stop for some 2 buck earrings courtesy of Joe Sidewalk. This is of course not his real name, but what I have come to call the scruffy sixty-year-old man that occupies the corner of Valencia and 19th streets most Saturdays, and whose weekly sidewalk spread has provided my apartment with such “treasures” as a hundred-year-old victorian picture frame that included in the price the wedding photos of the original owners in it, a llama scarf acting as our kitchen’s tablecloth, and an assortment of library book pages photographing 1930’s San Francisco. Back at Ariz, I score an almost empty bakery, meaning I get first pick of the fresh baked coop’s morning assortment. One Olive Snail and one Ginger Pear Scone later, I’m outside pondering my array of Sunny Day San Francisco options. It’s been about 6 months now of chasing the playground of opportunities that arise when my dear Sun graces us with her presence. On a day like this, this 7×7 mile chunk is filled with mini paradises. It amazes me that by the end of this day, I will have felt as if I visited an exotic location, when in fact I simply hopped on my bike and rode a few miles from the comfort of my Mission apartment.
So here we are. Some of my favorite adventures for those rare and glorious days when you get to live a cliche, as the Sun actually does warm your cheek in the morning, letting you know She’s waiting if you’d only get your ass outside.
SUNNY DAY SAN FRANCISCO
Pick Wildflowers at Sutro Tower
Find a friend with a Scooter. Best tip for this one. Getting up to the top where Sutro Tower sits, and where lovely wildflowers bloom year round, is worth the journey, but much more pleasant when not gasping for breath. Also, don’t pick too many, just enough for a small bouquet will more than satisfy your need to bring nature into your apartment. Finally, windy is an understatement up here (notice the pictures below).
Urban Hike in Bernal Heights
My favorite quickie way to feel awed by this city. Easy hike up from the Mission. Don’t miss the Bernal Slides (like the Castro Slides) hidden in the winding hike through the neighborhood on your way up. I’ll let you discover this path for yourself, as it is part of the fun.
Find Solitude at Fort Baker
Fort Baker provides one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge, but without the swarm of tourists. There is a quaint little harbor, marina, and yatch club, all a bit scruffy and all a bit lovely. If you can get off mid-week, you will probably see 0-3 people here in the span of a few hours. Hike around to get close to the water, and you have the chance to see tiger sharks, crabs, and other sea wonders that the cold Bay waters support.
Play in the Sutro Bath Ruins at Ocean Beach
It may not be the kind of ruins that Rome and Greece or Peru and Mexico boast, but they are ruins nonetheless! This used to be a natural bath house fueled by the tides and power of the Pacific. Sounds like a great investment to rebuild if you ask me……..
After clambering around the ruins and caves, grab a hot cocoa or grilled cheese at Louis, a fabulous little spot serving up classic american dinner gr sitting over the baths for the last 75 years. There is the fancier Cliffhouse down the road a bit, but for a casual experience with an equally great view, Louis is the way to go. But hey, I skew towards the rougher, scruffier, and hence, cheaper options.
Have a Beach Bonfire in the Presidio
All I will say, is that there is a Secret Spot off the Legion of Honor in the Presidio, where you can have a huge bonfire, see Golden Gate from the city-side, get a clearer sky than you thought possible just minutes from the downtown of one of the biggest cities in the world, and feel like you are camping in a San Francisco of decades ago. It’s Secret only because it is as of yet fairly undiscovered, and although I would like to keep it that way, I do encourage those who are interested to set out towards this part of the Presidio. Perhaps your Secret Spot will prove even more beautiful than mine (although I doubt it).