SF’s Aquatic Park

After living in the Bay Area for three decades, I have many favorite spots in San Francisco. One of my top favorites is Aquatic Park.

Located at the west end of Fishermans Wharf, it spans a short beach on the San Francisco Bay.

Owned and operated by the National Park Service, the park is a National Historic Landmark. It’s touted as “America’s Only Floating National Park.”

Here you will find much to keep you occupied with the past and the present.

There are old wooden piers lined with a fleet of permanently moored ships, some that you can go inside.

The Maritime Museum is also part of Aquatic Park. Built to mimic an ocean liner, the museum was built in 1939 as part of the New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA). It offers art deco architecture as well as many seafaring exhibits.

The interior of the museum, also known as the Bathhouse building, showcases stunning depression-era WPA murals on every wall. Hilaire Hiler (1898-1966) created the undersea murals.

More info: San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park.

When standing on the museum’s back veranda, one feels like they are on the upper deck of a ship. Surrounded by exquisite WPA tile walls in marine themes, you have an elevated, full panoramic view overlooking the San Francisco Bay.

Aquatic Park also boasts a large grass lawn and ample amphitheater seats with views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.

This is a great place to watch boats, joggers, bike riders, swimmers, tourists, and local residents while gulls cruise overhead.

There is also a municipal pier for fishing enthusiasts.

My favorite thing to do in Aquatic Park is visit the ships.

There are a couple of old wooden piers open to the public that lead to the anchored vessels, including the restored Hyde St. Pier. The piers are a five-minute walk from the museum, and invite visitors to sit on the benches, wander in amazement, or climb aboard the ships.

Before the Golden Gate Bridge was built, Hyde Street Pier was a popular spot for the ferries to transport residents from across the bay to San Francisco.

Standing on these piers you feel dwarfed by the majestic old ships.

Folks who have paid the museum park fee can board the ships.

Walking across a gang plank onto the ship instantly transports a person from land to sea and from the present to the past.

My favorite ship is the Balclutha, an 1886 square-rigger. Built in Glasgow, Scotland, the Balclutha made its maiden voyage to San Francisco in 1887.  It took 140 days and a crew of 26 men to transport the cargo of 1,650 tons of coal.

On deck is the bracing smell of briny sea air, and mast rigs continually clang as the stiff ocean breezes rock the ship.

Other restored vessels include an 1895 schooner, 1890 steam ferryboat, 1890 scow schooner, 1907 steam tug, 1914 paddlewheel tug, and a circa 1890 San Francisco houseboat. I have returned here many times because there are so many boats to explore, it cannot be done in just one day.

The next two photos show the side-wheel paddle steamboat: the Eureka. Built in the Bay Area in 1890, this vessel had many lives ferrying trains and then cars from Sausalito and Tiburon to San Francisco.

Vintage cars from the 1920s and ’30s are lined up on the Eureka, as if they are ready to disembark.

There are great views of San Francisco from the ships and piers, too.

Often a swimmer or two can be seen swimming by, like in this photo’s foreground.

Lastly, Aquatic Park is also a San Francisco mainstay for open-water swimmers. There are local residents who regularly swim the cove for fitness, and it is also popular for training triathletes.

There are numerous open-water swimming events here throughout the year.

The classic San Francisco Bay swim route is a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) plunge from Alcatraz Island to Aquatic Park in 60-62-degree Fahrenheit (15-17 C) water. You have to be a serious swimmer to brave the frigid water, strong tides and currents.

“Escape from Alcatraz” is the most popular swim event in Aquatic Park, named after the mysterious 1962 escape of three prisoners from Alcatraz.

Are there sharks in the bay? Yes, several different species. And seals and sea lions too.

This aerial view of Aquatic Park shows the Maritime Museum (bottom center), the municipal fishing pier (long, curved structure), and the historic ships right of the yellow line. The yellow line indicates the swimmers’ lap area.

Aquatic Park, SF. Photo courtesy Golden Gate Triathlon Club.

Places to adventure within a five-minute walk of Aquatic Park: Ghiradelli Square (shops and restaurants); the Hyde-Powell cable car line; Fishermans Wharf.

Whether you’re steeped in the seafaring days of yore or strolling in the 21st century, Aquatic Park has something for everyone.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

San Francisco’s Ocean Beach

One of San Francisco’s most spacious venues is Ocean Beach, a long tract of fresh air and open skies. Today, as in centuries past, it attracts residents and tourists.

San Francisco is not the most populous city in the U.S. (it’s 17th), but it is definitely packed with people. There are almost 874,000 people on this small 47-square-mile (121 sq. km.) peninsula, making it the second most densely populated large city in the country.

When residents want to stretch out, they head for Ocean Beach. Folks of all ages can run or walk, plop down in the sand, share bonfires with friends, or sort out their congested thoughts. And you don’t have to fight for a parking space.

Cold Pacific currents arrive here from Alaska, making the waters at Ocean Beach numbingly inhospitable. With the frigid temperatures, frequent fog and strong winds, you won’t find many people in the water.

Surfers, of course, are the exception. But even the stalwart surfers, bounced around by brutal waves, wear wetsuits.

In addition to this five-mile stretch of sand, there are adjacent attractions too. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area has an extensive purview. Land’s End, the Cliff House, and Sutro Heights Park are on the northern end of the beach, while Fort Funston is at the southern end. All have stunning views and room to roam.

In the middle is the Beach Chalet restaurant, two towering windmills, and two streets leading the way to Golden Gate Park.

San Francisco’s longest beach also has a long history.

Sutro Baths was a glass-enclosed entertainment complex of numerous saltwater pools that opened in 1896.

Circa 1896, courtesy Wikipedia.

There is an entertaining film clip that Thomas Edison made in 1897 of the Sutro Baths, at this link:

Sutro Baths Wikipedia

The ruins of the Baths are still visible today.

It was in the later 1800s when railway and trolley lines were developed, delivering visitors from the city to this remote windswept expanse of sand dunes.

This began nearly a century of animated seaside attractions at Ocean Beach.

There have been several incarnations of The Cliff House, a restaurant that first opened in 1863.

This is the Cliff House, below, last week on a foggy day. It is undergoing another reincarnation and due to re-open next year.

And over the years, two additional fun spots drew visitors at Ocean Beach: Playland, a 10-acre amusement park from 1913-1972; and Fleishhacker Pool, then one of the largest outdoor swimming pools in the world, from 1925-1971.

If you talk to San Franciscans who spent their childhood days at Playland or Fleishhacker Pool, it is a great joy to watch their eyes light up.

This is Ocean Beach and Playland in the 1930s and 1940s.

Still left over from the glory days of Playland, the Camera Obscura, one of my personal favorite Ocean Beach spots, sits on a seaside perch behind the Cliff House. It is an old-fashioned pinhole camera that you walk into; it presents live-time images of the beach and sea.

Here is a link to a post I wrote about it: Camera Obscura, San Francisco

With today’s instantly available entertainment at our fingertips, the tranquility of Ocean Beach is now the draw.

And, as it has been for centuries, the wind and fog continue to embrace us, while the waves, as always, rhythmically shape this blessed expanse of ocean and sand.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander unless otherwise specified.

San Francisco: 12 Iconic Sites

Now that travel has begun to open up after Covid, we are seeing more tourists return to San Francisco. Here are 12 of the popular sites for visitors and locals of all ages.

1. Golden Gate Bridge

Probably the most famous bridge in the world, Golden Gate Bridge is 1.7 miles long (2.7 km) and hosts cars, trucks, pedestrians and cyclists. Its art deco design, striking International Orange color, and numerous suspension cables encase each person crossing with a sense of awe.

2. Alcatraz Island

As you cross the Golden Gate Bridge, you can see the rock island of Alcatraz prominently centered in the bay. Formerly a military fort and prison, maximum security federal penitentiary, and civil rights protest occupation, today it is one of the top tourist attractions in San Francisco.

3. Cable Cars

One of San Francisco’s most exhilarating tourist activities, a cable car ride is a spirited mix of old-time travel through the neighborhoods of this modern city. Climbing and descending steep hills to the accompaniment of clanging bells and hand-operated brakes is one of my favorite ways to traverse the city.

Fog in San Francisco is as common as a sunrise.

4. Fisherman’s Wharf

With restaurants, museums, an aquarium, and more, the Wharf is also a good place to catch boat tours. Pier 39, also located at the Wharf, is an animated shopping center complete with rafts of barking sea lions.

My favorite Wharf spot is at the west end at Maritime National Historic Park where you can tour the old sea-faring vessels, watch the birds and swimmers. The square-rigger Balclutha, launched in 1886, is permanently moored here for self-guided tours.

5. Ghirardelli Square

Also down at the Wharf’s west end is Ghirardelli Square. Once the factory where Ghirardelli chocolate was made, this building is now a restaurant and retail complex with views overlooking the San Francisco Bay.

6. Transamerica Pyramid Building

A popular symbol of the San Francisco skyline, the Transamerica Pyramid was completed in 1972. Here, visitors can enjoy a park with redwood trees in the middle of the Financial District. There is also a virtual observation deck experience that allows lobby visitors to operate four cameras positioned atop the building’s spire.

7. Coit Tower

San Francisco 1930s history comes alive inside this building decorated with stunning fresco murals. The tower was built in 1932-1933 and dedicated to volunteer San Francisco firefighters who lost their lives fighting fires. Visitors to the open-air top are rewarded with city and bay views.

This is one of the many murals inside Coit Tower.

8. Palace of Fine Arts

A pleasant stroll around this structure and lagoon brings the visitor back to the days of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition when it was erected as a temporary building. The only Exposition structure not to be torn down, it has been rebuilt and renovated since then, and has had a lifetime of different purposes.

9. Chinatown

The oldest Chinatown in North America, this neighborhood is a densely populated Asian enclave covering 24 blocks of shops, restaurants, homes, hospitals, and churches. A walk through on any day is an interesting combination of old and new culture.

10. Painted Ladies

Seven Victorian houses in a row on Steiner Street. Alamo Park, seen here in the foreground, is often busy with tourists taking selfies in front of the houses.

There were 48,000 Victorian and Edwardian houses built in San Francisco in the years 1849-1915; many can still be seen. The advent of painting them in bright colors started in 1963 and still exists today.

11. The Ferry Building

Completed in 1898, the Ferry Building was originally built as a transportation hub for ferry boats as well as transcontinental railway lines. Since then there have been many changes and renovations, but it still remains a hotspot for ferry boats, commuters, and tourists.

12. Ocean Beach

On the far western side of San Francisco is Ocean Beach. It has been a local recreational site for over a century with Playland, the Sutro Baths, Fleishhacker Pool and several renovations of the Cliff House. Today it attracts residents, visitors, joggers, dog walkers and families.

Whether you visited decades ago or are planning a future visit, these 12 iconic San Francisco sites are just a few of the many picturesque highlights of the City by the Bay.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander unless otherwise specified

Fireworks on the Bay

San Francisco Bay, 07.04.18

The American tradition of launching fireworks on Independence Day is a festive event on the San Francisco Bay. If we have a Fourth of July when the skies are clear it is especially spectacular, but the ubiquitous San Francisco fog is also enjoyable.

 

These are photos from the past two Julys: 2018 was clear, 2019 had fog.

 

San Francisco Bay, 07.04.18

 

Many of the surrounding cities also set off fireworks, like Oakland and Sausalito. Here you can see Sausalito’s fireworks in the background.

 

Fourth of July on San Francisco Bay, 07.04.18. Sausalito fireworks in the background.

 

San Francisco hosts two synchronized sets of fireworks, one near Pier 39 and the other from a barge in the Bay. With so many steep hills, there are many perches for watching the fireworks, restaurants, rooftops. Pier 39 is a party all day long. No pedestrians on the Golden Gate Bridge, however, after 9:00 p.m.

 

My favorite is taking a boat cruise on the Bay.

 

The fireworks begin at dark, approximately 9:30 p.m., so boats start cruising the Bay around sunset.

 

Sausalito Hills, California, 07.04.19

 

Sausalito Marina, California, 07.04.19

 

Whether it’s foggy or clear, it is always cold on the Bay. Locals know to dress in winter clothes. We wear our parkas to watch the explosive extravaganza, without a regret for the days of summery fireworks in shorts and flip-flops.

 

Blue and Gold Fourth of July Cruise, 07.04.19

 

As the sun inches lower, cruise boats and private vessels move to the center of the Bay and drop anchor; the excitement builds.

 

Sail boat on the SF Bay, 07.04.19

 

Police boats with red and blue lights circle the fireworks barge, to keep others at a safe distance.

 

The fireworks are always fantastic. State-of-the-art pyrotechnics, firing off in rapid succession.

 

The water reflects the colors for miles…the rockets’ red glare.

 

San Francisco Bay, 07.04.18

 

The fog reflects a massive glow.

 

Fog glow, SF Bay, 07.04.19

 

Whether it’s foggy or sunny, cold or dark, there’s never a bad time cruising on the San Francisco Bay.

 

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

San Francisco Bay, 07.04.18

 

San Francisco’s Ferry Building

Ferry Building, San Francisco

Located on the San Francisco Bay waterfront, the Ferry Building is an indoor marketplace with shops and eateries, a busy ferry transit station, and year-round outdoor farmers markets. It is a wonderful place to spend an animated day in San Francisco.

 

Ferry Building Marketplace

 

With status as a San Francisco Landmark and National Historic Place, it has been a transportation terminal hub since it was built in 1898.

 

Ferry Building in left center, Golden Gate Bridge in back right

 

Ferry Building

The Beaux-Arts architecture includes a 245-foot-tall (75 m) clock tower with quarterly Westminster Chimes.

 

The Great Nave, a 660-foot long (200 m) indoor promenade, is brightly lit with skylights and features approximately 50 shops today. Originally it was bustling with freight, baggage, and mail activities.

 

Ferry Building, History

 

Ferry Building, Interior Nave

 

Indoor mosaic tiles throughout the building

From 1898 to the 1930s, it was the second busiest transit terminal in the world. In the 1920s, fifty million passengers a year, and automobiles, used the ferries. When the two big commuter bridges–the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge–were built in the 1930s,  ferry traffic significantly diminished.

 

Nearly a century later, taking ferries to work has come back into vogue, a good way to avoid the auto-clogged roads. It may not be the cheapest means of commuting, but it is the most civilized, and thousands of commuters prefer it.

 

Commuters enjoy a visit with a friend or a good read, a coffee in the morning or beer after work, as they are nautically ushered home after a long day. Rush hour in the Ferry Building hums with commuters.

 

Ferry boat, The San Francisco, Athena commuting on the top deck

 

An extensive web of public transportation continues just across the street from the Ferry Building, whisking people further into the city or far away from it.

 

With the water right here, this corner of the city has been a beehive of activity for nearly as long as the city has existed with trains, ships, horses, carriages, and cable cars.

 

Here is an entertaining You Tube video, worth a minute or two of your time. It is original footage of Market Street traffic, including the iconic building always in center view, getting closer. The year is significant: the film was made four days before the 1906 earthquake that would destroy 80% of the city.

 

A Trip Down Market Street – video

 

That year, 1906, was a devastating one for San Francisco, but you can see from the photograph below that the Ferry Building remarkably survived the earthquake.

 

Ferry Building 1906 after Earthquake

 

Over the years, the Ferry Building has undergone many changes and survived another big earthquake in 1989.

 

Some residents objected strongly to the Embarcadero Freeway built beside the Ferry Building in 1968. Then in 1989, the freeway was heavily damaged, and demolished a few years later. (You can still see it in “Dirty Harry” movies.)

 

YMCA next to Embarcadero Freeway 1972 (Telstar Logistics)

Embarcadero Freeway, Ferry Bldg., and Bay Bridge, 1972 (Telstar Logistics)

 

More recently, the Ferry Building was revitalized after an extensive four-year restoration, re-opening in 2003. Since then it has been decorated and celebrated by millions of visitors.

 

Gandhi Statue, Ferry Building, San Francisco

 

Ferry Building, Saturday Farmers Market

 

Graced by surrounding water and squawking gulls, tidal changes and every kind of boat, the Ferry Building continues to host and entertain the patrons and visitors of San Francisco, as it has for over a century.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander unless otherwise specified.

Super Bowl Fiftieth Anniversary celebration in San Francisco, 2016

Hermann Plaza Winter Ice Rink and Ferry Building

SF Ferry Bldg and Giants Banner, they won the pennant that year, Oct. 2014.

 

Cable Cars – A San Francisco Treat

Hyde-Powell Cable Car track

Beneath the streets of San Francisco are underground cables that run all day long. If you can catch a quiet moment on one of the cable car streets, you will hear the high-pitched hum of the constantly running cable.

 

Originally invented by Andrew Smith Hallidie, cable cars have been carrying commuters and tourists through San Francisco since 1873. Designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark, it is the only true cable car system left in the world.

San Francisco cable car, California Line

Cable Car Wikipedia

 

This network of cables and pulleys originates from one powerhouse located at Washington and Jackson Streets, and it runs the whole city’s cable car system. Here there is also the Cable Car Museum, which I recommend; it’s free.

Cable Car Museum. Underground cables operating in powerhouse

Each cable car has two operators: the conductor, who takes tickets ($7.00); and the grip person, who runs the car and grips the brakes.

 

With the underground cable running, the grip person starts and stops the cable car by attaching to or releasing from the cable. This takes great strength; the car has a passenger capacity of 60-68 people. So one Herculean person operates the grip that brakes the car carrying 60+ people.

 

Cable car grip man

 

 

Cable car stop

 

San Francisco Hyde Street cable car

The history and facts are interesting…but it’s the ride that is the thrill.

 

I have lived in or around San Francisco for 30 years, and I never ever tire of riding the cable cars.

San Francisco cable car

The wind is blowing through your hair, the car is rocking slightly, and creaking. The car is sandwiched between UPS delivery trucks, other double-parked work trucks, and speedy cars as we trundle up and down the precipitous hills.

 

Street scenes abound as we cruise by apartment buildings, houses, corner stores, and schools.

 

The clanking of the bell, the dampness of the fog.

 

From a few of the hilltops you can see Alcatraz Island in the distance, anchored in the Bay; and the Golden Gate Bridge. The aroma of savory foods waft out of Chinatown.

 

A quintessential San Francisco experience…not to be missed.

 

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

Cable car riders. From R Athena, Jet, Jet’s sister, and brother-in-law. July 2018.

Check out this old cable car commercial from 1962, pretty fun.

 

Underneath the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge is always notable no matter how many times you’ve experienced it. Another extra special delight is going under the bridge.

 

Public tours, private charters, and privately-owned watercraft cruise beneath the orange span every day. Tourist or resident, we all like to visit the waters under this famous bridge.

I was on a birdwatching boat recently on the San Francisco Bay. Even though it was January, we had lucked out with the weather and the waters were calm and the sun was bright. Coastal bird flocks were our destination.

 

While still docked, the guide said, “I have a surprise for you.”

 

We were a boat-load of birders heading out to see what the herring were attracting. What could be more exciting than this?

 

“The Captain says the water is calm enough, we can go under the Golden Gate Bridge today.”

 

Everyone cheered.

 

When you’re on the bridge there is one prevailing sound: the traffic. Six lanes of fast-moving traffic and a constant thu-dud…thu-dud…thu-dud of vehicles speeding across the highway grates. It’s wonderful.

 

But when you’re under the bridge, all you hear are the wind and the water.

 

Harbor seals relaxed in the sun near their prime-real-estate beach caves. Western grebes, black oystercatchers, and western gulls were busy all around us.

Harbor Seals

From the water, the bridge is 220 feet (67 m) above you, and seems so far away.

 

The water under the bridge is turbulent, and there are always warnings to beware. The majority of the under-bridge adventurers are experienced boaters, but sometimes a few reckless individuals are there to catch a thrill, too.

Surfers at the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco

There are many factors here at the conjunction of the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean that make the water dangerous.

 

There are two different kinds of water. The Bay water is runoff from the surrounding land, it is earth-warmed and carries silt. Contrastingly, the Pacific Ocean is cold, nutrient-rich water stirred by upwellings and tides. The two different water types clash here and funnel through a narrow land constriction, thereby creating a tumultuous disturbance.

 

In addition, underneath the water is an ever-changing sea floor. Tectonics, dredging, tidal currents, and many other alterations have re-shaped the underwater landscape year after year. U.S. Geological Service images, click here.

Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands

Black Oystercatchers more interested in barnacles than the Bridge

Defunct military forts stand at each end of the Golden Gate Bridge, these are also good spots for getting a close-up underneath view. Fort Point and Fort Baker.  Both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point, San Francisco, California

Post I wrote about Fort Point. 

Golden Gate Bridge Facts

 

If you have ever visited this iconic bridge, you know the specialness to which I refer. We each leave a little bit of our heart in San Francisco.

 

Photo credit: Athena Alexander

 

Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco

San Francisco City Hall with Super Bowl sign highlighting Super Bowl rings

San Francisco City Hall with Super Bowl sign highlighting Super Bowl rings

Super Bowl 50, the National Football League’s championship game and one of America’s most wildly popular activities, is now only three days away.  The San Francisco Bay Area is hosting this momentous event, and sizzling with activity.

 

The two opposing teams, the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, will meet up this Sunday, February 7–known as Super Bowl Sunday.  It is the 50th Super Bowl.  More info here.

 

Super Bowl City and Ferry Bldg, SF

Super Bowl City and Ferry Bldg, SF

Although the game will be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, 50 miles south of San Francisco, there are numerous pre-game activities this week in both San Francisco and Santa Clara.  Both cities have been planning this event since the bid was won in May of 2013.

 

San Francisco has built a temporary village on Market Street called  Super Bowl City.  Residents have been receiving news articles and announcements for over two years; and now it is built, and loaded with spectators from around the country.

 

Super Bowl City overview, SF

Super Bowl City. Tallest bldg has light displays at night.

Free and open to the public, Super Bowl City is a week-long series of events.  Concerts, fireworks, marching bands, and booths are hosted at this heavily-secured venue.  An estimated one million people are expected to attend the festivities.

 

The City Stage, Super Bowl City, SF

The City Stage, Super Bowl City, SF

All Super Bowl Host Committees are required by the NFL to donate at least $1 million to charity.  San Francisco’s Super Bowl 50 Committee has announced it will dedicate 25 percent of the over $40 million raised, to Bay Area philanthropic causes.

 

Due to high viewership, advertising and media coverage for the Super Bowl is extensive.  Television ads, which have become a cultural phenomenon, are at an all-time high this year, with a 30-second advertisement base rate of $5 million.  More about Super Bowl ads here.

 

San Francisco

San Francisco

Last year’s Super Bowl had a record viewership of 114.4 million viewers.  The game will also be televised in Canada, Australia, Philippines, UK, and many European countries.

 

I am an avid football fan.  I record and watch every televised game all season long; enjoying the skill, athleticism, rules, strategies, players, and coaches.  I root for all the teams.

 

Levi's Stadium, 49ers game opening

Levi’s Stadium, 49ers vs Kansas City Chiefs, game opening

On Sunday you won’t find me in the stands of Levi’s Stadium.  I’ll be in front of the big screen TV, with friends and snack food, joining the celebration of one of America’s favorite traditions.

 

 

May the best team win….

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Levi's Stadium, Oct. 2014

Levi’s Stadium, Oct. 2014

 

Levi's Stadium

Levi’s Stadium

Levi's Stadium food court

Levi’s Stadium food court

SB-City,-little-52

Happy fan

Super-Bowl-50-banner

 

Sea Lions at Pier 39

Pier 39, California Sea Lions

Pier 39, California Sea Lions

A very popular tourist attraction at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco is the activity of wild California sea lions at Pier 39.

 

For many years the sea lions had been coming to the San Francisco Bay to eat herring, and other fish.  At breeding time, they would swim south, primarily to the Channel Islands.

 

The males especially migrate more, the females congregate near the breeding grounds, in southern California.

 

When not foraging, these pinnipeds usually haul their 700+ pound bodies onto shore (called “haul out”) to escape predators, rest, socialize, and/or regulate their temperature.

 

Then one year, January of 1990, everything changed.  The sea lions decided that instead of hauling out onto the shore, the Pier 39 boat dock would do just fine.  (Some folks speculated it had something to do with the Loma Prieta earthquake a few months earlier, but no one really knows.)

 

Pier 39

Pier 39

As the days turned into weeks, heated discussion ensued about what to do with the sea lions.  Boaters, who no doubt paid a hefty fee to dock here, didn’t like the large animals interloping on their docking space.

 

The nearby Marine Mammal Center was consulted, and it was eventually decided that the sea lions could have the dock, humans would relocate their boats.

 

A few times the sea lions disappeared for a few months–experts had varying opinions–but they always returned.  And they have been here ever since.

 

The population numbers vary.  The maximum number counted, in November of 2009:  1,701.  It is mostly males, but females are here too.

 

Pier 39

Pier 39

For more info on Zalophus californianus, click here.

 

Click here for Pier 39 sea lion info and the Sea Lion Webcam.

 

The sea lions are wild, they come and go as they please, they are not fed.    In fact, feeding sea lions (and any other marine mammal) is illegal in the U.S., info here.

 

When I’m down at the docks, I watch the humans as much as I watch the sea lions.  Spectators are so excited and animated, filming movies, taking photos, doing selfies.

 

Pier 39, San Francisco, California

Pier 39, San Francisco, California

And what’s not to love?  The sea lions bellow and bark, “walk” on all fours, wobble and roll.  When they get a little hungry, they plop into the water and swim off.  Later dude.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

 

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, San Francisco

MLK Memorial, San Francisco

MLK Memorial, San Francisco

In the heart of San Francisco, centered in the Yerba Buena Gardens park, is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.  Highlighted by a roaring waterfall, it is solid, yet always moving.

 

Built of Sierra granite, there is a terrace garden and walkway above the waterfall, and the rushing waterfall that empties into a 120,000 gallon reflecting pool.  It is the largest fountain on the west coast.  A unique path behind the waterfall features 12 etched glass panels of quotations by Dr. King.

 

MLK fountain, San Francisco

MLK Memorial, San Francisco

Entitled “Revelation,” the memorial was built in 1993.  It was a collaborative project by sculptor Houston Conwill, architect Joseph De Pace, and poet Estella Conwill Majozo.  More Memorial info here.

 

Etched glass panels with quotes

Jet reading quotes, waterfall above and behind

Born on this day in 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. became the greatest African American human rights leader of all time.  More about Dr. King here.

 

1963 March on Washington. Courtesy Wikipedia.

He organized and led the 1963 March on Washington, and moved hundreds of thousands of people in one of the largest human rights political rallies of the time, calling for an end to racism.

 

Looking through the waterfall

Looking through the waterfall

The visitor proceeds under the waterfall, drawn in, and rewarded with privacy and reflection on the words of this fearless world leader.   There, underneath, all you hear is crashing water.  The city is drowned out, urban stimulation has vanished.  As we read each quote, his rhythmic words, deep voice, and brilliant oratory style come quickly to mind.

 

Dr. King, 1963 March on Washington

Dr. King, 1963 March on Washington

Dr. King shook the world.  He demanded equality.

 

This memorial reminds us there is still a long way to go, and we cannot forget, we cannot be mute.  But we can take time to pause and reflect, as we continue moving forward.

 

“No.  No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander unless noted otherwise