Saturday, June 15, 2019

HIKING THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE EXPEDITION!

This photo
 shows the very knowledgeable, Don McLaurin, giving some last minute guidelines to one of the group participants, shortly before we started our trek across the Golden Gate Bridge in California.

The experience was part of Road Scholar program ( roadscholar.org ) #21900CGT that I participated in April 7-12, 2019.  The program was called "Hiking the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods and Point Reyes".  We are standing in the parking lot that is provided near the pedestrian entrance, on the Marin County side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

From the parking lot, walkers go down stairs to a passageway beneath the bridge surface, and slightly elevated from the stone embankment that makes up the edge of the land mass.

The passage way under the bridge makes a turn to the left near the end, which leads out to steps that will take the walker up to the entrance of the pedestrian walkway of the Golden Gate Bridge.  All these measures are necessary because pedestrians are only permitted to walk on ONE side of the bridge---not both.

I took this photo to show the extensive labyrinth of steel girders that forms the support for the base of the bridge, while it is still passing over land.

Most readers will recognize this as Alcatraz Island, which was once the home of notorious prisoners.  It is now visited by thousands of people who are NOT prisoners, but rather taking a tour of the facility through the National Park Service. 


As the walker gets closer to the San Francisco side, they will be able to recognize the familiar sight of the Coit Tower, which is located atop one of San Francisco's famous hills.

I took this photo to give the reader a sense of how close the pedestrians are to the car traffic.  We were given strict instructions to stay as close to the railing as possible on the left side of the walkway, leaving the rest of the enclosure for the use of bicyclists.  Don also reminded us to NOT mindlessly step out of line to take a photo, or we might get an unexpected bump from a bicycler pedaling up from behind us.  We were told to look BOTH ways, before stepping to the right to take a photo.  Since Don has been leading these programs quite some time, I can only assume he was speaking from experience from a previous program!

This is a photo of one of the areas of the pedestrian walkway that expands a bit, to facilitate folks stopping to get a closer look at their surroundings, regroup, take photos, etc.; in the photo you can see the red rectangle hanging on the front of Don's jacket.  That is the sound transmitter that he used throughout our trek, so that he could be talking to us as we walked across, and we could hear him, in spite of the deafening noise of traffic beside us.  Each of the Road Scholar participants had a listening device in our ear, that made this possible. 

We made our trip across the bay on a weekday, and saw a few pleasure boats, such as this sailboat, taking advantage of a very windy day!

When we reached the San Francisco side of the bridge, Don led us through a plaza that had a metal replica of the bridge we had just walked across.  The visual aid helped us understand the physics principles, that made this historic structure such an engineering marvel.  Likewise, there were explanatory placards scattered all around the plaza that interpreted views that could be seen from various locations, and told interesting facets of the bridge's construction.  The plaza also had food and beverage concessions, gift kiosks, and restrooms. 


Bicycling across the bridge is very popular, and bikes are available for rent near the pedestrian entrances.  Because there are no license or skill requirements necessary to rent a bicycle, it is another reason our leader told us to be on the constant lookout for an inexperienced bicycler, as we were traversing the walkway. 

Notice the large orange backpack Don is wearing?  In case one is wondering why that is necessary, it is because he is a very prepared, and organized leader.  It had extra batteries and listening devices, in case one of his participants needed it mid-hike.  Likewise, he carried first aid supplies, and participant's emergency contact information 

This photo shows that we had an absolutely beautiful, sunshiny day to walk across the bridge, without a cloud in the sky!

This view is seen from the pedestrian walkway, and would be puzzling for the uninformed.  However, Don told us that the orange "arms" extending out over the water were to be the supports for a "suicide prevention net" that was currently under construction, on the bridge.  It is said that the Golden Gate Bridge is a "suicide magnet" for some, and that about 500 people have jumped to their death since the bridge opened in 1937.  Statistics say that 40 known people jumped to their death in 2016.  The Bridge administration is spending $200 million to change that, as it works to get the suicide prevention net completed by 2021.  It will extend over 1.5 miles of open water, and will be made of stainless steel mesh, located about 2o feet below the bridge, and stick out 20 feet from the edge of the bridge.  A jumper could still crawl to the edge of the net to jump off again, although designers predict that the fall from the bridge surface to the net would incapacitate the person, allowing rescuers to retrieve them.


There are commercial tourist boats that take visitors out on the waters, and cruise them beneath the bridge.   I was able to take one of those sightseeing cruises on past visits, and gave a big wave to the tourists I saw below in this boat, who were also waving up at me!

Besides tourist boats, there are plenty of commercial vessels, such as this container ship, that use the shipping lanes of the San Francisco Bay.

Once we had walked across the bridge in the afternoon, visited the San Francisco plaza side, and made our way back to the tunnel that would lead us to the Road Scholar van in the parking lot, we had completed four miles of bridge walking.  Hurrah!  I got my 10,000 steps in that day, since we had already walked four miles on the Marin hiking trails in the morning!


It has been said that the Golden Gate Bridge is the most photographed man-made structure in the world, and I know I certainly took more than my share of those photos during the week I visited the area!  Seeing how the bridge provides a means to connect that which is separated, is a visual aid for me, reminding me of how Jesus  is also a "bridge" to separate that which is separated.   We as a people have become separated from a righteous God because of our sins.  But Jesus came to take the penalty for our sins---to be the living sacrifice---that could form a "bridge" so that we could once again have fellowship with our Creator.  The bridge Jesus provided is there for EVERYONE, but some will choose not to use the bridge that has been provided for us.  Though this Road Scholar program, I made the choice to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Likewise, knowing that I have also made the choice to walk across the "Golden Grace Bridge" of salvation, that Jesus has provided, gives me MILES OF SMILES!   Tricia

Friday, May 31, 2019

GOLDEN GATE NATIONAL RECREATION AREA EXPEDITION!

This photo shows the iconic Golden Gate Bridge,  participant in Road Scholar Program #21900CGT ( www.roadscholar.org )  This photo shows several members of our group (as well as the white van we traveled in), at the scenic vista in Marin County, that overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge.  One can tell from the long shadows, as we look eastward, that we arrived at this location very early in the morning.  The abundance of parking places is also an indication it is early morning.  We drove by this same location later in the day, and there were NO parking places, plus cars were pulled over to the side of the road to park!  Of course, no matter what time of day you visit this location, or what type of weather it is, the experience of seeing the world's most photographed man-made structure is ALWAYS exhilarating!

Across the parking lot from the scenic view point, you will see a large concrete "cave", which is the first of many "remnants" of military fortifications that played a big part in the history of Marin County, California.(Note, there is also a portable toilet, for those who need to know this sort of thing).  The military history of this area was a factor in its inclusion in the 82,027 acres of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

From the scenic view parking area, we drove to one of many trail heads where the hiker can park their car, and then enjoy walking a section of the California Coast Trail.  Our group was taking the Lagoon Trail Loop down to Rodeo Beach, then onward to the Tennessee Valley.  The ecological diversity of various locations around the San Francisco Bay justify why they were included in the GGNRA.  It is NOT one continuous locale, but a collection of areas that stretch from southern San Mateo County to northern Marin County.  The idea that a national park did not have to be contiguous land mass,  was a somewhat new concept, when it was signed into law in 1972, by President Richard Nixon. 

I took this photo to show one of the few trees we saw on our hike.  Although the area gets plenty of rain, the gusty winds coming off the Pacific Ocean prevent the formation of forests.  The expansive acreage of the GGNRA probably explains why we did not see any other hikers, on the week day when our group explored this trail, since the GGNRA is one of the largest urban parks in the world!  I would predict that it would be a different experience on a weekend, since the park averages more than 15 MILLION visitors per year!


As mentioned earlier, there are reminders that this area has a history as a military location, and the red-roofed structures you can see across the bay in this photo are one example.  Many historical military buildings are now used by non-profit organizations, but still maintain their historical condition. 

Notice how green the vegetation is in this part of the headlands  That is because as the Pacific breezes are pushed into the higher , colder air of the headlands, it causes condensation, which provides the precipitation needed for the plants to thrive.

Another characteristic of headlands, is that they usually have high breaking waves, and rocky shores, as illustrated here. 

This photo shows our group, as we came out of the lagoon trail and onto the rocky shoreline.  Notice we are all wearing backpacks, so that we could carry the necessary layers of clothing we might need, as well as snacks and water.  Every single day of the program, we left our hotel in the Marin County city of Corte Madera after breakfast, and then stayed out hiking all day.  Hopefully, you can see from this picture we had an absolutely GLORIOUS weather day for exploring!



The expert naturalist that accompanied us on all the hikes pointed out various marine critters on the beach, and the part each of them played in the ecology of the headlands.  Compared to Sanibel Beach in Florida, this beach was almost devoid of empty sea shells.  But I guess that was for my own good, as I was not tempted to take something I should not.  Rather, it was easy to "take only photos, leave only footprints"!

One sea creature I had never seen before was a type of jelly fish, called Valella.  The word means "By-the-wind Sailors".  The small, semi-circular appendage on top of the jelly fish serves as a "sail", sending millions of these shiny discs across the oceans, in whatever way the wind is blowing.

This photo shows that this place, called
 Rodeo Beach is a pebble-covered dark sand beach.  It is accessible by car, and as such, a convenient place for surf fishing, as evidenced by this fishing pole buried deep into the sand.

There was only one fisherman on the beach while we were there, and he opened up his storage bag to show us the "catch of the day", that would provide supper at his house that night!

This photo shows shiny silver streaks in the shallow tide waters, that are made by the sun reflecting of the thousands of Valella that have washed ashore.

As you can see from this sign, there is a trail
 leading up from the beach that goes to Hill 88.  The Marin Headlands has the only restored Nike Missile Site in the whole U.S.; it was constructed during the Cold War.  At that location, the visitor can see large missile and missile tracking radar equipment, in addition to other weapons used during the Cold War. 

This photo shows the logo for the California Coastal Trail, and it was attached to signs along parts of our hike on this particular day.  What fun it would be to "section hike" the entire length of the trail, that starts near the Mexican border in Southern California, and extends all the way to the Oregon border in northern California.  I have been able to hike a short section near Laguna Beach, and a section near Crescent City, and hope to complete a few more miles of it each year!


Rodeo Beach is one of the few beaches in Marin County suitable for surfing, and this is the only surfer I saw the entire day.  That is in sharp contrast to a Road Scholar trip I went on, where our group stayed at a hotel property on Ventura Beach, California.  That area had hundreds of surfers---from sunrise to sunset!

Although most people might think a visit to the famous ritzy retail area of California known as "Rodeo Drive" would be "dream come true", to me this visit to Rodeo Beach was much more to my liking and interests!

After we left sea level and started ascending on our hiking trail up the hill, one was able to get a better idea of how Rodeo Beach formed a land barrier between the lagoon on the left of the photo, and the open ocean on the right.  I read that the lagoon is an excellent habitat for butterflies and birds, and home for an endangered small fish, known as the goby. 


Near the top of the hill, we saw more evidence of abandoned military fortifications.  The first military installations were built in the 1890's to prevent hostile ships from entering San Francisco Bay.  Later, batteries such as these were built to protect from aerial bombardment. 


The placard next to this historical piece of artillery, provided a reminder to us, that protecting our coastlines and borders has been a long-standing, strategic plan of the USA. 


When I quickly snapped this photo of an official vehicle rushing off on the road beside our hiking trail, I was immediately able to see that sign that said "!!!!RESCUE!!!!", so with my Southern roots, the melody of a familiar, old-time Gospel tune started going through my mind.  The first stanza said "Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying."  [Note:  When I was researching the history of that song on Wikipedia ( www.wikipedia.org ) as I was writing this blog post, I learned that it was written by blind composer, Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915).  She was well known for her Christian rescue mission work in the very worst slums of New York City.  It was not until I was reading about her life, that I learned that she was a close personal friend of President Grover Cleveland, having known him from his youth.  That was significant to me, because my grandfather was named after Grover Cleveland, and later, my son was named after my grandfather, Grover! ]     But, getting back to an explanation of the photo at hand, a closer look at the truck sign indicated it was a truck for "marine mammal RESCUE", whereas Fannie Crosby had the goal of "human mammal RESCUE"!  In fact, she stated her goal was to win one million people to Christ through through her poetry and song lyrics.   The Rescue Truck was a visual aid to me that I need to be just as intentional in my efforts to rescue those who have not heard that old-time Gospel message, of which the hymn speaks!


Since we had started our hike so early that morning, before the Marin Headlands Visitor Center was open, I was glad to get back to it in time to look inside, and get my "NPS GGNRA" stamp to add to my collection!

The Visitor Center had magnificent eucalyptus trees in its lawn, that provided wonderful shade for the picnic tables where our group had their lunches.  By the way, I want to give the Road Scholar staff a rating of "OUTSTANDING" on the box lunches that were provided each day we were out hiking.  Likewise, the elegant evening meals we had at fabulous restaurants in Marin County were a "foodie's" delight!

I mentioned that the military history of the Marin Headlands goes back  over a hundred years---even to the time of the U.S. Calvary.  These officials riding through the park on their horses are a reminder of a time when horses were the ONLY way to get around, other than by foot!


The Visitor Center is located in a historic building that used to be a place of worship for the military personnel stationed in Marin County.  The familiar religious architectural feature of a steeple is a reminder to me that it is only by the Grace of God that I was born into a country that allows religious freedom, and it is through the sacrifice of the U.S. Military that we still have that freedom today.  These gifts, along with the opportunity to explore another amazingly beautiful part of the United States of America, gives me "MILES OF SMILES"!!   Tricia

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

SAUSALITO EXPEDITION!

The photos and comments in this article tell about one aspect of  Road Scholar Program 21900 ( www.roadscholar.org ) I attended recently.  It was a hiking and walking program that explored Marin County, California from north to south and east to west!  One reason I wanted to enroll in this particular program was that it included an afternoon/evening in the seaside village of Sausalito.   The first place our van let us out was the Sausalito Visitors Center, shown in the photo below.  It was there I learned that Sausalito developed rapidly as a shipbuilding center in World War I, with its industrial character giving way in postwar years to a reputation as a wealthy and artistic enclave.  It is a picturesque residential community, (incorporating large numbers of houseboats), and a tourist destination.  It was this "houseboat" factor, that made me eager to visit the town, because houseboat living has been a part of my life since I was a youngster ( my father built two different houseboats that gave me many days/nights of enjoyment, plus I had a houseboat of my own (called the "Ms. Trish"), after I became a "grown-up" living on my own. 
As instructed by one of my photography teachers, who always said to look at the postcards available, when visiting a new area, a post card of a fancy houseboat , called the Taj Mahal, caught my eye at the Visitors Center.  Since our leaders had told us the houseboat section was not close to where our group would be walking, I had no expectation of getting to see this most unusual houseboat.  So you can imagine my surprise and delight, when as I was strolling up and down the marina docks, I look up and saw that this impressive floating structure was right in front of me!
I reasoned that it must have been away from the more well known houseboat "neighborhood", because it was too big to fit there!


It appeared to have its very own sailboat, powerboat, and fire hydrant, as well as a velvet rope, that might as well have said "KEEP OUT" in giant letters (although it did not).
The photo above is the walkway a visitor would need to traverse to get to the Taj Mahal, if they were coming from the parking lot--quite a nice row of yachts!

I enjoyed seeing the
 orange sea creature that was painted on the side of the boat above.


The sign on the houseboat below says "Wooden Shoe---Sausalito".
Several of the houseboats had gained extra living space by building up, instead of out.  One reason for this is the limited docking area, such that up or down are the only options for expansion.
Most of the houseboats (see kayak below) had some sort of private watercraft on their decks---kayaks, paddle boards, rowboats, canoes, or skiffs.  This enables the owner to take full advantage of the water for getting around the "neighborhood"!
The floating edifice below appeared to have been a commercial venture at one time, although there was no evidence of it being in operation at the time of my visit. 
Across from the floating docks, there are also several lodging structures built out on piers, as seen in the photo below:
Once I had walked up and down every single dock in the downtown area, I switched over to the non-floating section of downtown, and enjoyed photographing the Spanish style architecture, as shown in the corner building below:


For a complete list of ALL the restaurants, shops, and attractions in Sausalito, log on to www.VisitSausalito.org , because these photos barely "scratch the surface" of what is available!


The photo above shows "Bridge Street", which is the main way visitors coming by land will enter Sausalito.
The photo above shows another area of houseboats.  Most of the 400+ houseboats of various shapes, sizes, and values, are located along the north end of town, approximately two miles from downtown. 
Although this waterway between the houseboats looks tranquil, the humming toadfish makes mating noises underwater, keeping some residents awake at night. 

The roots of the houseboat community lie in the re-use of abandoned boats and material after the de-commissioning of the Marinship shipyards at the end of World War II.  Many anchor-outs came to the area, which created problems with sanitation and other issues.  After a series of tense confrontation in the 1970s and 1980s, additional  regulations were applied to the area and the great majority of boats were relocated to approved docks.  Several are architect-designed pieces that have been featured in major magazines. 
One of Sausalito's downtown parks is famous for the two elephant statues that define its entrance.


In fact, one of the elephants was being used as the backdrop for a bicycle photoshoot I happened upon.

Between the two elephants, this lovely fountain is constantly providing the soothing sounds of flowing water.

This plaque tells the name of the park, and some of its history.


The song "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding was written by the R & B singer in 1967, as he sat on a rented houseboat docked in Sausalito.  So, naturally, that song was going through  my mind, as I photographed these folks below "sittin' on the dock of the bay"!

I was intrigued by the way some of the trees had been "manicured" in one of the city parks:
The manicured tree limb below, provided a nice "frame" for a waterfront scene:

Seeing this weather vane (shown below) on top of one of the houseboats, reminded me of a poem I embroidered and framed many years ago:
Here is a photo of the finished work:
To me, the poem is another way of stating the Apostle Paul's words in his letter to the Philippians:  It says, "For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation."  (Philippians 4:11-12)  

I am thankful to God, that the "winds of life" blew me to the little village of Sausalito!  Visiting this place gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!!  Tricia
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