Tag: state park

San Fran Day #5: Muir Woods

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Today was probably my favorite activity out of everything we did in San Fran (although the walking tour of Chinatown is a close second thanks to our informative yet very funny guide Linda).

Since we didn’t get to go to Yosemite on this trip as planned (biggest bummer of my life), this was the only outdoorsy thing we did and it was the highlight of the trip for me … so I (kindabutnotreally) apologize for how many pictures of trees you’re about to scroll through.

If you’re in the market to see giant trees, there are a few different options in Cali. Although they’re usually just called “redwoods,” there are two different species – the coast redwood and the giant sequoias.

So what’s the difference?

Giant sequoias only grow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Cali’s eastern border. They’re the largest living things on Earth, reaching 280 feet tall and 23 feet across (although the largest of them are closer to 300 ft tall and 30 ft across!). The oldest giant sequoias are around 3,000 years old. You can find these massive trees in three groves in Yosemite – Mariposa Grove, Merced Grove and Tuolumne Grove. You can also head to Sequoia National Park, the home of the largest living organism on the planet by volume: the (est.) 2,000-year-old General Sherman. We did not get to see giant sequoias on this trip.

We did get to see coast redwoods. Although they don’t usually get as wide as the giant sequoias, coast redwoods are the tallest trees on the planet. The tallest one, located in Redwood National Forest, is 380 ft tall — that’s as tall as a 37-story building! Like sequoias, these trees also live thousands of years. Try to imagine that. Thousands of years. What’s even more mind-blowing is that coast redwoods as a species have been on the planet for more than 240 million years (like, they were around when dinosaurs existed). Along with Muir Woods and Redwood National Forest, you can find these trees in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

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San Fran Day #2: Angel Island, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. You can read more about my use of affiliate links here.

It’s our first full-day in San Fran and we’re starting out with an Angel Island + Alcatraz Island combo tour that we booked through Viator.

Angel Island State Park

Angel Island is the largest natural island in San Francisco Bay (it’s about 33 times larger than Alcatraz Island). And it’s basically the Ellis Island of the West Coast. That’s obviously way over simplifying it, but historically it’s fairly accurate.

At different points in time:
– it was a cattle ranch,
– it was an army fort called Fort McDowell,
– it was home to a Nike missile station (bombs designed to shoot down nukes, none of which were ever deployed),
– it served as a quarantine station to screen Asian passengers for the Bubonic plague before entering the U.S.,
– and, finally, it served as a a U.S. Bureau of Immigration inspection and detention facility which processed immigrants from 84 different countries, approximately one million being Chinese immigrants.

Today, Angel Island is a California State Park and the Angel Island Immigration Station is a federally designated National Historic Landmark.

[ I wore the lululemon Every Moment Crew in the color Lavender Grey today. I already had this sweatshirt in black & am obsessed with it, so I used this trip as an excuse to get a second color. Madewell Curvy Jeans + RayBan Clubmasters + Target Nyla Ankle Strap Sandals]

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island, aka “The Rock”, is located in the San Fransisco Bay, only about 1.25 miles off the coast of San Francisco. The 22-acre island was once a fort, a military prison and a maximum security federal penitentiary. And, for about 19 months beginning in 1969, it was occupied by a group of Native American activists from San Francisco as part of the protest for Native American civil rights. Today, it’s part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area and is managed by the National Park Service.

Although there are other buildings on the island, the main attraction is the award-winning audio tour of the main cellhouse. Although taking an audio tour sounds kind of lame, it was actually really cool to hear stories from two very different perspectives – prisoner and correctional officer. If you go to Alcatraz and don’t listen to the audio, you’ve botched it.

“Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour” is narrated by four formers prisoners and four former correctional officers. The tour walks you through the general layout of the prison while former prisoners explain what life inside was like and former officers tell stories of escape attempts.

In the photos above, you’ll see a picture of a stone floor with pock marks and a picture of a hole in a white ceiling. Those are remnants of the “Battle of Alcatraz”, an unsuccessful escape attempt which lasted from May 2-4, 1946. These two pictures show where prisoners drilled holes in the prison roof and dropped grenades down onto the floor below. If you’re interested in the whole story, you can read it here.

During the audio tour, one of the former prisoners recalled how you could hear sounds from the mainland carried over the water by the winds. The pictures above show the view from the rec area looking out towards San Fran. It was a beautiful view for me today, but it must have been so horrible as an inmate to see that yet be stuck there.

The biggest surprise of the day was that Bill Baker, a former prisoner, was in the gift shop signing his book about life behind bars in Alcatraz. We met him, he made jokes about us being Georgia peaches and signed a couple books for us. (Don’t worry, mom, he didn’t kill anyone … that I know of.) According to the events program announcer, Bill is one of 5 guys who served time on the island who is still alive today.

Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square & Pier 39

After getting off the ferry back from Alcatraz, we walked over to Fisherman’s Wharf for a quick dinner at Chowder Hut to warm up over some crab chowder and other seafood, then headed to Ghirardelli Square for dessert. (Note: the “Lands End” Salted Caramel Brownie Sundae is amazing, but the Decadent Drinking Chocolate was not a crowd favorite.)

While in Ghirardelli Square, we saw a place called The Cheese School. Obviously I was immediately excited, but we didn’t have time to go inside. I did take (too many) pictures of and with the quotes on the front windows of the building though. I’ll only make you look at three pics, but there are (unnecessarily) plenty more.

After dessert, we walked down Pier 39 to see the sea lions. We learned that the sea lions migrate south for mating during the summer months, so there were far less of them than normal. But they were entertaining nonetheless. I also learned that shouting “Gerald” at sea lions is a must, according to the kids.