Walking distance: ~14miles
I love traveling out west… Jet lag is an amazing thing when its that perfect “three hours behind”. I never willingly wake up early, but today I was actually mobile by 9:30, feeling like I had slept for a year. Since I had no need to actually be anywhere I took it slow, but before too long my desire to be in the sun overcame my desire to sit and read, and I packed up my trusty satchel, gave the map Emma had given me a quick glance, and walked out the door.
I had a real basic idea of where I wanted to find myself during the day, and so I slowly made my way westward, with the ocean firmly implanted in my minds eye. I walked through the Panhandle and into Golden Gate Park, preferring to stick to the woodsier trails when possible, if only to spare myself the jolts of walking on pavement for the entire day. I did learn a quick lesson about the really woodsy trails though, when I accidentally happened upon a small camp in the park where a group of hobo’s must be living… from then on I made sure to stick to the more established paths through the park, if only to avoid awkward encounters.
Golden Gate Park was amazingly beautiful, but I have to admit that I was mostly excited to see the ocean. Each time I’ve visited San Francisco I’ve come to see the Pacific, and each time it’s been a really great experience… I know that its really not much different than the Atlantic back home, but something about it being on the wrong side of the compass just makes it interesting. So, once I broke out of the tree cover of Golden Gate Park and onto the sand of the beach. (Ed note: I still don’t know what the name of that beach is. Great Highway Beach? Meh.)
Walking along the beach… I honestly don’t know how long I wandered around the waves and dunes. It was peaceful and the sound of the waves was nicely calming, though I’ll admit that I did plug in my headphones for a bit of the walk, if only to rock out to a few California-themed songs. On my walk I ran into some really cool cement and metal sculptures that are used as cradles for massive bonfires… at least I think so, based on the amount of charred wood surrounding them. Seriously… that’s what I love about this city, the raw creativity and vibrancy of it.
My walk down the beach had taken me a few miles south of Golden Gate park, and deep into the suburbs of a neighborhood called “The Sunset”. In the distance I spotted a huge outcropping of rock rearing above the hundreds and thousands of suburban homes, and made it my goal to watch the sunset from the top of whatever park housed the small mountain jutting into the skyline. The walk over was longer than it looked, but a few miles and many hundreds of stairs later I found myself sitting on a bench overlooking the entire city.
The view was… amazing. And that word doesn’t really cover it; I can’t begin to describe the sight of the entire city laid out below me, framed by an ocean stretching to the horizon, and illuminated by the sun burning its way into the ocean. I stood and stared for who knows how long, until I was pulled back to my little bench by someone sitting down next to me. Its nice to be rewarded for your hard work, and I guess my trek to the hill was worth rewarding, in karma’s eye, because I got to have a very fun conversation with the extremely attractive Chilean girl who had just ran up the opposing side. We chatted about everything, and she reminded me of all the places that I’ve missed out on since loosing my passport in Argentina. It was a nice chat, but we did finally part ways as the sun dipped below the horizon and the peak started to get impressively cold. Hopefully I’ll run into her again someday soon though… I could definitely use a guide to Santiago once I do finally head down there.
The sun was setting, the wind was cold, and I had a blast running down the mountainside. I had walked up the side with the near-infinite stairs, but the hillside in front of my adopted bench was a normal running path heading downwards, really just a mass of switchbacks leading back down to the streets at a near 45 degree angle. So, after saying my goodbyes to Arasely I set my pack and started jogging down, half running and half sliding through the soft sand. I aimed myself at the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park, since Emma had given me a few tips on good restaurants in the area… and I was definitely starting to feel the rumbly in my tumbly.
After walking around for a while, and even making a quick stop to watch the last of the sunset from Stowe Lake, I picked out a place and sat down for some much deserved munchies. In this case, said food was a sushi dinner with teriyaki chicken at a place called Kiki’s, and themed with pictures from the Anime “Kiki’s delivery service” (I think… don’t know anime too well, to be honest). And I have to admit, the dinner was Amazing! Exactly what I was wanting after a long walk, especially since I hadn’t had sushi in months.
After eating I hit the streets again, heading back home to Emma’s place this time. Its a bit strange that a walk home seems to only take half the time that it took to walk out, but it held true this time as well, and I was back at Emma’s place before I knew it, hanging out with her and her roommates. We chatted, watched the Daily Show, and had a nice relaxing time before they headed to bed, and I unrolled the sleeping bag onto the couch and sank into an amazingly relaxing sleep.