Camino de Santiago

21 01 2018

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A Sanctuary across the Golden Gate, The Marine Mammal Center & Headlands

2 07 2013
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Some of the items found in sea lions and seals

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Docents show pelts of seal (left) and sea lions to exhibit the differences

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Netting from a sperm whale, The Ghost Below

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Volunteers use wood boards to control seals while teaching feeding behaviors

Most summer tourists visiting SF set out on the Golden Gate bridge wearing shorts and t-shirts and only make it halfway across due to the whipping wind and fog that blows in off the ocean in the summertime. That is a shame because they never get to experience the incredible Marin Headlands just a little further across.

Taking a car is recommended as you will have the opportunity to explore this incredible area of California. The Marin Headlands is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and has its own incredible history. Known for the Miwok Indian tribe that inhabited the area, military activity and a NIKE missile site created to protect the United States from attacks from the west, the history is rich, but the history goes back well before humans discovered this beautiful pocket on the coast. This incredible area was formed millions of years ago. The beauty of the California coast was created by violent earth movements. Millions of years ago this area was where the Pacific Ocean plate and the North American plate connected in a process called subduction. The heavier Pacific plate ended up being pushed below the continental plate and creating an area of geothermal activity further inland. While this was happening layers of ocean sediments were sheared off of the oceanic plate and deposited on top of the continental plate leaving the remnants that created this incredible land mass. If you drive up the headlands just next to the Golden Gate Bridge you will start to climb quickly until you are at a height above the bridge. To your right along the road you will see amazing orange/red striated layers of rock. This is radiolarian chert, the deposits that were once at the bottom of the ocean. Pretty incredible to imagine as you look down the cliff. There are also deposits in the area of pillow basalt that was created by the volcanic activity of underwater vents.

Driving around the headlands you will see great places to stop and have a picnic, gorgeous vistas of the bay and San Francisco and unparalleled views of the Golden Gate Bridge.  It’s worth taking the time to visit the 15o year old Point Bonita Lighthouse, take a hike and hunt (but don’t pick!) wildflowers and view the annual raptor migrations.  A great friend of mine, Peter Palmer, has a website called the Headlands Report, check out his site for some fun hikes and advice on hiking.  http://theheadlandsreport.blogspot.com

Another great activity to pursue is a visit to The Marine Mammal Center.  I can’t believe that I have been in San Francisco since 1996 and only recently made my first visit to this amazing site!  The Marine Mammal Center exists to care for ill, abandoned or injured seals and sea lions.  When animals are brought to the center they are cared for by an incredible crew of 1,000 volunteers that spend time doing everything to rehab these animals.

One of the more pungent jobs is in the fish kitchen where meals are prepped for the animals almost constantly.  Visitors have the opportunity to learn about the perils that humans pose to sea life (such as nets, plastic bottles, and trash), view the seals and sea lions and watch volunteers teach feeding to juvenile animals, there is even an autopsy room (it is an optional area of the center and protected so that if it’s not your thing you don’t have to visit).  I was very intrigued and was able to watch an actual autopsy live.  Visits to the center are free, but I recommend a docent lead tour, the docents have a wealth of knowledge to share.

Support of the center with donations is very important, this year there has been an incredible increase in injured and abandoned animals along the California coast.  The center has had a large influx of animals brought in his year.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reported a “unusual morbidity event is occurring for California sea lions in Southern California”.  Over 1,000 malnourished weak sea lions were rescued this year off the California coast, but in 2012 the number was 100.  This year the Marine Mammal Center has twice its normal tenants, 165 seals and sea lions.  Animals are often malnourished or emaciated (stranded by their mothers for reasons unknown),  or suffer from human interaction such as ocean entanglement or even gunshot wounds.  Sadly cancer is also rampant among the population of sea lions autopsied here.  Amazingly the studies conducted at the Marine Mammal Center can help the world investigate marine mammal health, effectively a harbinger for our own health.  The center holds more than 25 years of tissue samples and cells in a deep freeze bunker with a back up generator to ensure that this information is not lost.

Many of the displays at the center help raise awareness as to how fragile the marine environment is, and how easily humans can harm marine mammals.  Packing straps can confuse animals as they play with them, possibly eat them or become strangled in them, and plastic bottles and discarded bags can easily injure or strangle seals and sea lions.  A very striking exhibit called The Ghost Below shows how ghost netting discarded or lost in our oceans can injure sea life.  These nets can float for years.  Richard & Judith Lang created the exhibit with just part of 450 pounds of ghost net and trash that were found inside a dead sperm whale.  Their new interactive exhibit, Indra’s Net, was recently installed and allows messages of hope to be left for animals in distress.

Seals and sea lions are considered the canaries of the ocean, meaning that when we affect their subtle ocean ecosystem they show us very clearly a lot about the health of the ocean…  The hope is that through education we can better care for our oceans, learn more about recycling and restricting our use of plastics that can harm animals, and change our eating habits.  These small steps can make a huge impact.  With our help we may have a chance to save some of these very important animals.

How to help:

Visit the center, leave a donation and buy something (a shirt, a tour, a magnet!)

Volunteer at the center

Adopt a Seal or Sea Lion

http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/HMS-adopt

Run for the Seals August 17

Support America’s Cup Healthy Ocean Project by dining at one of their recommended restaurants that supports sustainable seafood

http://www.americascup.com/en/healthy-ocean-project/restaurant-challenge

Think about what you eat and download the Seafood Watch app

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

If you find a mammal in distress call 415 289- SEAL (7325)

http://www.nps.gov/goga/marin-headlands.htm

 





SF Jaunts-My Favorite Things

29 12 2010

It’s the last stretch of the holiday season, and some of you may still have family coming to town. Its always great to be together but sometimes the stress of the holidays can build up and you just may want to get some peace an quiet and find something to occupy the brood while you regroup. Here are a few tips for some of my favorite things to do in San Francisco, year round and at the holidays. The best part of this list is that you can join in and become a tourist for a day or just print it for them and let them go their merry way.

Journey One: Downtown
How Wine Became Modern at SF Moma: A new exhibit opened up recently at SF MOMA, How Wine Became Modern, focusing on design and wine from 1976, the year of the Paris Tasting until now. This is apparently unusual for the museum as it is a more experiential installation. Henry Urbach the gentleman who helped create the exhibit calls himself “not a wine geek”, and “interloper” so it should be interesting for even not so savvy wine types. The idea was “to allow the world of wine to become a mirror to a cultural condition that is ours”. They have some really creative galleries that focus on art, design, glassware, labels, soil, additives and media. Concurrently the museum has other interesting installations including a bridge of sound (Sonic Shadows) by Bill Fontana, an interactive auditory sculpture. They also have a great gift shop to browse through and pick up what you really wanted for Christmas. http://www.sfmoma.org/pages/exhib_events

Dim Sum at Yank Sing: Yank Sing has some of the greatest dim sum in the city. It may not be as good of a value as more traditional places, and some find it a little bit “fancy” but there is no question that it is delicious. I especially love their black bean oil that you can use to add some zip to some of the dishes. Designate one person at the table to monitor what you get so you do not overdo it. Take small “drops” of dumplings rather than multiple containers at the same time so that they do not get cold. Let the Shanghai dumplings cool a bit before eating. A great way to monitor yourselves and stay in budget it to ask for a price list, some items are surprisingly good value (Har Gow are about $5 for four while the shredded cabbage salad is $10!) http://www.yanksing.com/home.php

Tour Ferry Plaza Farmers Market: Whether it’s a market day or not the Ferry Plaza is a great place to visit to either sample our local products, get a coffee or do some shopping. The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant is a great place to grab a glass of wine! http://www.fpwm.com/

Pier 39: From the Ferry Plaza it’s really easy to jump on one of the vintage streetcars and head towards Pier 39. It’s a bit touristy but kids really enjoy watching the sea lions and riding the carousel.

Fishermans Wharf: Stroll down towards Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghriradelli Square and if you get chilly grab a hot chocolate or stop into the Buena Vista Bar for an Irish Coffee.

Journey Two: SF Parks
Conservatory of Flowers:
Golden Gate Park has a plethora of things to keep your family busy, easily accessible by public transportation.

California Academy of Sciences Museum:This is an experience which could easily take all day. The planetarium show is fun but maybe a bit complex for rowdy children. Definitely walk through the rainforest dome which shows the different levels of the rainforest and the creatures in each (dress in layers because it’s hot and steamy in there!). Then take the elevator to the aquarium. Don’t miss the leafy sea dragons and jellies. Be sure to visit the penguins and the living roof and there are currently a pair of reindeer on site for the holidays. If you haven’t exhausted yourself the de Young Museum is just across the plaza. Also if you are local it’s worth buying a membership, it gets you a discount in the store and the basic one allows unlimited visits for you and a guest! http://www.calacademy.org/

From the park you can head one of two directions…

East Bound Route:Haight Ashbury
If you opt to head East you can walk towards the Haight Ashbury district where there is tons of shopping, fun bars and of course would not be complete without a stop at Amoeba Records a treasure trove for music. Just nearby is Alembic, a necessary stop for a great cocktail and if you go further East hit the Toronado where you can grab an amazing microbrew, I especially love Pliny the Elder, but beware, it packs a punch. If you tour on a Tuesday you can get a burger at Rosamunde or try one of their great sausages and bring it into the T to enjoy with your beer. http://www.alembicbar.com/ http://www.toronado.com/

Westbound Route:Outer Richmond
A walk through the park on a nice day is a great way to work off your big holiday meals. You can stop by a number of the park’s lakes and check out the wildlife, visit the Buffalo Paddock and stop by the Park Chalet (or the Beach Chalet upstairs) for a beer ending at Ocean Beach. This journey may be easier with a car, and if you have one then you could head up the hill past the Cliff House and get a scenic look at the coastline and stop at the Sutro Parking Lot where you can get a view of the Sutro Bath Ruins. If you are feeling particularly inspired you can walk down into the ruins where a tunnel leads to the water on the other side and you can hear the waves crashing into the bedrock. From here you can drive up Point Lobos and make a left at 48th Avenue, stay towards the left to wind around through the Presidio and up to the Palace of Legion of Honor. As you keep winding around you will find some amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge and can even take a jaunt on the Lands End Trail which is full of tons of great vistas, there is even a “secret” labyrinth http://www.laberinthos.com/ made by Eduardo Aguilera, it’s pretty magical actually with a gorgeous view. The whole trail in fact ends at the Sutro Parking Lot but it’s a long walk. If you are driving and feeling a bit parched take a right at 25th Avenue and head to either Pizzetta 211 (23rd and California) or Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, home of the best margarita in SF and I think in the US. http://www.tommystequila.com/

Journey Three: The Mission
The Mission district is full of fun places to graze and shop. While you can explore on your own, a better idea is to take a food tour. I took one a few weeks ago from In The Kitchen with Lisa http://inthekitchenwithlisa.com/taste_mission.htm. The tour is more cultural than just culinary, but be sure to come hungry! We started out at Mission Minis and my growling stomach was immediately tamed by a red velvet mini cupcake. The day was gorgeous as we strolled around the sunniest part of San Francisco without even a jacket on, in November! Along the way our guide would stop and give us some information about local businesses that we did not get to stop off at and some details about the history of the neighborhood. We had tacos, coffee and Mexican pastry, sandwiches, Mission pies, donuts, ice cream, it was intense but great. At each spot we learned a bit about the history of the location, their mission, it was more than just eating. We also walked down Balmy Alley, a small side street famous for its murals. We were met by Patricia Rose of Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center http://www.precitaeyes.org/ who gave us some history on the various murals as we strolled along. Precita Eyes also does more extensive mural tours.

photo by Kimberly Charles

At the end of your Mission tour you may be stuffed, so it’s a pretty good time to exercise, your vocal chords that is, with a stop to The Mint Karaoke Lounge. http://www.themint.net/ While the Mint has a reputation for being a very professional karaoke joint show up at 3pm and the calm regular crew is very supportive, you will get a chance to sing more often and it may not be as daunting as a busy Saturday night crowd! If karaoke isn’t your thing and it’s a nice day you could end up at Zeitgeist and enjoy the outdoor area.

Wherever your travels take you there is plenty to do in this great city, these are just a couple of my favorites. Happy New Year!