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My Sweet Summer’s Gone: 2014 Recap

As I pack my bags for the East Coast once again, I conclude my summer adventures whilst retiring a temporary carefree lifestyle that will be missed dearly. Reiterating what I said at the beginning of this blog, the purpose of this summer was ensuring that everyday was spent wisely through adventure and comradeship. In addition, my plan was to discover the both hidden and not-so-hidden gems of my home, the San Francisco Bay Area (with the exception of a few out of region road trips), as I found it ridiculous that I had lived in such an organically beautiful, culturally diverse location my entire life without venturing further than the limits of my hometown. How could I rightfully call myself a Bay Area native if I hadn’t seen and experienced everything it had to offer?

I will now recap and unlock locations from both on and off the beaten path as a commemoration to one of the best summers I’ve ever experienced as well as a reference guide for you, the reader. This list hits every region of the SF Bay and the spots marked with “*”‘s have been reviewed in full detail on my blog previously if you wish for more information. Enjoy.

 

Parks: Las Palmas Park

palmas

It’s a hot summer day in Sunnyvale, California and you happen to find yourself stranded and lost in the midst of a stereotypical residential neighborhood. In this suburban labrynth, the houses and streets all begin to look the same, only confusing you more in conjunction with the heat of the Sun’s rays as your anxiety intertwines with the intensity of the weather. Just as you pass the fiftieth two-story house and begin to lose all hope, a group of palm trees emerge in the distance, shattering the mundane flow of suburbia illustrating what appears to be a tropical oasis. Adding on to the absurdity are Easter Island head replica statues surrounding the perimeter. It can’t be. You’ve totally lost your marbles this time. Actually, you haven’t. In fact, you’ve come across the hidden gem “Las Palmas Park”, one of the South Bay’s low-key luxuries that comes in the appearance of a delusional desert-wanderer’s stereotypical mirage come-to-life…well, minus the kids’ playground in the middle of the palm trees, at least I’d hope.

Usually, the park holds a man-made lake surrounding the palm trees in order to add to the ambiance; however due to the Bay Area’s severe drought this year, even this mirage-made-reality was drained of its water leaving an empty cement pool in replacement. This place is great for relaxing or reading the book you’ve been trying to get off your summer-reading bucket list since the environment is extremely chill with the ensemble of palm trees and wind as the background soundtrack. In addition, if you have a family, I don’t think I’ve seen too many playgrounds that could rival that of Las Palmas playground, (minus Adventureland in Berkeley), so do bring the kids as I’m sure they’ll have fun in this micro-paradise!

 

…and if you don’t want to read my rant, here’s a quick summary of notes and expectations:

Location: Sunnyvale, CA
Recommended time of day to go: Daytime
Places Close-By: Serra Park
Good for: Relaxing, Book Reading, Dog Walking, Kids

DSC_0013

 

Parks & Trails: Mission Peak

 

Catching the sunset.

Catching the sunrise.

Mt. Diablo and Mt. Tamalpais becoming too overrated these days? Drop by the East Bay and hike Mission Peak, a six mile trail from bottom to top with a gorgeous view of the entire San Francisco Bay Area at the summit. Okay, so maybe Mission Peak isn’t exactly underrated as the obligatory totem pole picture has been a staple cliche amongst bay area dwellers for quite some time; however it’s still worth the visit if you haven’t done so. If you decide to go, start early and catch the sunrise as its riveting beauty will be a well-worth reward for powering through the steep hills.

Having lived in Fremont the vast majority of my life, Mission Peak has always towered above in the horizon as a backdrop and monument, a timeless landmark and an old friend that will always be there for me. I’ve hiked Mission Peak and witnessed the sunrise countless times; however what makes the hike worthwhile is venturing to the top with a group of friends. If you decide you want to be a Rocky Balboa and run to the top solo dolo, hey that’s completely cool too, kudos to you, but in my opinion, there’s nothing greater than a hike accompanied by comrades and story-telling. Because Mission Peak is located within the hills, wi-fi ceases to exist, forcing the socially impaired to tolerate with personal interaction throughout the endeavor. I feel as though Mission Peak is one of the few places where you can see the true colors of people, where silence can’t be protected by the shields of a smartphone and must be filled in with social improv while emotions are seen, heard, and felt rather than viewed through a text. If you have time this week, bring together a clan, give yourself at least an hour to reach the top, and reconnect with your social roots whilst getting high off of conversation, laughter, and exhaustion. Also bring water too. Just saying.

…and if you don’t want to read my rant, here’s a quick summary of notes and expectations:

Location: Fremont, CA
Recommended time of day to go: Sunrise (during the summertime)
Places Close-By: Ohlone College
Good for: Hiking, Catching up with friends, Spiritual Cleansing

Obligatory Totem Pole Picture

Obligatory Totem Pole Picture

The Kings of Summer.

The Kings of Summer.

Jumping for joy.

Jumping for joy.

Parks & Trails: Uvas Canyon

Wade pools + Kim.

Wade pool + Kim

 

“Not til we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

No, I’m afraid I can’t say I’m anywhere close to that of Thoreau’s spiritual endeavors and experiences recorded via Walden; however being that Walden had its 160th anniversary of publication a few days ago, I felt it quite fitting to begin today’s rant in commemoration and honor of Thoreau’s masterpiece. The Uvas Canyon County Park is a natural park burrowed within Morgan Hills, south of San Jose hidden from the consistent traffic of civilization. Hiking and camping are the popular predilections for this precious south bay gem as the park contains campsites and roughly eight miles worth of trails.

Personally, out of the various hiking paths I’ve ventured, I minutely appreciated this site being that I was protected and shaded from the harshness of the sun’s rays by wondrous towering trees, definitely something to take note of if you’re looking for ideal hiking locations in the summertime. I originally traveled to the Uvas Canyon in search of the waterfalls that lied at the end of specific trails as checkpoints, but to my prejudged disappointment, the California drought took a toll on the waterfalls’ lives leaving most of them dry and naked. My dismay, however, did not last long because though the waterfalls were not running, they left behind soothing wading ponds on the face of each hill secluded from the trails. The location of the wading ponds was hands down amongst the top five locations I’ve been to for meditation and spiritual cleansing in the Bay Area as I’ve grown a fond affinity to its equanimity.

Specifically, off the path at the end of the Waterfall Loop Trail contains a genuinely serene and calm pool, a sanctuary concealed from mankind whilst immersed in untainted natural beauty and purity. At first glance, you may underestimate the value of this refuge by its simplicity; however if you allow yourself to truly take in the aura physically, mentally, and spiritually, you’ll smell the crisp yet rustic scent of air as it enters through your nose and massages your brain, you’ll hear the trees and the wind bicker and gossip with one another, you’ll see the finely crafted masterpiece Mother Nature has painted through lush green pastels and her finger painted leaves, you’ll enjoy the performance of the gerridae as they elegantly dance on the water more delicate than any mortal ballerina, but most importantly, you’ll feel the blood circulating through every vein in your body, the weight of all your internal organs, the presence of your exclusive life and how you specifically fit into this picture. I challenge you, the reader, to stray from the flow of societal construct and become a beast of nature just for a day, to absorb and get intact with your roots and rediscover your purpose in life if you haven’t already done so. I challenge you to face your fear of the unknown and make peace with the consistently clashing war of the mind, body, and soul, to get lost in order to become familiar with the organic essence of life outside of mankind. Go for it.

…and if you don’t want to read my rant, here’s a quick summary of notes and expectations:

Location: Morgan Hills, CA
Recommended time of day to go: Before sunset (the park closes at sunset)
Places Close-By: Loma Prieta
Good for: Hiking, Camping, Dog Walking, Spiritual Cleansing, Nature Shots

Landmarks: “Sam’s Castle”

sam'scastle3

South of the city of San Francisco lies the town of Pacifica; a quaint, peaceful getaway from the city-paced lifestyle. The town harbors the Pacific Ocean, homing fishing docks and beaches along with various family-owned shops, boutiques, and restaurants that add to the overall ambiance away from gentrification. If you decide to walk the docks, you’re certain to spot at least one retired surfer glorifying his youthful days ripping the tides at the Mavericks, yearning to share his nostalgia and stories in order to relive another time. Today, however, my means for visiting Pacifica lied in the constant rumors about a castle.

Sam’s Castle or McCloskey Castle was a landmark that piped my interest for both its interesting yet eerie history as well as the blatant fact that it was a castle in the bay area. I’m not an expert on the history of the castle, but from my understanding it was constructed around the 1900’s as a means for an earthquake refuge house by a wealthy man; however it would turn from a place for illegal abortions, to a Prohibition-era nightclub, to a World War II lookout tower. Today the castle is blocked off from the general public surrounded by a cement wall and security cameras, though I’m aware that they offer tours for a price. Myself being on a college-student budget and just enjoying independent exploration, I skipped the tour and decided to drive to the castle myself.

When I first arrived at the castle, I thought my navigation had misguided me as it directed me into the midst of a present-day neighborhood and told me to drive straight up a hill that my car would have succumbed to if I had attempted to venture up. I decided to park my car at the bottom of the hill with the other residential parking and hike up on my own, discovering that Sam’s Castle was indeed located at the top, neighboring local residents. The view of both Pacifica and the Pacific Ocean from the castle was remarkable and it made perfect sense why this venue was once used as a watchtower. Quite honestly, I wasn’t in the law-breaking mood today; therefore my overall experience for the castle relied on gaping and tip toeing over the cement wall from the outside as opposed to getting a better look from the inside.

As I stared at the castle, I wondered why the architect wanted the format of his house to be a castle as castle construction was quite far-off even for 100 years ago. I also thought of the various groups of people that had probably ventured up the same hill I had throughout time, all carrying completely different means for attending this symbol of oddness. I imagined the women holding feelings of guilt and unholiness as they whispered to their unborn children their final words of sorrow and begs of forgiveness for cutting their lives short, or the unsung rebels sneaking alcohol into the castle to unwind from the constricting values of society, or the WWII soldiers peering into the horizon awaiting any signs of enemy activity. The castle itself has become an accurate reflection of its obscure design, the people passing to and fro throughout history becoming the characteristics and depth hidden and embedded within the infrastructure.

Overall, if you’re passing through Pacifica via Highway 1, you don’t necessarily have to visit the castle like I did; however all I ask is for you to keep your eyes peeled for a unique yet overlooked slice of Bay Area history. It’s possible that pitching into a tour will enhance the experience, therefore if that’s your cup of tea, I believe you have to book tickets in advance!

…and if you don’t want to read my rant, here’s a quick summary of notes and expectations:

Location: Pacifica, CA
Recommended time of day to go: Daytime
Places Close-By: Pacifica Municipal Pier, Oceana High School, Eureka Square Shopping Center
Good for: Sight-seeing

sam'scastle2 sam'scastle sam'scastle5

Landmarks: Mary Avenue Bridge

maryavenue1

The Mary Avenue Bridge is perhaps one of the most underrated gems of the San Francisco Bay Area. Being hidden within the cuts of Cupertino crossing over Interstate 280, this bridge is the forgotten, neglected, yet upcoming sister living in the shadows of the other more well-renowned and celebrated Bay Area bridges. When is the best time to pay this bridge a visit? As seen through the pictures, it only comes to life at night when the lights shine the brightest, in other words, when she finally lets her hair down to unwind. Unlike other highway overpasses that stereotypically resemble a concrete slab with rusty fences, catering towards rebellious teenagers or kids up-to-no-good, the Mary Avenue Bridge invites families, dog walkers, bikers, romantic couples, and of course, the girl walking with the awkward guy trying to spark romanticism but failing in such a picture-perfect-cliche-environment from what I observed.

I have a soft spot for bridges as they both contain the pleasures of overseeing a particular view spot specific to the representation of the area’s culture combined with the aspect that the bridge itself is the finished art product of an artist, which always seems to be forgotten. At night, the Mary Avenue Bridge satisfies both concepts of solstice and masterpiece; however I cannot be sure if it does the same in the daytime due to the fact that traffic must be rampant during light hours, most likely creating a completely different atmosphere. Overall, I feel that if you find yourself in the South Bay during the late hours, the Mary Avenue Bridge is sure to supply comfort, awe, and/or appreciation to light up your night!

 

…and if you don’t want to read my rant, here’s a quick summary of notes and expectations:

Location: Cupertino, CA
Recommended time of day to go: Night
Places Close-By: Cupertino Memorial Park, The Oaks Shopping Center, De Anza College
Good for: Families, Walking, Running, Biking, Dog Walking, View Spot, Date Spot, Photography Spot

maryavenue2

Parks: Alviso Marina County Park

alviso1

A door, a porch, and a multitude of house structures wandered aimlessly around the park as the sun bid them farewell, eclipsing their uncanny existences. To see this spectacle is to visit the “Alviso Marina County Park” located on the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay. The park is home to various marsh inhabitants and plant life, surrounded by various bird roosting posts shaped like houses and a few weathered docks. The prime time to go is sunset, you’ll see the parking lots fill up within the hour before as people crowd to see the spectacle of the sun setting behind the bay. If you’re a nature or outdoor enthusiast or simply someone that loves sunsets and long walks on the beach, (in this retrospect the bay), this is an excellent park well worth the visit.

…and if you don’t want to read my rant, here’s a quick summary of notes and expectations:

Location: Alviso, CA
Recommended time of day to go: Sunset
Places Close-By: Coyote Creek, Sunnyvale Baylands Park
Good for: spiritual cleansing, photography, date spot, walking, running, biking, bird watching

"A door to the bay"

“A door to the bay”

Sunset behind the bay

Sunset behind the bay

Daniel with the marshlands and sunset as backdrop.

Daniel with the marshlands and sunset as backdrop.

Bird Roosting Structure.

Bird Roosting Post.

Landmarks: “Sutro Baths & Camera Obscura”

Sutro Baths

Feeling dirty? Head to the Sutro Baths for a cleanse…spiritual cleanse that is. It’s been over 50 years now since the pool establishment was in business, today standing as archaic ruins from what was left of its physical destruction. Though the place is merely a landmark, the location and ambiance is truly riveting and therapeutic..if you go on the appropriate day. I managed to pay the baths a visit on a quiet Thursday afternoon descending the fog rolling out; therefore the weather was phenomenal and lacked people seldom the few tourists. The ocean breeze massaging my body combined with the salutary sounds of the Pacific crashing into the coast whilst I stood on the edge of the baths left me in a state of tranquility and content, as if, you guessed it, I took a bath. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Cliff House vicinity and while you’re at it, you might as well drop by the “Giant Camera” or “Camera Obscura”. If you’re the kind of person that gets a knack out of quirky huge camera houses like yours truly, check it out as it’s literally behind the Cliff House. 

Overall, you should pay a visit to the Sutro Baths regardless of if you’re looking for an internal reboot or just a cool piece of San Francisco history to check out. On another note, I highly recommend looking at the forecast and fog times before heading over depending on if gloomy or warm is your cup of tea or coffee since the weather obviously dictates the experience. In addition, as mentioned earlier, I visited on a Thursday afternoon; however I am unaware if this landmark becomes more or less populated depending on time of day and/or day of the week. 

 

 

…and if you don’t want to read my rant, here’s a quick summary of notes and expectations:

Location: San Francisco, CA (Cliff House)
Recommended time of day to go: Daytime or Sunset
Places Close-By: Ocean Beach, San Francisco Zoo, The Presidio, Golden Gate Park
Good for: spiritual cleansing, photography, date spot

Additional Pictures:

The quizzical "Camera Obscura" house capturing the Cliff House environment physically and figuratively.

The quizzical “Camera Obscura” house capturing the Cliff House environment physically and figuratively.

The view of Ocean Beach from the Cliff House.

The view of Ocean Beach from the Cliff House.

My friend Danielle exploring the cave juxtaposing the Sutro Baths.

My friend Danielle exploring the cave juxtaposing the Sutro Baths.

Additional angle of the Sutro Baths.

Additional angle of the Sutro Baths.

Parks: “Coyote Point”

“Sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away” is literally how I passed time last Thursday afternoon at Coyote Point. Coyote Point provides a multitude of activities to partake in depending on your mood ranging from walking, running, or biking on the Bay Trail or Bluff Trail, shooting at the rifle range, camping in the recreation area, observing native wildlife at Coyote Point’s hybrid museum and zoo “CuriOdyssey”, and boat watching or riding (if you own your own boat) at the Yacht Harbor. If you wish to drive and leave your car within the park, it’s a six dollar fee; however I found out it’s accessible for free if you were to stop your car on the outskirts and access through the Bay Trail on foot or bike, just a head’s up. The various recreational choices offered creates an atmosphere friendly to people of all ages, satisfying varying interests as there’s sure to be at least one diversion amongst the plethora to please each individual. Personally, the area that spoke to me out of the array was the Yacht Harbor, hence my pulled cliche from Otis Redding as an introduction.

If anyone ever asked me to describe the San Francisco Bay in one sentence, it would be “Go to Coyote Point’s Yacht Harbor and see for yourself”. Undoubtedly the Yacht Harbor encompasses the true essence and vibe of the SF Bay, which is difficult to explain through words but better defined through sheer experience. From a visual perspective, the harbor arguably has one of the best views of the San Francisco Bay from the peninsula point on a sunny summer day. If you’re daring enough to navigate to the edge of the coastal rocks, you’ll literally be surrounded by the bay from all angles, allowing you to see the city of San Francisco (if the fog permits, which it did for me), San Francisco International Airport, Oakland to Hayward, and the San Mateo Bridge. This view alone provides a captivating image of the Bay Area; however adding onto the ambiance is the sound and view of the subtle waves, delicately rolling in and out of the harbor, gentle like a rocking chair lulling a restless soul. Furthermore the presence of both boats entering and exiting the harbor, likewise airplanes and SFO, creates a notable combination of opposing emotions that together depict the exclusive character of the Bay Area. When I saw a boat sailing, I saw the peace and tranquility of the boat as it glided along the water, the tenderness of its journey translated through the soft ripples and smooth sailing it produced. The sailboats represented the homeliness and comfort of the Bay Area, the overall mellow yet sensitive traits of Bay Area culture. On the other end, when I saw an airplane during initial departure or arrival, I saw and heard the true power and speed of the plane, the strength of the engine and craft that becomes unrecognizable before it blends into the sky. The planes represented the myriad of cultures from around the world contributing to the overall powerful expansion and growth of diversity, as if showcasing the Bay Area as a mini harbor to the inhabitants of our planet.

I sat and watched as planes came and went from San Francisco airport, analyzing each individual plane as a harness to a score of entities. It was flabbergasting to believe each plane contained such a variety of independent journeying minds and souls, as if every plane resembled a library filled with distinctive stories. It made me wonder if I’d ever unknowingly had the privilege to read any of these stories or if I ever would in my physical current life, realizing how much life and this world has to offer and how little I truly understand; a remarkably humbling phenomena.

Overall, Coyote Point is an excellent selection if you wish to escape from the bustling routines of daily life for inhaling the therapeutic aroma of the bay. Regardless of age or group numbers, the park has a vast amount to offer, therefore there shouldn’t be a problem for lack of recreation. And if you just so happen to cherish a mind as quirky and quizzical as yours truly, I promise airplane watching with the backdrop of the city will mesmerize you.

 

…and if you don’t want to read my rant, here’s a quick summary of notes and expectations:

Location: San Mateo, CA
Recommended time of day to go: Daytime or Sunset
Places Close-By: Poplar Creek Golf Course, San Francisco International Airport, San Mateo Central Park
Good for: relaxation, outdoor recreation, boat watching, children and families, date spot, photography

Below:
Picture 1 – Anchor at the Yacht Harbor
Picture 2 – Boats parked at the Yacht Harbor
Picture 3 – My friend Danielle along the coastal beach
Picture 4 – Monument along the Bluff Trail
Picture 5 – Danielle at the coastal beach with the park in the horizon
Picture 6 – Sailboat from the coastal rocks

Landmarks: “The Albany Bulb”

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is all I thought as I navigated through the intriguing yet bizarre Albany Bulb. The Albany Bulb itself is a landfill, composing slabs of concrete, brick, and the odds and ends of undesirable and/or unwanted materials transformed into both a park and outdoor art exhibit. Call it your modern day Island of Misfits come to life, except replace the cute cuddly characters with towering recycled waste sculptures and the winter wonderland with a graffiti paradise.

When first entering the Albany Bulb, it appeared as your everyday outdoor park with a few folks walking dogs along a dirt trail with common weeds as the perimeter and kids flying kites, contributing to the norm. As my friend and I advanced through the trail, we came to notice a shift of ambiance, as slabs of concrete and bricks painted and tagged with street art frequented throughout the ongoing pathway. Eventually we came across the mother load as we encountered hundreds of designed and decorated rocks, all compiled together leading to a house. As we ventured through the unorthodox mural towards the house, we noticed that the house too was graffittied both internally and externally; however the graffiti produced on the house was beyond captivating. The two-story house radiated with a variety of colors and tags, standing out as the most prominent and complete piece amongst the other rocks. The house being the conclusion of the rock art reminded me that of a foster home for the neglected waste, as if the house welcomed these smaller pieces of denied rubble as new entities with meaningful life purposes that the rest of the world failed to appreciate. It was as though the house was home to the forgotten, a place of new beginnings and freedom of judgment. Surprisingly, this house was not the end of the trail, it was only the halfway point to something even more eccentric and abnormal.

As my friend and I came to the end of the trail, we saw in the distance a silhouette of a woman holding her hands to the heavens. Getting a little closer, we came to analyze the women as a gigantic statue produced from recycled wood and rubbish. Furthermore, we looked around only to find more gigantic structures of people surrounding the coast: a man, two men sitting side-by-side, and a man in a red cape riding what appeared to be a dragon. The vibe of the area felt eerie, a bit unnatural, and the silence and lack of real people contributed to the uncanny environment as though my friend and I had stumbled upon “Land of the Lost”. However, going back to the woman, there was something strangely fascinating about her that I couldn’t decipher. It came across my mind that she was the metaphor of the Albany Bulb. A production of scraps and rubbish reincarnated and bonded together to create an image of grace and freedom was the collaborative message I concluded from her. In other words, one can truly make anything out of something with an open mind.

Overall, I don’t know if I’ll be returning to the Albany Bulb, but I do believe that one should experience this Wonderland in person at least once. I highly commend the creativity and craft of the artists who produced such vivid images and pieces and I truly appreciated their masterpieces. Whether you’re an art fanatic or a dog walker, (maybe both like yours truly), the Albany Bulb’s offset setting is sure to grasp the attention of all.

…and if you don’t want to read my rant, here’s a quick summary of notes and expectations:

Location: Albany, CA
Recommended time of day to go: Anytime of day before sunset
Other Similar Places Close-By: Point Isabel, Golden Gate Fields, Berkeley Marina
Good for: art enthusiasts, dog walkers, kite fliers, wind surfers, photographers

Below:
Picture 1 – Statue of Freedom
Picture 2 – Bike Racks
Picture 3 – Rock Art
Picture 4 – Daniel gazing at SF across the bay
Picture 5 – House of Misfits
Picture 6 – Noble Knight taming the Dragon

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