"All good things are wild and free." --Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Heron’s Head Park

On the southeastern shoreline of San Francisco, birds are coming back, and native plants like sea plantain, coming back to a place called Heron’s Head Park which has undergone a phoenix-like transformation from its original incarnation as landfill. At least 68 or so native species have been planted here, one at a time, many by local school kids. Literally thousands of tons of debris were hauled away in the making of Heron’s Head Park, some years ago. Ever since the sea-change to bring back the marshlands occurred in relatively recent times, people are working hard to make places like this not only good for humans, but also for the local flora and fauna.

Heron’s Head Park juts out into the water like its namesake bird, and straddles two worlds—the old industrial one of warehouses built onto docks and hulking tankers, and the world of pickle weed, eelgrass and plovers. Along the walk there are interpretive signs on the local flora and fauna, and man’s impact. At the tip of the heron’s bill, so to speak, is a boulder-strewn area where you might spot a seal. You will certainly see a lot of birds.

Heron’s Head Park is also home to the Eco Center, built on a hillock by the main entrance. It claims to be the first environmental justice education facility in the Bay Area, and to that end it is both off-the-grid and plugged into the local community in terms of ecological education and outreach. It’s a very cool looking place with a living roof, a model marsh inside, and impressive water tanks.

This is a great spot for a stroll or a walk with a child. Dogs on leashes are welcome (but boy can dogs freak out nesting birds), and bicycling works too. There are about 25 acres here, with 8 acres (off-limits to humans and dogs) of intertidal marshlands, and all of it is flat. 

If you are game for extra exploration, follow the bay trail south along the former PG&E site—it’s all well marked with trails and some signs—to the India Basin playground. Further south is a Popeye-looking collection of ramshackle houses and boats, and then India Basin Park, another open space destined for marshland restoration, hopefully, in the near future.

Last Notes
If you liked this article, please click here to read about the Blue Greenway, a proposed trail system along SF’s southeastern shoreline.

 Click here to read a poem about Heron’s Head by Hallie Sinore.

Take 3rd Street to Cargo Way. Head east on Cargo to it’s end, where there is a parking lot at Heron’s Head Park.

Heron's Head Park Poem & Impressions by Guest Writer Hallie Sinore

Heron's Head Park
by Hallie Sinore

Never underestimate the power of moms to show up in numbers with their all-star babes on a beautiful day. That's what happened Friday 2.11.11 at Heron's Head Park parking lot and at the amazing Ecocenter. At noon, the parking lot went from empty to full in ten minutes flat. Maybe the wetlands were also part of the draw, offering stark contrast in terrain to last week's steep ascent. As for the babes - some were carried, some made us chase them, and others rode in strollers. Yet another babe was in the making!

This walk was forever flat, perfect for relaxing chat. The type of hike that doesn't call for a sense of direction - salt marsh water on both sides of the path, with a mirage of water at the end. Maybe it was real, you'll have to fill me in. We picniced as we do, just cause. I lost track of time and distance, until the turnaround.
Forever flat,
Water on both sides
Wetlands wet
Fill me in 
On path's end
Was it mirage 
Or real

Forever flat,
But blueberry round, 
All pregnant
With possibility.

Moderator's Note:
For more on Heron's Head and the Blue Greenway, please click here

Randall Museum and Corona Heights Hill

 If you have a young child, are in San Francisco, and have not yet been to the Randall Museum, you must go now. Seriously. It is one of those places that will titillate your child to no end—live animals from crows to quail, bunnies to hamsters, tortoises to snakes, a venerable 27-year-old red-tailed hawk, a beehive full of busy worker bees, and more, plus two playrooms full of toys and stuffed animals, a kid-sized caboose to cavort in, life-size cutouts of local animals (raccoon, opossum, coyote) that make peculiar noises, and gardens full of savvy finches who know school children drop their lunches. There are classes too, not just for kids, a woodshop, evening lectures on naturalia and astronomy, and a model train display. And most wondrous considering today’s capitalist society, the Randall Museum is free. Thank goodness for San Francisco’s Parks and Rec Department!

Lumbering behind and above the Randall Museum is Corona Heights, a craggy hill of folded chert of an orangish-reddish hue, laced with trails and staircases, and covered in a pelt of grass. From its apex you can see the clear blue triangle of Mount Diablo in the east, the Marin Headlands in the north, San Bruno Mountain to the south, and more hills of San Francisco to the west. Don’t skip the hike up the hill when you come to the Randall Museum. There is a half mile or so loop (and if you want to walk further, consider Buena Vista Park that you see to the west). If my one-and-a-half year old baby can climb the long and arduous staircase to the boulders on the top of Corona Heights, so could anyone else. There is nothing quite like the expansive feeling you get at the crest of a great hill, with the City and the bay spread out around you.

Randall Museum
Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Located at 199 Museum Way, San Francisco CA 94114. See website for more details.
Last Note
Please read this poem by Hallie Sinore about hiking Corona Heights hill with babies. Click here.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hike up Corona Heights in San Francisco

by Hallie Sinore  
Step into sky
Sift concrete away
Step into sky
Sift high noon higher
Upward, bouncing
Sun-heated breath
Step into sky
Feel green velvet grass 

Milk, orange, gravel
Swallow and share
Cling, downward dog
Babes we care
Mud puddle meets
Brave little lass
Who step after step
Bounces with pep
 Be there and go there
This peak and that one
Mud puddle was
High noon was high
All steppin'  descend
To do it again