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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Next Group Walk: Heron's Head & India Basin in San Francisco--November 22nd, 2014

Heron's Head
November 22nd, 2014
Heron's Head & India Basin
San Francisco
9:45 am to whenever!

Once destined to be a shipping terminal but now a protected salt marsh, Heron's Head is an intriguing place to explore.

As you walk down the long, narrow man-made peninsula of Heron's Head, you're confronted with remarkable contrasts. There's industry on one side--for what its worth, along with hundreds of seagulls, massive ships and crusty, rusty warehouses--while on your other side lies a glassy, bird-filled salt marsh. And at the tip of the heron's head you face east, where Oakland lies across the choppy bay and Mount Diablo rises, purple and jagged, on the horizon. You got birds, you got seals, you got boats. Its quiet and noisy, and cool and strange in that way where industrialization contends with nature.

Meeting Time and Place:
Heron's Head entrance/parking lot  
Cargo Way and Jennings Street, San Francisco

Our route is completely flat, and maybe 1.5 to 2 miles long if you include India Basin. It is stroller friendly, though there are some packed dirt trails. Please no dogs, because Heron's Head is a bird sanctuary.

I hope to have a picnic at India Basin Playground. I recommend bringing a picnic blanket, food, and water. The whole things should be 2 to 3 hours. There are port-o-potties at Heron's Head, and nothing but swings, structures, and a view at the playground.

Come because it's fun, free, and your kids will love running around in the sun, checking out new things.

Jessica and Marshall
(parents of three little ones)

If you have questions, email Jess at jericahahn@hotmail.com


The EcoCenter and Literacy for Environmental Justice Website

Port of San Francisco's Web Page about Heron's Head Parkwith a link to a bird field guide specifically for Heron's Head Park

Bay Natives, native plant nursery at Cargo Way and Jennings Street

Blue Greenway, a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly corridor that will connect Heron's Head and other waterfront parks in the city

View Larger Map

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Upcoming Group Hike on BAYVIEW HILL! October 26th, 2014

Ever wondered about that wild looking hill beside Candlestick Park as you drive into or out of San Francisco on the 101? You know the one. Maybe not by name--Bayview Hill Park--but you've seen the eucalyptus groves, the big craggy rocks, at least peripherally as you travel north or south.

Bayview Hill is a forty-seven acre park and natural resource area. Not only is the place rife with birds, especially raptors, the last stands of the native Islais cherry, a food source for the Ohlone people, grow here, and there's been sightings of the endangered Mission Blue butterfly. Manmade things of note  include WPA walls built in the 1930s, and an Art Deco radio building from 1934.

How can one not be curious of such an AWESOME sounding place? 

Bayview in greener days. Photographer: Chris Carlsson
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26th, 2014
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
1.5 mile
paved, mostly flat route


Bayview Hill is perhaps surprisingly a great place to walk with kids and strollers: an old road that's closed to cars leads from Key Avenue to the top of the hill, where another road circles the apex. Total mileage is 1.5, more or less.

The initial road is steep, but two-and-a-half year olds, or three year olds, manage it fine. This is great place to bring your strollers. If in doubt, bring it.

The views on a clear day show you every geographical feature in the area, and beyond: McLaren Park, the San Francisco Bay, San Bruno Mountain, Mount Diablo, and San Francisco, looking north.

With a picnic lunch up top, and rests whenever you need it, you go at your pace--there's nothing organized about this beyond a chance to walk with other families at a certain time, with aspirations for a group picnic somewhere.

 Pregnant people and babies welcome! Calling this a "hike" is kind of a misnomer. It's a stroll, a ramble, a jaunt, a slow walk. Three year olds rule the day.

Plan about three hours, but  come and go as you please.


  • Meet between 9:45 and 10:00 AM at the gated eastern end of Key Avenue (cross street is Jennings). The closest house to our meeting place is 938 Key Avenue( 94124). Parking is a challenge in this residential cul-de-sac, so you might take the first space you can a block away.
  • We start walking at 10:15. If I get a text message--my cell is (415) 577-7934--that you're running late, I can stall til 10:20 or so. :-) If you're very late don't worry, just head uphill on foot. There's no way to get lost on one road.
  • Picnic somewhere on the southern or western side of the hilltop. Bring your food and water. 
Bayview in the 20s. From Found SF.org.


Public Transportation:

  • T 3rd light rail stops a couple blocks away
Southbound 101:
  • Exit 3rd Street
  • Follow signs for 3rd Street/Bayshore Blvd N
  • Stay right at the fork and follow signs for 3rd St/Bayshore Blvd S
  • Left on Bayshore Blvd
  • Continue on 3rd St
  • Right at Key Ave
Northbound 101:
  • Exit 429B/3rd Street
  • Right on Key Ave


SF Park and Rec:

SF Natural Areas:

Found SF:

Bay Nature Magazine:

Hope you can join the fun, and feel welcome to bring others, or spread the word. The more, the merrier!

Jessica and Marshall
(parents of a 5 y.o. and twin 16 month olds)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Photo Recap of the Junipero Serra Park Hike from May, 2014

It was late spring when a group of us--many new faces, too--showed up at Junipero Serra Park, an easy to miss natural area west of 280 and south of Serramonte Mall, ten minutes from San Francisco. 

We walked about a mile and half in the 108-acre park, circling and rising high into the park on Quail Loop Trail, mostly walking under coast live oaks. Our picnic was at the Upper Meadow Playground, then we meandered downhill, resting at the base of the park where El Zanjon Creek flows.
Strollers on the trails -- did just fine, despite the dirt trail and me taking folks the long way
There's a phenomenal playground near the peak of Junipero Serra Park, including a 50 foot long slide
 Opportunity to sit on Dad's lap
Family togetherness

Sun kissed baby

Kids in the golden grass

The looks of knowing you've had fun after a day in the oak woods and California grasslands


Southbound on 280: Exit Crystal Springs Road, staying in the right lane. Right on Crystal Springs Road, continue half mile or so to parking lot on left side.

Northbound on 280: Exit San Bruno Ave, go under freeway, turn left to go on 280 southbound. Follow directions, above -- whew!

Address: 1801 Crystal Springs road, San Bruno, CA 94066

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Photo Recap of the Father's Day Group Hike at Fort Funston

The group of us--some regulars to these Hill Babies group hikes, others new--met up on the cliffs above Fort Funston in San Francisco, June 15, 2014.  

We took the Step Ladder Trail to Ocean Beach, passing under hang gliders and faint clouds, and picnicked on the sand. Some left after playing and eating, but a group of us continued on to complete the Low Tide Loop

The water licked at our heels, the tide coming in, kids screeching with happiness, giddy at the constant motion of water and wind. Dogs leapt through the surf, chasing birds and balls. Babies laughed, kids clambered up sand slopes, and parents just enjoyed being outside on one great day with no real agenda but wandering around. 
A great place for a hike

Kids on the scree slope
Bare footin it

Sea foam on Ocean Beach
Two dads
Two more dads
Waving arms, walking big 
The excitement of escaping the oncoming tide
The noble dog
Nature slide
Good people, all 

Monday, September 15, 2014

September 27, 2014 Hike: McLaren Park and Charity and the Jam Band!

Jerry Garcia Amphitheater
This hike begins at the Louis Sutter Roundhouse playground in McLaren Park, and ends at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater. 

We are soooo lucky that there's a FREE concert, and Charity and the Jam Band are playing! It's a high energy band that plays "people's music" that kids LOVE--see their website here.

What more could you ask for? Sunshine, a walk with your loved ones, new friends, and live music! See you on the 27th!

Jessica and Marshall
(parents of Genevieve, Zoe, and Calliope)

The Details
  • Saturday, September 27, 2014
  • Meet between 10:30-11 am at the Louis Sutter Playground alongside McNab Lake (near University and Woolsey Streets in the Portola neighborhood). There are bathrooms and drinking water, and two parking lots. 
  • Hike begins at 11:30. We'll begin by circling McNab Lake, keeping an observant eye out for coots, ducks, turtles, and little fish. Maybe we'll see an egret or heron. 
    • Then we will go uphill on a single-track dirt trail, suitable for all ages of walkers, or single-size off-road strollers. 
    • At the top of the hill, we can eat a leisurely lunch and enjoy the view. Bring picnic food and water.
    • Time permitting, we'll cross Mansell Avenue to the McLaren Park Observation Tower OR we explore the single-track trails above the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, looking for hawks and scrub jays as we walk past the coyote brush and under the Monterey pines. 
  • Arrive at the Charity and the JamBand Show by 1:00. The show, located at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, is free and fun. You'll find bathrooms, water, and kiosks with snacks for sale. 
  • Leave when you want. The group part of the hike basically ends at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, as some folks will want to stay and boogie down, and some may want to wander on. 
    McLaren Park
  • Regarding dogs, if you have one -- Please consider the group's comfort level and the fact that some children are nervous around dogs, especially high energy and medium-large sized ones. Absolutely friendly dogs are welcome, but please predict your dog's behavior around a group of hyper kids before you grab that leash.  Thanks!  
Via car to the Louis Sutter Playground: From Portola Avenue in southeastern San Francisco, head west on Woolsey Street. The street ends at University. You can park here, or zig zag to the left into the McLaren Park driveway that leads to a small parking lot. A second parking lot is located around the corner, off of Yale Street (cross street is Wayland)

Via car to the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater: This amphitheater is located off of John F. Shelly Drive in McLaren Park. There is a free parking lot, but you can park along John F. Shelley Drive too.

Public Transportation: 

  • The 54 Felton will take you near Louis Sutter Playground along University. 
  • The 29 Sunset drives through McLaren Park on Mansell, a short distance above  both the Louis Sutter Playground and the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater. 
  • The 52 Excelsior stops a couple blocks from the west border of the park, at Persia and Russia. 

View Louis Sutter Playground Roundhouse in a larger map

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Father's Day Hike and Picnic on the Beach Below Fort Funston --- June 15, 2014

With only days to spare, one can't expect a big turn-out, but Sunday sure will be a good day for a walk from Fort Funston to the beach below.

This hike is open to all, but especially meant for folks with kids. It's Father's Day, which is great, but also TOTALLY welcome are grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, single parents, same-sex parents, anybody!

The Details
The stairs going down to beach

  • June 15, 2014
  • Meet at 10:30ish in the main parking lot, near the beach lookout beside the hang-glider area, located in the westernmost end of the parking lot.  We will walk at 11
  • The whole hike will probably be two hours long, but come and go as you please! :-)
  • This is not stroller friendly, sorry! The steps and the beach make bringing a stroller impossible. You will need to carry babies and your bags. Both my husband and I will be carrying a baby, and a bag. If we all go slow, it's fun! Keep in mind that it is manageable for a 3 or 4 year old
  • Fort Funston is off-leash dog territory. I've never had a problem there, and don't anticipate a problem. Then again, I keep my kid close and don't encourage petting unknown dogs on walks anyways. 
  • Regarding your dog, if you got one---please think of the group. Some dogs get kind of intense, and that's not fun for little kids and other parents to be around. Fort Funston is full of dogs, and nobody is boss of you, but if you bring your dog, I hope he/she is absolutely friendly. If you have a dog that usually starts barking, yipping, straining at the leash, etc, please reconsider taking it on a group hike.  Thanks! 

The Hike
  • We will do part of the Low Tide Loop Hike. We will probably start in a southern direction, down the Step Ladder Trail leading down to the beach. It's utterly beautiful--amazing views and landscape. You can, if you want, just choose to walk down the steps and play at the beach, then retrace your route back to your car. Or you can carry on, doing the whole loop, which is 2.5 miles. (Please note that there is a chance that my family might just do the Step Ladder Trail and hang out at the beach, not the entire Low Tide Loop).
  • There is a port-o-potty and drinking water at the parking lot. 

We hope to see you on the hike, and look forward to it! 
--Jessica and Marshall, parents of Zoe, Calliope, and Genevieve

• Going southbound on CA 35 in San Francisco, pass John Muir Drive, take the first right (signed Fort Funston). Stay right and go on to the parking lot.
• Going northbound on CA 35, make a U-turn at John Muir Drive. Proceed southbound and take the first right (signed Fort Funston). Stay right and go on to the parking lot.

View Fort Funston in a larger map

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Upcoming Group Hike for May 2014: Junipero Serra Park

Have you heard of Junipero Serra Park? If you drive south of San Francisco on 280, chances are you have passed this modest looking forest-covered hill to the east, never knowing that a 108-acre park is there, where El Zanjon Creek runs and coast live oaks grow in profusion. Join us here for a kid-friendly group hike here on Saturday May 31st, for about two hours (11 am to 1 pm).
The Hike Details
We'll take an unhurried 1.3 mile-long walk, starting on the zig-zagging southern end of the Quail Loop Trail. There's lots of shade here, by the way. The trail is dirt and narrowish. I've used a jogging stroller for my twins here, and will probably bring it again, though I remember it being tough in parts.

We'll have snacks and rest for a while at the Upper Meadow Playground near the summit of the park. There is some elevation change (219 feet), but we'll take it slow. There is also an enormous 54-foot long slide at the playground at the top, and great views looking north and east. If your kid loves airplanes, she will go gaga for all the planes taking off from SFO.

We'll continue on our loop, going downhill now to where things level out, more or less. Back at the parking lot we can return to the DeAnza Playground area where we began, and hang out for a leisurely picnic lunch.

Last Thing
Bring your own food and water. Since this is a San Mateo County Park, it costs $6 per car. Sorry, no dogs allowed here. Official park info is here:  http://parks.smcgov.org/junipero-serra-park If you need more information, email me at jericahahn@hotmail.com. Hope to see you and your kid(s)! Grandparents, aunties, and uncles welcome too!

Cheers, Jess

The Important Details

Saturday May 31st, 2014

Arrive 10:30ish. Walk begins at 11. 

Meet on the right/south end of the parking lot, 
at the DeAnza Playground. 

Little kids LOVE Junipero Serra Park!
Southbound on 280: Exit Crystal Springs Road, keeping in the right lane. Turn right on Crystal Springs Road, going on about half a mile to the parking lot on the left side of the road.

Northbound on 280: Exit San Bruno Ave, going under the freeway, turn left to go back on 280 southbound. Exit Crystal Springs Road, keeping in the right lane. Turn right on Crystal Springs Road, going on about half a mile to the parking lot on the left side of the road.

1801 Crystal Springs Road
San Bruno, CA 94066

And babies LOVE Junipero Serra Park too!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Upcoming Hike for February 2014: Redwood Regional Park in the Oakland Hills

Redwood Regional Park
Credit: Our Oakland
Join my husband and I, and friends John and Rebecca, and all of our little kids for a group hike at Redwood Regional Park in the Oakland hills

We will walk on a stroller-friendly trail, a mile in and a mile out, along Redwood Creek where towering redwoods, fragrant bay laurels, and beautiful madrones grow. 

  • Sunday February 16th
  • Arrive at 10:45. We'd like to start walking at 11. 
We start at Canyon Meadow, close to the park office, fire station, and a historical fishway interpretive site, a historical landmark. You'll find Canyon Meadow just through Redwood Gate, off of Redwood Road. 

We will walk the Stream Trail where the air is clean and moist. Stream Trail is only 0.9 miles long, and its asphalt surface easily accommodates strollers. We'll visit a meadow with a play structure (bars and slides) for the kids to explore. If we're lucky we might see deer, or a rabbit, or hear a Great Horned Owl. 

Note that there is a $5 parking fee, and if you bring your very friendly dog, that'll be another $2. 

Redwood Regional Park
There are 1,800 acres in this important watershed park, and it's just a short distance from the bustle of Oakland. Back in the mid-1800s, loggers cut down the biggest redwoods to supply the demand for building materials, for homes and ships, during Gold Rush times. Though the redwoods you'll see on our hike are second and third generation, they are nothing to sniff about, reaching over a hundred feet tall. 

Hill Babies--What's this hike about?
No hidden agendas, just some old-fashioned fun. Though we go at a four-year-old's pace, big kids are encouraged to come and go as fast as they like. Sometimes it's all about just getting out of the house and meeting up with some people who want to be outside with kids, and in Mother Nature's playground. 

Directions from San Francisco

View Larger Map

Directions Going eastbound on I-580 in Oakland, take the 35th Avenue Exit. Turn left, going east on 35th Avenue, which becomes Redwood Road. Go about four and a half miles, crossing Skyline Boulevard, and look for park entrance signs. The main entrance, Redwood Gate, is on Redwood Road, about two miles east of Skyline Boulevard. 

Good Links

Monday, January 20, 2014

Rancho Corral de Tierra

Old Pedro Mountain Road

Rancho Corral de Tierra is less than half an hour south of San Francisco by car, situated close to the Pacific Ocean, off of Highway 1, and straddles the mountains behind the communities of Montara, Moss Beach, and El Granada. There's 4,000 acres here, criss-crossed by creeks flowing through the chaparral and coastal scrub habitats. In certain spots the view of the western horizon is so expansive, one can see the curve of the earth along the blue Pacific Ocean.

Who says strollers are for kids?
I came here for my first time in January of 2014, brought by a friend and former co-worker, Mike Cadigan.We worked as special education teachers and led the school's hiking club, and recently re-connected at the Hill Babies group hike in December of 2013 on Bayview Hill in San Francisco. Mike has always been the one to ask about hikes on the peninsula. He still leads hikes with ICO, and I think the Sierra Club too. So when we asked if I'd been to Rancho Corral de Tierra, and learned that I hadn't, he suggested a Hill Babies hike here. Though he doesn't have little kids, he brought his seventeen year old pooch, replete with a doggie stroller.

The hike began in the parking lot of Farallone View Elementary School in Montara. Though it was the weekend, the school's playground was open to use, and local kids and parents were having fun. We walked to the end of Le Conte Avenue, passing alpacas standing in a field to our right, and the kids grabbed brooms of pampas grass and shook them high (yes, pampas grass is a terrible, invasive species, and I know better than to let kids strew the seeds everywhere, but they're kids and it's fun).

There were two trails at the end of Le Conte Avenue, and we took the one branching to the right.

The little bridge
We headed northeast on a trail through the dense foliage, ending at intersection of Tamarind and Edison Streets. The trail continued where Tamarind Street ended, over a footbridge and into the woods.

The bulk of our hike was on an old road turned into a trail, still called Pedro Mountain Road. According to this article on Wikipedia, Pedro Mountain Road was first mentioned in 1769 when it was described as "a very bad road"---those these days it's just perfect for strollers and anyone wanting to walk with a little elbow room around fellow hikers.

Pedro Mntn. Road
We followed Pedro Mountain Road down, down, down, traversing chaparral and coastal scrub habitats. The sun shone brightly. We were far from the forest now. We walked over a mile it seemed, gradually downhill. In the back of my mind I was thinking, "Oh boy, this is gonna be a long uphill trek at the end of the day," but I was curious to see where the road would lead, and what the day would be like. Kids ran around, playing and laughing, and babies giggled.

We reached a horse farm that delighted the kids who could watch the geldings and mares stand in the sunshine and swish their tails. I was impressed that the kids didn't mind at all the stench of horse crap as a group of them, my eldest daughter included, stood on the edge of a very large manure bin and admired the horses.

The "Troll Bridge"
We followed Pedro Mountain Road over a bridge that we called the Troll Bridge, a good twenty feet over a deep ditch. I believe, though I'm unsure, that this is where Martini Creek must flow during wetter winters than this one. Though there weren't any sounds of running water, the slope to the creek bed was lush and thick with plant life. Overhead the eucalyptus rustled in the breeze.

Across the Troll Bridge, the trail forked at North Peak Access Road. We went left, and a dozen yards up, connected to the right back onto Pedro Mountain Road. I could see a port-o-pottie in the distance, so conveniently placed.

At this point, over an hour into the walk, still under the hot sun, the kids were dropping like flies. I mean it. For them, this had become the Bantu Death March. Down dropped a family, right into the road. "The kids... Hungry... Tired," they said as they unwrapped sandwiches and popped container lids. Overhead a hawk circled.

"Mike," I said, nudging my old co-worker who was pushing along his happy-go-lucky dog. "Maybe we should stop now for lunch?"

"Just beyond that port-o-pottie is an amazing place," he said, pointing at the road curving out of sight beyond the chaparral. "It's just a quarter mile up. You can make it."

The picnic spot
And I did, and so did several other families. Once we rounded the bend in the road you could see a grassy field and picnic tables, a few Monterey cypress scenically poised, and beyond, the big oceanic blue contending with the paler wash of late afternoon light in a blue California winter sky. It was lovely.

We ate, and then we played. We brought along a parachute for the kids to dance and jump underneath, brining back memories of doing the same in my childhood.

Good hike!
We retraced our route, this time going uphill on Pedro Mountain Road, though the walk seemed shorter. At some particularly whiny point, the tiniest babies were taken out of their strollers and carried on their parents' backs, while the three and four year old set piled into the strollers for a first class ride back up Pedro Mountain Road. Little prince and princesses!

Back at Farallone View Elementary School, the kids wanted to play at the playground, and we adults were happy to oblige. We left a few hairs before sunset. The kids were finally pooped, while us adults actually felt like we got quite a hike. I'd like to return here again, and explore Pedro Mountain Road more, going uphill, as far as it can go, though I might have to hire a babysitter for the kids.