Twin Peaks, San Francisco
Today we were a bit confused when we woke up. I have a radio wave clock and it showed the right time but Tom’s alarm was an hour ahead. It took some time to work that that in fact the clocks had gone back an hour during the night.
We hope it is not going to be foggy in the city today as we are off to Twin Peaks and the fantastic views of the bay and the city of San Francisco. It is a place I have never been to and have been keen to go to for a while. We are going to incorporate a stairway walk as well.
Our first stop was for breakfast and then it was off to find Twin Peaks. Fortunately we spotted a sign so followed it. The drive to the top was curvy and there were great glimpses of the fantastic views off to the right all the way up. Twin Peaks is exactly that – two identical peaks very close to each other. Round each peak is a one way road which is like a figure of 8. We headed for the small car park at the top. The Sutro Tower is one peak over.
My, the view is wonderful and almost 360 degrees. There was no fog but it was a bit hazy. We could see the San Francisco end of the Bay Bridge but not Oakland and the east bay. The top of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz and the whole of the city were laid out in front of us. The sun was bright so hoped the fog will burn off before we started our walk.
At first there were not many people around but within ten minutes a tour bus turned up and disgorged its passengers. Suddenly Tom was….
Tourists, tourists, tourists.
surrounded by a horde of French people, chattering loudly, all vying to get the best view in their allotted 10 minute stop. One visitor actually climbed to the top of the raining and swayed precariously while her partner took a picture. Almost as foolhardy as the guy who climbed over the railings at the Grand Canyon to sit on the edge of the cliff to have his photo taken. Then another tour bus arrived, this time the passengers were Japanese. They were far more thoughtful and courteous and didn’t crowd Tom or stand in front of his camera. I’m not decrying the French per se but was interested to see how differently the two cultures behaved.
While Tom clicked away I tried to pick out the landmarks. Of course the Transamerica Pyramid and the Bank of American buildings were easily spotted. Coit Tower was more difficult but I found it eventually. I worked out where Golden Gate Park was but only the extreme eastern end and the Pan Handle could be seen. There were a couple of hilltops nearby but didn’t know what they were. I checked Google Maps when I got home. The larger one was the Buena Vista Park and the smaller one Corona Heights Playground where the Randall Museum is situated. On a clear day we would be able to see Mounts Tamalpais and Diablo. We will have to come one morning before the sun rise – that would be a great shot.
The first two tour buses departed but their places were soon taken by two more buses. It was time to make a move before more buses arrived and we were completely crowded out.
We drove down Twin Peaks Blvd towards the city to find the start of our staircase walk – No. 13 in the third edition of Adah Bakalinsky’s ‘Stairway Walks in San Francisco’ – at the Iron Alley Stairway on Clayton Street. We found it without difficulty but painted on the stairway was a sign saying the staircase was closed. Finding somewhere to park was a bit of a problem but in the end we struck lucky and found a very convenient place right at the top of the Iron Alley Stairway on Corbett Avenue.
That’s the Sutro Tower in the back.
We started the walk by crossing Corbett and up Iron Alley to Graystone Terrace. Looking up the hill it was fascinating to see not only the many different types of house built on the side of the hill but also to wonder at the views they must have of the city beneath them. Taking a left on Graystone we walked to Cooper Alley where we descended a concrete stairway between houses back to Corbett. Here we took another left and passed Rooftop Elementary School with its sparkling tile mural on the wall arriving back at our car, which we walked right past carrying on towards Clayton. Along this section we looked up the hill again and could see the scenic viewpoint on Twin Peaks were we had been just half an hour before.
At the junction or Corbett and Clayton is a small garden strip along the side of the house which is beautifully laid out and well stocked with small trees and shrubs, including a lantana growing vertically in a pot. We have lantana in our garden and it is a ground cover plant. I have never seen it growing vertically before. On Clayton we turned left, climbing uphill to Twin Peaks Blvd. We were surprised at how quiet everything was with very few people around. We passed one guy outside his garage repairing his motorcycle and that was the first person we had seen, apart from a jogger who passed us earlier.
Between the houses to our right we caught glimpses of the city and the, when we turned left on Twin Peaks Blvd we got some glorious views of Golden Gate Park, including the De Young Museum, the two towers of the Golden Gate Bridge and out beyond the Bonita lighthouse to the ocean. There is an open patch of ground at the foot of a rocky outcrop which is called Tank Hill. While Tom took photos, I perched myself on a small rock and looked over the rooftops to the north.
Onwards and upwards to a short wooden stairway which led to the top of Tank Hill. There is a covered reservoir on the top which you could walk over. There are a lot of reservoirs up here on Twin Peaks where water for San Francisco is stored.
A little further uphill there was a small outcrop of rocks and another outstanding view of the city but this time from a different angle. The haze had cleared and we can now see Oakland clearly but Mount Diablo was vaguely discernible in the background. There was a slight breeze up there but it felt good and it carried the wonderful smell of eucalyptus to me.
Back down on Twin Peaks Blvd where it bears left at the junction with Clarendon Avenue there is a small public garden where we sat in the shade for a few minutes on a stone bench. We continued walking on Twin Peaks Blvd and passed a big blue house with enormous windows and we spotted a white grand piano inside. At the junction with Raccoon Drive we turned left and walked past some very nice houses. About halfway along we passed what looked like a stone sculpture but on closer inspection it turned out to be made of styrofoam. Raccoon Drive descended and at the
Pemberton Place. A lovely stairway.
bottom we turned left. I knew it was a dead end road with a pathway through to Crown Terrace but Tom didn’t know and became worried that I was walking through somebody’s garden. There was a sign that said ‘Residents Only’ and ‘No Trespassing’ but according to Adah’s book it was a legitimate way through.
Crown Terrace is a gem and surely a highly desirable place to live. Here you are within a short distance of the city but away from a lot of traffic. A short way along is Pemberton Place which in reality is a long stairway crossing Graystone and Villa Terrace and descends all the way back to Clayton. It is a marvelous stairway with occasional landings where you can sit and admire the view over the city. Back on Clayton we turned right and then right again onto Corbett and made our way back to the car.
As I was about to get into the car, a young man came out of a nearby house and approached the Iron Alley stairway and started to descend. I stopped him and asked why there was a sign at the bottom which said it was closed. He said it had been closed for some time for repair and a gate was put at the top to prevent children using it to get to the school as it was dangerous. The gate is still there but is not locked any more and the stairway has been repaired. The sign at the bottom has not been removed though. We’ll remember that next time.
We have had another interesting day, discovering Twin Peaks and then enjoying the staircase walk and all it cost was the price of the gas and breakfast at the Squat and Gobble. How’s that for good value?
The weather forecast was not good, 60% change of rain with temperatures in the low 50′s. We decided though, come hell or high water, we would go up to the city today. For the past few weeks we have been cooped up at home either due to rain or sickness.
At 6:30 AM we set off, just as it was getting light. A quick breakfast stop in San Carlos and it’s one short hop to the city.
Tom loves taking photos of run down industrial areas, so we turned off the freeway at Mariposa. After a circuitous route down dead end streets and over appalling road surfaces, we end up on 3rd and we turn into Amodor. We park in the shadow (well we would well have been in shadow if the sun were shining) of a huge concrete eyesore with a sign outside saying Bodemix Concrete. As it is cold and wet outside, I decided to stay in the car and write my journal while Tom took his photos. He was soon back because it started to rain.
We then had to make a decision whether we would attempt a staircase walk or make our way to the Golden Gate Park and the De Young Museum. I looked up at the sky and I could see blue patches ahead so the staircase walk it would be. We set off down the Embarcadero, past the ballpark and assorted sculptures. I did notice the two ladies made out of scrap metal were gone and a large spider in their place. I wonder where the ladies went. Tom and I both liked that one.
We parked in Sansome Street near the Levi Plaza at a parking meter. As it’s a Sunday, we don’t have to put any money in the meter. First port of call was Levi Plaza where we took photos of the fountain and also of the staircase in front of us and Telegraph Hill with Coit Tower at the top.
The Filbert Staircase must be the most well known stairway in San Francisco but today there are not many people around. I guess that is due not only to the weather but also to the fact that it is only 9 am on a Sunday morning and Superbowl Sunday to boot so I’m sure most people are still tucked up in their warm beds. The reason this location is so well known is because of the film ‘The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill‘. We did see a couple of parrots and heard an awful lot more.
The first part of the staircase is concrete and it rises steeply up the hill. The staircase is wet and there is a sign warning that the steps can be slippery when it rains. There is a lot of vegetation clinging to the hillside and it gave off a pleasant aroma in the damp atmosphere.
The second part of the steps are wooden. On either side are gardens with houses set back. What must it be like to live on such a steep hill with the only access being via a staircase? Where do they keep their cars? How do they move furniture in and out?