Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Spooked! At The Lands End Trail

A View of the Golden gate Bridge from Lands End

The first time I attempted the Lands End Trail in San Francisco, I had to turn back -  that is, we had to turn back -  because someone in our family kept complaining and making all of us miserable. My second attempt at the Lands End Trail failed because I thought a homeless guy was following me and I got spooked. Here is what happened.

My husband and friends ran the SF Half Marathon on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. I dropped them off at the start, then drove toward the end of the race and parked by the Cliff House restaurant. My original plan was to walk around Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach, but since I was so close to Lands End, I decided this would be a perfect time to walk the trail; after all, I had a couple of hours to spare, the early morning light was good for photography, and I could walk at my own pace. But there was one problem, I really, really had to go to the bathroom and the public bathroom adjoining the Visitor Center was not yet open (I believe the Cliff House was closed as well). So I made the mistake of asking a homeless guy (I assumed he was homeless) if he knew where another bathroom might be, because after all, who would know better than someone who lived on the streets? What can I say - I was desperate.

The Cliff House Restaurant and Ocean Beach

Now here's the funny part. The man said he didn't know of another bathroom but he offered me some paper if I needed it -
Me: "No thanks!"
Him: "Or would you like a sock?" (he actually had an old one in his hand)
Me: "No thanks!" (said with a bright smile)
Him: "Are you sure?"
Me: "No thanks!" (quickly walked away) "OKaaay, " I thought to myself, "guess I'll start my walk and hope that I come across an outhouse."

View from the Trail Head

So I started my little walk, and other then one older couple and some guys running in the opposite direction, there was no one else on the trail. I wasn't concerned though, I thought for sure there would be more people. I stopped to take some photos, which allowed the other couple to walk ahead of me and out of sight. Then I continued walking. It was around 7:30 AM which I guess explains why the trail was so empty. But after about 10 minutes, I glanced behind me and saw the homeless man. He was obviously looking at me and picking up speed as he walked. I got spooked. I picked up my speed, ran around a small bend, and then the road forked. I could choose to go straight ahead or up steep stairs to the top of the hill. I chose the stairs, running in a semi-crouch so the guy wouldn't see me if he appeared on the path below. I was breathing hard at the top of the stairs because I am out of shape as far as that particular exercise goes! Luckily, there was a nice older couple at the top who reassured me that I was close to a memorial, with other people around it. Plus it had a bathroom! They even offered to walk with me, but I said I was okay. Now, maybe I overreacted. Maybe all the guy wanted to do was offer me another sock! But I was alone on a path on the side of a cliff, and I think I was right not to take a chance.

Now, the cool thing was, my diversion up the stairs lead me to a memorial for the USS San Francisco.
The memorial is built from the bridge wings of the cruiser. You can see the holes that were torn through the metal (left side of the flag).
The USS San Francisco Memorial is oriented toward Guadalcanal
In 1942 the USS San Francisco, already damaged from an enemy warplane, attacked a Japanese force off the coast of Guadalcanal in a "suicide mission." The ship took 45 direct hits, 106 sailors were killed and 131 wounded, yet the cruiser survived and was able to "limp" back to Mare Island, Vallejo, CA for repairs. She was then able to return to battle for the remainder of the war. It's an impressive story.
September, 1959 the USS San Francisco was sold for scrapping. All that remains are the bridge wings on this memorial.
The memorial is perched somewhere above the parking lot at Lands End. So I walked back down toward the lot next to the Land's End trail head and got some more photos of the Sutro Baths (covered in a previous blog).

Stairs leading to the remains of the Sutro Baths. The Cliff House and museum are down on the left.

Yes, you can walk in the cave.
 My adventure over, I walked along the boardwalk on Ocean Beach back to Golden Gate Park, where I waited for my husband to cross the finish line. The little scare I had on the Lands End trail was a good reminder for me to not walk alone in a lonely place, no matter how beautiful the scenery. It really stinks that we women have to be careful that way, but it is a reality. I'll make a third attempt at the trail one day and blog about it when I do. In the meantime, I hope some of you can check it out and let me know how your hike went, in the comments below.

If you go: it's San Francisco, so bring a jacket, sunscreen, water, possibly a hat and definitely a camera. The 3.4 mile trail is flat and easy, kid friendly (as long as they stay on the trail), and dogs are allowed on a leash.

Free Parking off of Point Lobos Ave by the Cliff House restaurant.

Directions: Google -  Cliff House, 1090 Point Lobos Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94121
or Sutro Baths, 680 Point Lobos Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94121

For more information about Lands End, including points of interest, check out this blog by Every Trail, or this one by the National Park Service.

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