A Quick One Without A Tandem

On July 25, Gail and I decided to visit Angel Island. It had been a long time since we had been there and, lo and behold, there it was a Historical Landmark! So, off we went. If you just want to see the photos, click here or just watch the slide show below.

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This is about as nice a day trip as you can find in the SF Bay Area. To get to Angel Island, you need to either hop on the Angel Island Ferry ferry from Tiburon or the Blue and Gold Fleet ferry from San Francisco, use a private boat, or swim. Unless you are swimming, you have great views of San Francisco and Marin on the way to the island.

The last time we went to Angel Island, we took Avery and Risa along. While there, we visited the U.S. Immigration Station, a National Historic Landmark, which had just re-opened for visitors. We also walked around the perimeter of the island on the walking/biking path and climbed to the highest point on the island, Mt. Livermore, too.

This time, we were not going to be nearly as ambitious. Gail and I decided that we would wear bicycle-related garb but not bring along the tandem. This would allow us to get in a nice walk. We also decided to let the day unfold without any definite plans.

After driving to Tiburon, we boarded the ferry for the short ride across Racoon Strait to Hospital Cove on Angel Island. The line for the ferry had quite a few day trippers like us. There were lots of people with bicycles, ranging from roadies wearing lycra and wielding spiffy road machines to kids on Costco specials. There were even mountain bikers, ready for an off-road adventure. When we saw how many people had their bicycles, we felt a twinge of guilt for not bringing along the tandem.

There were also people going over for some sort of camping adventure, since Angel Island is a California State Park. These folks were armed to bear, with wheeled carriers loaded to the max with coolers, sleeping bags, tents, food, and just about everything else a person might want for camping. Usually, one member of the party was designated as the mule and was responsible for hauling this load, while others shouted encouragement and insults.

After we got off the ferry, we grabbed a map and started searching for the Historical Landmark. As we walked along Hospital Cove, we noticed there were a few eateries and drinking establishments that served local fare (grilled or fresh oysters, sandwiches, and local beers). It was tempting but we knew that if we sat down and had a snack, we might not even make it to the Landmark, let alone take a hike, so we pushed on.

So what is the deal with Angel Island (California Historical Landmark # 529)? In 1775, the packet San Carlos, first known Spanish ship to enter San Francisco Bay, anchored in Hospital Cove. While here, the commander, Lieut. Juan Manual de Ayala, directed the first survey of the bay. This island, which Ayala named Isla de los Angeles, has been a Mexican rancho, a U.S. military post, a bay defense site, and a quarantine and immigration station.

After Gail and I found the Historical Landmark, we decided to walk up to the ring road and hike the perimeter of the island. The weather was cool and breezy, which made the walking just great. It was a little hazy, so views of San Francisco were not as spectacular as they might otherwise have been. However, the ring road had a few reasonable hills, restrooms along the way, and great opportunities for people-watching.

The ring road is the main highway of Angel Island. Thus, there are lots of people using lots of different means for getting around the island. Of course, there are lots of people that just walk. We saw some runners out for a jog. For those that are not so keen on walking, there is a tram that will haul you around the island and give you on a guided tour. Both road and mountain bicycles can ride on the ring road. Because there are a couple of short but steep hills, some riders decide to walk up the hills (the park recommends walking your bikes down the hills…we didn’t see anyone doing that!). For the hipsters, one can even rent a Segway (even though you have to ride with a group).

Along the way, you can stop off and see the remnants of the old military base (the island still has a Coast Guard station, which is off-limits to civilians). A number of the buildings have been renovated, while others remain in their decaying state, being battered by salt air, wind, and the other elements. It is sort of stunning to see the hulking remains of some of these base infrastructure, such as a rock crushing machine. Nowhere is this contrast more evident than on the eastern side of the island, where some buildings were converted into an event center while others are gutted shells. Gail thought that one could make a good business out of renovating some of these buildings and renting them out as lodging. I decided to keep my mouth shut.

Since we were walking around the island in a counter-clockwise direction, just about the last thing that we saw before we returned to Hospital Cove was the refurbished U.S. Immigration Station. We didn’t go into this National Historic Landmark on this trip (since we were hungry and wanted to get to the oysters and beer). However, one should certainly visit this area, which is akin to Ellis Island in New York.

After we returned to Hospital Cove, we settled in for some brew, oysters, and a sandwich. Prices were reasonable, the food was great, and there was even a folk singer strumming her guitar and belting out a few covers.

Once done with our dining, we got in the long line to wait for the ferry back to Tiburon. Had we been a little more conscious of the time, we could have been on the ferry without the wait but the weather was nice, the crowds were fun to watch, we were a bit tipsy from the beer, and so the wait was no big deal.

Definitely visit Angel Island.

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