Today D. and I visited McLaren Park in San Francisco. We first went to Lake Merced to have lunch, but the fog was rolling in fast and furious, so we decided to explore somewhere else and chose to check out McLaren Park instead. McLaren's 317 acres include natural areas rich in native plants and animals as well as lawns and planted gardens. It has miles of trails for hiking, biking, running or walking, some paved, others dirt.
Unlike flat Golden Gate Park, McLaren boasts hills, which make it feel less like a park and more like open space. The varied terrain, rising to a height of 519 ft., makes the park visible to over half of the City and provides spectacular views of most of San Francisco, the Pacific Ocean and the East Bay shoreline.
In addtion to picnic facilities, McLaren Park also offers a nine-hole golf course, 7 tennis courts, 3 baseball diamonds and a swimming pool. There is also the 700-capacity Jerry Garcia Amphitheater for musical and theatrical performances.
I've heard the park is popular with Tibetans, who chant there in celebration of the rising sun in the early morning. We didn't see any today, but we enjoyed watching dogs play in the park's reservoir. The ducks came swimming up to us and followed us as we walked along the reservoir's path, as though they were expecting us to perform the Pigeon Dance. Had I known they'd be there looking for snacks I would have saved some crumbs from lunch.
We found our way up to the top of the hill by the water tower, visible from almost the whole City, and beheld amazing views of the fog pouring in from the west, the still-sunny southeast corner of the City spread all around at out feet, downtown thick with skyscrapers, the Bay Bridge, the Bay itself, and the East Bay all the way to Mt Diablo.
There were many birds too, as always. A large gang of ravens was playing in the updrafts on the side of the hill, and a red-tailed hawk roamed around the hillside. Lots of little chirpy LGBs as well, ones too quick and small for me to identify them.
McLaren Park is very close to some bad neighborhoods full of low-income housing projects, gangs and crime. But the park itself seemed like an oasis far removed from such tumult. I'd love to go back some evening to watch the sun set over the Pacific from the top of the hill and enjoy the lights coming on across most of the City below us, in the simple peace and quiet.