After two weekends of stormy weather, we were keen to get out and about again. We decided to head for the Marin Headlands. As usual we left well before daybreak, just stopping at Peet’s on Geary Street in San Francisco to get some coffee.
At 7.30 a.m. we were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. We take the first exit towards Sausalito, a left turn back under the freeway and then a right onto Conzelmen Road. The last time we were up here was in February to watch the new Queen Mary sail under the bridge. We pass Battery Spencer, which is a great place to look down on the bridge and to take photos. A bit further along the road we pulled over to take some photos. It was cold and windy but we put our coats on a braved the weather. The sun was just coming up over the city and the first rays were hitting the northern tower on the bridge.
The only other people around at this time of the day are other serious photographers and several keen cyclists battling their way up the hill. Finding somewhere to park is easy now but come later in the day and the place will be packed solid with tourists.
The views are spectacular. Looking down I could see not only the bridge but also the silhouette of the San Francisco skyline. I could also see the Bay Bridge, Oakland, Alcatraz and the top of Angel Island, which had a cap of fog. There were no pleasure boats out on the water though we watched a large container ship sail under the bridge on its way to some other part of the world.
Continuing on up the hill we come to two tunnels into the hillside. We stop at the second one. This is Battery Construction 129. It was built in 1942 but never officially named, armed or manned. We walked through the tunnel and gazed down on a magnificent view of the entrance to the Golden Gate – which by the way is the name of the opening into the San Francisco Bay. It was so named by John Fremont in 1848 who was a topographical engineer. The Golden Gate is one mile broad at its narrowest part and five miles long. Our view also stretches as far south as Pacifica and looking straight out we could see the Farallon Islands which are about 20 miles west.
At the western tip stands Point Bonita Lighthouse. This is a must see location. It is only open at the weekends and Mondays from 12:30 – 3:30. From the car park there is a half a mile walk along the headland, the last part through a hand carved tunnel and over a small suspension bridge. Tom and I visited once a few years ago and we found it pretty scary walking across that bridge.
Just above Battery Construction 129 is Hawk Hill. There is a short trail to the top of the hill but we could not climb it today as a huge branch was blocking the path. This is a great place to come in the autumn when the raptors gather before they migrate.
Beyond this point, Conzelmen Road becomes one way. This is a really scenic drive towards the lighthouse. Along the way are more fortifications but few places to stop. You will come to a junction where you turn left for the lighthouse or right towards Sausalito. We carried on towards the lighthouse but as it’s not open yet we carried on. At Battery Mendell Tom got out and took some photos.
Our aim today is to find Battery Townsley which has recently been reopened to the public but we do not know exactly where it is. We decided that the Marin Headlands Visitor Center next to Rodeo Lagoon would be best place to find out. When we arrived there though it was not open but fortunately there was a map outside which pinpointed the spot. It was not too far away, just over the bridge and along Mitchell Road. We drove to the end of Mitchell Road and parked the car. From here it was a 0.7 mile walk up the hill along the Coastal Trail. By now the sun is warm but it is still chilly.
It was a lovely walk with not too many people around and of course the views were amazing. Before too long we came to Fort Townsley but there was not too much to see. We walked through the tunnel but it really looked no different from Battery Construction 129. Just the view was different at the end. There were a couple of steel doors in the side of the tunnel but they were locked shut. We continued up the hill and came to two more entrances and there was a bit more to see in the third one but we were expecting to find tunnels to explore. There was another, bigger steel door but once again it was locked.
We decided that the walk had been interesting but the battery itself was disappointing so we set off back down the hill. Not far down the road we passed a man sporting a volunteer badge so we stopped and asked him about Battery Townsley. Apparently it is only open on the second Sunday of the month from noon until 4. He gave us a lot of interesting information and history of the battery and we would have liked to stick around to explore those tunnels but we were hungry and needed to head home before the traffic become too heavy. Another day maybe.
January 14 2008 04:44 pm | Special Places