California: San Francisco Bay – Angel Island 17km

Today, Good Mrs and I were going to Isla de los Los Angeles, or Angel Island. In San Francisco Bay between Tiburon and downtown San Francisco.

Angel Island used to be the “Ellis Island of the West”. There, the US authorities housed and processed many immigrants from the Pacific.

Angel Island also had other uses in the past. It housed several garrisons of soldiers and a prisoner of war camp during WWII. It was also a setting for an anti missile battery during the Cold War. These days, Angel Island is a California State Park.

Angel Island is a less than 20 minutes ferry ride from Tiburon Wharf. First ferry departure for the day was 10am meaning a relaxing start for the day. Good Mrs and I dressed up in hiking gear and packed sandwiches for lunch, snacks and water. We then grabbed local bus 219 down to Tiburon Wharf.

Yes, the “rust bucket” behind Di is the Angel Island ferry for the day.

All onboard, let’s get cracking.

These signs were all over Angel Island, one for hikers and one for bikers. Yes, we would agree with the natural history / cultural history split. Angel Island had both.

The ferry docked at Ayala Cove on Angel Island, which looked like a little settlement. As we got off the ferry we saw a group of kids dressed in civil war outfits. We worked out later that there are quite a few camps on the island but the groups were not headed our way.

Our way was an initial set of stairs. We let a group of kids go past huffing and puffing (they all looked fit enough but they still panted…)

So, up the hill we hiked, onto something called North Ridge Trail. There are two destinations or routes on the island, to the top and around the perimeter. We did both, starting with a hike to the top and finishing with an anti clockwise loop. The hike panned out as follows – 17 kms in total.
A couple of trail shots…

There were a lot of switch backs up which extended the length of walking. They did make it easier to climb the 250 metre altitude than if it would have gone straighter up.

The views only got better and better towards the top. Looking north with Richmond San Rafael Bridge in the distance and the southeastern corner of the Tiburon peninsula.

Top of the world…

Show off…

Soon we reached the top of Mount Livermore (781 feet). We rewarded ourselves with a cup of tea in its little picnic area.

And our favourite chocolate chip biscuits (Chip Ahoy . On a side note… It is funny how returning to the U.S. a year later some food items just leapt back into the shopping basket…

We shared ur picnic table with a couple from Cape Cod in New England. They had brought a bottle of red wine with them to the top from which they poured themselves a glass each. Civilised. Respect.

The couple come to San Fran every year, and had done so for the last 25 years. But they still didn’t know the name of the big black raptors which are a regular sight in the skies.

Downtown San Francisco and Alcatraz from a high viewpoint. You can see everything from the top of Angel Island.

Daggy but we just had to do a selfie with Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Sorry.

Belvedere Island and Tiburon from the top of Mount Livermore.

Next, we partly backtracked down. Then a different route down on the Sunset Trail, to Perimeter Road which circles Angel Island. No surprise with a name like that.

There were some vehicles on the island other than bikes and the open air shuttle buses. A crowd on Segways. Well, why not?

This piece of tree stump reminded Hans of the artwork “The Scream” by Edvard Munch.

These trees brought tears to our eyes. Gum trees. Eucalyptus trees. Lots of them. So common in Australia. Di became a instant but temporary tree hugger.

We had our sandwich picnic lunch at Camp Reynolds next to this lovely old building. Built back in 1904 and used as a hospital to treat ill or injured soldiers.

We had heard that there was deer on Angel Island, but we hadn’t seen any until this guy appeared. It seems a bit surreal to see Bambi so close to San Francisco civilisation.

And those big black birds that we had seen so often. Graceful fliers and a raptor of some sort. We googled them later and found out that they are turkey vultures and are quite common in the Americas. They are unusual in that they not only hunt via sight but also via smell.

Right of a sudden there was a sign with distances in kilometer that came before distance in miles. Up until this point it had been miles only. This is the furthest point from Ayala Cove and maybe only Europeans and Australians walk this far.

A lot of Angel Island along the Perimeter Road looked like this. Pretty barren and dry, not helped by the fact that California is in drought.

Then we came to a cleared area with a dilapidated fence around it. This sign explained what was once there – missiles! Nothing remained of that today though.

The area that once housed the East Garrison on Angel Island had plenty of old buildings. A few restored buildings seemed to house island employees. Most buildings though were unfortunately in various degree of disrepair. You can imagine many of these buildings would be stunning if brought back to their former glory.

In particular we loved this building, an old hospital. All doors and windows were gone so you could enter and have a look inside.

The stairs to the upper levels were all removed, presumably to prevent accidents. And thus liability claims…

The many narrow doorways worked to good photographic effect.

Did we mention deer? Yes, after seeing that first one, we saw plenty more of them on the island.

The Angel Island Immigration Museum was close to Ayala Cove. Almost at the completion of our perimeter walk.

Time didn’t allow us to explore it further as the last daily ferry departed Angel Island at 3.30pm. Time was now close to 3pm. We read the sign -Angel Island processed more than 1 million immigrants over 30 years up until 1940.

The Immigration Museum site was partly surrounded by this fence.  Presumably to keep deers out of there as what other unwanted guests could there be? Although the fence only covered parts of Perimeter Road and up to a point. And where the fence finished below, there was a dirt track immediately next to it. Deer?

A short banana break at a lovely spot before we completed our hiking back to Ayala Cove. We still had a half hour to spare before the 3.30pm ferry left so we attempted to get an overpriced coffee at the cafe. No, the cafe had closed. At 3pm.

We were able to get an ice cream (that we shared) and an awful soda (that we threw away). But why would they not keep it open for another 30 minutes? As other island guests proved by arriving after us and trying to open the cafe’s closed front door. Clearly a demand there. It couldn’t be because the State Park staff are working in a public service…?

Despite the small disappointment at the end we loved Angel Island. Great mix of nature and culture and we recommend a visit to anyone who comes to San Francisco.

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