Day 4: Tuesday, April 26, 2016

This day was going to be an expedition out to Land’s End, the rocky cliffs on San Francisco’s tippy north-western corner. There’s a fancy place there called the Cliff House that I’m told must be visited for a cocktail and the epic view. I wrote down the names of a couple of other (less expensive) places in the same area. I also wanted to see the ruins of the Sutro Baths there.

Thinking I could save some money by taking a light picnic, I popped into the Haight Street Market for a deli cheese sandwich and a bottled coffee drink to take along. The sandwich was much bigger than I’d imagined; I should have gotten a half order.

Took the outbound N train all the way to its terminus at Ocean Beach. At the coastline, I was met with the smell of sea air flowing over these enormous sand dunes.

sand dunes

These ravens will take food right from people's hands.

These ravens will take food right from people’s hands.

I started heading north along this beachy pathway:

beach pathway

When I reached the end of the dunes after a couple-three hundred yards, I could finally see the ocean. There was also this huge, improbable windmill. Wha??? Made a mental note to ask someone about it.

windmill

Aaaaand finally, there’s the Cliff House WAAAAYYY in the distance.

See that white speck on the right hulking some eleventy-hundred miles in the distance?

See that white speck on the right hulking some eleventy-hundred clicks off in the distance? That’s my destination.

I hoped my sore feet would make it, praying that the Sutro Baths ruins weren’t too much farther past the Cliff House. It was a perfect day to be out, with a thin, high cloud cover to cut the sun’s intensity. After a mile or so, I started seeing this building on the opposite side of the highway. As I drew nearer, I realized it was the Beach Chalet, one of the two alternates I’d made a note of. Excellent. I was ready for a break.

The lower level had an eight-foot-long model of the Golden Gate Park and an assortment of historical displays. This building is one of the welcome centers, situated at the far western end of the long, rectangular park. There were bathrooms (thank you Bathroom Gods) and a gift shop. The entire floor was lined with mosaics and Art Deco murals:

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Made my way upstairs and got a corner window table. WOOT! Hey, there’s ANOTHER windmill. My view:

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Darling little tabletop terrarium:

beach chalet-tabletop terrarium

I ordered a deviled egg appetizer and a Hefeweisen from their own microbrewery. The eggs included flakes of smoked trout, minced red bell pepper, and capers. Plus a nicoise salad AND a mess of bread and butter. All for eight bucks. The beer was another seven. Paid only $21, including tax and tip, for this delightful little feast.

beach chalet-meal

The waitress told me that the windmills are relics from San Francisco’s early days. In the 19th century, they pumped salt water to the Sutro Baths and to other saltwater bathhouses downtown. Later, when the Golden Gate Park was being constructed out of mostly sand dunes, the windmills pumped water to the construction sites.

Rested and full now, I was ready to continue my trek up to the Cliff House.

STILL a ways to go.

STILL a ways to go.

Getting closer...

Getting closer…

Bird rocks.

Bird rocks.

Finally I got there. Hey, there’s a totem pole here!

cliff house-totem pole

Rocks below.

rocks below

Giant camera obscura.

camera obscura

Went inside and found the lobby packed with people milling about waiting impatiently for a table. “Thirty minute wait,” I heard one person mutter to his date. I peered in and saw open spots at the bar, so I waited in line for the hostess and asked if I’d have to wait to sit at the bar, as I was just a party of one. “No wait at the bar, or the lounge.” She waved toward an area off to the right of the lobby. It was an intimate, triangular loft space lined with windows and overlooking a lower dining area with a tinkling piano playing.

cliff house-atrium

Got a corner window, AGAIN. I’ve had really good luck getting epic tables in SF. From this outside perspective, I had the far right-hand corner window. And OH GOOD, the Sutro Baths ruins are right there immediately past the Cliff House.

cliff house-my view from outside

The view:

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Ordered a “Key Lime at the Cliffs,” made with house-infused vanilla bean vodka, house caramel, lime, and cream. Delicious. $13.50 with tip. Oof. Good thing I didn’t plan on eating there. It was worth it, though, just to pay the rent on that view for a little while. They also had a small bar-food menu, too.

cliff house-key lime cocktail

Before I left, I wandered about and took a few pics of the interior. The cowboy was part of the Sutro Baths amusement area once upon a time.

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Just a few feet past the Cliff House, you can see the ruins of the Sutro Baths. In 1896, the Sutro Baths were opened to the public as the world’s largest indoor swimming pool establishment. During high tides, water would flow directly into the pools from the nearby ocean, recycling two million gallons of water in about an hour. During low tides, a powerful turbine water pump, built inside a cave at sea level, could be switched on to fill the tanks at a rate of 6,000 gallons a minute, recycling all the water in five hours. The baths featured:

~ Six saltwater pools and one freshwater pool, equipped with 7 slides, 30 swinging rings, and 1 springboard.

~ A museum displaying an extensive collection of stuffed and mounted animals, historic artifacts, and artwork.

~ A 2700-seat amphitheater, and club rooms with capacity for 1100.

~ 517 private dressing rooms.

~ An ice skating rink.

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Heading back, I passed a street vendor selling watercolor prints.

cliff house-exterior-artist vendor

The lady there was the artist’s wife. Eduardo Guzman is a self-taught Mexican painter. I loved his loose, impressionistic style and bold colors. They were having a sale: larger prints for $10, smaller ones for $5. Plus black matting signed by the artist. I picked out two large and one small. I’ll keep the larger Golden Gate Bridge one, and give the other two away as gifts.

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Now, for the long walk back. Here you can see how far I came. In the distance to the right, you can just make out those sand dunes. You can also see the foot of Golden Gate Park, plus both of the windmills.

the entire walk

I still had my picnic lunch. There was a homeless dude talking to himself just a little ways down the road from the view above, and I dropped it off with him. I needed the extra hand anyway to carry those paintings back.

Took the N train back home. Got another Gold Standard at the Ice Cream Bar. As I rounded the corner a full block away from Tim’s, I could already smell the enticing aroma of smoked pork for the dinner party planned for later. I’m sure mouths were watering around the entire block. Watched an episode of the Simpsons with the guys.

Next post: Day 4 continued — Hobson’s Choice Victorian punch house — Carnitas taco dinner party

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