Friday, August 31, 2012

The Most Twisted Street

We have had unseasonably summery weather this week (ha).  It's been beautiful and warm.  I am sure we'll go back to usual SF summer weather in a few more days, but I have been enjoying every second while it lasts.

We trekked through Russian Hill recently to get some clear views of the bay and to participate in a rather touristy attraction we hadn't yet hit since moving to the city (nearly a year ago--WOW--it doesn't feel like it's been almost a year...)

We enjoyed nice views on the way, such as the beautiful Alcatraz:

The ultimate tourist photo?

The Bay Bridge and Coit Tower.  I like how the streets appear like stripes below.

In this picture you can see the new portion of the Bay Bridge they are about to complete.  Seismic updates are a welcome thing in this city, and the design they engineered to increase safety is pretty impressive.

Transamerica Pyramid and 555 California--the two tallest buildings in San Francisco.  Will's rather familiar with the views from one of them...

The approach to Lombard Street:

We finally made it to the main tourist attraction: the section of switchbacks on Lombard Street--"the crookedest street in the world."  (Wikipedia says "crookedest" is a word.)
The hairpin turns serve to decrease the 27% grade that this street would have otherwise.  So steep!

What do you think--impressive?  At least worth a visit, in my opinion.  Even if I look like a tourist for the afternoon :)

Hope you have a great Labor Day weekend!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hill 88 Hike: Details

Yesterday I posted some photos from our recent Marin Headlands hike around Hill 88 (an understatement of a name if I've ever heard one).  Today I am sharing some of the photographic details.

This photo was taken part way up the mountain.  We are pretty high already!  That big peak in the distance is Mt. Tam, which we hiked right after we moved here.

My parents set a mean pace right out of the gate--we got quite a challenging workout.  

And then we saw these people running the steep trails:

This is Sticky Monkey Flower.  I had assumed that was just the childish nickname we called it growing up, but I noticed the Visitor Center had that exact label next to this plant.  Did you know you can pull the yellow flowers out of their stems and suck out the sweet nectar? 

The next time you forget your trail mix but find your blood sugars crashing...
After a steady climb in the first half of the hike, the trail curves around the mountain and suddenly you can see views of the Pacific Ocean and snippets of the city.

It appeared the trails had experienced some rough weather lately:

The steep descent:

With views of Rodeo Beach below:

We passed an old war battery and explored a bit:

Read more about Battery Townsley here.

But by far the most interesting site we saw along the hike was the river otters!
These guys were swimming in the Lagoon next to this Heron.  We were so surprised to see them here.

The Headlands succeeded again with the wildlife and nature show.  I am half-expecting a mountain lion sighting on my next hike based on our string of luck!  I'm looking forward to Indian Summer with more clear weather so we can spend a bit more time in this area.  Off in search of the next trail...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Marin Headlands: Hill 88 Hike

Yesterday morning I woke up to blue skies, much to my surprise (and to the weather forecaster's too, I think!)  I had plans to explore a new hiking trail in the Marin Headlands with some of my favorite hiking partners: my parents!  They were in town this weekend for a fun family celebration on Saturday, and so we took full advantage of the sunny and rather warm weather yesterday.

I wonder where that trail goes?!
This is the third hike in the Headlands I've explored since we moved back to California, and studying the map made me realize I have so many more trails to try before I've exhausted this area.  However, today's hike--the loop around Hill 88--was by far my favorite.  It was strenuous and steep, and it covered a wide range of terrain.  The views from this hike were better than any other in this area so far, too.  You spend the second half staring over the cliffs at the Pacific, with views (albeit a bit hazy) of the city in the distance.

This route was a 5.6-mile loop from our starting spot at the Marin Headlands Visitor Center.  We followed the path around the lagoon to hop onto the Miwok trailhead, and then we hiked this loop counter-clockwise around the mountain, with perfect views of Rodeo Beach, the city, and the ocean at the end as we descended.  We couldn't have asked for more perfect conditions today.

Using this trail map, we hiked the Miwok Trail, Wolf Ridge Trail, Coastal Trail past the Battery Townsley and Headlands Institute, and then along the lagoon again back to the car.

Terrain change number three or maybe four?


Descending to Rodeo Beach.  A couple surfers out:

More photos tomorrow!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Monterey Bay Aquarium II

I'm back with more aquarium photos today.  When we visited a few weeks ago, we skipped over several of the more kid-friendly exhibits.  So if you're interested in them, you will have to check those out on your own.  We often jump from the otters straight to the Outer Bay/Open Sea exhibit.  

Anchovies welcome you and point the way:

Several years ago, the Outer Bay exhibit was the new hit at the aquarium.  This is a one million gallon tank with much larger animals, like the 880-pound sunfish, sea turtles, and huge bluefin tuna.  This exhibit has also been home to a number of great white sharks, but these guys don't stay on exhibit long (as they grow up and start killing tankmates!)

Galapagos shark instead:

The Outer Bay exhibit is pretty dark, but if you look closely, you can see the hammerhead shark at the bottom swimming through the school of fish.  The fish are quick to get out of his way.

The aquarium has a new exhibit right now called The Jellies Experience.  It's a hippie peace-love-drugs shout-out to the 70s, which doesn't really fit with the feel of the rest of the aquarium, but the additional space houses many new species of jellies that are pretty stunning.

These are about the size of a golf ball but move faster than a lot of the other jellies:

Moon Jelly

I think the most unusual sea animal is the leafy sea dragon, though.  These sea horse-like animals look no different than the seagrass growing next to them!

And that's how we wrapped up our most recent visit. 

I highly recommend a stop here if you find yourself in the area!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Monterey Bay Aquarium I

I wrote about the Monterey Bay Aquarium before, when I posted about a weekend getaway to Monterey a while back.  We try to visit once or twice each year, because the exhibits' animals change frequently, and the sites do not get old!  A few weeks ago, we were able to pay a visit to some of our favorite sea animals, so I'm posting some photos of them here.

Like this otter--I could watch her and her friends all day.

That's the life!

The giant kelp is almost like a Where's Waldo page--the longer you stare, the more hidden creatures and cool fish you notice hidden away in this exhibit.

The first of the sharks:

The giant octopus rarely sits on display like this--usually he prefers to hide up in the corner, and all that can be seen are his tentacles...

Yes!  I said the right word.

Some Nemos and Doreys here:

These eels are pretty cool--they all have various jungle animal coloring!

Staring us down:

These were some of the biggest lobsters I've ever seen.  Maybe a close second to this guy:

But I always find myself back watching the otters.  They look so relaxed!

Another batch of aquarium photos to come!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Shake Me Some Coffee

Yay for the weekend!  I hope you're enjoying a not too hot (Chicago), not too chilly (San Francisco) weekend morning today.

We are anxiously anticipating Indian summer here in the Bay Area, when we'll finally get some warm and sunny days.  Last weekend, when we went whitewater rafting, we were reintroduced to 105 degree heat.  It brought back memories of our North Carolina summers, which I only miss because of the our friends and ridiculous summer activities, not the humidity.

The hot summer mornings, though, are good for iced coffee!  And when I came across this article about a specialty iced coffee drink, I was anxious to give it a try.

This is the shakerato, which the author likens to a foamy iced cafe latte.  (Um, awesome.)  And the prep is extra fun due to the use of a shot glass and cocktail shaker.

It requires your usual morning coffee ingredients: espresso, milk, and optional sugar, plus a few ice cubes.

As the article mentions, "The order of ingredients is important. You want to add the coffee to the sugar while it's hot so the sugar melts and doesn't stay gritty. You want to add the milk before the ice cubes to cool the drink so the cubes don't melt and and make it watery."

A few seconds of vigorous shaking before straining the ice, and you're left with a frothy iced latte:

It is refreshing and a cool way to mix up your morning caffeine hit.  I recommend you give it a try!

Have a great weekend.