Bernal Heights Park: San Francisco’s Roof

Discussion in 'California' started by NileGuide, Mar 28, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, Twin Peaks, even our otherwise infamous Alcatraz Island — San Francisco is certainly not lacking in scenic spots. It’s a city of hills, after all, and what better way to see a city than to get above it?​
    As a native Bay Arean, I was surprised to find a green corner of the city I’d never been to before: Bernal Heights Park. I say “corner,” but maybe “amphitheater” is the right word; the panoramic views of San Francisco here are unmatched.​
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    That’s why I was happy I had a panoramic camera (well, camera phone) with me; you just can’t capture the vistas from Bernal Heights — at the crossroads between San Francisco proper and its periphery — without a wide-angle lens. If I’d had a more decent photo-shooting apparatus, the photo above would’ve captured our usually estranged two bridges: the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate. As it is, it’s still pretty cool to get both Sutro Tower and downtown in the same frame.​
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    It’s really a fun spot to take a walk; I felt a bit like I was on a natural island of wildflowers and grass, floating just above the concrete and harsh angles of the city.​
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    The contrast was palpable every minute I was up there. The scenery here felt disjointed; hence, the sometimes out-of-whack perspective in my pictures​
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    The vegetation seemed native for the most part; I can say with confidence that at least the California poppies (above) were. The state flower, it’s actually against the law to pick these, though the intensely orange petals on them have often tempted me to do so.​
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    A labyrinth had been laid out with stones that seemed to have broken off from the hill itself as it eroded over the millennia. Clearly, hippies had been here. Despite the crunchiness (literal and figurative) of it all, we walked the labyrinth.​
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    We even thought we found some serpentinite, California’s state rock, on the hill’s decidedly Martian surface. Almost an iridescent green, the mineral was easily distinguished from the dull red rocks that cover most of Bernal Hill.​
    Aside from walking the labyrinth and hiking the circumference of the hill (which takes all of about three minutes), there’s not a whole lot else to do here. It’s clearly a popular spot for dog owners who let their pets go leash-free.​
    It being too windy to throw the Frisbee around, I decided to take pictures. I found the contrast between the northern and southern parts of San Francisco particularly interesting.​
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    To the north are the straight lines, tree-lined avenues, and compact urban planning of old San Francisco. To the south, the suburban sprawl, freeway overpasses, and stucco slabs of more modern times.​
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    Bernal Hill seemed, to me, to mark some point where the city’s development stood still for a few years. I could imagine engineers and architects stopping on this perch and taking a breather to admire the result of their efforts — this most beautiful of cities — before moving south to work on slightly less grand projects.​
    As we moved to the base of the hill, I couldn’t help but snap a couple more photos of the place’s foliage.​
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    Even the weeds here were healthy-looking and lush; these also framed the city especially well:​
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    Bernal Heights Park is easy to get to via public transportation. Just take BART to 24th St. Mission and walk east down 24th to Folsom. From there, it’s a straight shot up Folsom to the park.​
    On the way, you’ll pass Precita Park, a nice patch of green that’s a favorite among local dog owners. We passed the park on our way down the hill and stopped in a corner market across the street for an impromptu picnic.​
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    I obviously can’t recommend the bottle of wine (yes, it is against the law to have an open alcoholic container in public in San Francisco), but despite legal concerns the crisp, barely bubbly Portuguese vinho verde was an ideal refreshment after our walk.​
    All photos by the author.


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