Thursday, November 1, 2012

Are We There Yet?

October 11

I no longer walk alone.  I was joined this morning by Joel, one of my roommates at the hostel last night.  His background as the son of a career Navy man made him a fitting companion as the north end of San Francisco is steeped in military history.  We left the Fort Mason, which served as a Civil War barracks, passing the docks from which the Navy shipped supplies to the Pacific fleet during World War II.  A few blocks onward was Crissy Field, a former Army facility used as an airfield from 1921 to 1936.
The land was in high demand after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  The 30th infantry set up headquarters at Crissy along with the Military Intelligence Service Language School.  The airstrip itself returned to prominence after the war, since the small field was useful for helicopter and light airplane take offs and landings, particularly Medevac flights bringing in casualties from Vietnam.  Crissy Field finally closed amidst a series of national budget cuts in 1994. 
Joel and I soon approached the Golden Gate bridge, whose 1937 construction conceals a choke point once vital to the defense of the harbor.  Here is the only entrance to the bay.  The Spanish established earthworks on the hills above, known as the Presidio.  Gun batteries dotted the shore thereafter and additional artillery was later placed at Fort Point (now tucked underneath the bridge) by American forces.
Fort Point, hiding under the Golden Gate

Enough with the sex and violence, I was ready for my showdown with the Golden Gate.  The crossing is one of the most significant milestones over the long course of the American Discovery Trail.  I was blessed to have additional company for the momentous occasion.  My friend Mark Normington met me up top, along with my brother Colin, whose visit would have been a surprise if everyone involved hadn't contributed to botching the operation. 
Before 1937 the only way to get your car to Marin County was via the ferry, an inefficient means of transport given the demand.  The country was in a crushing Depression that even Paxil would not cure and the bridge would be terribly expensive.  Economic necessity drove California to act on the plan of engineer Joseph Strauss, who did not invent blue jeans.  Strauss was able to formulate a functioning yet artistic design which surmounted the what supposedly could not be mounted - "strong, swirling tides and currents, with water 372 ft deep at the center of the channel, and frequent strong winds. Experts said that ferocious winds and blinding fogs would prevent construction and operation."
The bright red bridge is now one of the symbols of San Francisco.  In fact, Frommer's lists the Golden Gate as the most photographed bridge in the world.  I was honored to have the opportunity to view the Bay Area and the city from her heights. The ubiquitous fog was kind enough to dissipate long enough to accommodate me.
The end of the Golden Gate bridge would seem to make an excellent finishing line for the ADT, but major trails in the United States simply do not begin or end in a major city.  A much more remote location is required.  The Appalachian Trail runs from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, while the Pacific Crescent and Continental Divide Trails run from isolated spots on the Mexican border to other places you have never heard of on the Canadian border. The ADT ends at Limantour Beach in Point Reyes, meaning I still had forty miles to go.
Nothing for it but to complete another dozen miles before ending the day.  I was glad to have Colin and Mark tagging along.  We proceeded onto a series of trails, up and down numerous grassy hills, all the while being slowly consumed by a shroud of mist.    After we snatched a quick peek at Sausalito, the veil closed completely and we had to satisfy ourselves with staring at nearby objects.  The terrain changed to thick forest and we reveled in the glory of the massive redwoods, whose trunks disappeared into the sky.  Another marvel lay at our feet, the mascot of the University of California at Santa Cruz, the banana slug.  The mollusks were omnipresent in the damp, dark woods and Mark was especially adept at spotting the slimy greenish-yellow creatures, which can move at a lightning fast rate of six inches a minute.
Banana slug, the Usain Bolt of the animal kingdom

As we neared the day's goal, Pan Toll Campground, Mark began to move a bit sluggishly himself.  His knees, in dire need of surgical repair, began to fail him and he was forced to halt whenever the pain became too great.  I ran ahead to meet our friend John Byrd, who had also flown in today and was scheduled to pick us up.  This turned into a bit of a fiasco as John was not where he was supposed to be and I had no cel service as usual.  After nearly an hour of trying to shake a text message out of my one bar, Mark finally limped into Pan Toll and collapsed on the ground.  Colin was able to contact John and we managed to figure out where he was and explain where he actually needed to be.
We hit a great taco joint for dinner, then took Mark back to the hotel in San Rafael so he could die in a bed.  Colin, John, and I visited the hotel bar, where we enjoyed celebratory pints of beer before realizing they cost twelve dollars a pop.  Sport stadiums and concert venues would have been envious of such vicious overcharging.  We beat a hasty retreat before being driven into bankruptcy*.  Unbelievably I have only two more days left to walk. 

*His friends paid, the author is already bankrupt - Editor    
 17 miles/4086 miles total 


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Anonymous said...

For the resord...I'm alive.

Mama C said...

You weren't really surprised that John wasn't there, were you? It would have been a bigger surprise if he had been there.