2015-08-20 - Northwest Road Trip - San Francisco - Part II
Before our last visit to San Francisco a few days prior, my parents had never been to San Francisco. I wanted to show them more of the city so we took another day trip there. This time we headed into the Golden Gate Park and first explored the Japanese Tea Garden. I found it a bit expensive for how small it is, and in my opinion found other Japanese Gardens such as the ones in Portland and Brooklyn to have been more enjoyable. But certainly, the people who could live in San Francisco could afford this.
This particular garden was originally part of the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894 and is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States. So in the history of Japanese Gardens in the United States, it is a key chapter. The World Wars tore apart Japanese sentiment and the garden was renamed "Oriental", all clear Japanese signs removed, plants allowed to die, and Chinese caretakers hired. In the postwar era, the wounds were healed and in the spirit of reconciliation, the garden was named back to its original moniker. A bronze Buddha replaced the original Shinto Shrine that was removed. In 1951, the Japanese Peace Treaty was signed in San Francisco. Since then, the garden has undergone many redesigns and expansions but will forever serve as a reminder of the friendship between the two nations.
My mother found the temperature colder than she dressed for and returned to the car for a break while my dad and I visited the botanical garden. In contrast to the small, quaint, Japanese Garden, the botanical garden was huge. It is currently celebrating its 75th birthday. There are so many different regions and biomes represented.
Lacking the time to explore the place fully, and you really need multiple visits for that, we wandered around in a circular way, weaving along the side paths and trails when they interested us. The whole place is really well done. Well worth the $8 for non-residents, it is free of charge to San Francisco residents. Over 8000 different plants are showcased here in this wonderful environment of mild temperatures and coastal fog. The unique climate and microclimate of the area is like home to many plants and allows the caretakers to recreate conditions of high elevation tropical cloud forests impossible at other botanical gardens. Represented areas include California, South Africa, Temperate Asia, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, and the Mediterranean.
You can't visit San Francisco and not go over the Golden Gate Bridge right? We drove across it and stopped for photos and the view on the other side. From its opening in 1937 to 1964, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, measured by its main span at 4200 feet. Iconic and beautiful, it serves vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists who would otherwise rely on ferries.
We ended our day with the beautiful Muir Woods National Monument. This section of new and old growth coast redwood forests is one of the last in the bay area. Some of the tallest redwoods, and thus tallest trees in the world, are found here. It is absolutely wonderful. Paved trails allow easily accessibility to a trail of a few miles near the entrance. Trails for hiking and trail running lead off from the main trail. Incredibly popular to residents, the park sees up to 6000 visitors per day and a million a year. This causes impossible parking situations, with a thousand cars just parked on the sides of roads, wherever a car will fit within a few miles of the park. Residents of the neighboring valley opposed the construction of an additional parking lot and a shuttle bus station. They did not want the place to be like a theme park. All the car traffic is also damaging the salmon spawning stream, Redwood Creek. A new plan is in place to replace the current system with a parking reservation system, heavily restricting the number of vehicles allowed to enter and park. Parking on the roadsides is to be reduced and eliminated by 2022. Hopefully it works. John Muir, as represented by a wooden statue, would certainly wish us to live in harmony with each other and the nature around us.