Sunday, July 4, 2010

Five Senses of San Francisco’s Presidio

I’ve always found the Presidio to be quite daunting with its maze of roads, trails, and cream-colored military buildings—it’s inevitable to get lost there. But with a long 4th of July weekend upon me, I desired to explore a place that most tourists and San Francisco locals wouldn’t bother with. So I parked at the top of the Presidio, secured a map of an outdoor installation called “Presidio Habitats” and wandered solo around the mountain while throngs of people strolled the waterfront below me.

I was wrong to avoid the Presidio for so long. It is a City treasure with tranquil woodlands, well-kept trails, sweeping vistas, indigenous wild flowers, unusual glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge peeping over at you, military and San Francisco history, and delightful secret community gardens. If I owned a car, I wouldn’t mind living in one of the houses in the Presidio. The reclaimed officer’s quarters are surrounded by manicured lawns, tall palm trees, and living there appears to amount to peaceful, natural living in the middle of a metropolis.

While exploring the Presidio...

I SAW: clusters of Cypress trees illuminated on one side by the sun; eight foot high yarrow flowers; Chinese porcelain vases secured high in a tree for screech owls to nest in; bright red Indian Paintbrush flowers; remnants of abandoned concrete bunkers; the crisp, clean, deceptively shiny leaves of poison oak; a hummingbird flitting about a community garden like it was a two dollar Vegas buffet.

I SMELLED: wispy stalks of wild fennel; the energizing aroma of a grove of Eucalyptus trees; the salt air wafting off the water at the Golden Gate.

I TASTED: smooth sweet leaves of Miner’s lettuce; the first sun-warmed blackberries of the summer season.

I HEARD: birds flitting about in the dried grasses of a bird sanctuary; the long horn blasts of tugboats and container ships communicating their next moves; massive treetops straining and creaking in the breeze; wind chimes hung by tomato plants in an attempt to keep birds away.

I TOUCHED: the long stringy bark of a Eucalyptus tree; the smooth, red, hard trunk of a Madrone; the flaking, gray bark of a Cypress tree; soft airy “snowballs” floating from long thin stems; the fuzzy “pea pods” of a purple flowered bush; pine tree branches laden with dozens of heavy pine cones.

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