Posts Tagged ‘golden gate park’

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class="post-8269 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-faery tag-fairy tag-golden-gate-park tag-photos tag-san-francisco">

Finding the Faery Door in Golden Gate Park

May 13th, 2019

Faery Door
 

Do you believe in faeries? Also spelled “fairies,” these small human-like woodland creatures appear in numerous fantasy stories. Are they related to elves or hobbits? I’ve never been certain about the lineage. Perhaps I’ll inquire if I ever meet one.

This morning I woke up with the idea that I should visit more of the local oddities here in San Francisco. After my recent trip across America I’d explored some of the stranger off-kilter attractions across the country; why not continue the trip in a way by finding one of many such attractions here at home?

I decided to track down the Faery Door, a tiny but magnificent little door installed at the end of a log somewhere in Golden Gate Park. The location is a secret; all I’ll say is it’s outside the Japanese Tea Garden in a public area of the park. It took me a while to find it, I walked right past it at first. It’s well hidden in plain sight along an off the beaten path trail.

It was clear others had stopped by recently to leave fresh flowers both outside and inside the Faery Door. Perhaps this door is less secret than I had assumed; or were the fresh flowers the works of the faeries themselves?

The Faery Door has several sister doors throughout the Bay Area and an official website. For those seeking more answers an official book regarding these magical little doors is available from the website.

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class="post-6822 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-city-guides tag-golden-gate-park tag-san-francisco tag-videos tag-windmill">

Windmill spins at Golden Gate Park

November 12th, 2018


 

Yesterday I went on the SF City Guides Golden Gate Park: West End tour. Among other points of interest the tour stops at the park’s two windmills — the Dutch Windmill to at the northwestern corner of the park, and the Murphy Windmill a block or two south.

Most of the time the windmills are completely still — not due to a lack of wind, but the potential for too much of it. If they were allowed to spin freely they could break apart and become a safety hazard, so they’re typically latched in place.

For whatever reason the Murphy Windmill was spinning yesterday morning, as you can see in the video above. I’d never seen either windmill spinning in person before; the motion makes the windmill look even larger and more majestic than when it’s sitting stationary.

Why does Golden Gate Park have windmills? They were built in the late 19th and early 20th century as the park’s irrigation system, pumping water out of wells up into lakes in the park. Unfortunately for the windmills, electric pumps became available shortly after they were built. No longer needed, the windmills began to decay and the metal in the internal mechanisms was salvaged for scrap.

But San Francisco’s love for antiques meant there was interest in preserving the windmills, similar to how the cable cars avoided destruction. The Dutch Windmill was restored in 1981 and the Murphy Windmill much more recently in 2012. For more details on the history of the windmills and the preservation efforts, read this 2007 paper from University of Vermont student Sarah LeVaun Graulty, which also includes historic photos and illustrations.

My favorite bit of trivia I learned from the City Guides tour is also mentioned in the paper. Golden Gate Park’s windmills are Dutch-style, but are far larger than those in the Netherlands. So what do Dutch windmill enthusiasts call this pair of unique windmills? What else could they be called — the “San Francisco Giants.”

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class="post-5867 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-boat tag-golden-gate-park tag-haunted-places tag-stow-lake">

Stow Lake

May 14th, 2018

Stow Lake
 

Despite living in San Francisco for nearly fifteen years, somehow I never got around to renting a boat at Golden Gate Park’s Stow Lake… until now.

Yesterday I rented a rowboat with a friend and we took it for a ride around the lake. Peddle boats of various sizes are also available, depending on the boat rental fees are around $20 to $40. The sign at the boathouse said these were “hourly” fees, but in practice nobody seemed to be keeping track of time, let alone looking too closely at tickets. It’s a pretty low-key operation.

The lake itself forms a ring around Strawberry Hill with a couple bridges going over the lake to the hill. The Huntington Falls waterfall built into the side of the hill feeds into the lake. A number of birds including ducks, geese, and herons have made this part of the park their home.

If you want to find the lake, from the Music Concourse it’s just up the hill from the Japanese Tea Garden. While it’s unintuitive to go uphill to reach a lake, according to SF Recs and Park the lake was built in 1893 “…for leisure boating, as a promenade for horse-drawn carriages, and as a reservoir for park irrigation.” (Emphasis mine.) In other words the lake acts as a water tower for the plants in the park.

 
Stow Lake is associated with an infamous local ghost story. Here’s the haunted tale as I understand it.

In Stow Lake’s early years a mother brought her baby to the lake in a stroller. She met another woman and they chatted at a bench. At some point when the mother wasn’t looking the stroller slid into the lake, sinking with the baby. Horrified after realizing her baby was missing, the mother ran around the lake asking if anyone had seen her baby. Failing in her search the mother drowned herself in the lake.

To this day the mother is supposedly spotted in a white dress in the dark of night near the lake.
 

While I’ve never seen any ghosts in Golden Gate Park, it can definitely feel unsettling at night. Most of the park isn’t well lit and the canopy of trees and thick fog make it difficult to find your way around.

Regardless as to whether you believe Stow Lake is haunted or not, it’s a fun story to tell while you’re rowing or peddling your way around the lake.

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class="post-5315 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-conservatory-of-flowers tag-golden-gate-park tag-murder-mystery tag-san-francisco">

Murder at the Conservatory

October 29th, 2017

Conservatory of Flowers light show
 

Last night I had the pleasure of attending Murder at the Conservatory, a game that takes place monthly at the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. It’s a benefit for the conservatory and as such the tickets are a little pricey. You must be 21 or older and have a valid ID to enter.

This post does NOT include spoilers, but if you want to go in completely fresh stop reading here.
 

The story itself will be familiar to anyone who’s read Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, countless other murder mystery authors, or even played the game Clue for that matter. One of several characters has committed a murder, and a detective has to figure out who did it.

This event differs from other murder mysteries in a number of ways. While you’re free to dress up if you wish you’re only asked to work as a detective, not play as a character in the mystery. All characters in the story are played by actors, giving the production an immersive theater vibe. You’re free to interact with them and ask anything you want as part of your investigation.

As is typical for the genre, the setting for the story — at least the current story — is the conservatory itself in the Victorian era. This makes the 1870’s location a perfect fit. Amusingly, the characters were confused by the audience’s modern technology (mobile phones, etc.) One audience member asked a character about DNA evidence only to get a rather silly, confused reaction.

All clues are all held by or in the immediate vicinity of the characters, who stay in one place throughout the night and interact with audience members who stop by. I’d estimate the audience consists of up to about 80 people.

It’s a little weird at the moment because a nightly light show is projection-mapped onto the conservatory building for the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. Though nowhere near as ambitious as the City Hall 100th anniversary celebration it’s a quirky exhibit which can be noticed during the murder mystery. It’s all a mishmash of celebrating both Victorian and late 1960’s time periods in the same place (see photo above.) That said I didn’t find the light show particularly distracting.

The trick to solving the mystery is finding out what happened and when, what was the murder weapon, who knows what, and the relations between the characters. Fortunately you’re provided a notebook with the backstory and plenty of space for taking notes. A map is included which shows where to find each character.

A light dinner and beer or wine is included in the price of the ticket. The food was mostly vegetarian-friendly when I went, though your mileage may vary. Most of it was not vegan. Drinks can be consumed throughout most of the Conservatory with the exception of the butterfly exhibit. The first drink is free but additional drinks are expensive, though credit cards are accepted.

Before you ask… no, I didn’t correctly guess the guilty party. Like any good mystery there were multiple motives and misdirections. There’s no penalty for blaming the wrong character, but only those who figure out the right answer are entered into a drawing for prizes at the end.

Getting to the Conservatory of Flowers is relatively straightforward. Follow the Google Maps directions, and from there you’ll find clear signage directing you to the event. That said, I took the N-Judah and while it’s a more or less straightforward path from the UCSF stop through the park, getting back in full darkness and fog proved challenging. Turns out Golden Gate Park is tough to navigate in near darkness.

The current season of Murder at the Conservatory runs through January. In February they’ll be back for a new season with a new mystery to solve. Meanwhile, there are still tickets available at upcoming shows.

Tips:

  • Although the event is two hours long, the first half hour is just for reading the story and grabbing a drink and some food. If you’re running a little late you might not get a seat in the bar room but you won’t miss anything.
  • Pay attention to what the characters say; if they give you insight into another character, take note and be sure to ask the other character for more details.
  • For that matter, remember who is who! Many of the audience members seemed to get the characters mixed up. Perhaps they’d imbibed one drink too many.
  • Bring your own pencil or pen, the provided pencils are cheap crap.
  • Enjoy your surroundings! Going inside the conservatory after dark is a truly unique experience.
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class="post-4668 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-baybridge tag-fitness tag-golden-gate-park tag-haight tag-insanity tag-market tag-ocean-beach tag-photos tag-walking">

Breakers to Bay

February 19th, 2017

Earlier this afternoon I decided to do something I’d never done before: walk all the way from Ocean Beach to the Embarcadero, across the entire length of San Francisco. It’s been so rainy recently I haven’t been able to reach my goal of 10,000 steps per day on a consistent basis, so I felt like I had some catching up to do.

To begin I took the N-Judah outbound to the last stop at 48th Avenue, and walked over to Ocean Beach. It was an incredibly windy day in general, but the wind was intense at the beach. So it should come as no surprise that people were windsurfing and flying kites, and that birds were everywhere. What I didn’t expect was the thick layer of sea foam blowing around. It’s kind of like when someone pulls a prank and fills a water fountain with soap, except it’s a natural phenomenon that forms at beaches. I think I managed to avoid inhaling any of it.

Ocean Beach Ocean Beach Ocean Beach Ocean Beach windsurfers

 
I also didn’t expect to find a mural honoring Lemmy from Motorhead, but they always had a strong following in San Francisco. Or at least that’s what I would assume based on the number of motorcycles that appeared whenever they had a show here.

Ocean Beach
 

After climbing back up the stairs from the beach I made my way through Golden Gate Park. It’s a long walk but I’ve done it many times before — I always try to take a different path every time to maximize the chances of getting lost and stumbling across something new so I sort of zig-zagged all over the place.

At the Music Concourse I noticed there’s a statue of Beethoven. Which, wait, why, exactly? He died before San Francisco was even on the map, really. Seems like an odd choice. As a city we’re better known for bands like… um… Third Eye Blind? Okay, maybe we’re better off with Beethoven. Forget I said anything.

Golden Gate Park Beethoven, Golden Gate Park
 

I’m going to spare you the details of walking down Haight Street, which was even more uncomfortably crowded than normal with tourists for the holiday weekend. It’s a classic case of a sidewalk that’s far too narrow for the number of people. The Lower Haight wasn’t so bad, and by the time I hit Market Street it was pretty easy going. Check out this rad skateboard mural I came across:

Skateboard mural, Market Street
 

Then I hit the Union Square area and… no thanks. I walked a block over to Mission to avoid the hellhole of consumerism on my way to the Bay. And, speaking of which, here’s one final photo: The Bay Bridge’s Bay Lights lighting up in the twilight of the evening. As with all photos in this post, click if you’d like to see a larger version.

Bay Lights on the Bay Bridge
 

Stray observations:

  • My fitness tracker says this was just shy of 20,000 steps. Your mileage may vary.
  • Google Maps predicted the total walk time would be about two and a half hours, which proved accurate.
  • Basic manners seem to be obsolete these days. A shocking number of people stepped right in front of me while I was walking in a straight line as though I were somehow invisible. What the hell?
  • Jeans and a thin wool shirt were adequate for the windy 50 F weather. No need to dress up in a thick jacket when you’re on a long walk.
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class="post-834 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-duckweed tag-golden-gate-park tag-lily-pond tag-photos">

Lily Pond at Golden Gate Park

December 31st, 2010

Check any map of Golden Gate Park. Near the Conservatory of Flowers is the “Lily Pond.” But what exactly is the Lily Pond?

Here’s some recent photos.

Lily pond

Lily pond

Lily pond

What the photos don’t capture is that there’s water under the green slime. Aside from a few ducks treading water, you might not even notice there’s water. It looks like a slime pit.

But what is that slime? According to the Chronicle, it’s an infestation of duckweed that took over the pond in 2010.

Duckweed, as it turns out, is the smallest flowering plant. Duckweed grows rapidly! Just two years ago, Cheshire Cat Photo described the Lilly pond as a relaxing pond with turtles Who knew?