Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Daytripping: Elephant seals close up, at Año Nuevo State Park

June 25th, 2012 Comments off

A trumpeting bull elephant seal (Photo: Frank Balthis, California State Parks)

It’s that time of year when the B-52s’ “Love Shack” makes its annual comeback, delighting some and annoying many at barbecues throughout the Bay Area. While I’m certainly in the latter camp , I’ve also been having a much more positive, free-associative reaction to the tune this season.

Whenever I hear croaky vocalist Fred Schneider bellow “I got me a car, and its as big as a whale” my mind flashes on a visit I paid to Año Nuevo State Park—about 90 minutes south of the city, in San Mateo County—and I want to go back.

While gray whales can occasionally be spotted off the coast of this windswept peninsula during the spring, its the extraordinary elephant seals—many even bigger than a car—that you’re virtually guaranteed to spot lounging on the beach all year round. These are gigantic mofos, with males weighing up to 2.5 tons and measuring up to 16 feet long. During breeding season, from late December through March, 2000 or so of these behemoths crash the beach, and you can only hike the grounds on a ranger-guided tour.

In the summer months, though, when the ellies return to molt in huge raggedy patches, visitors can walk amongst them unchaperoned. Just pick up a permit at the park’s entrance and after hiking a few easy miles over undulating scrub and sand, you’ll find yourself in the land of the giants. The elephant seals are remarkably unthreatened by strolling bipeds. But bipeds like myself feel humbled in their presence, marveling at their cyclical journeys to and from the northern California shore.

We also think the sound of the seals is pretty much on par with the B-52s.

Positive Hikeology: Clear your mind in the great outdoors

March 15th, 2012 Comments off

One of the best things about spending time in San Francisco is the way its geography can help put life into perspective. Step out the front door of your home or hotel and within a minute’s walk you’ll see water, and mountains, and big stretches of sky. (Some of those mountains are actually hills…but go ahead and walk them for a few hours: they’ll feel like mountains.)

Unlike most flat, gridded American cities, scaled and engineered for human endeavors, modern San Francisco is unignorably situated amidst ancient nature. Being here constantly reminds you that we are mere specks on the planet, and that our petty personal gripes are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The city is a Zen Psychologist. No insurance needed.

Since 1982, the San Francisco Hiking Club  has offered GLBT residents and visitors ample opportunities to shake off their nonsense and meet small groups of likeminded journeyers, at no charge. You’ll find listings on line for at least one hike each week, with experienced volunteer leaders and convenient, reliable carpool pickups (Ideal for out-of-towners who want to get into nature, but don’t want to spring for car rental).

The Marin Headlands, a popular hiking destination just 30 minutes from downtown San Francisco. (Photo: Jim Gladstone)

Also of interest:  The Gay and Lesbian Sierrans of the San Francisco Bay Area