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Nicole Ackerman | SLAC | USA

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Secret Gardens in San Francisco

I spent Saturday in San Francisco with my partner Tom. While it is only an hour away by train, I haven’t been to the city for months. The trip was hoped to be part shopping and part wildlife viewing. Due to a late start in the day we gave up on the California Academy of Arts and Sciences and the San Francisco Zoo, neither of which we have been to before. Instead, I decided I would be satisfied seeing the sea lions at Pier 39 and the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill.

The shopping segment of the trip was successful, including some delicious siphon bar coffee at the Blue Bottle Cafe. We began the trek to Pier 39, which is a bit of a haul by foot. The sea lions were less numerous and more docile than the previous time I saw them. In the past they were audible from a few blocks away, but this time they seemed to be sleeping. I grew up in the Detroit suburbs, so wildlife fascinates me. I find it thrilling when I see deer, so seeing a bunch of bizarre sea mammals lounging on floating docks, just tens of feet from ogling tourists, completely blows my mind.

Tom at the top at Telegraph Hill

Tom at the top at Telegraph Hill

View of Bay from Telegraph Hill

View of Bay from Telegraph Hill

View North of Coit Tower

View North of Coit Tower

After visiting the sea lions, I wanted to meet the parrots. Telegraph Hill is very visible from the pier, so it seemed close. After a day of walking, staring up at the hill was quite daunting. We started walking towards the steep hill, which suddenly rises up to almost 300 feet. The road we were following ended abruptly at the hill, but we spied a staircase by a small parking lot. Hoping the stairs did not end at the first house, we began climbing. At first the group was covered by beautiful flowering vines. Then the ground leveled off and the surroundings were filled with a variety of blooming bushes and trees. There were little paths leading to garden benches with beautiful views of the bay and piers below. The gardens all seemed private, and I can’t imagine a public space as beautiful as that not being full of people.

After emerging from the path through the flowers we were near Coit Tower. We went inside to view the murals, which I hadn’t seen before, but didn’t take the elevator to the top. Even just from the base the city lies displayed in front. While skyscrapers produce similar views, one is already within the tall buildings. It’s a much more beautiful site from the edge. However, there was one thing decidedly missing from my view of the city – the parrots! I kept my eyes and ears open the entire time we were near Telegraph Hill, but no parrot gave any indication of its existence. We did see a hummingbird, so I did get a serving of beautiful avian creatures.

If you are in San Francisco, you can find the entrance to the garden path near the intersection of Sansome and Greenwich. Elsewhere, you can witness some of the beauty of Telegraph Hill through The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, a documentary about the (elusive?) birds.

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