We can never have enough of nature. Henry David Thoreau
Eeney meeny miney mo, where in the bay area shall we go? With 360 degrees of possibilities, choosing reminds me of the nursery rhyme. There is no such thing as a lackluster option. Many San Francisco residents hop over the Golden Gate to spend their weekends cycling and hiking in Marin, but the South Bay has plentiful scenic routes as well. Driving down 280 feels like a blend of Big Sur, with redwoods, horses, and a western-like General Store, and maybe a bit of San Diego, with pockets of arid, desert-like vistas. Along the Santa Cruz mountains, Castle Rock State Park offers hikers and trail runners a challenging trail with a mix of topography. Parts of the trail require a bit of low-level rock maneuvering (during which I resorted to getting down on my bum for safety’s sake, or otherwise allowed my compassionate hiking companion to toss me over his shoulder like a wounded soldier). Parts of the trail are narrow and abut large rock on one side and incredible open-air vistas of the south bay on the other. Vegetation is varied: if you are feeling warm, press your body against one of the peculiar ‘refrigerator’ trees. These mahogany-colored trees are cool to the touch. Also found on the trail are endless redwoods, madrones, ‘Cowboy Cologne,’ Douglas Firs, and copious poison oak. I love the mossy trees in the shaded areas of the trail, where I feel like I am walking through a fairytale. Some of the rock formations are big enough for an hour or two of climbing, and those brave and able are rewarded with majestic views.
The Berkeley Hills in the East Bay also boast beautiful trails, but on this particular lazy Sunday, a friend and I opted for sets of secret staircases in a residential North Berkeley neighborhood. When hunger called, we headed back down to Monterey Market on Hopkins Street, a sustainable produce market with an outstanding selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables. There is a whole aisle for mushroom varieties. I saw vegetables I’ve never seen before, in shapes and sizes and colors I didn’t think were possible. Blueberries are sold in bulk; grab a shovel and bag as many as you possibly can. Even though I had just frequented my own neighborhood farmer’s market that morning, I couldn’t help but collect a few goodies and join other North Berkeley residents in the long lines that stretched through each aisle of the store. Ooh and ahh for 30 minutes, stand in line for 30 minutes.
A few minutes walk from Monterey Market is San Pablo Avenue, where my weekend climaxed at the sight of Acme Bread Company. Acme is like a family member to me here in San Francisco; I cannot sit down at the dining table without it. I can buy it in many locations in the city, but I couldn’t help but walk away with an extra edible schoolyard levain. Lunch at neighboring Bartavelle was casual, fresh, and the perfect Sunday spot. We sat outside where I enjoyed a smoked trout salad, and my friend patiently plowed through a beautiful board of smoked trout, farm fresh egg, yellow beets, fennel butter bean puree, radishes, butter, malden sea salt, and pickled peppers. As we were leaving, almond cookies with cherries in the center were coming out of the oven. Who can resist an almond cookie with a cherry in the center just out of the oven? So we had one of those as well. Down the street, Casa Latina‘s Mexican baked goods waft onto San Pablo Avenue. The choices are incredible; I went with a simple orange cake and it was none too dry and none too moist; a perfectly dense, flavorful tea cake.
San Francisco is the nexus, and from it, a myriad of atmospheres vibrate outwards and then back inwards again. That is the beauty of the Bay Area; in any direction, one can satisfy a multitude of passion points. Piece by piece, trip by trip, there is always somewhere new to see, something new to eat, someone new to meet.