The first time I happened along the Warming Hut was about six years ago.
This quaint historic 1909 wood-frame building located in The Presidio is where the locals as well as visitors come to get away from the frigid winds and fog along the Golden Gate.
I was on this organized group ride – most of us pedaling road bikes – that took BART trains from places such as the Dublin / Pleasanton or Pittsburg / Antioch stations, meeting up behind the Ferry Building and taking this otherwise familiar route from along the piers, up the first climb to Fort Mason, and down to Crissy Field.
This was also the first time I came across all the outdoor enthusiasts at this signature project of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservatory.
In 2001, Crissy Field was transformed from a military airfield to a vibrant environmental showcase thanks to the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund and Colleen and Robert Haas. Thousands of community volunteers stepped up to make this project possible.
For those cycling, running or walking, Crissy Field is a haven for outdoor activities given its stunning views of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge along with the beaches, picnic tables, exercise stations, and tidal marsh outlooks.
You have to be alert at all times while cycling along the flat, hard-packed promenade, especially with the tourists using bike rentals. Experienced bike groups are usually knowledgeable about the rules of the road – for example, they’ll ride in single file while communicating to each other by providing the proper hand signals on possible hazards along the way.
Not so with the out-of-towners on the rental bikes. Some have been known to travel in clusters and not necessarily heeding to the sharing the road or bike path mantra.
At Crissy Field’s West Bluff about stone’s throw away from Torpedo Wharf and Fort Point is the Warming Hut, which was once a U.S. Engineer Storehouse.
In 2001, this historic building was renovated, becoming a café and gift shop of the Golden Gate National Park Conservatory. More importantly, it’s been a timely rest stop to purchase refreshments or to use the bathroom facilities – located directly across the Warming Hut in a neighborhood building – for many cycling groups as they continue on towards the Golden Gate Bridge and beyond.
Nearby is The Presidio.
On a recent relaxing ride this past summer, we happened along Inspiration Point in The Presidio.
This is one of three lookout areas easily accessible via car or bike. Immigration Point Overlook and the Golden Gate Overlook are the other two.
Located above Tennessee Hollow, Inspiration Point – made possible by the James R. Harvey Presidio Restoration Fund – offers some great views of the San Francisco Bay, from Alcatraz and Angel islands.
Nearby is the Ecology Trail, with stairs to give you a closer look at the watershed along with access spur trails to El Polin Spring and Julius Kahn Playground.
From Inspiration Point, take Arguello Boulevard to the Bay Area Ridge Trail. From there, you can explore the Presidio’s forest and Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire. Limited parking and restroom facilities are nearby at the Presidio Golf Course.
Down the hill is the Walt Disney Family Museum at 104 Montgomery Street. We actually stopped by and had lunch there.
Admission is free to the cafeteria and gift shop.
The Disney museum is part of a retrofitted historic building on the Presidio’s Main Post, opening on Oct. 1, 2009.
The 40,000 square foot space features many of Walt Disney’s achievements, including his early drawings and animations.
In the lobby are 248 awards on display of Disney’s remarkable career, including the Presidential Mental of Freedom and his numerous Academy Awards.
The Sunset District
If you’re looking to get away from all the touristy stuff in The City, look no further than the Sunset District.
This is the largest neighborhood in San Francisco, bordering on Golden Gate Park to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
Along Irving Street and Ninth Avenue are plenty of local establishments, including Arizmendi Bakery, Social Kitchen & Brewery, Fresca, Yancy’s Saloon, Ebisu, Marnee Thai, Park Chow, Nopalito, and Pacific Catch, to name a few.
The Sunset has its share of hidden gems as well.
Take the Hidden Garden Steps in the Inner Sunset not too far from the 16th Avenue steps between Kirkham and Lawton streets.
We first came across the Hidden Garden Steps after pedaling our bikes up to the old steps towards Grandview Park also known as Turtle Tower with a sweeping view of The City.
In fact, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sutro Towers, downtown Market Street, Golden Gate Park, and the Marin Headlands from this vantage point.
Grandview Park is only accessible via 145 steps to the summit. So expect a workout.
Down the way is the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, a neighborhood effort – artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher led in this creation with over 300 neighbors joining in – consisting of beautiful mosaic tiles running up the risers of the 163 steps and completed in 2005.
Look closely at the design and you might make out the design of birds, fish and other life forms imbedded in the tiles.
From atop 15th Avenue, we rode down the hill to Lawton Street, making a left from there until we came across the Hidden Garden Steps.
Barr and Cruther were also part of this group and community effort consisting of a second set of ceramic-tiled steps and public garden.
It took a little researching but the Hidden Garden Steps turned out to be a wonderful find.
What’s more, this is a part of San Francisco that continues to be mostly local. Here’s hoping it stays that way.
To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail email@example.com.