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Hang Gliding in San Francisco

Hang Gliding in San Francisco

(This is actually terrible advice for a post about running off cliffs.
Make sure you’re attached to something that can fly when you do so.)

For Donovan’s 28th birthday, we happened to be in San Francisco and I wanted to do an experience instead of a physical present. I’m not a super brave or adventurous person. There are plenty of adventure sports that I wouldn’t consider doing. When I was researching adventure sports to do in the San Francisco area, I found out that hang gliding is popular

After researching it, I was nervous, but decided I could handle it. I booked tandem flights through Big Air Hang Gliding. It was definitely a splurge.

The instructor met us at Fort Funston. The location made a huge impact. I can’t describe the feeling of soaring over the cliffs with the ocean below us. From their website, I don’t think they do tandem flights here anymore.

If you don’t know much about hang gliding, it’s a triangle shaped sail and you get strapped into by a harness. You are hanging face down with your feet up behind you. Hang gliding works when there is a strong upward wind that catches the sail. It can happen in a couple of situations; in this case the wind coming off the ocean hit the cliffs and creates the upward force. You start on the top of the cliff and run off the edge with the wind catching and lifting the sail.

Mike, our instructor, gave us directions and a safety talk. I went first, so I couldn’t talk myself out of it. Mike said that some of the people stop running before they leave the cliff. He told me to keep running until he said to stop. After running, you tuck your feet into a harness that helps keep your body straight. Donovan took a video of us taking off. In it I’m running on the ground, then we leave, but my feet keep running for a long time. It’s pretty funny.

    

I will say that I felt completely safe while hang gliding. The wind is so strong coming up from below you that you feel held. It was a great experience and I’m so glad we did it!

   

Fort Funston itself is gorgeous too. It’s a very dog friendly park. We were almost the only people we saw there without a dog. There are succulents growing all over and paths to wander along the top of the cliffs. You can also get down to the sand below, but we didn’t go down there.

  

 

  

View of San Francisco from Fort Funston

San Francisco

San Francisco

In 2014, Donovan and I took what still remains my favorite trip of ours. We flew to San Francisco and stayed with a family friend of his for a few days exploring the town. Then we rented a convertable and drove up Highway 101. We were introduced to the redwoods, beautiful rocky coastlines, and sea glass beached. Finally we ended with a few days in Portland before flying home.

This post has what we did while in San Francisco.

Golden Gate Park:

We could have honestly spent a ton more time here. I love parks, but here the few things we did do:

Japanese Tea Garden – We took advantage of their free morning entry on Mon, Wed, and Fri. The garden was very lovely and peaceful. The grounds are impeccably kept. I would recommend, especially if you get in for free.

     

Stow Lake – we walked around the lake after the Japanese Tea Garden. It was peaceful and lovely.

   

de Young Museum – there are beautiful 360 views from the top floor, Harmon Observation Tower, and entrance is free! We didn’t actually go in the museum.

    

Bison Paddock – We drove past the bison paddock and saw the herd from the street.

Ocean Beach State Park:

This was a quick stop for us to see the ocean. We didn’t spend much time here as we knew we’d see the ocean constantly on our road trip up 101. It was a nice pit stop and we ate dinner at Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant, which you could skip.

Haight & Ashbury:

This was another quick stop to see the historic corner. We popped into a few shops and had lunch at Street Taco on Haight. Interesting if you’re into the hippie movement and singers like Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin; otherwise it’s just a street corner.

Painted Ladies:

Row of Victorian houses, known for their appearance on Full House and other TV shows. The Full House house is a different color now. This was just a quick stop. It’s a must do because it’s so iconic, but it wasn’t really that thrilling.

Lombard Street:

Famous street for its 8 hairpin turns and pretty flowerbeds. The view is gorgeous from here, definitely worth doing.

  

Ferry Plaza:

We came here for the farmers market. It was enjoyable just walking around and we bought a few pieces of fruit for our upcoming road trip. We also ate lunch here. Easily the biggest farmers market I had seen. It was very very crowded.

   

   

From here we actually walked up the embarcadero to the piers and San Francisco Fishermans Wharf. It’s less than two miles, but it felt really really long. Probably wouldn’t recommend it.

Chinatown:

The streets are beautifully decorated with hanging lanterns and pennants. We wandered through shops and the streets; looking at street art. We ate lunch at Hang Ah Dim Sum, the first Dim Sum restaurant in the USA.

      

   

 

Golden Gate Bridge:

We stopped headed back into town from Muir Woods and found a spot to pull over at the northern Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point. Obviously a must do!

        

We took public transportation almost our whole time in San Francisco. The parking rate is very high. We rode on ferrys, buses, trolleys, and trains. We also did a ton of walking. The city is of course famously hilly, so look at where you’re going before hand.

There’s great street art in San Francisco, so I would look it up and seek it out while you’re there. We spent time walking around neighborhoods to find street art.

  

If we ever go back to San Francisco there are other places I’d like to see such as Presidio, Angel Island State Park, Alcatraz, the 16th Ave. Tiled Steps, Lands End Lookout, maybe a museum or the zoo. Several redwood preserves exist south of town that would be exciting to explore. There are so many things to do and we really enjoyed our time in San Francisco.

Places we ate:

Street Taco – a fun small restaurant with tacos and other Mexican street food on Haight St. It was good.
Hang Ah Dim Sum – the first Dim Sum Restaurant in the USA, opened in 1920, delicious and not too expensive
Bi-Rite Creamery – hand made ice cream. The line was around the block, but next door was a Bi-Rite Market and we bought ice cream out of their freezer section. Good ice cream, but I wouldn’t recommend standing in a long line for it.
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market – Farmers market that’s open Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays. There are tons of vendors with fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, meats etc. and different food vendors selling ready to eat foods.
Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant – a pricier option with ocean views from their floor to ceiling windows. The food was honestly just “eh”.

We also explored Fort Funston where we went hang gliding and Muir Woods, redwoods park about a 40 minute drive north from San Francisco.

After we were done in San Francisco we rented a convertible and road tripped up Highway 101.

Burden Falls

Burden Falls

Burden Falls Wilderness is in Pope County, in the North West corner of the Shawnee National Forest. Just a short drive from Bell Smith Springs and Jackson Falls. I would highly recommend combining this with one of these other hiking trails.

Burden Falls Wilderness is composed of hiking and horse trails, but why most people visit is the actual Burden Falls.

The top of the waterfall is located almost directly off the parking lot, making this ideal for someone who doesn’t want to hike far. When entering or exiting the tiny parking lot, you probably drove through Burden Creek that becomes the waterfall in a few feet.

The upper cascades is only a few feet tall, but very lovely to see the creek dropping over standstone ledges.

The path crosses Burden Creek after the first upper cascade. From the north you can see a side view of the main falls. Continuing down the rock wall will give you the best views from the bottom of the falls.

   

View of the falls as you’re coming down the side of the rock wall.

In dry summer weather, the falls are only a trickle. But if you manage to visit after a rainy period, you can really see it flowing. This is a great spot to visit in Spring, when it’s rainier and not as hot.

 

      

   

I hope you’re all blessed with friends who will dance under waterfalls with you.

  

View of the creek as it flowed away from the falls.

Disclaimer: Some of these were taken on a cell phone in 2016, so they aren’t up to my normal dslr quality.

Rocky Bluffs

Rocky Bluffs

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Rocky Bluffs Trail is a 1.8 mile loop trail featuring two waterfalls in heavy rainfall. A shortcut trail turns the loop into less than a mile. The trail is located on the East side of Devil’s Kitchen Lake, past the spillway on Tacoma Road. The trail head has a small parking lot that can get full during the popular hiking times.

This is one of the better maintained trails in Southern Illinois. It features foot bridges, stairs, benches, and clear trails. The trail head has two paths. The left takes you to the bottom of the large waterfall, the right takes you to the top. The second cascade is found by following the right trail to where the shortcut trail begins. Both of the waterfalls only flow during heavy rainfalls. I have gone the day after a big rain and they have already dried up.

Even without the waterfalls, however, this is a worthy hiking spot. The trail to the right goes over the top of the first waterfall and then follows a path through the woods. Eventually the path loops to the left. Make sure to pay attention to the signage. It intersects with a trail called Wild Turkey Trail that does not lead back to the parking lot.

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The trail follows the top of the hill until turning again left to start your descent. On the way down, the trail has several switchbacks. From the top you can see a series of footbridges, but you don’t reach them til about half way down. This section of this trail offers a pretty view of the woods and Grassy Creek.

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For the last half of the trail, the path meanders between Grassy Creek and a set of bluffs. The bluffs have beautiful crevasses and layers in their formation.

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After the bluffs, you reach the base of the waterfall. The stairs on the far side take you back to the parking lot.

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This trail is fantastic when there’s been heavy rain, but still worth it to see the bluffs and creek. In the Spring, this area is known for its wildflowers. In a wet cold winter, the waterfall can turn into a frozen sculpture of icicles.

To see the waterfall in heavy rain check out this post.