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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.

“The Wild Side” of Aruba

“The Wild Side” of Aruba

The West side of Aruba is populated with roads, towns, hotels, etc. The East side of Aruba is the opposite. There are no towns or hotels, for a section of the area there aren’t even roads. Those sections can only be accessed by four wheel drive jeeps that can power over the rocks.

Before traveling to Aruba, we talked to different people who had vacationed here before. Some had taken jeep tours, some had done horse back rides through the area, and some knew people who rented their own jeeps and did it on their own. We were in favor of the go on our own route while planning the trip. But there are several problems with this. Many of the car rental companies that rent jeeps actually say in the contract that you can’t drive them to locations on the wild side. Plus, several of the going on their own stories included blowing out tires and having to have the company come out and exchange them cars.

Once actually in Aruba, we decided to do a tour. I’m really glad we did. Our tour guides were excellent, filling in a lot of the background information on what we were seeing. Truthfully, I’m not sure we could have driven the East coast on our own. It’s not rocky like a gravel road in the United States; you are driving around and on top of boulders. Granted, our driver took the hardest route everywhere… we were actually sideways at one point! It was like tossing a salad, except we were the lettuce and the jeep was the bowl. Almost impossible to shoot photos while we were driving.

It was our second to last full day in Aruba and we chose the Island Safari by ABC Tours, because it went to everywhere that was left on my “to-see” list and more. We snorkeled twice on the all-day trip and drove the ENTIRE East coast. Our drives were excellent, the noon meal was OK (nothing fancy, but not bad), and it was nice that they provided cool water the whole day. They grouped the jeeps well after observing us. We were in a jeep with a younger family and two couples on their honeymoon; clearly the “young adult” group who got the wildest ride.

The day started out at the California Lighthouse and we admired the views from La Trattoria El Faro Blanco restaurant. From there, the jeeps drove over the sand duned area of the island and along the coast, giving us our first looks at the rocky coast line and the stacks of rocks that appear everywhere.

   

Our second stop was the Alto Vista Chapel. A chapel was originally built on the location by a Venezuelan missionary in 1750. It is said that was the first church on the island. After falling into ruins, a school teacher headed up the rebuild and the church as we see it now was completed in 1952. Weekly services are held here and a yearly pilgrimage is made by many of the island’s residents. In fact, while we were there a small service was taking place. The roads out to the chapel are not paved, but they are only dusty not rocky, so you could visit this stop on your own.

   

Gold was first reported on the island in 1824. Aruba has a long history with gold mining, many companies and countries have come through attempting to harvest the metal. The Bushiribana Gold Mill was built in 1874, but they still used old-fashioned methods to collect the gold. The Mill eventually shut down in 1915, due to the lack of materials available during World War 1 and the high cost of operation with low efficiency.

      

   

Every where on Aruba was SO windy.

While you’re at the Gold Mill, make sure to stop on the other side of the road too. This is one of the best places to observe the rock towers. Tradition is you stack at least 3 rocks up, making a wish on each one. If you can get the tower to stay, they’ll come true. This is not local belief, instead being started by tourists, who I’m sure also found the broad flat stones everywhere as crazy as I did.

      

Aruba has several natural bridges on the island. The largest one, however, collapsed back in 2005. The area where it stood is still considered a tourist site. On our trip we visited an actual natural bridge and the area where the old one stood.

The actual natural bridge was a fairly small one. The shore line next to the bridge was covered in crazy flat stones. We climbed up on top of the bridge and had a nice view of the shoreline from there. The area under the bridge was only a few feet taller than I am.

      

      

The area where the largest bridge once stood is now just a small area of sand along the rocky coast. Our drivers took us up on the mountain behind the bridge, instead of down along it. From here we were able to get spectacular views. I could not get enough of this coast line.

 

   

   

   

  

After the bridge, they took us back to their office for lunch. It was nice, but nothing spectacular. The frightening part was when they said the first half was the gentle part!

The Natural Pool is the center of a ring of rocks just off the coast. The ocean waves slamming into the rocks spray the water over and into the pool. With the water, fish and other sea creatures get thrown into the pool. It has created a small eco diverse world that is great for snorkeling! This is the main go-to feature of the Wild Side and it was worth it. Not as many fish when we went as some of my friends reported. Make sure to look up while walking to the pool too, the views were wonderful!

   

      

Coming off of the Wild Side was drove through the Arikok National Park. We made a quick stop at Fontein Cave. It was just an in and out stop, probably not a must see. Exiting the park you drive through a ton of wind mills.

Finally the tour ended on Baby Beach. They handed out snorkeling gear and gave us time to explore. This beach was right by our Air bnb, but we didn’t go snorkeling on our own, so it was still nice to experience it in a different way. They also brought bread for us to feed the fish. Not exactly sure on the fish health ramifications, but they sure did gobble it up.