Summer Nature Days

For most of the summer it will be just the three of us all day, every day . . . One year-old, four year-old, and me. To see some friends at least once a week, in an environment that inspires cooperation rather than competition, I’ve organized this. A weekly nature/hiking day mostly with other school families. This is not point A to point B hiking but exploration and play in nature, fitting for our range of ages. And to enable moms to relax a little rather than run after kids! These spots are all within 10 minutes of our house, to prevent unwanted car or bus naps.

Here is the plan. Below I’ll post details on each site as we go.

Upcoming dates:

6/19 – Bernal Hill Secret Garden
7/3 – Bernal Hill Secret Garden
7/17 – Visitacion Valley Greenway
7/24 – Visitacion Valley Greenway
7/31 – McLaren Park Amphitheater
8/7 – McLaren Park Amphitheater
8/14 – Candlestick Point
8/21 – Candlestick Point
8/28 – Glen Canyon Park

* * * * *

Candlestick Point

Jackrabbit Beach at Candlestick is straight up a great beach! It’s got warm sand to bury your toddler toes, gentle waves, a grassy area, trees, paths to ride bikes and even views. Mostly scenic ones.

Here it is on Google Maps.

Jessica of Hill Babies writes that San Francisco’s crucial wetlands have all but been destroyed by landfill and contamination. She reminds us how important it is to share the still-sparse restored marshlands with our children:

Sometimes I wonder if planting that one seed, of literally touching that one rubbery tip of pickleweed growing at the edge of the development site, of chancing upon a heron stalking minnows in the eel grass, if that’s the last moment we have. If it’s the only thing I have, let it be.

San Francisco’s southeastern bay shores show us unflinchingly what destruction and beauty look like, side by side.

That said, a recent report on pollution of California beaches gave Jackrabbit Beach a clean bill of health. So let the small ones enjoy!

More about the Bay and it’s wetlands from Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association and Save the Bay.

* * * * *

McLaren Park Amphitheater

McLaren Park is big and beautiful, full of wild spaces that help us imagine what San Francisco looked like long ago, before we had the manicured Golden Gate Park and before the foreigners invaded: eucalyptus trees.

I picked this less-wild spot because it is sheltered and comfortable for smaller explorers. At the entrance to the amphitheater is a planted area where toddlers can explore, and nearby are paths with redwood trees and troll bridges to stomp across.

Here it is on Google maps.

For other adventures in McLaren Park here are the southern trails and the Labyrinth, both posts from Hill Babies. We like to park at the reservoir and walk to the Labyrinth, so mellow and absorbing for children. However, fellow pilgrims have left treasures too tempting for toddlers to put in their mouths.

Here is more on the Philosophers Way trail including a trail map.

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* * * * *

Visitacion Valley Greenway

The Vis Valley Greenway is a chain of six connected gardens within city blocks that was once public utility land. Neighbors organized to gain access, design, and create these beautiful gardens and parks, perfect places for children to explore, hide, play and imagine.

My favorite is the Herb Garden (see photo).

Let’s meet at the Children’s Play Garden, entrance near the corner of Rutland St and Teddy Ave.

Here it is on Google Maps.

Here is a good description by Jessica of Hill Babies from the gathering she led a few years back.

Here is the Greenway website.
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* * * * *

Bernal Hill Secret Garden
(actually Miller Memorial or Franconia-Brewster)

Here it is on Google maps.

It’s between Franconia and Brewster Streets close to Rutledge. Entrance from Brewster or I believe there’s a footpath from Rutledge. The 67 bus stops nearby. Be warned the entrance from Franconia has a LOT of steps.

This garden is a magical spot! It has individual plots and open areas for picnicking. Flowers tower overhead and the children find green tunnels, leafy hiding places and herbs growing wild. This is old school summer; kids oblivious of the adults as they rove in a group, looking for bugs and edible weeds. Truly helping each other and teaching each other in ways you never see on the paved playground. Magic!

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One thought on “Summer Nature Days

  1. Pingback: Summer of Calm: Week 3 | Abby Jaramillo

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