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July 08, 2009

Windy Days & Warming Huts

Not long after we arrived in San Francisco, I found a walking group.  There is so much to do and see in IMG_0951(2) IMG_0947 the area, and I wasn't sure where to begin.  Striding Strong had recently formed, and is the brainchild of a local who knows the area like the back of her hand.  Why recreate the wheel when I could learn about the parks and trails of the East Bay area from an expert?

Normally the walks take place in the East Bay, venturing anywhere from San Ramon to Oakland, Livormore or Pleasanton.  Leisurely walks are intermingled with intense hikes and interval training on a weekly basis. I originally was not even able to consider today's journey, as Kelsey had an eye doctor appointment.  However, when the eye doctor canceled (again), today's walk, a journey around Crissy Field, moved to the top of our to do list for the morning.

IMG_0952(2) IMG_0955 These walks were my salvation the first few months I was  here.  The group was still in infancy, so no one necessarily knew anyone else.  I had the luxury of being one of many newbies, rather than the only one.  Not only was I meeting new people, but also finally learning my way around.  The group also began to socialize after our journeys, and so meeting places near parks and playgrounds were often sought.  Our kids could play, we could stretch the tired muscles, catch up, or just take in the warm sunshine and cool breezes of the early California morning. 

Today's walk was truly a challenge (or so I thought), as it was in the city.  Not only in the city, but mostly on the other side. It was scheduled for 10 a.m., and nothing scared me more than missing something I had yearned to visit for so long (the virtues of Crissy Field had long been extolled, but we had yet to go).  Luck was on our side, and the traffic I feared never showed.  Other than a brief pause after paying the toll, there was not one hiccup other than not exactly knowing where to park.

After a brief phone call to the group leader, and several failed attempts at finding the giant sign saying, "Jen, PARK HERE!", I gave up and parked near an official looking building, with a less than official looking parking lot.  We stopped, got out and I braced for the deluge of comments, as they had originally been less than enthusiastic about driving into the city two days in a row.  And the comments? Oh, they came...

"Mom, look, a wildlife area!"

"Mom, it's so cold and windy, it's like Iceland" (said in an extremely wistful tone)

"Mom, look at the beach, can we play there?"

They LOVED it.  A cold and windy day, so gray one would think pouring rain was imminent.  The sky spit out a few drops hither and yon, but not once did they even ask for coats, as they realized we would soon be quite warm from the walk. 

We were able to meander through the dune area as a wooden bridge had been constructed so one could wind their way without damaging the plants.  We left the dune area, closed the gate behind us, and headed towards the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Twenty minutes later, not only had we caught up to our friends at The Warming Hut, but we were all overwhelmed by the views.  Painters littered the sandy aisles that wound through the dunes to the shore. Dogs frolicked down in the water, oblivious to the cold sea spray that nipped at their noses and chilled their paws.  Campers (from the local Y down the street?) ran and biked in many different directions, reminding one that even those that dwell in the city are never far from the nature's grasp.

Though we were not the slightest bit cold, we entered the Warming Hut to find out that it was an eco-friendly gift shop and cafe.  Caitlin and Kelsey ran off to procure gifts for their cousins for our upcoming trip to the East Coast, while Nicholas headed for the fruit bars.  A snack or two later, we were out the door, and walking with our group.

We ambled along, a happily chatting group of toddlers to preteens and their parents. We reached our final destination, the beach,  within half an hour.  No, the trip would not be complete without a stop at there.  As evidenced by any trip to a slightly beachy area, my children love the ocean and its sandy treasures.  They were particularly excited by the East Beach stretch, as they were able to walk through the water to a bank of sorts without getting completely soaked (Kelsey's sleeves and neckline were completely dry).

They ran, played, got soaked, and then a text came through:  if we hurried, Peter could meet us for lunch.  We made a quick pitstop at the Sports Basement to grab a few dry things for Kelsey, and hurried off to the Ferry Marketplace.  We all made short order of lunch at Mijita, and then wandered around after bidding Pete farewell.

We found a few more special gifts for our trip to MD/VA, and opted for one last stop at Ciao Bella Gelato.  Kelsey dove into a cookies & cream, while I attempted to eat my bambini scoop of pear.  However, someone else had a better destination for the frozen fruity treat, and Nicholas' face was soon as cold as if he dove headfirst into a snowbank. How could I refuse him, though?  The little icy pear gelato encrusted face grinned and looked up at me as if to say, "What a day!".  Yep, a very good day with little planning, but great results. 

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