Golden Gate Park is a great place to walk, take in places like the Con­ser­va­tory of Flow­ers

The Oakdale Leader - - LIVING - By DENNIS WY­ATT 209 Liv­ing

SAN FRAN­CISCO – The quin­tes­sen­tial San Fran­cisco place to walk?

Some might say Ocean Beach or Land’s End. Oth­ers Fish­er­man’s Wharf, Union Square, Market Street or even across the Golden Gate Bridge.

I’d dis­agree. Those are haunts, for the most part, heav­ily laden with tourists, com­muters from the prov­inces, and have a mob feel to them even when you’re hik­ing down a cy­press lined path at Land’s end catch­ing glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge be­tween breaks in the trees.

There’s only one place you can soak up what makes The City what it is — San Fran­cis­cans who live there. And that’s the place were in­ge­nu­ity and vi­sion trans­formed 1,017 acres of sand dunes into the Golden Gate Park.

Granted there is a lot of traffic that slices through the half mile wide park es­pe­cially on that frus­trat­ing piece of rolling ur­ban crawl known as Cal­i­for­nia High­way 1. And there are a lot of fee-based at­trac­tions — the Academy of Science, the DeYoung Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art, and the Con­ser­va­tory of Flow­ers as well as high pro­file con­certs — that man­age to pull a lot of peo­ple into the there-mile wide ur­ban oa­sis that stretches from Ocean Beach to the Haight-As­bury neigh­bor­hood.

That’s the rea­son the of­fi­cial vis­i­tors’ count for Golden Gate Park is pegged at 13 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

But the real joy be­sides the rel­a­tive soli­tude you can en­joy the lush acreage dot­ted with tens of thou­sands of trees is the fact you come in con­tact with peo­ple who ac­tu­ally live in San Fran­cisco.

They’re usu­ally fleet­ing en­coun­ters — a sim­ple ex­change of “hi” when you pass — or maybe a pro­longed minute or so chat when you are stopped soak­ing in the botan­i­cal beauty that is Golden Gate Park. It’s not that San Fran­cisco res­i­dents aren’t friendly, it’s

just that Pier 39 et al aren’t where you are go­ing to find them.

That said a trip to Golden Gate Park is re­ally about sharp­en­ing your senses for na­ture.

That sounds crazy given you’ll end up driv­ing 90 min­utes or so one way in the best of week­end traffic con­di­tions to take what is es­sen­tially a hike of sorts in a city of 870,000.

But when you con­sider what sur­rounds you in terms of trees, shrubs, and plants it’s an amaz­ing cel­e­bra­tion of na­ture. There are some 800 species of plants grown in the park’s nurs­ery com­plex where 3,000 in­di­vid­ual plants are taken and planted through­out the park in a typ­i­cal week.

Granted, Golden Gate Park is es­sen­tially a large gar­den given it doesn’t meet the sub­ur­ban cri­te­ria th­ese days for a park — a cou­ple pf trees with a lot of flat ground cov­ered with grass and a basketball court or jun­gle gym added for good mea­sure.

It was de­signed as a respite from the ur­ban jun­gle. Walk for a few min­utes down one of the paths criss­cross­ing the park and you can for­get you’re in a place where park­ing a car on the street is about as stress free as a full-scale IRS au­dit.

Speak­ing of stress-free park­ing, your best place to ditch your car for an ex­tended walk through the park is in the Ocean Beach park­ing area across the Great High­way across from the wind­mills.

You can map out loop routes of less than a mile to eas­ily eight miles plus and never get bored from what you see. Even a straight­for­ward walk around the perime­ter — the park on one side and the street and tight rows of homes on the other can be a dif­fer­ent ven­ture.

But if it is var­ied scenery you want, stick to the trails.

And while it’s true many of the best things in life are free, plan on spend­ing a bit of cash if you’d like to en­joy two truly unique treats gleaned from na­ture — the 5-acre Ja­panese Tea Gar­den that is the old­est public Ja­panese Tea Gar­den in the United States — and the Con­ser­va­tory of Flow­ers.

The Ja­panese Tea Gar­den is near the de Young Mu­seum. The gar­den is fea­tures clas­sic el­e­ments such as an arched drum bridge, pago­das, stone lanterns, step­ping stone paths, na­tive Ja­panese plants, serene koi ponds and a Zen gar­den. Cherry blos­som trees bloom through­out the gar­den in March and April.

Win­ter hours of 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. are now in ef­fect through Feb. 28. The rest of the year the hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Ad­mis­sion is free if you en­ter be­fore 10 a.m.

Ad­mis­sion at other times for adults is $9 while se­niors over 65 and youth ages 12 to 17 are $6. Chil­dren 5 to 11 are $2 while those 4 and younger are free.

You can find more in­for­ma­tion at japane­setea­gar­

Per­haps the most unique fea­ture of Golden Gate Park from the stand­point of na­ture is the Con­ser­va­tory of Flow­ers

The Con­ser­va­tory of Flow­ers opened in 1879 and is is one of the world’s largest con­ser­va­to­ries, as well as one of few large Vic­to­rian green­houses in the United States., The 12,000 square foot struc­ture of glass and wood in the finest Vic­to­rian tra­di­tion houses 1,700 species of trop­i­cal, rare and aquatic plants.

A re­cap of some of the unique fea­tures as noted by the City of San Fran­cisco Parks and Recre­ation Depart­ment:

SPE­CIAL EX­HIBITS ROOM: Ev­ery six months the spe­cial ex­hibits room changes its gallery. Of­ten­times the ex­hibits in­clude model trains as well as mod­els dis­play­ing the topic of pre­sen­ta­tion. Gal­leries vary from Cal­i­for­nia fairs to trop­i­cal is­land sur­vival.

POT­TED PLANTS GALLERY: The Pot­ted Plant room holds var­i­ous un­usual plants. The pots and urns that hold the plants were created by var­i­ous artists from around the world. This room is main­tained at hot­ter tem­per­a­tures to ac­com­mo­date the needs of the plants.

LOW­LANDS GALLERY: The Low­lands Gallery con­tains plants from the trop­ics of South Amer­ica (near the equa­tor). This room also con­tains plants that pro­duce more well-known prod­ucts such as ba­nanas, cof­fee, and cin­na­mon. The room is usu­ally kept around 70 °F with a very high level of hu­mid­ity through the use of a fre­quent sys­tem of mis­ters, as the Low­land Trop­ics typ­i­cally get 100–400 inches of rain each year and are lo­cated in el­e­va­tions from 3,000 feet to sea level.

HIGH­LANDS GALLERY: The High­lands Gallery con­tains na­tive plants from South to Cen­tral Amer­ica. Its plants col­lect mois­ture from the air, and from wa­ter that drips from the trees above. Due to its dras­ti­cally higher el­e­va­tion (3,000–10,000 feet), this room is kept cooler than the Low­lands Gallery (around 65 °F) and is kept at a very high level of hu­mid­ity through the use of a mist­ing sys­tem, as the High­land Trop­ics typ­i­cally re­ceive 200 inches of rain per year.

AQUAT­ICS GALLERY: The Aquatic Plants room is sim­i­lar in con­di­tions as those near the Ama­zon River. As such, many car­niv­o­rous plants that thrive in hot, hu­mid en­vi­ron­ments grow through­out the room. The soil is mostly lack­ing in nu­tri­ents and the car­niv­o­rous plants are kept very moist by con­den­sa­tion of the wa­ter in the ex­tremely hu­mid air. The room also con­tains 2 large ponds, one hold­ing 9,000 gal­lons of wa­ter, and the other hold­ing half as much. Both ponds are kept at 83 °F and are main­tained us­ing ben­e­fi­cial bac­te­ria, fil­ters, wa­ter heaters, and so­lu­tions to pre­vent al­gae buildup.

The Con­ser­va­tory of Flow­ers is closed Mon­days. It is open Tues­day through Sun­day from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with the last ticket sold at 4 p.m. Ad­mis­sion is free on the first Tues­day of each month.

Ad­mis­sion is $9 for adults, $6 for youth 12 to17 and se­niors over 65 as well as col­lege stu­dents with ID cards, $3 for chil­dren 5 to 11, and free for those 4 and un­der.

For more in­for­ma­tion go to con­ser­va­to­ry­of­flow­

And per­haps the best thing about go­ing for a walk at Golden Gate Park is you can choose be­tween 3,500 restau­rants to re­fuel at, given San Fran­cisco with 39.3 restau­rants per 10,000 res­i­dents has the high­est per capita of restau­rants any­where in the United States.

Photo cour­tesy City of San Fran­cisco Parks & Recre­ation De­part­ment

The Con­ser­va­tory of Flow­ers lo­cated in Golden Gate Park.

Photo cour­tesy As­mau­dra at English Wikipedia

The Ja­pa­nese Tea Gar­den at Golden Gate Park.

Photo cour­tesy SF Parks & Recre­ation De­part­ment

Among the fea­tures at Golden Gate Park are, from top, Stow Lake that of­fers pad­dle boats, the botan­i­cal gar­dens, and the Chain of Lakes.


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