New Hikers Welcome! The San Mateo Hiking Section offers moderate hikes three times a week. For our hike schedule, see the Chapter calendar.
Printed six-month schedules are available on hike days from the hike leader and from Hike Co-ordinator Jane Paulson 650 323 6849 at a cost of $4.
Make any checks payable to San Mateo Hiking Section Sierra Club.
Hikes start at 10:00 AM, unless otherwise specified. Bring water and lunch.
For specific hikes, call hike leader at phone number given in the calendar. For any Saturday hikes, please call the leader in advance.
Trip Report - Golden Gate Park Hike 11/30/2016
A single ray of sunshine glistened through gray drizzle as I parked my car across the street from the Dutch Windmill in Golden Gate Park. I was here to join the San Mateo Hiking Section on their weekly Wednesday morning hike. Hikers trickled in and huddled together, exchanging greetings. Most were wearing hiking boots, well-suited for rugged mountain paths not usually found in urban park trails, and high-techie raincoats which made me wonder if I had made a mistake leaving mine at home. Charlie, his nose buried in a map, led us through maze-like secondary paths deep into the park. Twelve intrepid hikers followed Charlie without hesitation on muddy trails and through wet grass even after the drizzle strengthened into a light rain. We moved leisurely below Monterey Cypress trees that seemed to stretch their branches to the sky in elaborate yoga poses. Circling a chain of lakes teeming with ducks, we visited some of the park’s most notable features, the golf and polo fields, the bison enclosure, and glorious (though man-made) waterfalls. The conversation ranged to such topics as the history of the park (it used to be sand dunes), long-gone signs of “No shooting buffalos from the train,” and gossip about Spreckles of Spreckles Lake and his young wife, Big Alma, who donated the Museum of Legion of Honor to the city.
Golden Gate Park is a paradise of trees, shrubs, and blooms raised like a mirage out of sand dunes. Today, the park, like the human community surrounding it, is a hub of diversity: plants from all over the world show off their charms in groves and secret gardens. Trees from the original thirteen colonies grow in the Colonial Tree Grove. Queen Wilhelmina’s Garden is planted with tulips from the Netherlands, and the Japanese Tea Garden is a landscape straight out of Japan. Everywhere in the park, one can find blue gum eucalyptus trees, those sweet-smelling and lovely natives of Australia, the bane of conservationists (who call them noxious weeds and wish to cut them all down). Other groves are planted with California natives such as redwoods, the Monterey Cypresses, and Monterey Pines, which, though native to California, are not trees that we would have seen growing on the dunes prior to 1880. Thirteen million people visit the park each year to enjoy its myriad attractions. If in 1880 the park was outside of town, an outrageous experiment in flowering the desert, today it surely is the “true lungs of a large city,” as writer Frank Soulé predicted in 1854.
Hiking through the park and enjoying the beauty of its design and the richness of its flora, I found myself wondering: those of us who care about the preservation of nature, its plants and animals, who treasure sand dunes for their fragile and delicate ecology, how do we feel about the tall fern trees, their fronds waving tropically in the fog, the South African protea with its huge red waxy flower, and the Japanese maples changing color in the fall? The magical world unique to the sand dunes lies buried, unknown and thus unappreciated by the millions of visitors. At the same time, how can we not rejoice at seeing people of all kinds and ages forming positive, long-lasting connections with the outdoors? Freeman Tilden said: “Through interpretation, understanding; through understanding, appreciation; through appreciation, protection.” Golden Gate Park is an interpretation of nature designed to give easy access to those who might otherwise never experience the song of a waterfall or a nap on fresh grass. Whether hiking in the park, visiting its museums, or coming to one of the many musical events, one can hope that the beauty of the park has as strong an impact in convincing visitors to care about the diversity and uniqueness of our world.
The San Mateo Hiking Section was established back in the 1970s. Most of the hikers were parents to young children, and hikes started at 10am and ended by 2pm. A social lunch, sometimes picnic, sometimes potluck, still adds to the casual, friendly nature of the group. Wednesday hikes are often more strenuous than Thursday hikes, but everyone is welcome, and the group accommodates everyone’s pace. The group hikes in the parks of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, but has been known to visit the Pinnaces, the East Bay, or as far as Point Reyes National Seashore. Upcoming hikes include a December 14th hike at Coyote Hills Park in Fremont and December 15th hike at Huddart County Park in Woodside.