Changing Gears: From SFO to the Sea

On this hike we’ll climb up to the windy ridge where, in 1769, Spanish conquistadores first discovered San Francisco International Airport. Imagine their excitement when they realized they could simply fly back to Mexico City with news of their discovery, the greatest harbor on the West Coast of North America, with connections to dozens of international destinations.

However, many historians now maintain that the airport is a relatively new development, and that the bay in the late 1700s was, in fact, much larger than today. OK, seriously now: The continuous encroachment of reclaimed land in the form of landfills, malls, housing developments and (yes) airports, have diminished the size of the bay substantially from what the Spanish called ‘an immense arm of the sea’ back in 1769. It took another seven years or so to connect the dots that the Golden Gate (seen off and on for the previous 200 years by passing galleons on their way to or from Manila and Acapulco) was in fact the portal to this enormous harbor.

We start in Pacifica at the famous Taco Bell with a view of the surfers’ beach at Rockaway, climb up to Sweeney Ridge, then get a glimpse of at least part of what the Spanish may have seen. We get to the top just in time to see the takeoff of the Lufthansa A380 flight to Frankfurt (with which I’m quite familiar now…). Prior to that was the Air China flight to Beijing, nicely proving the point that San Francisco has historically always been America’s bridge between East and West.

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