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Tuesday 9 April 2013

An afternoon at Lands End

This last weekend was a busy one for us - aren't they all lately?

We spent most of our time this weekend going from open house to open house trying to find a new rental home for our family. Not the most exciting way for kids to spend the weekend - admittedly, it wasn't the most fun for Kim and I either. After looking at all those (mostly unsuitable) apartments and cottages we all needed a break. So Sunday afternoon we jumped in a Zipcar and headed to Lands End in San Francisco; another spot that we hadn't yet made it to.

Ava and Lola at Lands End Lookout

I'm always amazed at just how many places in San Francisco we are still yet to visit. We've been living in the Bay Area for almost 18 months now and even though we seem to be out and about all the time, we've still only seen such a tiny part of this beautiful area. Not having a car makes it a little tricky to visit many places here. I really like not having a car and being able to do most things on foot but I must admit that having wheels would come in handy for getting out and about to do the tourist thing.

Anyway, back to Lands End... I had read an article on Red Tricycle about a Shipwreck Walk at Lands End and I just knew that it would be a great day out with the kids. We started by checking out Lands End Lookout and, after getting a map from the visitors centre, headed down towards the water and the ruins of Sutro Baths. The original Sutro Baths building was opened to the public back in 1896. It would've been an amazing sight to see: a glass, iron and wood structure featuring seven swimming pools, a museum, a concert hall seating 8,000 and at one point, an ice skating rink. As you can imagine the whole place would've been pretty expensive to run and after a while it ran into financial troubles. Shortly after it closed down a fire destroyed the building in 1966. All that remains today are the foundations, a few small walls, staircases that seem to lead to nowhere and a few of the baths. It's a pretty interesting place to check out.

Ava and Lola at the Lands End Visitor Centre

Sutro Baths from Lands End Lookout

Heading down to the baths

Looking over Sutro Baths

Close up of the ruins

Stairs to nowhere

Sutro Baths have recently become home to a wild river otter nicknamed Sutro Sam. He's the first river otter spotted in San Francisco in decades so he's become quite the local celebrity. He's a pretty elusive little guy and even though we were hopeful, we didn't have any luck in spotting him. Since Sutro Sam has taken up residence in the baths, Golden Gate National Park have requested that visitors keep their distance and not walk around the actual baths. You'll notice in the photos above and below that not many people heed this advice, but we made sure to keep our distance and not disturb our otter friend - wherever he was hiding!

What we were able to climb on however, were some ruins a little further back from the water. I'm not quite sure exactly what these ruins once were (a google search would surely tell me) but they are quite odd. A series of little "rooms" with windows facing outside but no walkways leading between them. The roof supports (or what I took to be roof supports) were relatively low. No matter what these ruins once were the girls enjoyed climbing through the windows and exploring the different rooms.

Ava and Lola walk along the edge of the ruins

I can reach the roof!

A new house for us?

The girls and I along the edge of the ruins

Ready to jump

After exploring the ruins we headed toward a cave in the cliffs. We trekked through the squishy mud floor of the cave and popped out on the other side to a stunning view of the rocky shore.

About to enter the cave

The rocky shore on the other side of the cave

Back out of the cave we hiked up the hill above Sutro Baths to yet more ruins. Ava enjoyed clambering over these and trying to work out what they once would've been, all while looking windswept!

Ava looking a little windswept

Looking back down over the baths

Looking back over Sutro Baths and Cliff House

Looking back up the hill

Ava at the seaside

A short walk along the trail and we found ourselves at a lookout with stunning views over the Golden Gate Bridge. Even though we see the Golden Gate Bridge on a regular basis I'm still always in awe when it pops up in front of me. Much the same way that I felt in Paris when the Eiffel Tower would appear as I turned a corner, or when the Chrysler or Empire State Buildings would rise up above me in New York. There's just something awe inspiring about such famous landmarks, no matter how many times you see them.
A little hazy over the bay today

Yet another shot in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

While the views of the Golden Gate Bridge were stunning there was something else at this lookout point that caught our attention. We may not have had any luck spotting Sutro Sam, however the pods of dolphins swimming in the ocean weren't quite as shy. It took a little while for Ava and Lola to spot them but once they did the girls were enchanted by the dolphins that dived through the waters in front of us. Ava was convinced that she saw a few dolphins come up and smile at her. I'll just have to take her word for that as I didn't spot any dolphin smiles myself!

Dolphins just off shore

Can you see their smiles? Neither can I!



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. It is beauuuuuutiful there. You are right - so many places to visit, you always write about new places you have taken the girls! Sally, I absolutely love the shot of you girls! Gorgeous!

    1. Thanks :) I'm usually behind the camera so I rarely appear in photos.
      We'll have to add this to the ever expanding list of places to take you when you visit. Hope you're planning on staying a few months!

  3. Hi, I am in an Asian country. I came across your page as I was searching for historical pictures & videos of memorable past from Library of Congress loc.gov and archive.org websites. I am much impressed to find Sutros memorable services for the city in far past, specially the amazing Sutro Baths but shocked to know that hardly 1% of those precious memories could have survived. According to National Parks, most of statues in Sutro Heights missing, which were then acquired from German traditional artists of eighteenth century, probably including the statue of lion in your pictures. I wish entire Baths were saved as MONUMENTS instead of just those bricks & water as RUINS. Thanks for the closeups of the ruins that misted my eyes. Regards to all of you.


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