Whenever I tell people that I have never been to Lands End or the Sutro Baths, people gape at me like I'm some sort of traitor to the city or something. The truth is I almost never make it to the westernmost side of San Francisco - it's almost easier to drive to the East Bay than get from where I live in North Beach over to the Richmond or Outer Sunset. Thankfully, Melissa had never been to Lands End or Sutro Baths either, so she was the perfect hiking partner for these bucket list items.
When we pulled into the parking lot at the start of the Lands End trail, it was immediately apparent to us that this would not be a warm hike. In typical San Francisco summer fashion, it was freezing outside - foggy, windy, and even a little bit misty. We laughed and realized that it was almost better this way - if this blog is meant to show you the real San Francisco, then doing this hike on a sunny day would almost be misleading. No, a cold and foggy hike on an early August day was just perfect for this bucket list item.
The parking lot for this trail is located right above Sutro Baths, so we started there. The Sutro Baths were opened to the public in 1896 as the world's largest indoor swimming pool establishment, but it was financially unprofitable and closed down in the mid-20th century. In it's heyday, the swimming complex could accommodate 10,000 people at one time, and included pools with 7 different water temperatures, supplied primarily from the Pacific Ocean, as well as diving boards, water slides, trapezes, and a high dive. (Is anyone else wishing we had one of these now?) But people stopped going during the Great Depression and the Baths never regained popularity, so eventually the doors closed for good, and the city began to dismantle the facility. However, in1966, during the demolition process, a fire ravished what was left of the Baths, leaving the ruins we now see today.
So, Melissa and I braved the wind and the mist and walked down the steep path to the ruins of the baths. We walked through the ruins all the way down to what actually would have been a pretty nice beach if it were sunny out. There were a lot of people doing the same on this cold Saturday morning, mostly out of town tourists from what I could tell. The interesting thing about the ruins to me was that in many ways they seemed pretty dangerous - unstable foundations that served as pathways perched perilously above murky stagnant water, obscuring who knows what - I myself felt close to pitching over the side a few times. But there didn't seem to be any clear warning about the dangers, so there we all were, climbing over this old foundation like kids on a jungle gym.
I had been tracking the mileage of our hike and by the end, we had actually hiked nearly 6 miles, and we were feeling it in our legs and in the hunger in our stomachs. Not too bad for a foggy Saturday! After our hike we rewarded ourselves with an amazing brunch at Sweet Maple in Pacific Heights.