I think I would have felt a bit cheated if I’d spent two weeks in California and not gone to the beach; it’s kind of top of the list when in the Golden State. But having to use public transport for everything had the tendency to make things a little difficult. Nonetheless, we were determined, so Rosa came up with the idea of going to Land’s End and checking out the Sutro Baths.
We took the 38-Geary bus straight up through the city to the end of the line; it dropped us off virtually at the parking lot. From there we meandered along one of the trails through the woodland. It was amazingly quiet, given its proximity to the city, and before long the trail opened up to give us a spectacular vista across the Pacific to the Golden Gate.
The clouds and fog began to roll in as we stood, so we decided to stay where we were and have some food, following the lines of the riptides and watching a container ship power its way through the ocean through the fog towards the Bay.
We then headed back the way we’d come in the direction of the ruins of the Sutro Baths, stopping off at some more incredible viewpoints.
The Sutro Baths themselves were quite unexpected. They were built in 1890 by former San Francisco mayor Adolph Sutro as a place for the city’s workers to relax and socialise, with fees kept as low as possible. They consisted of seven saltwater swimming pools and a kind of museum full of artefacts such as mummies and stuffed animals collected by Sutro on his travels, plus a specially designed train track to make it easier for city residents to get there.
After Sutro’s death his family tried to keep the baths running, but to no avail; eventually the project became far too expensive and the baths were closed in 1966. They were due to be demolished to make way for apartment blocks, but partway through the process they (mysteriously) caught fire, and in 1980 were bought by the National Park Service.
Although the ruins aren’t exactly ‘ancient’, there’s something quite eerie and mystical about the place, which is perhaps added to by their inherent newness; it was strange to think that people from just one or two generations before us had enjoyed this space in all its glory.
Next to the baths was Ocean Beach so we spent a while enjoying the warm sand and I finally took the chance to stand in a new ocean (admiring my tan-lines in the process…).