Sweeney Ridge is a large outdoor recreation area (a.k.a. park), located just south of San Francisco. It is sandwiched between the sleepy and often foggy, ocean-side town of Pacifica and the less adjective-friendly Peninsula city of San Bruno. Home to the San Francisco Bay Discovery Site, Sweeney Ridge is where European explorers, as part of the Portolá Expedition, first laid eyes on San Francisco Bay. There are several trails and trailheads scattered around the ridge, that lead hikers to this historic destination.
To celebrate the survival of another Thanksgiving holiday, my roommate Austin and I spent Black Friday hiking up Mori Ridge Trail, the trailhead nearest to Pacifica (near Shelldance Nursery).
Alternative trails start from Skyline College and Sneath Lane in San Bruno. These routes are equal in climb and distance, and offer different views and landscape. Our hike had the Pacific Ocean at our backs on the way up, and then front and center on the way down. (See the official park map for more details on the other trails.)
From the Mori Ridge Trailhead, it’s about 1.3 steep miles up to an abandoned Nike Missile Control Site left over from the Cold War days. If you’ve hiked in the Marin Headlands you’ve likely encountered one of these sites, which used to house nuclear warhead missiles pointed at Russia — crazy and interesting. The one at Sweeney Ridge is plastered with wall-to-wall graffiti. Colorful, impressive, and – it turns out –photo-friendly.
From the missile site, it’s about another mile to the actual discovery site, where you’ll find a commemorative stone marker. It’s a fun place to pause and daydream about what that day must have been like as the explorers bush-whacked their way up the ridge and laid eyes on the beautiful Bay for the first time. From the top, on a clear(ish) day you can see all the notable and impressive peaks around the Bay including Tamalpais, Diablo and Hamilton.
It’s a quick trip back down, with beautiful views of the ocean the entire way. If it’s clear you’ll likely be able to see the Farralon Islands and Point Reyes.
Another noteworthy aspect of Sweeney Ridge is that it’s situated just a few miles from San Francisco International airport. This makes for busy air space above you as you hike, with lots of planes taking off and landing. You may find this a nuisance or, like we did, or a point of fantasy. Seeing jumbo jets taking off, heading straight out over the Pacific Ocean, fueled our imagination about where they were going and what they were hauling.
I recommend this hike to anyone looking for a quick and solid workout or who wants a 2-hour hike that’s easy to get to from San Francisco (only 20 minutes drive south). The history is a fantastic added bonus, as are the amazing views of the Pacific, and the opportunities for exploring at the missile site.
It was not for anyone for a holiday gift. My roommate and I have an apartment that blesses us with a lot of wall space. We don’t hang art just for the sake of hanging something. For me, it’s more important to be inspired bywhat I put up. So the print caught my eye… I like cocktails. My roommate does too. I also like recycled things. And who doesn’t like to support small business? For only $10, why not?
The print arrived today. I had no intention of doing anything with it immediately. As I unpacked my work bag tonight when I got home, I pulled it out and thought, “hmm… I wonder if I have a frame that would fit?” Sure enough, I went to our back room and found an old frame in need of a makeover.
So I swapped out the old photo and replaced it with the new beverage print. I knew immediately we had an open spot in the entry with a hook all ready to go. I hung it far ahead of my anticipated schedule and it’s a pretty great fit.
It’s been 2 months since I returned from Peru. While I have archived my photos on Flickr, and now have a digital album filled with memories, I have struggled to find a way to chronicle my Peruvian vacation, simply and appropriately here. When it comes to blogging it’s common to over-think. I decided to pick five standout takeaways from the trip and build from there.
1 The Inca Trail is an adventure of a lifetime. Being on the 26 mile trail for 4 days exceeded my expectations in terms of thrill, beauty, serenity, spirituality and joy. By the end of our third day, before even making it to Machu Picchu, I was overwhelmed with awe. We began that day with magnificent views of snow-capped Andes Mountains, as seen from just outside our tent door. The day ended at Wiñay Wayna, where we had a stunning and impressive Incan archaeological site all to ourselves to explore, as the sun set on the Urubamba Valley.
Machu Pichu was impressive and there are no experiences I would trade for that moment when we walked through the Sun Gate at sunrise, to see the famous World Wonder waking up for the day amidst blue skies and sunshine. So many memorable moments along the 4 day trek, combined with the most stunning terrain, is what made for an unforgettable vacation (that I will unintentionally compare all future vacations to).
Mt. Salkantay in the distance, from an original stretch of the Inca Trial.
Ferd, Glen, me and Bryan at Wiñay Wayna.
2 Pisco makes for delicious cocktails and Peruvian cuisine is among the most unique and satisfying in the world. Food from Peru is influenced heavily by what’s been grown there for thousands of years like potatoes, quinoa and corn. Peruvian cuisine is growing in popularity within world-class cities, as covered by Hemispheres Magazine, in a short and snapy piece in its June issue, which I read right before our trip (just in time to build excitement for my taste buds).
What experienced and open-minded foodie doesn’t salivate at the thought of fresh ceviche?
While I’m not raving here about the guinea pig or alpaca ravioli I sampled, I will say that the home-cooked meals our porters artistically created on the Inca Trail, were as enjoyable in their own right, as the items we indulged in on the tasting menu at one of the best restaurants in Lima.
A spread of local Peruvian food as prepared for us by a group of locals from a small village.
One of the chef’s staff at Central Restaurante in Lima came out to walk us through one of our many delicious courses (right before the chef himself came out at the end)
3 Peru has a rich and fascinating history, rooted and influenced by the rise of the mighty and massive Incan Empire.During the weeks leading up to and through our trip, I read Kim MacQuarrie’s The Last Days of the Incas, which served up a 500 page dose of Peruvian history, starting with the rise of the Incan Empire beginning in the 1300s, well through the Spanish colonization of the 1600s. The facts I learned in this book came to life during time in Lima, Cusco and the Sacred Valley, along the Inca Trail and in Machu Picchu, as well as deep in the Peruvian Amazon. This book is a comprehensive and well respected history lesson for anyone traveling to the land of the Incas.
Pachacuti, who is honored with a statute in the Plaza de Arms in Cusco, expanded the Incan empire from the valley of Cusco to nearly the whole of western South America.
Saksaywaman was a fort set high above Cusco built with massive and impressive carved and pieced-together stones.
4 The Amazon (which represented nearly 50 percent of our overall Peruvian adventure) is filled with beauty, music, the elements and once-in-a-lifetime wildlife sightings. Using pictures and audio, which often tell more appropriate stories than words, here is more on that:
Beauty: From the hundreds of varieties of delicate flowers and butteries, to the playful, noisy scarlet macaws and the many species of their parrot friends, the jungle is home to all colors of the spectrum.
Music: the oropendolas (who build tear drop shaped nests) that resided outside our eco-lodge, far from civilization, provided melodies and sound effects that I can still hear when I close my eyes and reminisce… listen for yourself with a clip I recorded outside our lodge….
The elements: They call it a rainforest for a reason, even in the dry season. We learned this when we got caught out in the rain on an oxbow lake, doing some friendly stalking of some rowdy cowbirds. We must have hiked more than an hour in a heavy down-pour all the way back to the lodge. It took my soggy shoes more than 4 days to dry.
Wildlife: We had some unique wildlife sightings including caimans in the dark, an impressive flock of more than a dozen macaws at a clay lick (as photographed above), a family of capuchin monkeys traversing across a jungle highway, and the world’s largest rodents, capybaras (above).
5 Out Adventures, the travel group that my three travel mates and I went down to Peru with, executed a flawless Inca Trail trek and a magical journey in the jungle. Given that the Peru government requires Inca Trail hikers to go with a permitted group, I figured why the heck not try to find a gay group to go with. It’s not that men attracted to men always need or want to travel in packs, yet gay trekkers are going to be like-minded in many ways. Still, I was a little apprehensive going into the trip, traveling with a large group of strangers.
Our trip was comprised of an interesting and lovable group of guys. From London to Vancouver, our group was diverse, including a soon-to-be father and the first gay marriage divorcees I’ve met. We shared experiences together in Lima, Cusco and on the Inca Trail that we will never forget. If I found myself in a city where any of my fellow trekkers reside, I would make it a priority to see them… (like I did last week when I saw uber attractive and all-around-nice-couple, Alex and Kevin, in their hometown of NYC).
I look forward to a future Out Adventures trip and I encourage fellow gay adventure seekers to explore their once-in-a-life-time excursions — from Croatia and Turkey to Nepal and Burma… and maybe Mt. Kilimanjaro sometime soon? (hint hint, Robert.)
There are many more memories from my trip to Peru that I wish I could capture with words. At the very least, I will always have some of these stories to remind me of my adventure and the more than 600 additional photos on Flickr.
I am grateful for three grandparents, an uncle, and a cousin that have served in the armed forces for our country.
It’s my grandfather Robert that stands out for his service the most, in my eyes. He served in the Korean War in the 1950s and it was then, while based in Japan, that he met my grandmother, Sueko (who I previously remembered here).
Derek and Grandpa, circa 1990
He was tall and gentle. He was the father of my mother and we knew each other only 9 years. His death was the first close family loss I ever experienced and while I’ve lived the majority of my life now with him only in memories, I feel his influence around me often.
I have greater respect for our armed forced because of him. I know it’s because of his openness and interest in a woman from an exotic culture that my life is so full of diversity. And of course everyday when I put on my 34 inch long pants, I am reminded that he is surely and genetically responsible for my height.
While he was in the U.S. Navy, he was awarded a number of medals honoring his service, most notably the Purple Heart, for shrapnel wounds to the leg he received during conflict. In addition, he received the Korean Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Navy Service Occupation Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. Several years before his death (at the young age of 62), he sat me down and gifted me with his medals. I remember the day vividly. I sat quietly, as I usually did in his presence, as he meticulously laid out and explained each to me, and handed them over one by one, a transfer in ownership.
For many years after his death, the medals were stored in various places… as I graduated high school, college and eventually moved to California. Earlier this year I realized the medals needed a proper home and deserved a more worthy display. I did a little Pinterest and Etsy research and determined that there was no display available for purchase that met my precise requirements. So I sketched out a plan for a frame display that I would create myself with a variety of supplies.
The project came together not long ago, with a beautiful photo of my grandfather in uniform that my mom sent to me, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. The display now lives proudly on the wall above my bed, amidst some other personal art.
Thank you to all that have served to make the world a more peaceful place…
My name is Derek and I am a Broadwayaholic. I admit this and I am not ashamed. I like musicals, plays and the performing arts, more than the average human.
2012 Tony winner for best musical, Kinky Boots
My interest in on-stage song and dance originated after I saw my dear cousin Rachel perform in the Hastings High School rendition of Hello Dolly, way back when I was a lad. I saw a variety of marquee shows through high school including Fame, Les Misérables (my first show on Broadway), The Lion King and Sunset Boulevard, with the one and only Petula Clark.
Through the latter years I’ve been fortunate to see dozens of other shows, touring, in SF and in New York, including big Tony winners like Rent, Avenue Q, Wicked and Spring Awakening.
One of the things I like to do in New York when I see a show is to camp out by the stage door after, to wait for the cast to come out at the end of the night, because they almost always stop to say hi to fans and to personally sign Playbills (the official programs of a Broadway show). I’ve built up quite a collection of both signed and unsigned Playbills. I recently decided it was time to do something with my accumulation other than let it sit stacked up in the corner of my bookshelf. I decided to pick out a few favorite shows to frame and hang as art in my bedroom.
It was fun to lay all my Playbills out on the floor, try to arrange them in chronological order and reminisce about all the great performances I’ve enjoyed. I didn’t have a specific criteria for deciding which of the programs I’d frame and which would go back in the stack. I ended up with six favorite Playbills, signed by the most talented performers I’ve had the pleasure of seeing on stage…
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – starring and signed by John Lithgow, Norbert Leo Butz, and Sherie Rene Scott, with Joanna Gleason.
There are certain topics I ramble on about on my blog more than others, like movies, hikes, music and food. Two things I haven’t written a lot about are politics and books. That changes today.
As I was riding in a cab on the way to the airport about a month ago, I overheard an interview on NPR with Dan Balz, a writer with The Washington Post. Balz was discussing his new book, Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America. I just happened to be on the market for a new, interesting read, and because I like to dabble in and out of non-fiction, it sparked an interest. I downloaded this in-depth election examination and chewed through it in a couple weeks.
One of the things I love about reading on my Kindle Fire HD is that it gives me the ability to highlight key passages and take notes, which I can then go back and review. While reading Collision 2012, I captured dozens of interesting facts about our president, the pool of colorful Republican challengers in the 2012 election, and the evolving election process.
Here are ten of my favorite things I learned or was reminded of, reading this book, that you might equally enjoy, in no particular order:
By the time Mitt Romney ran for president in 2012, his net worth was estimated at more than $200 million.
Barack Obama almost always speaks, in formal and some informal settings, with the aid of a teleprompter.
The Obama campaign employed hundreds of developers that spent a year building a software platform that compiled and integrated an unprecedented amount of data including voter lists, donor lists and volunteer lists. Eventually named Narwhal, this platform allowed for integration between a campaign online and a campaign on the ground, for the first time ever. (The Obama campaign built a second and equally impressive platform called Dashboard that allowed thousands of field organizers scattered around the country to communicate and share important information over the web.)
Nancy Reagan lobbied Mitt Romney to run for president.
Six words you don’t want to hear five weeks before an international trip: You need to renew your passport.
This is the sentence I awoke to on Monday morning in an email from my travel agent. A perfect way to kick off the week.
I’ve planned the hell out of this upcoming 15 day trip to Peru and I did confirm two months ago that my passport is in my known possession and does not expire until March 2014.
Little did I know that to travel to many countries, like Peru, you must have six months valid on your passport, as of your planned return day. My trip concludes in early October so basically I will be expired by about six days. In a world where details (sometimes) rule, this is enough to require me to renew and expedite.
It’s always something isn’t it?
Well as I renew my passport I have to send in my current (and first) one and will likely not get it back. So it seemed appropriate to capture my international travels over the last 10 years and do a little reminiscing…
Following my study abroad, I didn’t leave the country again until a trip to Australia in 2006 and then again in 2008 when I participated in a one week exchange program with Racepoint Group to London, with a side trip to Paris (although with no photos or passport stamp from France, I can’t actually prove I ever made it there).
It was around 2009 that the rules for carrying a passport in and out of Mexico changed so I got a few stamps for trips south of the border. Then it was 2011 that I most recently left the country on a trip to Barcelona for work and play, although my immigration checks were in Zurich.
While I’ve only left the country a half dozen times in the last 10 years, I always feel blessed with the opportunities I have to travel. Here’s to filling even more pages in passport #2 (which hopefully will arrive without delay) starting with an adventure to a new continent.
(Shout out to my dear friend, seasoned blogger and world traveler Andi, who I clearly and blatantly used as inspiration for the title of this post. I hope she doesn’t mind. Visit her blog, Misadventures with Andi, for travel stories and tips, food porn and other great content that inspires me to blog more.)