Skip to main content

November Bay Trip Part 5; Marin Headlands

The main attraction for last Saturday was hiking out in the Marin Headlands across the Bay from the city of San Francisco.






After leaving the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge I took Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from I-580 west through San Rafael to US 101.  Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from I-580 west to California State Route 1 was envisioned to be the never built California State Route 251.

CAhighways.org on CA 251

Heading south on US 101 I was able to get a shield picture for CA 131 which was one of the routes I was missing.  I thought about trying to clinch 131 given it is a short route when I was planning this trip but I wasn't feeling like slogging through suburban streets after Mount Diablo.





Approaching the Marin Headlands required passing through the Robin Williams Tunnel (formerly Waldo Tunnel named after a Californian political figure during the Gold Rush era).  The first bore of the Robin Williams Tunnel was completed in 1937 to coincide with the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge.  The second bore was completed in 1954 and was the last major update to the tunnels.  The name change to the Robin Williams Tunnel occurred in 2014.  Generally there is a painted rainbow on the Robin Williams Tunnel arches but for some reason they weren't present on my trip.





I pulled off of US 101 to reach the Marin Headlands via Bunker Road.  The Marin Headlands is the name of the peninsula on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County.  The Headlands largely have a history of military encampments, bunkers, fortifications, and even Nike Missile sites.  The Marin Headlands is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is managed by the National Park Service.  Access into the Headlands is via the one-way Bunker Road Tunnel.






The two major Army installations on the Marin Headlands were Fort Cronkhite and Fort Barry.  Fort Cronkhite was built on north end of Rodeo Lagoon and was in operation from the 1930s until 1974.  I took this picture of Fort Cronkhite from the Chapel Building at Fort Baker which serves at the National Park Visitor Center.





Fort Baker is much older than Fort Cronkhite and dates back to a series of coastal batteries up on Hawk Hill which were constructed in the 1890s and 1900s.  I had a look at some of the older military buildings from Fort Baker along Simmonds and Rosenstock Road.  Like Fort Cronkhite the closure of Fort Baker occurred in 1974.








Crossing over Hawk Hill via McCollough Road accesses Conzelman Road which is one of the most scenic roadways in all of California.  Conzelman Road hangs pretty close to the 923 foot Hawk Hill and hugs the coastline high above San Francisco Bay.  Really the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Conzelman Road is probably the best view of the structure.  Downtown San Francisco, Alcatraz, Treasure Island, Oakland, the Bay Bridge, and even Mount Diablo are visible from the overlook on Conzelman Road.


Hawk Hill has various bunker tunnels and batteries near Conzelman Road which are easily accessible from the parking areas.








From the Hawk Hill batteries there is a really good overlook at the grade of Conzelman Road in addition to the mouth of San Francisco Bay.





Conzelman Road is no joke with 18% posted grades on a one-way path west from Hawk Hill to Battery Rathbone.  I used first gear to get down off of Hawk Hill and I still had to press the brakes for a good portion of the descent.  The 18% is the third steepest signed grade that I'm aware in California behind CA 4/Ebbetts Pass at 24% and CA 108/Sonora Pass at 26%.  Conzelman Road has recently appeared in a car commercial but I can't recall for what model.








Battery Rathbone was built in 1900 and had four six inch guns mounted to it.







Conzelman Road crosses within view of Nike Missile Site SF-88.  SF-88 was in operation at Fort Baker from 1954 until 1974 when all the military fortifications in the Marin Headlands closed.  The Nike was a series of surface-to-air missiles that had a range of purposes.  SF-88 had both the Nike Ajax and Nike Hercules, the latter which could be armed with a nuclear warhead.  Fort Cronkhite can be seen over Rodeo Lagoon a short distance from SF-88.





Conzelman Road ends at Point Bonita along the path to the Point Bonita Lighthouse.  Battery Wallace and Mendell are both within view of the parking areas for the Point Bonita Lighthouse.






The Point Bonita Lighthouse is accessed via a walking path through a rocky outcrop.  The path includes a tunnel and a couple older apparent older structures from Fort Baker.   The current lighthouse was built in 1877 and was originally only accessible via a wooden walkway.  The suspension bridge to the Point Bonita Lighthouse is apparently the only suspension bridge in United States that is exclusively used to reach a lighthouse, it was built in 1954.









Before hiking back to the car I took in the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Point Bonita.  Its very apparent how high the grade of Conzelman Road really is by seeing it creep down the coast on the left.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Vague Original Southern Terminus of US Route 91 in the Californian Mojave Desert

One of the more intriguing mysteries of the early US Route System in California is where the original south terminus of US Route 91 was intended to be located in the Mojave Desert.  This blog is a little different than my usual behind the wheel fare and explores why US Route 91 ultimately ended at US Route 66 in Daggett instead of Bannock. What ultimately became the US Route System was first discussed during the American Association of State Highway Officials ("AASHO") during their annual 1924 meeting.  Ultimately the AASHO recommended to the Department of Agriculture to work with the States to develop a system of Interstate Highways to replace the many Auto Trails in use.  The Joint Board on Interstate Highways was ultimately commissioned by the Department of Agriculture and it's branch agency the Bureau of Public Roads in March of 1925.  The Joint Board on Interstate Highways first met in April of 1925 and decided on the new interstate road network would be known a

Where the hell is Hill Valley? (US Route 8 south/US Route 395 east)

Recently I made a visit to Universal Studios near Los Angeles.  While on the back lot tour I came across a piece of infamous movie-borne fictional highway infamy; the location of town square of Hill Valley, California on US Route 8/US Route 395. The above photo is part of the intro scene to the first Back-to-the-Future movie which was set in 1985. To anyone who follows roadways the signage error of US 8 meeting US 395 in California is an immediately notable error.  For one; US 8 doesn't even exist anywhere near California with present alignment being signed as an east/west highway between Norway, Michigan and Forest Lake, Minnesota.  To make matters worse US 8 is signed as a southbound route and US 395 (a north/south highway) is signed as an eastbound route.  At minimum the cut-out US 8 and US 395 shields somewhat resemble what Caltrans used in the 1980s. Assuming Hill Valley is located on what would have been US 395 by 1985 what locales would be a viable real world analog? 

Legend of the Ridge Route; a history of crossing the mountains between the Los Angeles Basin and San Joaquin Valley from wagon trails to Interstates

Over the past two decades I've crossed the Interstate 5 corridor from Los Angeles north over the Sierra Pelona Mountains and Tehachapi Range to San Joaquin Valley what seems to be an immeasurable number of times.  While Interstate 5 from Castaic Junction to Grapevine via Tejon Pass today is known to most as "The Grapevine" it occupies a corridor which has been traversed by numerous historic highways.  The most notable of these highways is known as the "Ridge Route."  This article is dedicated to the Ridge Route and the various highways that preceded it.  The Ridge Route is a 44 mile section of highway which was completed in 1915.  The Ridge Route originally stretched from Castaic Junction north over Liebre Summit and Tejon Pass to the tiny community of Grapevine.  In spite of a roadway that once utilized nearly 700 curves the Ridge Route is generally considered far ahead of it's time and one of the first modern highways constructed for automotive use.