Exploring San Francisco’s National Park sites

For my husband, Dave’s, 60th birthday in late May, he wanted to do nothing more than visit National Park Service attractions in California. His number-one goal was to see Yosemite National Park, but we were able to cram in half a dozen more for good measure.

We started in San Francisco with a ferry to Alcatraz – yep, the former U.S. penitentiary on Alcatraz Island is run by the Park Service. And it’s surprisingly popular. We saw boat after boat heading to the small island in the bay.

The now-defunct prison has a fascinating history, from the Birdman to attempted escapes to Al Capone. I learned about the American Indian occupation in the 1960s, of which I was previously unaware, and about the families of the correctional officers who lived on the island.

The cellhouse itself not as cool as the Eastern State Penitentiary Museum in Philadelphia, but it’s interesting. And the views of San Francisco are outstanding.

Of course, while we were there on Fisherman’s Wharf, we walked around, ate a couple of meals, and barked at the sea lions.

The next day, we drove to Eugene O’Neill’s home in Danville. Tours of the famous playwright’s last home, Tao House, are given a couple of times a day. The isolated home is situated on a hillside, and you have to drive through a few gates to get there, so you meet the park ranger downtown and ride up with him.

On this particular day, we were the only visitors, so we had a nice chat with the guide and actually found out we had friends in common in Illinois. Small world.  Anyway, O’Neill is most famous for his plays Ah, Wilderness!, The Iceman Cometh, and Long Day’s Journey Into Night. He is a four-time Pulitzer Prize-winner. The house and its remote setting are worth a visit:

That afternoon we visited another home, this one belonging to the famous conservationist John Muir in Martinez, Calif.

Muir has been called the father of national parks, and he worked tirelessly to preserve America’s wild lands. He’s closely associated with what is now Yosemite National Park and with his influence on President Theodore Roosevelt.

Here’s the house and some of the interiors:

After seeing Muir’s home and watching a film about his life, we were inspired to visit Muir Woods National Monument in Mill Valley, north of San Francisco.

It’s a peaceful, wonderful place. We took a hike through groves of redwoods, many of them more than 600 years old.

We were lucky to be able to visit Muir Woods, because you have to get a reservation in advance – and this was a spur-of-the-moment decision. Luckily, there’s an app and we were able to snag a time. I’m so glad it worked out.

1 comment so far

  1. Tim Coble on

    Great pics!!


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