Thursday, January 22, 2015

@ Large Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz

A major art show by world renown artist and social activist, Ai Weiwei, is currently being exhibited on Alcatraz Island.  A harsh critic of human rights violations by the Communist Party, the Chinese government has confiscated Weiwei's passport and banned him from traveling outside of China. He is literally under house arrest in Beijing.

In collaboration with arts organizations in San Francisco, a major exhibition entitled @Large Ai Weiwei has been installed on Alcatraz with the theme of human rights violations and the repression of freedom of expression occurring worldwide.

I've been a fan of Ai Weiwei and actually never been on Alcatraz Island before.  A trip to Alcatraz and see a Weiwei show was knocking off two gulls with one stone.

I joined four other contemporary art enthusiasts and friends - Peter Saucerman, Susan Twining, Tom Graham and Lisa Foster on an outing to San Francisco.  Peter, Susan and I took the Capitol Corridor train to Oakland and met Tom and Lisa at the ferry terminal.

We caught a couple ferry hops from Oakland to Fisherman's Wharf and to Alcatraz Island.  Taking public transit - trains and ferrys - has become common practice and a fun way of traveling to the Bay Area.

To view the album of our day at Alcatraz, click on "Ai Weiwei Exhibit at Alcatraz" below photo:

From Ai Weiwei Exhibit at Alcatraz

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Angel Island Hike

Angel Island in SF Bay was the destination for the January hike of the Sacramento County Hikers.  Day hikes in the SF Bay Area are very popular and this was no exception with 25 hikers participating in this month's hike.

The entire island, designated a CA Historic Landmark, is included within the Angel Island State Park and administered by CA State Parks.

Historical uses of the island included military forts, immigration station, and Nike missile site.

Access to the island are by ferries from several terminals located around the Bay.  We took the ferry from the Tiburon Terminal.

To view the album, click on "Angel Island Hike" below the photo:

From Angel Island Hike

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Potrero Hill (SF) Hike

The Potrero Hill Neighborhood and Mission Bay in San Francisco were the choice of the December hike for the Sacramento County Hikers.

The timing of the hike was perfect.  The previous week was one of the wettest in 6 years with a series of storms streaming into CA dumping 6-8 inches of rain in the Bay Area.

The day of the hike was coolish but clear and bright for a fine day hike in SF.

Our hike leader, Rich Blackmarr, laid out a circuitous 6 1/2 mile hike in the very hilly district of Potrero Hill in South San Francisco.  PH was a working class neighborhood until the Dot-Com boom of the early 2000's when gentrification began with high-tech professionals moving into the neighborhood.

The evidence of gentrification is obvious with many neo-modern residential buildings intermixed with rehabilitated Victorian and mid-century homes.  The restaurants and coffeehouses were buzzing  and many unique businesses have located in this area.

Being an mid-century modern enthusiast, I enjoyed the blend of modern and Victorian architecture of the District.

A good number of the photographs are of the neo-modern buildings we walked by.

Highlights of the hike include the former Seals Stadium site (now a Safeway Shopping Center), Potrero Community Garden, McKinley Square Park, Vernon St. (the Lombard St. of PH), NABE designed by Julia Morgan, new branch of the SF Library, Anchor Brewery, SF Center for the Books, and the new 43 acre campus of UCSF in Mission Bay.

My hats off to Rich for putting together a very interesting urban hike showcasing the best of PH and Mission Bay.

To view the photo album, click on "Potrero Hill (SF) Hike" below the photo:

From Potrero Hill (SF) Hike

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Prologue - Lima and Cusco

We visited Lima and Cusco before the 10 Day Trek.

Lima, located on the Pacific Ocean and with  a population of nearly 10 million, is the capital city of Peru.

We had one full day in Lima and visited the Miraflores District and the Plaza de Armas (Main Square).

Cusco, a world heritage city, was the capital of the Inca Empire, and our home for 3 1/2 days.

Located at an elevation of 11,200', Cusco sits in a bowl surrounded by the Andes Mountains.  Much of the city's buildings have red tile roofs so it reminded me of Santa Barbara.

Cusco is a wonderful walking city. We wandered the streets and neighborhoods for several days, so we got a pretty good feel for the city.

The San Blas Barrio, located above the main square and off the main tourist track, was particularly interesting.  You got heady views of the red-tiled city and surrounding mountains from its heights.

The confluence of Inca and Spanish architecture, the cultural mix, the almost daily celebrations or demonstrations, and the impressive culinary scene made Cusco an exciting city to visit.

A major Inca Ruin, Saksaywaman, sits high above the city with commanding views, a logical place to build a fortress.

Although the Spanish did their best (or worst) to destroy and eliminate much of the Inca heritage and replace it with colonial architecture, enough evidence remains making the city a really unique place in the world.

To view the Lima and Cusco albums, click on "Lima and Cusco" below photo:

From Prologue - Lima and Cusco

Ten Day Lodge to Lodge Trek to Machu Picchu

The main reason for my trip to Peru was the REI 10 Day Lodge to Lodge Trek to Machu Picchu on the Salkanty Trail.

Visiting Machu Picchu has been high on my "to do" list and hiking to it through the Andes Mountains sounded even better.  Given my progressive age, tent camping had no appeal and staying in mountain lodges was a very intriguing alternative.

Perusing the REI trek website, I was blown away by the photos of the lodges and mountain scenery.

Sign me up I say!

There are several trails leading to Machu Picchu and the Salkanty Trail is the only one developed with lodges.

Sleeping indoors on comfy beds, nice meals, and hot showers (3 of the 4 lodges even had hot tubs) sounded better than sleeping on the ground.

I was able to convince five other friends to join me on this trek - Dave and Kristina Vandershaf, Bill Staack, Kathy Douglas and Barbara Greenwood.  The Sactown Six as I called ourselves joined six other people on the 10 day trek.

The bottom line:  The REI trek was outstanding and will recommend it to others without hesitation.

The guides - Fernando and Johann - were friendly and experienced, the support was great (horses hauled our gear and cooks followed us for a part of the trek), the accommodations were outstanding, and scenery spectacular.

The total distance of the trek was 42 miles spread over 6 hiking day.  We were in high elevation most of the time with the high point of 15,213' at Salkanty Pass.  The guides did a good job getting us acclimated.

The trek is rated 4 out of 5 in terms of difficulty and I would say that is about right.

To view the trek album, click on "10-Day Lodge to Lodge Trek" below photo:

From 10-Day Lodge to Lodge Trek

Machu Picchu

After 6 days trekking over the Andes we arrived in Aqua Caliente, a small city at the foot of Machu Picchu where visitors usually stay before visiting the fabled sacred city in the sky.  Aqua Caliente is a land-locked city tucked in a narrow canyon accessible only by rail.

The itinerary of the REI Tour is to spend a day and a half at MP before catching a train to Cusco.

Being a fit group, we covered almost all of high-points of MP in the first full day - the Inka Bridge, the Sun Gate, and a thorough walk about of the main city complex.

Although I have seen numerous documentaries of MP, seeing one of the seven wonders of the world in person is an out-of-body experience.  It's hard to imagine how an ancient civilization could have constructed such an amazing city on top of a mountain without the aid of modern equipment and tools.

I kept kidding our tour guide, Fernando, that it was impossible for the Incas to accomplish such feats without the aid of extraterrestrial help.  It's totally mind-boggling to see the exacting precision of the stone work of the temples, buildings and walls on such steep terrain.

The logistics alone of supporting such a massive work force is amazing.  What makes it all the more remarkable is the Inca kings employed cooperation among the populace rather than slave labor to build its empire.

To view the album, click on "Machu Picchu" below the photo:

From Machu Picchu

Epilogue - Lake Titicaca Extension

After the 10 day lodge to lodge trek to Machu Picchu, Bill, Kathy, Barbara and I continued to Lake Titicaca on a four day extension.  The extension was also booked through REI.

From Cusco, we took a 10 hour train trip on the Andean Explorer to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca.  The train trip was long but was quite luxurious and comfortable and very interesting.

From Cusco's elevation of  11,152', the train climbed to a summit at 14,200' where we took a short break, then continued over the vast altiplano to Lake Titicaca at 12,500'.

The scenery of the altiplano is stark and dramatic and unlike anything I have ever seen before.

After one night in Puno, we then took a 45 mile boat trip across Lake Titicaca stopping at Uros Isle to visit a floating reed village, a stop at Taquile Island to visit the weavers, and a final stop at Andina Lodge on Suasi Island where we stayed for two nights.

Our time on Suasi Island was very relaxing and gave us a couple days of recovery after the grueling trek over the Andes Mountains.

It was an ideal way to end our Peruvian adventure.

To view the Lake Titicaca album, click on "Lake Titicaca Extension" below the photo:

From Epilogue - Lake Titicaca Extension