Open Your Golden Gates

by Nancy Bestor

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Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 25 years, I’d like to think I know just about all of its scenic locations. I’ve walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, stood atop Coit Tower, seen the parrots of Telegraph Hill and ridden the Ferry across the Bay. But I recently discovered a few new beautiful and picturesque spots, once again reminding me that I don’t actually know everything. Bob and I drove with my parents over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County in April and found a stunning lookout – Battery Spencer – a former military installation that protected the bridge and the Bay from invasion from 1897 to 1942. It offers a bird’s-eye view directly down to the bridge, and with downtown San Francisco in the background there might not be a better view of the Golden Gate.

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From there we drove into the Marin Headlands, where we stopped for a tour of the Marine Mammal Center. More than 200 rescued sea lions and otters were in residence when we visited, being rehabilitated for a future release back into the Pacific Ocean. The Center is free for visitors, and offers a great look at the excellent care volunteers are giving these rescued animals. You can even see “fish shakes” being made for their nourishment (and it’s just as yucky as you might imagine it to be).

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After seeing the fish shakes, we decided we were all a little hungry, so we took our picnic lunch down to Rodeo Beach and watched surfers braving the chilly waves while we ate. Then we drove to one of my favorite spots in Marin, Point Bonita Lighthouse. What I love about Point Bonita is not so much the lighthouse itself, but its stunning location. You’ve got to hike down a steep, half-mile trail, then walk through an unlighted tunnel carved out of solid rock, then across a 132-foot long suspension bridge to get to the lighthouse. The narrow bridge sways in the strong wind as you cross over the raging Pacific Ocean more than one hundred feet below. It is stunning. The lighthouse is only open Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 12:30-3:30 pm.

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