Tyler and I decided to do another trip to Angel Island. He wanted to mix things up a bit and get to the island a different way. We decided to try the mass transit route. Since there was a temporary stay on the BART strike, we took BART to Pier 1 (Ferry Terminal) and caught the Blue and Gold Ferry to Angel Island (via Pier 41). The return trip would almost be the same except during the week the return ferry does not come back to the Ferry Terminal, only Pier 41. It is about a 1.5 mile walk so we planned on catching the Muni F line cable car to get us back to the Ferry Terminal/BART. I booked our site, East Bay #1, about three weeks out on reserveamerica and was able to get a site midweek only. Angel island is crazy popular in the summer for camping. Once school starts up again sites become more available. I have been here 4 times now (see trip to Sunrise site #8 in 2010, East Bay #1 2012 and East Bay #2 2013 ). Sunrise camp does have uninterrupted views but East Bay site #1 is huge, away from neighbors, has shade and some shelter from wind. I think all three East Bay sites rock compared to Sunrise on the whole. Your other options to get to the island include the Tiburon Ferry and the Blue and Gold Ferries. I hear that the ridge sites are the best for City views, but also can be cold in the wind. The biggest thing you need to work out is how you plan on getting to the island. Well it is mainly how are you getting to the ferry you want, as parking overnight is the biggest challenge. Of the routes I have used Tiburon and BART are the easiest. BART allows for advance long term parking (greater than 24 hour) for $5 a day. Tiburon is $5 for 24 hours. Once you have worked out getting to the ferry just see what sites are available on the day you can make it out here. The photo is the state park sign from the ferry dock with the Visitor Center in the distance.
Here is Tyler and I waiting for the Ferry from the Ferry Terminal in San Francisco. There are no real signs that say the Blue and Gold runs a ferry from this gate, but if you ask inside they will direct you here. There is only the one ferry out of the Ferry terminal each weekday. It is easier to get to the island (and back) on the weekends. This gate is the leftmost gate as you face the Ferry Building as you approach from Embarcadero/BART.
The trip on the ferry is nice and Tyler loved that it was longer than the Tiburon option. There were some nice views of this cruise ship and the Oracle sailboat getting some practice for the America's Cup races this summer .
After we disembarked we checked in with the ranger at the small kiosk after hitting the facilities. We hit the trail after getting the run down from the ranger. Tyler wanted to hike the longer way to camp this time so we headed west, past the Visitor Center, and up to the Perimeter Road. Our plan was to take the Perimeter Road most of the way until the junction with the Service Road/Fire Road. We took the fire road to camp the rest of the way. The Perimeter Road has nice views and benches/tables along the way, so take a break and enjoy them. The downside of the road is that the tours and bikes travel them and there is not much shade. If you want more solitude or shade use the trails and Fire Road (unpaved) to get around. Both the Perimeter Road and the Fire Road make a complete circle around the island. See map below for your options to get around. Bikes are not allowed on the trails only the Fire Road and Perimeter Road. They are also not allowed at the Immigration Station but there are a couple bike racks. This is a shot of Ayala Cove between the ferry dock and the Visitor Center.
We decided to explore the West Garrison (Camp Reynolds). There is a gravel road that leads you around the structures here. The Golden Gate Bridge is visible in the background (you can see where the cool breeze is coming from) . Most of the buildings are locked up, or boarded up, with the exception of the bake house and a couple of the houses that the upper ranks of the military got to use while stationed here.
Here is a close up of the Golden Gate Bridge. I think the view of the Golden Gate is the best from Fort Reynolds..
We hiked back up the road on the other side past the officer quarters. Apparently the "regular" troops lived in bunkhouses that were across the field , long since destroyed..
We hiked further on the Perimeter Road to some old quarry equipment. It is amazing that it still stands.
We took the junction to the left here to Battery Drew. Just up and over this rise and you are there..
You can go in Battery Drew and also check out the mounting for the gun here. This was a big weapon based on the mounting it had (and the sign I read :-).
Here is a shot of Battery Ledyard from above, on the way back to the Perimeter Road. You can see the open doors that allow you to walk all the way through it. The officer in charge had a small living space with a fireplace. I imagine that was quite a luxury when the fog rolled in.
I grabbed this shot of one of the many butterflies on the island. This was the only one that stayed still long enough for me to grab a shot.
Of course that was not the only thing flying around (or over) this island. We saw this Coast Guard helicopter fly over the island a few times. We also saw quite a few other helicopters and airplanes flying over. Being surrounded by three big airports makes for a lot of air traffic. I didn't really notice that many at night though. Probably the fog horns drowning them out. Tyler hiked me around the island enough that no amount of fog horns was going to keep me up.
At the junction with the Service Road/Perimeter Road and the Fire Road we took a left onto the Fire Road. We decided that we wanted to get to camp rather than explore the East Garrison (Fort McDowell) today. Along the Fire Road you get a nice bird's eye shot of the fort and I got a shot of a large sailing ship passing by.
We made it up to the sites. Junction to camp sites are well marked. East Bay Site #1 is the furthest in and also the largest. Tyler is climbing up one of the trees at the site here. There is a large tree that is good for climbing between sites #1 and #2, well usually good for climbing. It turns out that some wasps thought it would make a good home and when Tyler and I headed down to it he spotted the busy wasps going in and out of their nest. We let a ranger we saw the next morning know about it but he says they are prevalent on the island,so keep an eye out. We saw one other nest at Fort McDowell the next day. They nest below ground and won't likely bother you unless you bother them. Or as the ranger told us, run a lawn mower over their nest. Apparently that gets you stung a few times. The ranger also said that they spray them when they are in sites but they usually just move over to the next tree so keep an eye out.
Here is Tyler trying on my pack as it hangs from the tree. That night a racoon thought I was hanging food in the tree and decided to claw through the garbage bag I had on my pack (to prevent it from getting wet should the fog/mist roll in). Luckily the racoon did not hurt my pack at all. It did open a zippered pouch on my hip belt that had my polarizer filter in it. The filter (in a case) was on the ground but undamaged. I had no food or anything else that resembled or smelled of food in my pack so I think that helped. All food or smelly stuff (soap, toothpaste, lotion) should go in the food storage lockers provided at each site. Oh and there is a pit toilet shared between the three East Bay sites and a water spigot with potable water near site #2. There are also picnic tables at each site.
We had a nice dinner and then watched the ships come in and out of the fog that was rolling in. This side of the island is more sheltered from the elements. I have chatted with people that stayed in the Ridge sites and they have told me it can be cold and windy with the fog rolling right over you. I still want to stay there next though, as there is another battery up there by the sites to explore.
Here is another tanker headed to the refinery to offload. The fog was really getting thick now. We could see the Bay Bridge earlier but not anymore. The ships are required to give a mighty toot before heading into the fog. Not sure I would want to hear that if I was out in the bay in a small boat.
I took this picture the next morning. This is my latest tent, Big Agnes Scout UL2. It is ultralight and single wall. I have had it on this island twice now and the last time it saw some rain (and a lot of misty fog), it did well. It does get some condensation in the rain (as many single walls do) but it seems well worth it given the weight savings. This thing packs up small and uses trekking poles... hard to beat. I would say my only gripe is the no screen on the door. It would breath so much better even with a half screen. I am not sure it was not included for weight savings or water proofing but I predict the next version of this tent will have one. I will take it to the Sierras on the next two scheduled trips to really test it out.
Here is the picnic table (this site actually has two). I did not pack in the big silver cooler looking thing on the table, this is the food locker. They were recently installed and are greatly improved over the previous ones.
We planned on catching the 1:55 pm ferry back to the City so we hiked back to Fort McDowell (East Garrison) the next morning. Most of the buildings are still standing but can only be explored on the bottom level. Still neat to go into these old buildings and to read about the history of each. I think this one was the hospital.
There is a giant grass field and also a baseball field with stands. There is also a small beach area out to the right. This large building housed troops.
Some of the buildings have been abandoned and don't need signs to tell you that it would not be safe to explore them....
We headed back toward Ayala Cove now, and the Immigration Station as it was closed the last time we were here (I believe they are only open 11 to 3 ).
We got there at 10:30 so we hiked down to the beach. This small deer didn't seem to mind us watching it walk down to the drain outlet at the beach for a drink. After walking along the beach and reading about some of the history of the Immigration Station it was nearly 11, so we did a self guided tour of the main building. You can explore 2 floors and they wave plenty to see. I may take the guided tour next time (I wanted to be sure we got back to the Cove in time to get lunch before our ferry on this day).
We hiked through the blustery wind on the way back. It is amazing how different the conditions are on this island depending on which side you are on. This section of the trail turns the corner and you are hit with the breeze. It was nice though as it was warming up.
We had a nice lunch at the Cove Cafe before boarding our ferry. There was some type of day camp for kids that was going on in the picnic area at the Visitor Center. I imagine that would be a cool camp to be part of, since you have to take a ferry over and back to get there. It was another beautiful day with less fog than the day before. It was windy though. Tyler and I were out on the top deck and once we got out past Angel Island (the ferry goes around the east side on the return trip, makes you think you got on the wrong ferry at first) the waves picked up. The ferry moves at a good clip and that combined with the winds/waves gave us some salt water sprays occasionally. Most people cleared out and went to sit inside. Tyler and I just enjoyed it. It wasn't long before people streamed back outside with cameras clicking away.
I looked around and grabbed this shot before burying my camera again in my pack. I didn't mind the salt water spray but I know my camera would. It was amazing to see this high tech sailing boat pass us. This America's Cup thing looks pretty exciting.
This is a great and easy trip. Once the last ferry leaves you have the island to yourself. I have seen many families that were camping that chose to use bikes to haul gear. I have also seen some gals with coolers that had wheels. You really can make this as close to car camping as you want to. You could even use the snack bar as a meal source as well. With the short mileage and the amount of history, beaches and views this island is really a gem in the middle of the bay worth exploring. Make sure you get out here, even if it is only for the day. Though there is really no excuse not to spend the night... If you can make it up to the top of Mount Livermore after dark you won't be disappointed. A shot from the Perimeter Road south of Camp Reynolds where a bird happened to be flying at the right time.
Red line shows the path we hiked on the way out from East Bay site #1 to the snack bar at Ayala Cove. Elevation profile shows how easy this hike is on the lungs/knees. Click either for a larger version.