Monday, July 4, 2016

Hiking Hill 88 in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area: July 4th & Battery Townsley Secret Military Fort #findyourpark

Heading up to Hill 88 in the GGNRA in the Spring
I grab my keys and head out today ‘cause my legs need some fresh air and my mind needs a regroup. Driving in The Beast, covered in dust and pollen and tree goop, sorry shiny California cars, I head over to Rodeo Beach in the Golden Gate National Rec Area, one of our Nation’s largest National Parks.

The fog is here today for our strange San Francisco, Bay Area, summer weather, so visibility is low and a soft, grey blanket covers the usually vibrant Marin Headlands coastline. But today I’m not hiking for views, I’m hiking for the experience of getting outside, filling my lungs, and finding the flow feel that time in nature always brings back to me.

Destination? To the top of Hill 88, a decaying old army site in Fort Cronkhite on the highest “hill” overlooking the entire bay. It’s a quick @4-6 miles - depending on your loop - with some good vertical, 1,000ft, to get the heart pumping.

I wind up the initial, old paved roads on the trail, passing by Battery Townsley and then break off & head up higher as I skip from abandoned bunker to bunker on the ridge line, Wolf Ridge, climbing up up up.

View down towards Rodeo Beach and the GGNRA from Battery Townsley. There are no views from Hill 88 today.
It’s so foggy and windy I’m putting on layers, despite sweating, as the wind blows directly into my ear drum and down into my insides. Hoodie goes up and I’m just about to the top where I can see… nothing! But I take a celebratory spin around the shaved-off hill with heli-pad and old buildings covered in graffiti. Note the graffiti, though a true shame, is almost a defining, artistic characteristic of all of these old WW2 bunkers along the California coastline.

Summited and breathing freely and deeply, it's time to head back down, my feet breaking into a trail-run to keep the blood moving and so I don't get chilled.

Battery Townsley tucked into the hillside on the left, "camouflaged" from the WW2 enemy.
Back down at Battery Townsley, a fort built into the hillside to defend us from WW2 enemies, and about 2/3 of the way down from Hill 88 summit, it’s my incredible luck to stumble upon a rare opening of the secret underground military fort. It’s in stages of restoration thanks to a generous benefactor and is now open once a month to curious hikers like me.

Photos are attached of our tour through the fort, showing the massive scale of the armor-piercing, 25 pound "bullets" fired from massive guns which would reach 25 miles out to sea from 1940-1948 when the fort was active.




This is not my usual outdoor post, stumbling upon WW2, secret forts and giant bullets, but a great example of the stories and experiences we can bump into when just getting out for a stretch of the hiking legs and a breath of fresh air. How perfect that I ran into this on the weekend we celebrate July 4th, our Independence.

Grateful for our troops. Grateful for the volunteers at the National Park Service who make a surprise adventure like this possible. Grateful for our history. Grateful for our families who bring it all home.

Happy 4th of July, everyone!


-Annie @OutdoorsyMama on Twitter

Trip Report:
Location: Ft Cronkhite in the Golden Gate National Rec area, just west of the Golden Gate Bridge, next to Baker Beach.
Length: @4-6 miles RT. There are various loops and side trails to add in, straight up and down @ 4miles.
Summit Reward: Spectacular 360 view of entire Bay Area including Golden Gate Bridge, GGNRA, Marin Headlands, Oakland. On a clear.
Level of Difficulty: Moderate. It's generally a "straight up the hill" hike. 
Exposure: Full sun.
Kids? Yes! Safe trail in general. 
Dogs? Undetermined. Yes on leash for part but reports of "not allowed on Hill 88" so confusing. Stay tuned. 
Where to eat? Bring your own food. No restaurant or snack shack open to public. Can go pick up a few light snacks at Marine Mammal Center just up the hill.


Hill 88 Hike Map. Photo Credit: https://www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/maps.htm


Resources:
Hike Details: http://www.sfgate.com/outdoors/sundaydrive/article/Hiking-to-Marin-County-s-Hill-88-5693407.php
Battery Townsley History: https://www.nps.gov/goga/learn/historyculture/battery-townsley.htm