San Francisco and Thereabout
by Charles Keeler
The California Promotion Committee of San Francisco, Publisher, 1902
It was wet on Washington's Birthday and the wind whistled merrily over the Bolinas Ridge as four jolly tramps swung down the crest in full view of the miles of thundering surf from Point Reyes to Ocean View. They drew up at the door of Constantine's Tavern amid the spruce trees, and uttered a wild war whoop. Why any mortal man should have thought of building an inn in that remote spot of the stage road from Ross Valley to Bolinas, and still more why any other mortal men should have thought of walking ten miles on a rainy winter afternoon to get there, is one of those mysteries that passeth understanding. But the ceanothus bushes were abloom in the chaparral, the manzanita bells were coming forth on the gnarly red-stemmed shrubs, hound's tongue and trillium and violet were putting forth timid petals in the rain and the birds were making holiday in those lovely wooded glades of oak and spruce. It was enough!
Mine host Constantine, surnamed the Old Pirate, who had concocted stews on the ferry boat for many a year, was there with his good wife to receive us, and as soon as the wet boots and clothes were steaming by the big open fire we sat down to the festive board and devoured plates of inimitable chowder a la Constantine, savory chicken and the many other Greek dishes he proudly set before us, swapping yarns the while with our host and entertaining his festive goat while the master's back was turned. We slept in one of his cabins before a rousing fire, lulled to sleep by the raindrops trickling in through his leaky ceiling. A twenty mile tramp to Olima on the morrow was one succession of splendid views of forests and mountains, with the ocean far below.
The whole Marin County peninsula is a great natural park with villages and pastoral country interspersed. Would that it might be reserved as such for all time! In its sheltered valleys grow the noble redwoods, the sublimest of forest trees save only their compeers of the Sierras. In the secluded Redwood Cañon they still stand in their prisine glory--stately shafts of majestic proportion lifting high their evergreen foliage. Mill Valley shelters much charming second growth redwood where simple cottages nestle amid the trees. Most unique of these are the Japanese houses built by Mr. George T. Marsh.
From this point the mountain railroad zigzags up Mount Tamalpais. After leaving the shade of the redwood and the fragrant laurel dells, it turns and twists up the mountain side, coiling in a double bow knot, curving and winding along ledges in search of a uniform grade. The view broadens below--first the bay with indentations and peninsulas, islands and distant hills. The city comes in view across the Golden Gate, and presently the ocean is sighted. As the stout little oil engine pushes us still higher, we see the twin peaks of Mount Diablo looming up nobly to the eastward back of the Berkeley Hills. Far to the southeast swells Mt. Hamilton on a high ridge, where the great eye of the world watches silently the other spheres. To the northward, fifty miles away, we see Mount St. Helena grimly rising. The train takes us to the comfortable Tamalpais Tavern from which point the summit is distant but a ten minutes' walk. The wind rushes wildly over the ridge. At our feet stretches the ocean, with the Farallone Islands seemingly close at hand. Turning we look down on the broad expanse of the bay, on hills and mountains, towns and cities. This varied view of land and sea, compassing a hundred miles of the most diversified landscape of California, must be seen many times to be thoroughly appreciated. Sunrise over the San Joaquin Valley; the red orb dipping down into the fiery band on the ocean; moonlight, and the witchery of the fog, when the beholder sits like an eagle on his crag and sees the tumultuous cloud-floor spread below--all these are but passing phases of the splendors of nature which may be seen from this great watch tower of the Pacific.
At foot of the mountain, nestling amid the valleys or in cosy nooks on the bay shore, are many charming suburbs of San Francisco. San Rafael is the largest of these and is frequented by many people of wealth as well as by a numerous populaton of moderate means. Sausalito, on the shore, is a meeting place for yachtsmen, while Belvedere is famed for its night water carnivals. Both towns have many picturesque houses on hillsides overlooking the bay. A half-hour's ride on the ferry takes the suburbanite from San Francisco to his home. There he may enjoy nature, forgetting the cares of business and the stress and strain of the city, calmed by the expansive view of bay and distant hills, and enlarged in spirit by communion with the beauties far spread at his feet.