Golden Gate Bridge: Where San Francisco Bay opens to meet Pacific Ocean

The Bridge can get quite crowded on days with clear skies | Photo: iSTOCK
Ever since I remember, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco has fascinated me. One of USA’s most recognisable landmarks, it stretches almost two miles across the Golden Gate, the historic strait where the San Francisco Bay opens to meet the Pacific Ocean. The world’s oldest suspension bridge, it also held the distinction of being the longest till 1981. Every time I’ve visited San Francisco, it’s been shrouded under its legendary fog. So when the weekend dawns bright and clear, we decide to dedicate it to the Bridge and hike along the coast for the best views. 

We begin at the Cliff House, part of the Sutro Historic Landscape District in the Golden Gate Park. This is a great restaurant with fantastic views, but it’s too early to eat. 

It’s quiet in the woods, the sun has just risen. A lookout point lies ahead, shaded by thick foliage. From there, shining a startlingly bright orange against the blue sky and ocean, the Bridge is visible at a distance. I wonder how it came to sport this particular shade. Apparently, the consulting architect of the Golden Gate Bridge, Irving Morrow, chose this specific shade — known as International Orange — because he thought it complemented the natural landscape and was bright enough to be seen during heavy fog.

Each part of the area offers a different view | Photo: iSTOCK
 
The air is bracing in the early summer and I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Mark Twain: “I never spent a winter as cold as last summer in San Francisco!” Indeed, the city sees some of its foggiest and coldest days on the Golden Gate Bridge in this season. We’re lucky with the weather today. Compared to Delhi, where pollution has rendered our skies muddy and opaque, the air is crystal clear here.

Puffy clouds scurry across the sky as the sun rises dramatically over the Pacific. The trails are abuzz with hikers, bikers and families out for breakfast picnics. It turns out that, as the day progresses, the place fills up quite a bit and there’s no parking to be found anywhere. Ahead, we find ourselves surrounded by the woods again, deep and dark. As we walk through them, it seems incredible to imagine that we are so close to the shore. And then, just like that, the trees open up to yet another stunning vista of the Bridge, this time a little farther away. From here, it looks almost impossibly long, especially in an area that is so earthquake-prone. The San Andreas Fault runs right through San Francisco and I wonder how the Bridge has survived the quakes that are felt so regularly here. Apparently, many thought it a mad idea to build a bridge across the 6,700-foot-strait that saw frequent earthquakes, gale-force winds and swirling tides. How could a bridge so long survive a trembler like the San Francisco Earthquake that crippled the city in 1906? 

The proximity of the ocean is surreal | Photo: iSTOCK
 
This argument must have seemed even more compelling when memories of the quake were still fresh. But the engineers and architects were confident it could be built. The Bridge was completed four years later in 1937, which seems to me even more marvellous, given that in India, small stretches of road could take longer to build. A steep hike down brings us to a small cove where Chinese fishermen once camped. Protected by rock walls on both sides, the China Beach faces the Marin Headlands across the water and offers some stunning panoramas of the Bridge.

The sun is out and so are the crowds. As we complete our hike at the foot of the Golden Gate, my husband looks up at the imposing steel framework and asks: “So which view of the Golden Gate Bridge do you like best?” I muse that I’ve now seen it from the left and from the right; from above and directly below, but it’s hard to say if any one view has been more spectacular than the other. From every angle and every point on our six-odd-kilometre hike, the Bridge has looked magnificent — a bright orange monument to what people can achieve, if they set their minds to it.

For more details about this hike, get details and maps from www.parksconservancy.org


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