Saturday, July 16, 2016

Angel Island State Park

In the midst of the bustling Bay Area, there is a natural island that, with the exception of service and TramTours vehicles, is free of motorized traffic: Angel Island. The green and hilly island makes for a great escape from the urban surroundings. However, on week-end days the island's coves and trails may turn into recreationally busy sites. The small harbor often bustles with boats and on a clear-view day quiet a crowd may head uphill to enjoy the spectacular bay panorama from the top of Mount Livermore.
Ayala Cove with harbor and a section of the Perimeter Trail above the ferry terminal
Angel Island has many faces and offers a multitude of spectacular vistas, both from its hillsides as well as from the Perimeter Trail. By circumnavigating the island on water or coming across Raccoon Strait, one experiences different currents, wave patterns and microclimates. Ayala Cove on the north side of the island is typically the warmest spot, with the least amount of wind and the lowest chance of fog. Most visitors arrive at the small Ayala Cove terminal by ferry from Tiburon or Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. Ayala Cove is named for the Spanish navigator Juan Manuel de Ayala, who—out of New Spain (Mexico)—explored San Francisco Bay in 1775 and then gave Angel Island its name [1]. In missionary Zeitgeist euphory he named it “Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles,” meaning “Our Lady of the Angels” [2]. Not the only Californian place associated with angels, the place name was later shortened to Angel Island.

Segway riders on Perimeter Trail with view of Belvedere Island
Organized rides, Segway tours and bikes for rent are available. But any place on the island can also be reached on foot while getting around on a day hike; or even a half-day hike. Environmental Campsites exist on the west and on the east side. There are various historical landmarks and now-abandoned army places to explore. The newly renovated United States Immigration Station (aka North Garrison), a National Historical Landmark, is open to the public. It only takes a short walk along the Perimeter Trail east of Ayala Cove to get to the immigration station, through which thousands of mostly Asian immigrants were “processed” in the late nineteenth century. On most days, docent-led tours are available to learn more about this site.

An abandoned building next to the Perimeter Trail through Fort McDowell
Head south from the immigration station, to see a ghost army post: Fort McDowell (aka East Garrison). This post served many purposes and became a military embarkment center during World Wars I and II. Japanese and German POWs were held here during the second World War. Just south of Fort McDowell is Quarry Beach, a delightful stretch of sand—a half-mile-long strip of shoreline away from the main visitor routes, great for picnicking, wading and bird watching. Seals are often swimming by and dive close to the beach. 
Quarry Beach on Angel Island, California
Quarry Beach with a ship passing Quarry Point east of Fort McDowell

References and more to read
[1] California Explorers: Juan Manuel de Ayala and San Francisco Bay [].
[2] Legends of America: Fort McDowell (Angel Island) [].
[3] Angel Island Conservancy: Ft. Mc Dowell (aka East Garrison) [].

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