A Day on The Rock

Alcatraz Island - View from the ferry in San Francisco Bay.

Alcatraz Island – View from the ferry.

“Break the rules and you go to prison. Break the prison rules and you go to Alcatraz.”

You see this quote posted in several places throughout the tour of The Rock. I don’t recall who said it, but it has an impact as you walk through the 22-acre island. The island was first used as a U.S. Military Base in the 1800s. It wasn’t until 1934 that the island began operating as a federal penitentiary.

Building 64 and the Warden's House on Alcatraz Island - View from the docks.

Building 64 and the Warden’s House on Alcatraz Island – View from the docks.

The first thing you see as the ferry pulls into the dock is Building 64, and then the ruins of the Warden’s House up above. Building 64 was originally constructed for military officers and their families, and was later used to accommodate the families of the guards working at the prison.

Many of the buildings, including Building 64, fell into disrepair over the years. When you visit the island now, many of the buildings are in ruin, or have been destroyed. However, the Cellhouse has remained in decent condition. The tour is self-guided, and includes the use of audio headsets. You can walk through the island at your own pace, taking in the history and scenery.

Here is the view from the Cellhouse of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Here is the view from the Cellhouse of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

I particularly enjoyed the photographic opportunities on the island. The broken buildings with the beautiful blue of the bay in the background, the view of San Francisco, the sailboats in the water. Even the flowers along the pathways were beautiful. However, I know many people are interested in some of the facts about the prison, so to appease those curious minds, here are a few bits of information I learned along the way:

  • Alcatraz operated as a federal prison from 1934 to 1963.
  • During its operation, Alcatraz had 36 prisoners who attempted to escape. All but 5 of those prisoners were recaptured/accounted for.
  • Alcatraz had 3 cellblocks, B, C and D. B and C blocks were for general population, while D was for those prisoners considered unruly or more dangerous. There were 42 isolation cells on D block, along with 6 “Holes” (the deep, dark rooms for those who behaved really badly while in prison).
  • There was no “death row” or execution facility on the island.
  • After closing as a federal prison, Alcatraz island was later occupied by American Indians from Nov. 1969 to June 1971. The occupation was orchestrated as a protest of the lands taken from the American Indians in the past, and it was effective in shaping Indian policy moving forward.

There are many other fascinating stories about the island, from the perspectives of inmates, guards and others who occupied the island. I highly recommend taking the tour. We’ve been twice now, and it’s more intriguing with each visit.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Tours are available through Alcatraz Cruises. Go to http://www.alcatrazcruises.com to book your tickets. They sell out quickly though, so I would recommend booking your tickets as soon as you know your travel plans to San Francisco.

We have no affiliation with Alcatraz Cruises. We have simply taken the tour, and we loved it!

Advertisements

Hiking up Ring Mountain

For the first day of 2013, the New Year’s crew made its annual trek to a beautiful place in north bay. We chose Ring Mountain for our hike this year. With beautiful, 360 views of San Francisco Bay, it’s hard to beat.

View of San Francisco Bay from the top of Ring Mountain

Richmond Bridge

It’s a great place for a hike, where you can go a long or short ways, depending on your mood. Hope you enjoyed your first day of 2013!

The Calm Before the Storm

My cute Mama once sent me a beautiful little box engraved with the saying, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” I certainly don’t feel like I’m about to run into a storm, but with all the craziness leading up to November 6th, I’m going to be prepared for anything.

In order to mentally prepare for the exciting days ahead, I’m turning to my go-to method of “going to my zen place.” Usually this consists of an early morning run and a drive to a beautiful spot, with a big body of water, where I can collect my thoughts. However, today I’m going to have to rely on my camera. Here are a few of my favorite “zen” places.

View of San Francisco Bay from Coit Tower.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marina District in San Francisco.

View of Port Denarau, Fiji.

And last, but certainly not least, the view looking south toward the city from Muir Beach Outlook.

Off to my zen place… have a great weekend everyone!

Water, Water Everywhere, in San Francisco Bay….But a precious resource, indeed

It’s a beautiful part of the world. San Francisco Bay has become our new home this last year, and we’ve loved exploring the area. Last week we took the Larkspur Ferry into the city, and seeing the water and beautiful views reminded me of why I care so much about the health of the environment and protection of our natural resources.

Many of our dinner conversations lately have circled around one of the most precious natural resources: water. With all the water that surrounds us here…the bay, the ocean, the rivers…it is easy to forget how important it is to conserve water. In California, our water bill is by far our highest priced utility. It costs so much because there are so many people in California who draw from a rather limited water supply. It makes me wonder, do people really pay attention to their water usage? When taking a shower, does someone turn on the water and wait 5 minutes for it to get to just the right temperature? What about landscaping. When designing the layout for the front yard, does someone in California choose local plants and landscaping that doesn’t require an excessive amount of water, or lush grass that requires water every other day? These have all been on my mind lately.

I imagine this will be an ongoing discussion for me, so I encourage you to include your thoughts. I am also interested to know how people feel about water usage in different parts of the U.S., or even the world.

I encourage you to take note of the amount of water you use in a day, and see where in your routine you might be able to save a gallon or ten. If everyone made an effort to conserve water, and only use what they needed, surely we could better protect such a precious resource.