Mount Sutro Forest: A Walk in the Fog

Summertime, and San Francisco is cool and misty, and this summer even more so than usual.  It’s a wonderful time to visit the forest, which is right inside the fog belt. In foggy weather, Mount Sutro Cloud Forest may be the most beautiful place to visit in all of San Francisco. We’ve been up there a couple of times recently when the world outside was wrapped in a soft grayish haze.

It felt like stepping through a magic portal into another world. Inside the forest the air was clear, it rained lightly, and  we squelched along trails in areas where the undergrowth was still dense and hadn’t been thinned.  Above us, the trees towered into the fog. It was quiet, except for the sound of the water dropping on the leaves. Birds don’t sing much in this weather,  but the occasional chirp or whistle let us know they were around. They say fog can muffle sound, and perhaps it’s true. Even less city noise filtered in than usual.

Vandals had been at work in one place: saplings had been torn down by force to attempt to block a trail. We weren’t sure why; if perhaps it was someone who objected to bikers, objected to trails, or perhaps shared some kinship with the tree-killer of Golden Gate park.

But even that couldn’t detract from the serenity of the forest, the soft wind in the trees, the filtered light.

WHERE IT’S DRY

As we followed the historic trail down from the summit, just after the junction with the Western trail, it opened into an area where the trees and undergrowth have been cut back. Here, the trail was dry. Instead of mud, there was dust and dry leaves.  Then we were under the trees again, and again the forest held in the moisture.

We crossed Medical Center Way (the main paved road through the woods), and found our way to the Fairy Gates Trail. (There are trail markers at all intersections now.) The end near Medical Center Way has been realigned recently, and still looks like a construction project, all bare earth and no vegetation. This trail, which runs by the house of the UCSF Chancellor, has hardly any canopy or understory and is very dry.

The forest was in the ravine below; along the trail, nasturtiums bloomed with enthusiasm. “The young flowers are great in salads,” someone said.

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