Friday, April 13, 2018

"Rick's Tips" - April 2018 - Spring Has Sprung

The April edition of "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron's free newsletter of fun things to do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California is now available.  You can read about fun things to do this spring:

Welcome to "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel's newsletter of fun and interesting things to do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California. Whether you are visiting San Francisco or hosting visitors, Blue Heron can provide an unforgettable experience. Visit our website,, to learn more about our private, custom tours.
Spring Has Sprung
Northern California doesn't really have four seasons like much of the country. Rather, we have wet and dry seasons. The arrival of spring means that the winter rains will soon come to an end. In San Francisco, summer means cold, foggy weather. Spring and fall are the nicest times of year to visit as the days are warmer and the skies clearer. Spring means different things to different people. For some, spring means their gardens start to bloom. For others, spring means the arrival of the baseball season. Below are some spring activities for you to enjoy over the next few months.

See Beautiful Flowers
Wild Flowers

When we have a wet winter, beautiful wildflowers blossom in the spring. This past winter saw below average rainfall. However, heavy rains in March could result in colorful fields of wildflowers this spring. There are many spots to see gorgeous flowers. My favorite is Chimney Rock in Point Reyes National Seashore. A 2.5-mile/4-km. trail will guide you from the parking lot along the bluff overlooking Drake's Bay and the Pacific Ocean. In April and May, thousands of wild flowers are in bloom. Point Reyes juts into the Pacific making it a cold, windy, and foggy spot. If you can visit on a sunny day, you won't be disappointed.  

Daffodil Hill

About 2.5 hours east of San Francisco is the small Gold Rush town of Volcano in Amador County. Just outside of town you'll find Daffodil Hill. If you visit at the right time of year, usually mid-March until mid-April, you'll find tens of thousands of blooming daffodils. This garden is a must-see if you are visiting Gold Country in the spring. Before you go, call (209) 296-7048 to check on road conditions and to see if the flowers are blooming. Admission is free.  

Kruse Rhododendron Reserve

About 20 miles north of the small town of Jenner on the Sonoma County Coast is the Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve. Every May thousands of rhododendrons come into bloom. Visitors can walk a short loop trail through the rhododendrons or a 2-mile/3.2-km. trail through the second-growth redwood forest. The road to the park is narrow and not suitable for larger vehicles or cars pulling trailers.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Spring is a great time to explore our nearby parks. Rain is less frequent than in the winter. Since fog is not common, spring provides a perfect opportunity to explore the coast.  

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area includes park lands in San Francisco, San Mateo County to the south, and Marin County across the Golden Gate. The park is full of historic sites, beautiful beaches (remember the water is ALWAYS cold), and miles of hiking trails. A great hike in the city is the Coastal Trail between the Sea Cliff/Lincoln Park border and the Land's End Visitors Center. Hike about 1.5 miles one way on the Coastal Trail and, if you need to return to your starting spot, come back on El Camino Del Mar, which is paved for about half of the mile-long walk. In Marin County, I love the nine-mile, round trip hike along the Coastal Trail between Tennessee Valley and Muir Beach. If you start at Tennessee Valley, you can have lunch and a pint of Guinness on draft at the Pelican Inn in Muir Beach before returning. Just don't drink too many pints. You'll need a car to get to either Tennessee Valley or Muir Beach as they are not serviced by public transit. Spring is the perfect time to enjoy the views of the Golden Gate, San Francisco, and the Pacific Ocean from Point Bonita Lighthouse in the Marin Headlands. The walk to the lighthouse is about one mile long and goes through a tunnel built by Chinese laborers in the 19th century. The lighthouse is open on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. The Marin Headlands Express (76X) bus services the lighthouse parking lot on Saturdays and Sundays. Point 

Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes is along the Marin County coast, about one hour from the Golden Gate Bridge. The park offers rugged terrain, beautiful beaches, great hikes, and an historic lighthouse. As the point juts out far into the Pacific, Point Reyes tends to be very foggy. A spring visit minimizes your chance of seeing nothing but the fog. The website has a park cam so you can check out the weather before you go. My favorite hike is the 9.5-mile, round-trip hike through the Tule Elk Reserve at Tomales Point. On a clear day, the trail offers spectacular views of the Pacific, North and South Beaches, and Tomales Bay. You've got a pretty good chance of seeing Tule Elk during your walk. A walk to the Point Reyes Lighthouse offers stunning ocean views. March and April are good moths to see migrating gray whales on their way from Mexico to Alaska. A word of caution, the walk to the lighthouse takes you down 308 steps, which means you have to climb back up them when you finish your visit. The lighthouse is currently open only from Friday through Monday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. On weekends between December and April, visitors may need to board a shuttle bus at Drake's Beach to get to the lighthouse.

Go Whale Watching
While whales can be seen offshore throughout the year, early spring is a good time to see gray whales migrating north from Mexico to Alaska. You can see them off in the distance from Land's End, Point Bonita, the Muir Beach Overlook near Muir Woods, Point Reyes, and Bodega Head in Sonoma County. However, the best way to see whales is to go on a whale watching expedition. Boats depart from San Francisco; Half Moon Bay, about 45 minutes south of San Francisco; Moss Landing, about 30 minutes north of Monterey; and Monterey. In San Francisco, SF Bay Whale Watching and San Francisco Whale Tours offer tours from Pier 39. The Oceanic Society provides tours that depart from Half Moon Bay or San Francisco. A good number of companies offer whale watching tours in Monterey Bay that depart from either Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey or from Moss Landing.

Root for Your Favorite Team

The arrival of spring means the opening of the baseball season is not far behind. The Bay Area is home to two major league teams - San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics, better known as the A's. The Giants open their season against the dreaded Dodgers on March 29 in Los Angeles. Their home opener is at 1:35 on April 3 against the Seattle Mariners. The A's open their season against the Los Angeles Angels at 1:05 on March 29. The Giants often sell out their games while the A's seldom do. Both stadiums are easy to get to from San Francisco. AT&T Park is home to the Giants. The stadium is a twenty minute walk from Union Square and the Financial District. It's also accessible via the E, N, and K/T streetcars. The Oakland Coliseum is about thirty minutes from San Francisco via BART, our subway. Ride a train bound for Fremont, Warm Springs/South Fremont, or Dublin/Pleasanton and get off at the Coliseum Station. The stadium is a five-minute walk from the BART station.  


Spring means it's playoff time in the NBA. Of course, the NBA champion Golden State Warriors will be seeking another title. Tickets to Warriors games are the tough to come by. The Warriors are officially sold out for the season, but tickets are usually available through re-sellers on the team's website as well as on independent websites. Expect to pay a pretty penny, especially if you want to go to a playoff game. The Warriors currently play at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, which is next to the Coliseum where the A's play. To get to the Arena from San Francisco, follow the above directions to take BART to the Coliseum. In 2019, the Warriors are scheduled to move to their new home, Chase Center, in the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco. This arena will be accessible via the K/T streetcar.  

Ice Hockey

Spring is also playoff time in the NHL. The San Jose Sharks are the Bay Area's hockey team. While they have never won the Stanley Cup, the Sharks frequently make the playoffs. You can see the Sharks play at the SAP Center in San Jose. The best way to get there from San Francisco is via CalTrain. You can board a train at the San Francisco station at Fourth and Townsend Streets and get off at the San Jose Diridon Station. It's then a short walk to the Arena.


Major League Soccer (MLS) doesn't wait for the arrival of spring to start its season. The San Jose Earthquakes played their first game on March 3. You can catch Major League Soccer action at Avaya Stadium in San Jose. To get to the stadium from San Francisco, take CalTrain (see Ice Hockey above) to the Santa Clara station. Then you can walk one mile to the stadium.

Of course, there is much more to see and do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California during the spring; like take a tour with Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel. Check out back issues of "Rick's Tips" for more ideas.

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See you on the road, 
Rick Spear  
Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel 
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