-San Francisco Trip Part Two-
On August 11th and 12th, 2010, I had the opportunity to visit San Francisco, California. This post is Part Two of a Two-Part trip report (See Pt. I here). After exploring the Marin Headlands in Northern San Francisco, including a trip down the side of a mountain through unidentified vegetation, I rushed over to Pier 33 in hopes of making it in time for the boat to Alcatraz Island...
Standing in line at Pier 33 was one of the rare moments in the trip that wasn't lost in a blur of rushing around from one place to the next. I checked with the desk and my spot was confirmed. I made it. Back at home before I left, I made the painful realization that Alcatraz was sold out for the duration of this trip. The infamous island prison that I had dreamed about since I was young was shutting me out. It wasn't until I had already left Saint Louis and was en route to San Francisco that my amazing girlfriend was able to snatch up a cancelled ticket as part of their first-come, first-serve policy. Alcatraz turned out to be the best part of the trip and one of my all time favorite locations that I've ever explored.
I did not set out to explore Alcatraz. I was just happy to be on this tour and I was going to enjoy it regardless... But then I came to my senses when I spotted a chance to break from the group and take my own self-guided tour. I didn't really have a choice though; Before I knew it, I was in an off-limits area of the island and needed to either proceed further in order to get out of sight or come back the way I came and sneak back into the group which in itself was risky. I chose the former and entered a structure whose hallmark was the familiar decay of neglected architecture, an environment strangely comforting and familiar to me. Alone, I carefully navigated through every accessible portion of the building and did my best to stay out of sight. But I failed to remain inconspicuous at one point and caught the concerned glance of a tourist. Her expression signaled to me that I might just be in trouble, so I went back into the structure to continue my adventures out of sight, hoping to not hear footsteps in some corner of the building that weren't my own. At least I would see the whole building before they come looking for me. I just happened to be passing by a window that faced the alley in which I was spotted when a Park Ranger entered the scene. I was extremely concerned at this point because I hadn't even been inside the prison yet and had hardly even seen much of the island at all. I was holding my breath, palms sweating as I watched him through an old window. I wondered if it was dark enough where I was that he couldn't see me from outside. I tried moving to expose less of my silhouette to the window, but my jacket was caught on some metal crap sticking out of the wall. So I stood motionless awaiting whatever outcome fate would deal me this time. He didn't stay long, however, having only stopped to briefly look around, shine his flashlight in some corners and leave. Moments like these remind me that this is an incredibly stupid thing to do. But as soon as they pass, so does my cognizance of potential risk and I'm quickly back at it without the weight of trepidation that keeps most people securely planted inside their comfort zone.
After exhausting the navigable portions of this off-limits corner of the island, I decided that I had better see the prison before I get caught somewhere else and thus ruin my once in a lifetime chance to see the infamous Alcatraz that I came here for. I soon learned that the only way to get pictures of this place without herds of tourists ruining every possible shot is to be the only one there.