Okay, so it isn’t actually a walk, but sometimes it’s nice to just sit and watch the world move around you. Especially at the beach. When I visit a beach, I love to sit and listen to the calming rhythm of the waves crash against the shore. The power and vastness of the ocean puts into perspective my place on this planet, and I am reminded of how tiny and powerless I am in the grand scheme of things. There is nothing, really, that is in my singular control.
Rodeo Beach, a crescent-shaped beach stretching roughly 1,000 yards across the Marin Headlands coastline, is one of my favorite beaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite its small stature, it is a majestic beach with mighty cliffs protecting it on either side. A large rock in the shape of a sleeping dog stretches just offshore. Tiny pebbles of various colors, some of which might be semi-precious stones, make up the beach—but they’re not for the taking. A freshwater lagoon flows from the valley behind, attracting ducks and egrets. A three-planked wooden bridge spans the lagoon, offering access to the beach. The red-roofed barracks of old Fort Cronkhite climb the hills behind. Abandoned concrete batteries dot the cliffs and hillsides. Hiking trails wind their way up onto the flat tops of the cliffs like little brown snakes in the otherwise dense brush. It is a coastal playground.
But it isn’t just the landscape that makes this one of my favorite beaches. I also like the feeling of seclusion. Rodeo
Beach is only two miles beyond the Golden Gate Bridge, yet I feel like I am many more miles from the city. Other than the MUNI bus that runs out there on Sundays, there are no traces of San Francisco, the skyline is hidden by the surrounding hills. As I strolled around the old barracks of the fort—they now house National Park Services and Headlands Conservancy offices—I tried to imagine what it must have been like out there, tucked away on the coastline before the Golden Gate Bridge was built, allowing easier access to and from the city. Or sitting in one of the batteries through the night with the cold, relentless Pacific wind howling under the eaves. Must have offered many hours for reflection.
Of course it’s easy for me to feel a sort of primal attraction for seclusion, for being out in the elements. Because, like I did on Sunday with my friends, I can pack up all my stuff, my beach chair, my blankets, and my magazines, and head back to the comfort of my home—the one thing I can control.
Drive north across the Golden Gate Bridge and take the Alexander Ave exit. Veer right at the end of exit ramp, then take first left, through the one-way tunnel. Then follow signs to Rodeo Beach. Or at end of exit, turn left and drive up and over the hill and follow signs to Rodeo Beach. The latter route is more scenic.
MUNI bus route 76, which starts and ends at the Caltrain Station, runs to Rodeo Beach on Sundays only, with a bus every hour.
Riding a bike is another option. Bike across the bridge and take either of the routes described for driving. There is also dirt path that cuts down from the top of the hill to the valley below.