A rather warm Bay Area Saturday is a great day to ride my bicycle over on Angel Island. We drove over to the ferry service in Tiburon, and took the 20 minute ride over to Angel Island. Our bicycles added another $1 to the regular fare of $13.50. Angel Island State Park is a historic landmark located in San Francisco Bay, about one mile from Tiburon.
The highest point, and obviously the best 360 degree view of the area is atop Mount Livermore, which is 781 feet above sea level and located almost perfectly on the center of the island. Caroline Livermore was the naturalist who helped create the state park. The island has over 13 miles of hiking trails, and 8 miles of biking trails.
The historical significance began about 3000 years ago with the Coastal Miwok Indians, who fished and hunted here. Later in 1775, under Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala, it became a cattle ranch, then a U. S. Army post. So, how did it get the name, Angel Island?
Most importantly, from 1910 to 1940 it served as an Immigration Station (northeast corner) for hundreds of immigrants, primarily from China. At the start of World War 2, both German and Japanese POWs were held on the island. The US Public Health Service used it as a Quarantine Station for close to one million immigrants. In the 1940s, it housed a Nike missile base. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
Dogs and skateboards are NOT allowed on the Island. Ayala Cove is the landing point for the ferry. The little duchy of Tiburon is our departure point. The island sits almost entirely in Marin County, with a small sliver in San Francisco County. The water way between Tiburon and Angel is called Raccoon Strait, I assume after only heterosexual rodents. In reality, it was named for a British ship, the HMS Raccoon, that visited in 1814 for repairs. It was known previously as Wood Island. Some folklore says the island got its name from the angels that roamed the island.
For me, the whole “Ellis Island West” story is most compelling. The dreaded Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 forced many immigrants to spend years on the island awaiting legal entry into the United States. In 1962, the local Chinese community successfully lobbied for its designation as a state landmark.
Living within view of Angel Island (on a clear day), one could see the great fire of October 12, 2008. By 8am the following morning, 250 of the 740 acres had been burned or scorched. A massive restoration is underway, including root and branch extirpation of non-native flora. I would imagine it is a cold and dark place there at night and during the long winter nights.
One of the most popular bicycle rides on the island is the Angel Island double loop. It runs over ten miles long, of moderate difficulty, and listed as one of the 100 best rides in Northern California. And of course, the best feature is there are no motorized vehicles! Roads come in the form of paved, gravel and dirt trails. Most importantly, there is a snack bar at Ayala Cove that is open on a rather sporadic basis.
But we are here for the exercise and the views. I am sure I can last a few hours without typical snack bar cuisine. I brought my own snacks, some Japanese rice crackers, fruit, string cheese (no incident), and water? In terms of “scenery per unit of effort”, it rates Numero Uno in the Bay Area. Pump, boys and girls, pump! Lunch after in Tiburon is always treat as well.