As some of you might have noticed, I decided to abscond for a bit again. I have a good excuse, though!
For a given value of “good” and “excuse”.
If you’re the kind of person who considers ogling dead buildings and hiking through Slenderman’s compost pile a good time (I am).
I live nearish the Sacramento area, in a tiny community. One neat thing about Sacramento is that it has scads of old architecture, and a lot of it is very pretty. Areas under the old part of the city are full of a warren of tunnels (since bricked off and turned into basements for the businesses atop them), and there’s even an old PG&E building that still sits abandoned near a park (despite long-term plans to turn it into a museum). Unfortunately, many of the coolest looking areas aren’t exactly easy to access. That’s okay, though. We took a bit of a drive and found some others.
Mare Island is a smallish peninsula located in Vallejo, CA. It’s the site of Touro University and several other buildings that still see some use, but the main attraction for us was by far the damaged and abandoned buildings (all stenciled with bright red warnings of impending arrest if we were caught on the properties).
While Mare Island is extremely easy to get to, UrbExers beware– they don’t seem to be screwing around when they talk about penalties for trespassers. Many of the buildings are also currently being renovated, so it can be difficult to determine which ones are truly the burned-out shells of a bygone era, and which are going to have security with some very valid questions.
Lastly, some of the buildings have notices pasted on them warning that they are unstable. While this could easily be brushed off as a way to scare people off, many of these buildings are seriously broken and can end up hurting you. There also isn’t really anywhere to stash a car that isn’t likely to be noticed, so bikes may be the way to go if you plan on exploring off the road for any length of time.
Another area we were eager to check out was the Sutro Baths, near Seal Rocks in San Francisco.
These are the remains of what was once a fancy indoor pool complex built by Adolph Sutro, a former mayor of the city. Unfortunately, the pools weren’t profitable, failed financially, and ended up as ruins right on the water’s edge. While the complex used to consist of six saltwater pools, a freshwater pool, an amphitheater, an ice skating rink, over five hundred private dressing rooms, and a museum, now only a few low, ruined concrete walls remain.
The ruins are open to the public, and there’s nothing to stop anyone from climbing on or exploring what remains of Adolph Sutro’s endeavor.
There’s a steep slope from the parking lot to the beach here, with trails marked by high, irregular steps. It was also very cool and windy when we were there, so be prepared for the weather and make sure you’re able to handle the hike down and up again.
One of the most interesting spots we found there wasn’t the baths themselves– there’s a small cave running through the rock off to the north of the site of the ruins.
There’s a hole or two that allows you to hear and see the ocean (which sounds pretty awesome, by the way), and a rope barring the end of the cave.
Of course, without a sign warning us not to hop the barricade, we did.
The area just outside is a somewhat treacherous span of rocks, which nonetheless provides both a really cool view of the ocean and about a thousand secluded spots to sit. It should be noted that hopping ropes and fences is a bad idea elsewhere around there– a lot of the land around the baths is sensitive (relative) wilderness. It’s easy to end up harming the local flora and fauna if you stray from one of the trails. While the area we snuck to was not labeled as such and was pretty devoid of plantlife, it is still hell of dangerous to go climbing around on wet rocks within the reach of an ocean.
So, enjoy the view, but don’t hop barricades all nimbly-pimbly and shizz.
There’s also a way down to the area at the cave’s exit from one of the trails above the beach, but it’s very steep and the landing would be very uncertain. This is also one of the spots that visitors are prohibited from walking, so it’s best to just take the trail down from the parking lot and go through the cave rather than heading north from the lot and trying to find the short way down.
One thing that might be worth noting is that there’s a lot of graffiti in this area. It’s on the ruins themselves, and on the rocks beyond the cave. I normally enjoy graffiti (Sacramento has some really neat murals and such that I shall have to photograph for a later post), but this was less “bright colors and bold designs” and more “some guy decided to spray the word ‘toenail’ on some hundred-year-old concrete, wtf.” While that can ruin some of the beauty of a ruined or wild place, Sutro Baths was enjoyable enough that it didn’t detract from its odd kind of beauty.
Up next, I take you on a journey down some Slendy-ass roads in the mountains.