When I found out Morris Day and the Time were playing the Stern Grove Music Festival this year, I HAD to go see them. On my long list of favorite things about being raised by a young, hip momma is that I was always surrounded by groovy tunes and cool movies, and I loved Purple Rain growing up. I remember being entranced by the music: Prince is of course a legend, and the swagger and showmanship that Morris Day and the Time brought made them stand out, too.

I was too young to see them perform live back then, so I was super excited to check them out (for free!) at the festival this year. I checked my maps, and decided I would take a long walk to Stern Grove to meet up with my friends and see the show…

* * *

Headed through the Mission to Market Street/Portola Drive.

Always a fan of a well-framed house number…

house numbers on 18th street

* * *

Beautiful blue skies today.

Looking up Dolores Street from 17th towards the Basilica, and…

view up Dolores from 18th and Dolores

…back down towards Dolores Park and Mission High School:

view down Dolores from 18th and Dolores

* * *

Continuing up 17th.

A very zen garage door…

very zen garage. Buddha mural

Buddha votes for Harvey Milk.

* * *

Cool kids headed towards the Castro…

cool kids walking up 18th towards Castro

* * *

The relatively new Castro Parklet has gotten a lot of flack for how people choose to use the space, but today there was a lovely free concert. Onlookers enjoying the show…

enjoying a free concert at Market and Castro Parklet

enjoying a free concert at Market and Castro Parklet

* * *

The few blocks of Market above Castro Street curve up a bit out of the way, so I cut through the Eureka Valley neighborhood until I met the Market Street sidewalk again. I think I’ve driven down this road at night once or twice, but never walked it. The view is pretty great so far…

first of great views from upper Market Street

* * *

Headed up Market Street towards the heights…

Along upper Market Street

* * *

Oooh look, a footbridge with a spiral ramp!

Must investigate, because adult-sized jungle gyms are fun. I was curious to see what kind of views there would be from the span. At the top of the spiral, Bernal Heights in the distance…

Pedestrian footbridge over upper Market Street, stringer bridge built 1958

* * *

I asked the google-machine about this bridge and came across this neat website, on which I learned that this is called a “stringer bridge” and it was built in 1958.

Curvy Market Street from the middle of the footbridge…

view from Pedestrian footbridge over upper Market Street, stringer bridge built 1958

* * *

A little further up, there is another similar pedestrian bridge

Wow. View of Noe Valley, Bernal Heights, and the Bay in the distance from the second bridge’s spiral…

view from Pedestrian footbridge over upper Market Street, stringer bridge built 1958

* * *

Panorama from this spot (click to expand image):

sidewalk with view along upper Market Street where it becomes Portola Drive, August 9th walk up Market Street and Portola, to Stern Grove. Night outing to Castro Theatre.

* * *

These two women were carrying a San Francisco walking map and a couple of cameras. I can’t help but feel a little swell of gratitude that this my backyard when I see tourists. I hope they had a nice day, too…

Pedestrian footbridge over upper Market Street, stringer bridge built 1958

* * *

Past the bridges.

My GPS had suggested I get to Stern Grove via Mission and 24th Streets, and I didn’t quite understand how that made sense until I saw this view—the tree-lined street at left is 24th, and connects below to this part of Market. Funny how we don’t always realize how things fit together…

view of the Mission District and 24th Street from upper Market Street

* * *

These are the same wild berries that grow all over Billy Goat Hill Park, a dozen or so blocks over. They get around!

wild berries along upper market street, san francisco

* * *

Just where Market Street turns into Portola Drive.

Downtown, and Oakland across the Bay…

view of San Francisco from upper Market Street - Portola

* * *

What a great walk! I must have stopped every two dozen paces to look out over the city and marvel. (Yet another part of my hometown I’ve been missing out on this whole time I was sitting at my desk…) I will note, it gets REALLY WINDY up this way. I was actually blown off-balance into the railing once or twice! (It made me laugh :))

sidewalk with view along upper Market Street where it becomes Portola Drive

* * *

The weather changed dramatically in a short distance as I started down Portola; from warm sun and blue skies, to cool wind and white mist. I passed by the border of Glen Canyon Park, and some un-photogenic strip mall shopping before getting to a more residential area.

Pretty flowering bush in the front yard of one of the houses lined up along the way…

flowering shrub in West Portal, San Francisco

flowering shrub in West Portal, San Francisco

* * *

On some of my longer walks, I’m reminded of (and amazed by) how drastically varying our micro-climates in San Francisco can be, and this was one of the more extreme examples so far! Bridge over Portola Road, about a mile from the blue-sky city views:

pedestrian footbridge over Portola Drive, San Francisco

This is why, if you are planning a visit and ask us what kind of clothes to pack, we always answer with one word: “LAYERS!”

* * *

I didn’t take a lot of photos of the pretty neighborhoods along this stretch today because I knew I’d be spending time in Stern Grove, but couldn’t help but notice how even the types of plants and trees seem to differ completely from other parts of town with the contrasting weather through Miraloma and West Portal…

Awesome alien-anenome looking flowering tree at the corner of Portola and Junipero Sera:

flowering tree at corner of Portola Drive and Junipero Sera, San Francisco

flowering tree at corner of Portola Drive and Junipero Sera, San Francisco

* * *

Finally to Stern Grove!

One of the friends I was supposed to meet couldn’t make it, and then when I got to the Festival Gates, I was informed that the valley was full. ??@#?!??! Oh no! I knew this thing had a big draw, but… BUMMER. I’ll just have to go home and watch Morris and Jerome in Purple Rain

But first, I will admire the eucalyptus trees that make up most of Stern Grove (along with pine trees)…

eucalyptus trees with vines in Stern Grove, San Francisco

eucalyptus trees in Stern Grove, San Francisco

* * *

Beautiful muted color palette…

eucalyptus trees in Stern Grove, San Francisco

* * *

Twin Towers…

eucalyptus trees in Stern Grove, San Francisco

* * *

Turning back home.

Across the street from the entrance to Stern Grove on 19th Avenue is this building…

San Francisco Scottish Rite Masonic Center, West Portal, San Francisco

* * *

I had started walking back up Portola, but turned back to check out the Egyptian figures and the mosaics…

San Francisco Scottish Rite Masonic Center, West Portal, San Francisco

* * *

With all of these symbols, it MUST be a Freemason building!

My designer brain is super interested in symbolism, and so are the Freemasons:

The symbolism is mainly, but not exclusively, drawn from the manual tools of stonemasons – the square and compasses, the level and plumb rule, the trowel, among others. A moral lesson is attached to each of these tools, although the assignment is by no means consistent. The meaning of the symbolism is taught and explored through ritual. —Michael Johnstone, The Freemasons (via Wiki)

This is the Scottish Rite Masonic Center, and in addition to housing a Masonic Lodge, it can also be rented out by the public, as this Yelp reviewer so perfectly encapsulated:

Do you ever say to yourself, “I need a 700 seat theater with a pipe organ?” I know I do often. Now I have the answer, the Scottish Rite building on 19th and Sloat.

San Francisco Scottish Rite Masonic Center, West Portal, San Francisco

San Francisco Scottish Rite Masonic Center, West Portal, San Francisco

* * *

“Freemason” has such a vague air of mystery associated with it in popular culture, but I admit I didn’t really know what they were all about besides some wild conspiracy theories…

The Wikipedia article is about a 15-20 minute read, and it outlines the (ever-changing) structure and history of the organization clearly. Maybe it’s because I am curious about secret societies and other societal microcosms (English butlers, geisha), mythologies, and “universes”—I found it really interesting; recommended.

San Francisco Scottish Rite Masonic Center, West Portal, San Francisco

* * *

(A few bits of info paraphrased from my googling: There is no central world-wide governing body and in fact individual chapters don’t always recognize each other as legitimate, and have varying allegiances with each other [ahem, GoT]; no discussion of politics or religion is allowed in chambers; they require members believe in a supreme being but don’t specify any one in particular; it was the law until only recently that if you were a judge in the British Parliament, you had to disclose if you were a Freemason; etc…)

San Francisco Scottish Rite Masonic Center, West Portal, San Francisco

I have no idea position on any of this personally, but find it fascinating through the lens of cultural anthropology…

Also, the steps (above) are made from pretty green stone, and this chiseled plaque (below) by the entrance is surprisingly smooth to the touch and has really nicely-proportioned lettering…

San Francisco Scottish Rite Masonic Center, West Portal, San Francisco

* * *

Having already clocked about 5 miles through wind and hills, I was a little worn out, so I decided to make use of the underground MUNI, and hopped on at West Portal station.

Remember what I said about microclimates?? West Portal: chilly, misty, damp, sweater, scarf, jacket, wind… I laughed out loud when, two short stops and about as many minutes later, I came back above ground and saw this, and…

…as I turned the corner to start down Castro Street, a man naked except for gold lamé thong undies, sunglasses, and a backpack strolling down the sidewalk. I heart SF.

* * *

Awww, in a window in a house in the Castro:

happy marriage equality signs in the Castro

* * *

Back in the Mission District.

18th and Dolores Street panorama (click to expand):

panorama of Dolores Street in the Mission District

Finally home!!

* * *

Earlier in the day while walking past the Castro Theatre, I had seen the marquee advertising a showing of Blade Runner later in the evening. Since it’s a favorite, and I missed it about a month ago, I bought a ticket so I could catch the show! I was so excited all day…

Ridley Scott’s film looks AMAZING on a big screen—easily as good as anything I’ve seen recently—and it was such a treat to see it in the gorgeous Castro Theater. If you don’t usually see movies there, please do yourself a favor and start going!

I will leave you with a few photos of my short walk there and back again:

evening in the Mission District

the organ player at the Castro Theatre

the chandelier at the Castro Theatre

marquee at the Castro Theatre, night time

(They changed the marquee during my screening in preparation for tomorrow, darn it! I wanted a photo of Blade Runner on the lit-up marquee!)

shadow and curly iron work, Mission District, San Francisco

night view of trees in Dolores Park, San Francisco

funny custom door buzzer in the Mission District, San Francisco


Where should I go tomorrow?


  • MILES WALKED: 9.44 miles
  • NEIGHBORHOODS: Mission District, Castro District, Eureka Valley, Diamond Heights, Miraloma Park, West Portal
  • DESIGNATED LANDMARKS: Castro Theatre (no. 100)

08-09-15-MAP-web