My SF Discovery: Having a Swinging Good Time
By Joyce Kiefer
My childhood friend Corinne and I are always up for adventure - the kind that's a magical discovery in our own regional backyard. It helps that this backyard includes San Francisco. Instead of the usual tourist attractions, we seek out swings that seem to soar over the City, hidden stairways, and slides that take us down a cliff.
Swinging over The City
When my granddaughter told me about the swing at Billy Goat Hill – she explores The City whenever possible – I called Corinne and off we went to check it out. Once we were left of the freeway on the west side of the City, we wound through hilly, narrow streets until we reached 30th Street and Beacon in this Diamond Heights neighborhood.
We parked on Beacon St. and walked down the Harry Stairway. We felt like we were in Neverland. Our dilemnma: should we stare at the gorgeous view of the City or look closely at the lovely gardens of homes that backed up to the tree-lined stairway? We stopped along the way and did both. One resident opened his gate and gave us a tour of his lovely landscape work.
At the bottom of the stairs we turned left on Laidley Street and walked a couple of blocks to Billy Goat Hill Open Space. This being San Francisco, something called “open space” is not a huge area but a hill reserved for nature rather than playground equipment or picnic tables. We walked the steps to the top of the bare hill, took in the panorama of The City, and looked for the huge eucalyptus tree with a rope swing hanging from a branch.
I swallowed a sudden wave of hesitation and boarded the swing. Corinne pushed me hard, and I felt like I was flying off the hill over San Francisco.
Sliding down a cliff
Ten minutes away another thrill awaited – a curving, sculptured concrete slide that zoomed half way down a cliff to the street below. When I saw the Seward Mini Park slide a niece from L.A. posted on Face Book, I called Corinne.
We had another clear sunny day for our adventure. Again we ended up in a neighborhood of narrow, hilly streets, this time in San Francisco’s Eureka Valley. We parked on Corwin Street and walked alongside the community garden down Acme Lane. The garden was abloom in pinks and blues. Halfway down the cliff, we spied the slide.
We could have continued down the lane to Seward Street but why not take the express? A sign warned that adults must be accompanied by children. However, Corinne and I are kids at heart, so we figured we were okay. I brought along a burlap bag for each of us to sit on for a smooth ride, although cardboard would also work. We held hands, counted to three, and zoomed down the parallel chutes together. I watched the tips of my shoes and they seemed to fly. The slides flattened out at the end, so we weren’t dumped on our rears into the mini-park at the base.
Once was not enough. We climbed back up on the steep concrete paths on either side of the slide, hanging onto the chain between the posts. After a half dozen descents, we decided to explore the rest of the charming neighborhood. Low-rise concrete apartment buildings angled into the street, alternating with small cottages with lovely mini-gardens of succulents. We walked to nearby Kite Hill Open Space at the end of Corwin and were awed by a view of Twin Peaks on one side and downtown and the Bay on the other.
Where to eat and where to climb stairs
By now we were hungry, so we asked a dog walker to suggest a good place for a light lunch. She pointed us to The Neighbor’s Corner on Douglass and 21st. Millennials, buried in phones and laptops, sipped coffee at the long table facing the window that looked out at the street. Most of the food was vegetarian but we found a boxed chicken dish to share. We asked the young man who ran the place about his favorite neighborhood stairway. He pointed us to a spiral ramp a few blocks away on Grandview and 25th.
When we arrived, I was disappointed to find that it led to an overpass. However, as Corinne and I walked up, we found ourselves looking out at The City at a level just above the apartments in front of us, as if we were flying low over the rooftops. A group of kindergartners raced past us down the ramp. A couple of kids stopped for a quick look at the view and raced on. They take magic for granted and we were there to share it.
When You go:
Check the following website for swings with views in the San Francisco area:
Billy Goat Hill is open 5 a.m.to 10 p.m. Sometimes the locals take down the swing to replace it.
On the Seward Slide try to keep your shrieks down in regard for the neighbors. The slide is closed on Mondays and open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the week.
Read Stairway Walks in San Francisco by Adah Bakalinsky.
Joyce Kiefer is a regular contributor to BAFT, a grandmother, and kid at heart.