Roaming Zen

The lost art of writing copyCorona Heights – the first picture I used to promote Roaming Zen.

So, in the midst of all the Shelter In Place stuff, we are still allowed to exercise, and it occurred to me that I could just post instructions for routes that you could do any time you feel the need for a decent hike, remembering the excellent cue sheets that the Crosstown Trail provides – of course it would be a great time to do all or some of that if you fancy it.

First up, following the route of the second-ever roam, that we have repeated since then. It takes in Duboce Park, Corona Heights, the Vulcan Street Steps, Mount Olympus, Buena Vista Park, and the Scott St labyrinth, and has been a popular route.

You can see the details here on Meetup. And, this is what it looks like on Openstreetmap:

Social Distance Roam.png

A second route, along Ocean Beach, taking in the Sutro Baths, Sutro Heights, and the windmills. That information is here. This route is straightforward enough that I don’t think I need to draw it out!


Number three is a short but hilly loop of Russian Hill. Details are here.


This is a plot of the route:

Russian Hill Roam.png

I will pick up the schedule again once we are allowed to roam freely again!

Among other thoughts, I would like to trace the lake-creek-beach route again, take a visit to the Dogpatch, and have in mind a more multi-modal roam to visit various labyrinths. Stay tuned!

If you need some prompts as to the benefits of roaming, here are a trio of articles from the Guardian: 
Two-hour ‘dose’ of nature significantly boosts health – study
Woodland sounds help relaxation more than meditation apps – study
Blue spaces: why time spent near water is the secret of happiness

All of which is achievable without leaving the city limits!

And this from the New Yorker:

A small but growing collection of studies suggests that spending time in green spaces—gardens, parks, forests—can rejuvenate the mental resources that man-made environments deplete. Psychologists have learned that attention is a limited resource that continually drains throughout the day. A crowded intersection—rife with pedestrians, cars, and billboards—bats our attention around. In contrast, walking past a pond in a park allows our mind to drift casually from one sensory experience to another, from wrinkling water to rustling reeds.

These roams are offered by donation; they are one way I try to be able to afford to continue living in San Francisco! Thank you for your generosity in supporting Roaming Zen.

IMG_1783.jpgAcross to Twin Peaks and the Sutro Tower from Bernal Heights.

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DSCF2807 (1)The Harry Street steps.


DSCF8353.jpgThe Florida Alley trail, aka the Sutro Ravine Trail, aka Bedpan Alley.

IMG_0652A trail up the side of Mount Davidson.

IMG_1625.jpgA trail in the Presidio.

IMG_0248.jpgLooking over to the Sutro Tower and Twin Peaks from the top of Mount Davidson.

DSCF2143.jpgLooking across to Angel Island from Crissy Field.

Land's End
Along the Golden Gate from the Land’s End trail.

DSCF1706.jpgLand’s End, having completed the Crosstown Trail.

The genesis for Roaming Zen was perhaps my shuso practice period at Tassajara, where I noticed that I derived as much energy from being on the trails or up the road, among the trees and by the creek, as I did from the hours in the zendo. It was perhaps crystalised by a visit to Tassajara with a group from Young Urban Zen a year or two later: after the days of work, a group of us set off for a hike along the Horse Pasture trail, and at one stage, hearing all the talk of people’s pre-occupations and mundane affairs, someone in the group asked if we could all hike in silence for a while and properly take in the surroundings. Afterwards, the agreed verdict was that the silence had transformed the hike.
And so, having tried versions of it at City Center, Green Gulch and Tassajara, one of my favourite things to do these days is to gather a small group of people, sit with them, maybe introduce a little quote or theme, and lead them around a chosen route, cultivating mindful presence through walking and sitting quietly in the midst of city life.
There are so many little corners of San Francisco that lend themselves to the activity, surrounded by beauty, views, and sometimes quiet. We have visited hills and canyons, creeks and beaches, staircases and alleys, lakes and hidden parks; we have listened to birds and waves, watched butterflies and bees, smelled flowers and ocean spray. We have looked over all sides of San Francisco and to the mountains beyond.

I like to give credit to OpenStreetMap, for featuring much more detail in paths and trails than I ever get from Apple Maps or Google Maps – I would not have found some of these routes without it.

27 Tassajara.jpgLeading the way along the Horse Pasture Trail near Tassajara, summer 2019. Photo courtesy of April Nemeth.

IMG_20191026_130458.jpgLeading the way up the Smelter Trail at Wilbur in October. Photo courtesy of Laura Della Guardia.

image2 copy.JPGCloser to home, leading a group around the Presidio.