Roaming Zen

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August 24th will be the last of the summer dates before I go to England; this will be an exploration of Russian Hill. It might be more urban than the last couple of locations, but you can trust me (courtesy of OpenStreetMap) to find some quiet floral alleys offering a peaceful refuge in the midst of one of the city’s most historic neighbourhoods. The distance we will cover is not so great, but there is plenty of up and down to compensate for that. And with that, wonderful views to take in of course.

We will meet at the Maritime Museum – on the water side of the building – at 2pm on Saturday August 24th. Usual blurb about layers, snacks and water applies!

And, since a few people have asked me about it already, perhaps when I get back from England, there will be a chance to schedule an all-day roam on the Crosstown Trail, much of which we have roamed on before in separate chunks.

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.


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DSCF8353.jpgThe Florida Alley trail, part of the midsummer roam.

DSCF2800.jpgThe wonderful view downtown from Billy Goat Hill

IMG_0534.jpgFog pouring over San Bruno Mountain from McLaren Park.

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

Sitting on the crags by Heptonstall during the second English roam in September. 

Mt Sutro woods 5 copyA trail up the side of Mount Sutro.

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Part of the Lobos Creek trail – a real favourite of mine.

The lost art of writingCorona Heights.

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Along the Golden Gate from the Land’s End 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 crystallised 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 main teachings since leaving Zen Center has been to gather a small group of people, sit with them, 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; 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 doubt many people reading this need much persuasion about the benefits of hiking, but this article lists some of them.

I like to give some 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, and copyright, April Nemeth.