Back in 2009 I shared a photo here on the blog of the Sutro Baths Ruins, which are located near Ocean Beach here in San Francisco. I rarely go out to this spot but it’s truly one of my favorite places in the city. There’s a magic feeling here. Last weekend a group of us went out there on an amazing, clear, sunny day and got to enjoy the views.
Sutro Baths History
Sutro Baths a historic bathing center that was built at the end of the nineteenth century. It was an extravagant thing that cost over one million dollars to create. People took the train out to the coast to spend the day playing at this glass-encased water wonderland. The baths were 500 feet long, included 6 salt water tanks and 1 fresh water tank and had fun things like swinging rings, a spring board and a 50 foot slide. There were 500 private dressing rooms, amazing striking columns, an amphitheater and a promenade in this building that could hold 25,000 people. Sea water would come in but be about 80 degrees, which was perfect for swimming, and the whole place was considered healing and playful.
Sutro Baths Ruins
The baths changed over time for a number of reasons. In the 1960s they burned down. The ruins remain and they create a striking historic artifact that you can see against the amazing view of the ocean on a clear day.
I went to the baths because I had friends visiting from out of town and we were hitting up some of the touristy highlights that I love. But I also really wanted to go back to see if I could see the otter that has suddenly taken up residence in this beautiful spot. According to SF Gate, this otter (the first one to be spotted near San Francisco in decades) has been dining on the overgrown goldfish that fill the ponds here but nobody knows quite why he ended up in this space. I love the nature of San Francisco and how it can change from time to time like this.
I did get to see the otter. I didn’t get any good pictures of him because he was keeping his head underwater most of the time but he’s there in the pond within the ruins.
My sister is visiting this first week of January. When she got here, we got online and looked up free things to do during her visit. One of the things we saw was an invitation from some folks at The Riptide Bar near the ocean to come out at noon on New Year’s Day and run into the ocean with whatever group of people showed up that day.
This is exactly the kind of thing my sister would love to do. It is exactly the kind of thing I wouldn’t ever do. We both did it.
The ocean here is pretty much always freezing cold. There was one time a few years ago that I went down to Half Moon Bay on a really warm day and the beach was lovely but as soon as I went into the water my feet cramped up in terrible pain from the icy cold. I don’t particularly like being uncomfortable so I don’t go into the water here. Heck, I only even go to the beach here about once a year.
Still, there was something a little bit compelling about doing this. I can’t really define what it was. I suppose it is because I tend to always be that person hovering on the beach in the cold, watching others do things that I’m 100% certain are uncomfortable, and I wanted to change that. I wanted to be the person running into the ocean even though I was terrified of the discomfort, the riptides, the pain of cold.
Do I think that I will stop being fearful of scary new experiences because I ran into the water with a group of people on New Year’s Day? Maybe not. But I know that I felt some sort of weird pride for having done it, for starting the year doing something that I normally wouldn’t do it and finding it not altogether terribly unpleasant.
I should add something here. Right before we went to the ocean, we stopped at a house where I am petsitting. I was having trouble getting the door unlocked so I stepped back to let my sister try. I stepped back while I was on really steep stairs and although I caught myself I nearly tumbled backwards down the steps. I’d spent half an hour or more jittery and nervous about the cold and trying to decide whether or not I was going to run into the ocean and then I almost cracked my skull open doing something as simple as opening a door.
That’s how life is – what you are scared of is rarely what hurts you. It’s what you don’t expect that gets you. Which is one of the many reasons 2013′s mantra for me is to be active and present in this moment, instead of fearfully anticipating the next one or mulling over the last one!
Note: The event we were a part of was a separate event from the 2nd Annual Polar Bear Club run into the ocean, which happened just up the beach from us.
Today’s picture was actually taken by my sister using my camera. We went to check out the ruins of the Sutro Baths. I’ve photographed them before but my sister had an interesting twist on them. Whereas I primarily focused on the ruins, she focused on the ocean beyond the ruins and got only a bit of the ruins in the picture. I like it. Do you?
I always love sitting at the ocean at that spot where the waves crash along the shore. I particularly love when it’s rocky and the waves slam against the rocks. This photo is at Baker Beach in San Francisco which offers a little bit of the chance to experience that although there are definitely some better areas around here to capture that smacking of the waves. Instead, this is a good spot to watch the water creep up between the rocks.