Muir Beach Overlook, San Francisco, California

A totally random note from Geraldine: This is the 500th post to appear on my blog. Holy cats. There are few things I’ve done 500 times, folks. I won’t exactly go into WHAT, but there are few things – let’s just leave it at that. Thank you to everyone who helped me get to this milestone – whether through guest posts, comments, words of encouragement, or just by occasionally reading the nonsense that I post day in and day out … You are all wonderful, and I want to hug you each 500 times. Though that would probably get weird after the third hug or so. 


My last post was intended to be about a pleasant day at the beach, and instead it devolved into gratuitous photos of me and my husband making out.

Sorry about that. I promise, there will be absolutely NO NONSENSE LIKE THAT TODAY. All my pictures will be chaste and sexless, and there definitely won’t be adorable self-portraits of me and my husband.

Like this one, for example.

GAH! What is wrong with me? Sorry. Seriously, that will be the last bit of ooey-gooey sweetness for the day. It’s getting to the point that my own marriage might cause me to become diabetic.

Besides, spending long days traveling the world and having nothing to tell your readers except, “Rand’s hair looked particularly fantastic today. Also, his eyes looked greener than usual,” is just plain irresponsible. Yesterday, I got so sidelined thinking about my husband’s sideburns, that I didn’t even finish telling you the best part about Muir Beach, which is the overlook (there’s a joke here. Something about how I overlooked the overlook. I’m operating on 5 hours of sleep, so it’s not gelling together. Sorry). From there you have fantastic views of the water.

Like all good things that one encounters while traveling, we found it rather by accident. We were heading away from Muir Beach, on an equally winding but decidedly less traffic-burdened road, when we saw a rather unassuming sign.

If I could give this sign an eBay rating, it would be this: "A++++ Item was exactly as advertised." BECAUSE IT WAS.

“WE ARE GOING THERE,” I screamed, and because I was driving, we did precisely that. (This may be why Rand elects to drive on most of our trips. I pull over whenever I smell baked goods or a spot a thrift store. If it was up to me, we’d never get anywhere.)

Decades ago, the overlook high above Muir Beach was of critical importance. There are several dugouts in the cliff called “base-end fire-control stations” (though the affectionate nickname for them soon became “gopher holes”). They were placed on the hill early during WWII, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when there was a fear that the next strike on the U.S. would either be in Los Angeles or San Francisco.  The gopher holes housed soldiers who were watching the water for enemy ships, with the aid of a giant scope. If they saw anything, they could relay the coordinates to a command center so nearby batteries could take aim at the targets.

Rand and the gopher hole. Again, there is a joke here, and again, I'm too tired to make it work.

Obviously, no attacks ever took place on the west coast, and no ships were spotted.

Instead, dutiful soldiers spent long, chilly shifts in the gopher holes, two at a time, presumably alternating between being bored and freezing (or perhaps both, if they were feeling particularly ambitious). The military abandoned the stations after the war, and, judging by the refuse one can now find in the gopher holes, they’re currently used by the public as an out-of-the-way spot to drink beer, urinate, and get amorous, possibly in that order.

It occurred to me that I edited this photo to the point where it looks totally artificial. Forgive me. (Five hours of sleep, remember?)

I found the explanatory sign nearby to be endlessly entertaining:

Note: "Parkas in Summer" would be a great band name for a group out of San Francisco.

There isn’t terribly much to do at the overlook except to, well, look over things.

And because I said I would refrain from the sort of treacly-sweet sentimental nonsense that’s been clogging my blog as of late, here are a few things Rand and I did not do at the overlook.

We did not chase each other down this boardwalk like crazed children on a sugar high.

Nope. Definitely not.

I was not charmed by the mere sight of my husband as he walked down the stairs.

And we absolutely positively did NOT make out here …

Move along, folks. Nothing to see ...

Or here …

Don't trust your eyes! THERE IS NO SPOON.


And while we’re at it, when we left Muir Beach, and found ourselves at Joe’s Taco Lounge, which is a thoroughly decent spot not far away …

and had some lovely tacos, and then stepped out into the sunshine afterwards …

I absolutely did not think, damn it, he’s a handsome fellow …

… even when he has tortilla crumbs stuck in his beard. Though, really, could you blame me if I had?


The Essentials on Muir Beach Overlook:

Verdict: Yes, particularly if you are in the area. If you don’t visit San Francisco often, skip this trip and just enjoy the views from the Golden Gate Bridge or Twin Peaks.

How to get there: You will need a rental car. The overlook can be found just north of Muir Beach, on Highway 1.

Ideal for: Photographers, WWII history buffs, folks who carry around binoculars at all times (like that one neighbor I used to have!)

Insider tips: Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll need to walk a little bit to enjoy the best views, and while the paths are well-cared for, they require a lot of stairs. It gets windy – bring a sweater or a blanket if you intend to hang out for a while.

Nearby food: There’s nothing up at the overlook, so you’ll want to bring snacks with you if you plan on staying for a long time. Joe’s Taco Lounge is nearby in Mill Valley, and is open daily for lunch and dinner. It’s not stellar, but after a day of making out chastely touring the area, it hits the spot.

Good for Kids: The paths are not stroller-friendly, and there are some scary drops near the overlook, so make sure you have ankle-biters strapped down (do they still make those baby-leash things?). Older kids who are able to appreciate the historical significance of the place will probably get a kick out of it.

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  • Emily in Chile

    Ha, I love the parka sign.

  • Dan

    500 congratulations to you! And I just might hold you to that 500 hugs thing. I promise it won’t get weird.

    • Everywhereist

      You and me, Thies. Hugathon, 2011. LET’S DO THIS.

      • Philip

        It will be a nice break from seeing you and Rand kissing…

  • Sam

    Congrats on your 500th post! Thanks for making every day more enjoyable!

  • Frank

    There’s a big gopher hole on the Sausalito side of the GG bridge (if I remember right). It’s up the side of the mountain after exiting and going under the 101(?). Tunnel from bay side to big concrete pit where a (apparently really big) gun of some kind pointed out to the pacific. Some guy from New Jersey told me it was there. It appeared out of the fog. Go figure.

  • HollyFromHomer

    And I’m caught up! What a great way to end, at the 500th post. …. Now do I really have to wait to read ONE POST A DAY?!

  • Faith

    Congrats on the 500 posts, and being part of a super sweet couple 🙂

    Love the parka sign-it’s fitting. I’m in SF this month and watched everyone on their bicycles riding past me wearing winter coats and scarves yesterday afternoon

  • Gabriella Sannino

    Ooo wow congratulations!! No wonder you were voted Time’s “The Best Blogs of 2011” Our annual blog extravaganza features 25 fresh picks, from politics and pop culture to travel, tech and beyond! Very nice, sei favolosa bella!

  • Laura

    Sweet. Maybe I will make Sean stop here when we drive up the coast in November.

  • Mark

    The best point about your writing is that it show such a nice person you are. It’s not your writing that people fall in love with. People fall in love with you.

  • Alvin

    Wow what a great post. Is it true that this is your 500th post? Wow, all I say is wow.

  • Kate

    Mmmm that taco place looks so cozy after the gray views from the beach–I can smell the food now! Fun post!

  • Mike

    Hi ironic that I just got done reading your Kansas Cosmophere and Space Center post and how many things were/are so very well preserved by other countries that we “inherited”. Yet, we can’t preserve this incredible part of our history on our own soil – the “gopher holes”. Belated congrats on your 500th post!!