Vancouver winters are most easily endured by remembering the existence of those few sunny summer months. If that is not enough to pull you out of the clutches of the grey, wet gloom that secures its grip around January or February, you must remind yourself that the rain is exactly what keeps Vancouver and its surroundings so green and lush all year round. Leaving Rain City at the height of its summer redemption was somewhat difficult, but I was in for a surprise when I landed south of the border.
San Francisco is a whole new ballgame. In addition to winter rains, there are year-round fogs. Even in summer, while a town 25 minutes north enjoys a sunny 65-degree day, and a town 30 minutes south enjoys a delightfully bright 75-degree day, San Francisco is caught in the thick of a damp, rolling fog. That’s not to say there aren’t patches of blue sky that present themselves to city dwellers – they’re just not fond of staying long. And that’s also not to say that fog is necessarily such a bad thing – it just might be an acquired taste.
When I arrived in San Francisco for the first time, I was greeted by a beautiful afternoon at the international airport south of the city. Traveling towards the city by train, the sky darkened and the sun became lost behind metallic grey clouds. The train went underground for its last few stops before I transferred to a MUNI trolley. When the trolley finally emerged from the tubes under the city and headed towards the Sunset district, dusk had fallen. The fog was rolling in, enveloping streetlamps, headlights, and neon signs, placing around them glowing halos. The night fog softened edges, muffled sounds, dimmed bright lights, and managed to give the place a touch of the enchanted. (see pic below).
The morning was similarly bathed in a soft blanket of moisture, cold too, even colder than in Vancouver, which ought to have won considering its rather conspicuous latitudinal advantage. I had hopes of it all blowing over – morning fog didn’t have the same appeal as evening fog – but it stuck around as I ventured into Golden Gate Park and towards the ocean.
The glare from the fog clouds around mid-day warranted sunglasses, and it was through their dark lenses that I stared out over the breaking waves and surfers of Sunset beach. Most of the boarders were clad in full wetsuits and appeared to be middle aged or in their thirties, all in considerably good shape. Since it was a weekday, I had to wonder if this is what grown men in SF do on their lunch breaks.
Later in the day I rented a car with my friend Jeremy and drove north out of SF and along the coast-hugging Highway 1. To get there we crossed the fog-blanketed Golden Gate Bridge, and, even with both eyes glued to the sunroof (and sometimes to the road ahead, as I had to steer), I didn’t see but more than a vague outline of the first 20 feet of each of the bridge’s passing suspension towers. About a quarter mile after making land on the north shore, the fog began to clear. We enjoyed several hours of clear skies driving along highway 1 in the North Bay area and beyond.
Coming back, after sorting out some car trouble at a fruit stand (great whole wheat blueberry bars by the way), we were treated again to a Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in fog. I about gave up all hopes of ever seeing the damn thing. Instead, I settled on going out late along the Embarcadero to capture pictures of the Bay Bridge at night. Here are the fruits of my labor (note lingering fog in picture):