Posted by: charityliz | October 10, 2011

urban adventure: Russian Hill “hike”

Several months ago, one of my colleagues at work emailed me a list of city hikes and walks to help me become more appreciative of San Francisco, especially during the “good weather” months.  It seems that most of my colleagues have somehow pegged me as this major outdoorsy girl (when I actually just feel like I generally like to be outside, but I’m not like a mountain woman or something gnarly like that!).  However,  they continue to do their best to help me find nature’s urban adventures in the Bay Area, in hopes that I’ll feel more and more at home here.  It’s actually very sweet.

So, last week I finally decided to go on one of those city “hikes” she recommended in the Russian Hill neighborhood.  Somehow I got the impression that  I would actually be going on a hike in the middle of the city.  Yes, yes, I know all about the crazy steep hills of paved sidewalk in SF (believe me)…but I was thinking that this would be something different– like a giant out-cropping of rugged mountain in the middle of the city.  Again, I’m not sure how I dreamed up this impression, especially given the fact that I have never seen a mountainous outcropping in the middle of SF and it’s not that big of a city, so I think I would have seen it, if it were there!

Nonetheless, I was totally captivated by the idea of a city hike and called my friend, Ilene, to see if she wanted to join.   Ilene is an old friend from my days in OC; she’s always down for fun, but she’ll be the first to say that she’s not super work-out girl.  So she was slightly concerned if she’d have the stamina to join me on a hike in the city.  She almost considered wearing workout clothes, until I assured her that I would still be in my jeans and boots that I wore to work that day.

We set out on our adventure promptly after work.  A quick little drive across town, down the Embarcadero, Left on Broadway, Right on Powell, and voila!  We were there!  Smack dab in the middle of the urban jungle.  I found myself in the midst of sidewalks, hi-rises, crowded streets and very sparse parking – not exactly what I’m used to seeing at the typical “trailhead”.  But we found parking relatively quickly, paid the meter, hopped out of the car and started walking – oops, I mean, hiking!

It didn’t take long to discover that the entire “hike” was actually a nice walk up the fairly steep sidewalk lining Vallejo St., with intermittent stairs– winding through a quaint little neighborhood of classic SF homes, broken up only by the occasional park bench and small clearing (i.e. miniature park).  But, it was actually super neat!  I loved walking up that hill and stopping every once in a while to glance back over our shoulders to soak up an incredible view of the city and bay!   The rain from earlier that day had completely cleared the skies and we could easily see over to the East Bay and beyond.  It really was breathtaking!  While I’m so glad that Ilene joined me for this adventure, I would also highly recommend this as an ideal date – the city is, indeed, very romantic! Ilene agrees with me and will probably take her husband back to experience this particular sight!

Anyways, after snapping a few photos at the “summit” of Russian Hill, we descended the other side of the “mountain” (still on Vallejo St.), to experience the second part of this particular urban adventure—Amarena Restaurant.  My colleague had specifically recommended that we enjoy happy hour here after our hike, and I am so glad we took her advice.  A hidden treasure, Amarena is a cute little Italian restaurant on a nondescript corner in an otherwise residential neighborhood.  We were greeted by two very nice servers  (who also spoke fluent Italian (which made me feel like we were getting even a more legit experience).  We both ordered a glass of freshly made sangria – AMAZING!  But the best part was the free happy hour buffet!   Fresh focaccia bread, balsamic spinach salad, risotto, penne, and some kind of corn cake deliciousness.  It’s quite possibly the best happy hour food I’ve ever had, and definitely the best FREE happy hour food I’ve ever had!   And they just kept replenishing the buffet all night long!

So we sat for awhile, sipping our Sangria, enjoying the delicious food and catching up on some lost time.

We left with our bellies full and total satisfaction in what turned out to be a perfect urban adventure!

This experience so inspired me that I hope to do at least one urban adventure a month until I have nothing left to discover (which probably means I’ll be doing this for a long time)!



  1. OK, Charity, I’m IN.Sounds like a real treat. I always love food at the end of a hike!

  2. That was a super fun “urban hike”!! and u dont know how relieved i was that it wasn’t as strenuous as I thought it’d be! If you ever need a partner to explore the city with, u know who to call!!

    • haha i am embarrassed to admit that the “nice walk” actually had me gasping for air after walking only ONE block!! haha, i am so out of shape!

  3. Charity, I enjoy reading your posts! The hike seemed so refreshing. It’s great to hear from you through your blog and just to see the “what’s up with Charityz”!

  4. This sounds really awesome. I mean, not quite the ridge, but awesome in it’s own right. I must say, I’m kinda jealous.

  5. […]  knew I needed to continue my Urban Adventure series (i.e. monthly intentional experiential education in San Francisco) when I realized that I had no […]

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