Story and photos by Murray Schneider
Over a month ago construction workers departed Glen Canyon’s Banana Slug Way, which runs parallel to Alms Road and which leads to Silver Tree Day Camp. In their wake, they left lengthy retaining walls and yards of mesh-wire fencing above Islias Creek.
As it turns out, though, on this particular portion of Recreation and Parks long-anticipated Creeks to Peaks Trail, a handful of elves, angels and gnomes replaced Yerba Buena Engineering and Construction hard hats.
In the workers absence, children have fashioned a fairy tale montage in a gnarled trunk of a felled blue gum tree. Small statuesque replicas of children’s folklore now reside beneath a sign reading “Leave for All to Enjoy,” entreating canyon visitors to leave their own mementos.
The knotty tree stump, corseted by eucalyptus duff and once smothered by invasive Cape ivy, is even home to a magical Oz-like Tin Woodsman.
Could Glen Canyon be more Eden-like? Possibly not, but on the recent Fourth of July weekend afternoon you could’ve fooled the dozens of day-trippers who stopped to marvel at the cavernous trunk peopled with childhood folk tales.
Unleashed dogs circled the stump, leaping above the freshly installed retaining wall held together with strong bolts. Children skipped by their parents. Couples strolled by hand-in-hand, while others listened to the harmonies of songbirds nesting in creek bed arroyo willow.
Camouflaged nearby, coyotes have been observed hoodwinking off leash dogs in wily bait-and-switch stratagems that have not always ended well for intrusive canines.
Banana Slug Way, now leveled, graded and made safer, continues as Willow Loop Trail on the other side of the Rec and Parks summer camp, and it leads to hundreds of new box steps and stringer stairs that climb up the canyon’s eastern sloped grass lands. Parched oak and pine trees and dozens of native plant and shrub species punctuate the drought-exhausted soil.
All are the result of the Glen Canyon Trails Improvement Project, which has been several years in planning and execution and now is about to come to fruition.
Islais Creek, replete with nurtured habitat-friendly plants as a result of the stewardship efforts of the Natural Areas Program and Friends of Glen Canyon Park, performs as a riparian benchmark, a jumping off place for several new trails: the Islias Creek, Gum Tree Girls and Coyote Crags trails. The eventual destination of all three trails, some more challenging than others, will either be Christopher Playground in Diamond Heights or Portola Drive once a connector path is completed through San Francisco Unified School District property.
Work has already commenced on this conduit, and Rec and Parks will host Volunteers for Outdoor California over the July 18-19 weekend to perform the lion’s share of trail grading and switch backing scheduled to complete the trail/bed corridor work. Neighbors and those interested in participating in this Creeks to Peaks trail project can find more information and register via the V-O-Cal website or contact Jon Campo, RPD Urban Trails Program manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org. or 415-831-6328.
The final project phase, the installation of the last few box steps on the steepest part of the trail and placement of appropriate signage, remains to be completed this fall after a contractor is selected.
When finished hikers will be able enter Glen Canyon at Elk Street, take gentle or strenuous walks through the canyon, cross at a traffic light at Portola and Glenview Drives and then ascend to Twin Peaks.
Taking this greenway, they’ll be no need to endure exhaust from automobiles choking O’Shaughnessy Boulevard.
And greeting walkers as they descend through Glen Park’s sylvan retreat and as they return to where they started their sojourn will once again be the dugout “Old Gnome Home,” sequestered in its knotty eucalyptus trunk.
And who knows? Canyon visitors might even like to leave a goblin or gremlin to keep the Tin Woodsman company.