June Anniversary Walks: Crosstown-Double Cross Mashup

by John Trevithick

More than 30 people joined our 5.5 mile trek from West Portal to Irving and 19th Avenue, including for the first mile or so, Bob Siegel himself, Father of the Crosstown Trail! This walk, covering sections of the original Crosstown and new Double Cross Trail, was one of 15 guided walks offered in June to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Crosstown Trail. 

Radiolarian chert along
Edgehill Mountain

On the new Double Cross Trail, radiolarian chert can be seen near Edgehill Mountain, a lesser-known hill between the Forest Hill Extension and West Portal neighborhoods. The chert was mined here from the Claremont Quarry until the 1930’s. As we approached, I pointed out the rock, and in the way you’d describe something heavy as feeling like a ton, said it was on the ocean floor “a million years ago.” One of our group stepped forward, told us he was a geologist(!), and said it might have been on that floor something like 65 million years ago. He described how the rock was formed in horizontal layers as radiolaria, single celled organisms with silica rich skeletons, fell to the ocean floor. Over the years, seismic forces have pushed these horizontal layers this way and that, the layers now twisted and angled in front of us. Good to have my rudimentary knowledge fleshed out by an expert!

Map from Richard Brandi’s book, Garden Neighborhoods of San Francisco, which includes information on Claremont Court.

Prior to the 1918 opening of the Twin Peaks tunnel, Claremont Court was the original neighborhood name here, before the name West Portal took.  Developed by Alfred Meyerstein on land purchased from the Adolf Sutro estate, the oddly shaped area was roughly bordered by Claremont Blvd to the west, Portola Dr to the south, Laguna Honda Blvd to the east, and included Edgehill Mountain. The wooded trail through the old Claremont Court along Edgehill Mountain is a favorite spot and an unexpected treasure along the Double Cross, a feature with which even locals may be unfamiliar unless shown by an insider. Indeed, one couple on our walk, 18-year residents of the neighborhood and frequent walkers, had never known of the trail!

The 1926 Laguna Honda Hospital wards are being repurposed into office space for Department of Public Health employees.

Carrying on eastward, we reach the Tri-Trail Junction, where the Double Cross, Crosstown and Bay Area Ridge trails briefly merge along Twin Peaks Blvd at Portola Dr. Picking up the Crosstown Trail, we head for the trails behind Laguna Honda Hospital, first established in 1866 as an almshouse serving Gold Rush-era fortune seekers. We find the usual path on the east side of the rehab hospital blocked for water tank replacement work, but easily pass north of the fencing around the tanks. Even on the Juneteenth holiday, construction workers were busy making over old wings of the hospital, this section built in the 1920’s. Outdated and long closed patient wards are being converted to offices for Department of Public Health employees now spread around town in rented space. Glad to see the old building getting repurposed.

Willie Mays’ former home, now marked with a center median placed sign bearing his number, 24, and RIP, just off the Crosstown Trail in the Forest Hill neighborhood.

After passing the Forest Hill Muni station and climbing the grand Pacheco Steps in Forest Hill, we paused for a bit on 9th Ave to remember Willie Mays, who passed away at 93 on June 18, the day before our walk. He lived for a time right around the corner from here, on Mendosa Ave between 9th and 10th. In his second go-round at home ownership in San Francisco, he was warmly welcomed to the Forest Hill neighborhood. A few years prior, neighbors raised a fuss when he first bought a house in Sherwood Forest, on the southwest side of Mt Davidson. We San Franciscans like to think of ourselves as open minded people who value diversity, but it hasn’t always been so. As was true in other parts of the country, many of these West of Twin Peaks neighborhoods were founded with covenants that explicitly prohibited people of various ethnic backgrounds from building or buying houses.

16th Avenue Tiled Steps

Three of us on the walk belong to a running group that was at Grandview Park Monday evening for warm weather and glorious views, just two days prior. Of course this being San Francisco in June, the weather turned, and on Wednesday the fog was so thick we lost sight of the crossover entrance to Golden Gate Park at Lincoln and 19th Avenue, just a short distance from our Grandview perch. With the fog, photo opportunities on the day were limited, but everyone had their cameras out for the fabulously tiled 16th Ave steps. 

Come discover your own adventure on the Crosstown and Double Cross Trails!