sojourneys


Alcatraz Island, California, USA
October 26, 2007, 1:38 pm
Filed under: Alcatraz, Alcatraz Island, California, holiday, photos, San Francisco, SF, USA, vacation

Alcatraz, a small, rocky island located in the middle of the San Francisco Bay area, is a storied, historic landmark once home to America’s most notorious crime figures such as Al Capone, Robert Stroud (“Birdman of Alcatraz”), and George “Machine Gun” Kelly.

Today, it is managed under the auspices of the U.S. National Parks Service, assiduously conserved so that it continues to tell the stories of the inmates and the harsh, windswept environs they once inhabited.

Park rangers provide commentary on a guided tour of the exterior of the prison complex, while a lovingly constructed audio tour does it best to create an authentic experience so that even camera-totting tourists can visualize how prisoners once lived their lives on the inside–and some of their infamous attempts at breakouts.

Due to high operating costs, Alcatraz saw its last prisoner transferred in 1963, and in 1969, a group of Native Americans occupied the island and proposed to reclaim it as a center for American Indian education, ecology, and culture. While the Indians finally did leave Alcatraz some 18 months later, they did succeed in ignting a movement that heightened an awareness of the plight of Native Americans by the general public.

While Alcatraz Island no doubt caters to mainstream tourists, it has enough of culture, history, and nature to appeal to visitors of all stripes.



San Francisco Zoo, California, USA
October 9, 2007, 3:11 pm
Filed under: California, holiday, photos, San Francisco, San Francisco Zoo, SF, SF Zoo, USA

The San Francisco Zoo is another fantastic gem. Billed as California’s largest zoological park and conservation park, the San Francisco Zoo—like many of the city’s attractions—enjoys Northern California’s almost year-round temperate climate thanks to a confluence of its northerly location and the Pacific ocean to the west.

The zoo boasts a collection of some 250 animal species, and as of mid-2007, was undergoing refurbishments to some key attractions.  The newest addition, and surely the zoo’s pride and joy, is the new Hearst Grizzly Gulch.  It is now home to Kachina and Kiona, two orphaned sisters born in the mountains of Montana who were originally targeted for euthanasia for being “problems” after wandering too close to human habitats.

 

Their new habitat, while not as expansive as the wild places of Montana, nevertheless incorporates a 20,000- gallon pool, sunny meadows, heated rocks, and a mountain stream waterfall.  They were curious, playful, and seemed genuinely happy.

Other than a nice diversity of animals, the zoo is also brightened by an amazing botanical landscape with beautiful flowers in bloom.