The Wolf Guide to the Bay Area and Beyond



Our favorite hiking area has got to be the Muir Woods/Mount Tam/Marin Water District area. I’ve been hiking the area for more than ten years now, finding it one of my favorite destinations before I even moved to San Francisco, visiting the area often during my vacations.


General tips:

Get a map. Get a bunch of maps. The best map is the certainly the A Rambler's Guide to the Trails of Mount Tamalpais and the Marin Headlands. It is regularly updated and offers very detailed information about each trail. Alternately you can get one of the cheap map from the Muir Woods gift shop. I think it runs about a buck (at least when I first checked it out) and it is certainly worth it. The best time to visit the trails is during off season. July and August tend to be very hot (as does June and September). If you head out for the trails during the hot months, please dress appropriately, and bring lots of water.

Remember Seth’s rule: It will only get hotter, not colder. The coolest part of the hike is at the beginning. Dress for temperatures that are warmer than what they are when you first start out. See most residents of the Bay Area routinely carry jackets or other warm clothing, expecting colder temperatures later on in the day. That is very prudent, but not for hikes. When hitting the trails, the converse hold true. You might find that it is very chilly when you first get out of your car, however you will very likely find yourself warming up very soon, sometimes ten minutes after you started out on your hike. After 10 years of hiking the trails of the Bay Area, only once did I find myself in cooler temperatures then when I started out.

Tourist Club

Well anyone who knows me knows that my number one favorite destination is the Tourist Club. Start out at Mountain Home, head out XXXX


Laurel Dell

Another favorite is Laurel Dell. Start out at




Eating & Drinking

Udupi Palace

I guess my favorite Bay Area restaurant is Udupi Palace. There are several in the area, but I prefer the Sunnyvale location.  If you go for the first time I recommend the South Indian thali. See, besides being completely vegetarian, Udupi Palace serves South Indian food, which is very different in style from North Indian food. Most Indian restaurants you find in North America serve North Indian food, Pakistani food, or a combination thereof. South Indian food is very different, typically offering a more complex, and subtle array of spices, and different types of foods, like Dosas and idly.


Rita’s Café and Taqueria

After many years of traveling and eating I’ve gotten quite adept and locating the ideal restaurant. Using the combined skills of pre-planning, Internet research, guidebook studying, local tourist guides, reading local newspapers, studying menus, and a fine-tuned sense of understanding maps and cities, I am usually able to find the most ideal restaurant for whatever I am looking for at the time, even if I’ve never been to that town before. It the case of Eureka, California it took several visits before I located what is most definitely my favorite restaurant in town. Thankfully Humboldt County puts together this very useful guide to area restaurants. After studding nearly every entry in this book I selected Rita’s Café. These types of restaurant guides are very common. They all feature paid listings so you really have to read between the lines. Several things stood out for me in their listing. Key phrases like “homemade flour tortillas,” “Tofu Shop Tofu,” and “vegetarian tamales.” You can usually ignore phases like “best burrito” and “best Mexican Taqueria.” As a person intimately familiar with the creation of the typical “best of” guide I know that you usually need to take these pronouncements with a grain of salt.

However in this case the honor is highly justified. Rita’s is one of those places where a vegetarian would have a difficult time choosing something on the menu. After agonizing consideration, I finally decided on the combo plate, featuring a tamale, enchilada, chile releno, and more. I was a very satisfied customer.










Oregon Coast





It wasn’t until my perhaps my sixth time of passing through Eureka that I finally decided to stay for the night and check out the sights. I have to say that Eureka does have a lot to offer and is certainly worth more that just a drive-thru. Cheap motels, plenty of restaurants, and a vibrant, touristy downtown all make for a wonderful visit.

See, I always thought Arcata was The Shit. I still do. Arcata is a great town, someplace I would love to live some day. So I just didn’t really consider Eureka worth a stop. Finally on our most recent trip up to the Oregon Coast we decided to spend the night in Eureka. We figured it was about time to check out Arcata’s working-class sister city. I can’t say we explored the entire city. Eureka is pretty big (at least compared to Arcata) but there’s plenty to see and discover.

The first stop, for any visitor, should be the historic downtown area. Head for the fountain, park you car and just walk around and explore. It’s a small neighborhood, but there’s plenty of used book shops, antique stores, cozy cafes, and a bunch of typical tourist town shops. Even though the area is a bit touristy, most of the businesses are independently owned, I still highly recommend it and it was very enjoyable and had a warm soul. Highlights include Sjaak's chocolate shop, Eureka Books, and Rita’s Café. While you’re there you should also check out the huge lumber mills, further south, and west of 101. While I still don’t necessarily approve of the logging industry, I have a greater understanding and sympathy and the logging and lumber industry is critical for the economic health of the Pacific Northwest. You may also want to schedule some time to check out the waterfront and docks. We didn’t have the time during this trip, but I hope to check it out when we visit again.


Walnut Creek.

Walnut Creek is a really wacky town. Its downtown area is like one big open-air outdoor mall. For a while, we spent a lot of time visiting the shopping malls scattered about the Bay Area on weekends. After living in New York City for five years and San Francisco for ten, the shopping mall possessed a certain mystique and novelty. A very foreign concept to the urban dweller, the suburban shopping mall offered a peek inside the world of temperature controlled, TV-advertised chain stores, piped-in music, teen fashions, and bizarre themed-stores. Soon we became proficient in the various types of malls and mall terminology but after a while all the malls seemed the same, and it got pretty tiring.

We abandoned the whole mall scene until we found Walnut Creek. A very wealthy community, Walnut Creek transformed their downtown to a huge open-air upscale shopping mall. Now, it’s not unusual for a community to have a downtown shopping area, that’s precisely the point of building healthy communities, but Walnut Creek’s downtown shopping area is so creepily like an indoor shopping mall, except it’s in the downtown area of a residential community and the roof seems to be missing. There are fountains, curvy walkways, even streets, but walking along you feel just like you are in a controlled mall-like environment. I’m sure it’s entirely by design. I’m sure the entire area is owned, managed, and leased by a mall management corporation. I bet even the streets, which you can drive and park your car on, are outsourced. You almost feel like you are driving right into a mall and parking your car right by the big fountain in the middle of it. (The Bay Street Emeryville mall is another example, offering a similar open-air mall that mimics the traditional urban downtown.)

Adjacent to the mall is the old part of the city, where the streets are straight and connect at right angles to each other, the bubble gum splotched sidewalks have larger trees and you’ll find fewer chain stores. Some noteworthy shops in the alt town are Bonanza Street Books, Leonidas Belgian Chocolates, and the great pizza joint Tomatina.

Another thing that stands out is the wealth and opulence of the community. You’ll find all the trademark shops that your typically find in the more upscale shopping centers; Tiffany, Nordstrom, Coach, and an Apple store. Being so far removed from The City, Walnut Creek is comfortable in its demographic, racial profile, and lifestyle. I highly recommend a visit to those more used to the Lower Haight or East Village.




San Jose