Once upon a time, four creeks flowed in San Francisco, as rainfall draining from the central ridge of Twin Peaks and Mt. Davidson must return over land to its oceanic origins. But today the murmur of the eastward-flowing Mission, Islais, and Yosemite Creeks is heard no more, thanks to pavement and sewers, landfills and development. One lone open waterway remains: Lobos Creek, which winds through the southwestern Presidio and pours into the Pacific at the southern tip of Baker Beach.
Start walking from the sand dunes at the mouth of Lobos Creek, where the silvery Chamisso's lupine holds purple-blue blossoms up to the breeze, and follow the path upstream into the lush cool valley, with the tony neighborhood of Sea Cliff on your right and the Presidio on your left. An interlaced canopy of coast live oak keeps this dell covered and moist, nurturing a tangle of shade-tolerant plants under its leafy umbrella. Bracken fern, horse tail, and bee plant frolic along the banks, while nearby the robust holly-leaf cherry sports a spectacular creamy bloom. Creek dogwood and cow parsnip fight for prime position beside the water, while monkeyflowers wink in the undergrowth and man-root twists its vigorous vines around everything in sight.
Beneath it all, the burble of Lobos Creek tells a long and life-affirming tale. Water's flow from mountain to sea evokes rich and powerful images: the masculine energy of the rainstorm, the maternal lifeblood of the river, and the implications of a timeless, interpenetrating cycle.