June 2012 was my first trip to California. Chris and I wandered San Francisco for several days, hitting many of the usual tourist sites: Lombard Street, Coit Tower, Chinatown, Japantown, Fisherman's Wharf, Golden Gate Park, the Mission District, Delores Park... It was glorious, but overwhelming. After a few days, we both craved solitude -- or at least a reprieve from the constant crowds.
I'd wanted to visit Sutro Baths for years. The concrete ruins are all that remains of what was for decades a thriving center of entertainment and society. The Baths, which opened in 1896, comprised seven swimming pools (mostly saltwater pools) with the combined capacity for 10,000 people to swim at one time. Can you imagine? They also housed an amphitheater, art galleries, restaurants, an ice skating rink, arcades, shops, and in later years, even amusement park rides. The Baths burned down in the 1960s, and were never rebuilt.
We arrived on a dark, misty day. Winds chopped the water into whitecaps. Hardly anyone else was there -- a strange thing, considering it's a National Historic Site and listed among the National Parks -- leaving us to wander alone the ruins.
For me, it was the highlight of the trip. I can't wait to return, preferably on a similarly ethereal day.