7 Bridges Walk
We love the city of San Diego and take every opportunity to walk its neighborhoods and tourist areas. We had never walked this tour so decided to strap on our walking shoes, button up our coats (it was quite chilly) and with water and rucksack in hand we headed off to Balboa Park, which is the starting point for the walk.
Parking was easy, being a Thursday and kiddies all back in school, so not quite as many people around as the weekends. We started off at the fountain at the top of El Prado street and took the straight route through the park, past the numerous museums and art galleries. The place was still vibrant with foreign tourists enjoying the sights and the laughter of schoolchildren on a trip echoed between the ornate museum buildings. Through the plaza and our first bridge, Cabrillo Bridge stretches out in front of us.
The Cabrillo Bridge is the state’s first multiple-arched cantilever bridge and was built in 1914 prior to the Panama-California Exposition. At one time a pond flowed below, but now a multiple lane highway (Route 163) thunders below. It was interesting to see the highway stretch towards the high-rise buildings of the city against the contrast of the lush greenery that is ubiquitous in San Diego. After the customary ‘selfie’ we headed onward towards the next bridge.
Continuing west we crossed a few streets filled with apartment blocks and small businesses and turned north on First Street. We came to the next bridge known as The People’s Bridge. This bridge was built in the Midwest and dismantled and shipped to San Diego in 1931. In 2010 it was retrofitted for earthquakes and is the only steel-arch bridge in the city. It crosses a deep canyon, one which we will attempt to walk in the coming days. Houses cling tightly to the top ridges of the canyon, with infinity pools and decks hanging precariously over the edge. From this bridge looking west, you can see Point Loma across the bay, and you can almost touch the planes as they land at the airport below. Another selfie and we are off.
Walking down Quince Street we reach a beautiful wooden bridge crossing Maple Canyon. We are 60 feet above the canyon and the bridge is 236 feet long, reminding me of an old English seaside pier. This was constructed in 1905 in order for pedestrians to reach the Fourth Avenue Trolley Station. We crossed halfway, and turned back as the next bridge was in that direction. We would be back to walk the canyon below. Forgot the selfie here, but did take pictures!
We walked through the beautiful neighborhood of West Park, where all the streets are named after trees. We saw some beautiful houses, with large verandas, others more of a Latin American style with adobe walls. All impeccably maintained, and a few historic houses too. We saw some beautiful trees and hedges, and a rather cheeky topiary chap guarding a parking spot!
Turning west again we arrived at Spruce street and the iconic suspension bridge that crosses Kate Sessions Canyon. The bridge was built in 1912 and gently sways as you cross. Of course, Marcel wanted to make it swing more than just a gentle sway, and I gingerly walked across, occasionally holding on to the steel cable, just in case. Selfie done, we headed along Brant street, once again with some beautiful properties lining the streets. Some looked like New England colonials, and others southern antebellum properties, all pristine.
We eventually came to the fun and lively neighborhood of Hillcrest. This was familiar territory to us as Katie, our daughter used to live close to this area. You can eat the world in this street – Indian, Afghani, Vietnamese, Japanese, American and even a Danish restaurant. The area is well known for its LGBTQ community and this is where San Diego’s gay pride carnival takes place. Cute artisan shops and bakeries are scattered along University Avenue, along with some very interesting clothing stores, for all tastes and genders! We were about halfway through the walk so ready for a pit stop. We chose Bread and Cie, a European bakery. Coffee and a deliciously fresh veggie sandwich with harissa and hummus was just enough to keep us going without being too full, and while we waited for our food, we met a lovely dog called Flip, a Shetland Sheepdog. He was obedient and friendly and ready to walk with us when we left.
Our next bridge was Vermont Bridge. This was built in 1995 to replace a 1916 wooden-trestle bridge. The bridge had inspirational quotes on metal plaques across the span of the bridge and crossed another busy highway. Yet another selfie – they are never good, either I hold the phone too high, too low, have short arms so I can’t get all that I want in the photo, and am concentrating so hard to get a good picture, I inevitably end up with some very strange expression on my face.
The penultimate bridge is the Georgia Street Bridge. This connects the neighborhoods of Hillcrest and North Park, where we have stayed with our daughter, and in AirBnBs on numerous occasions. In fact, we walked past a place I recognized – a rather steep hill of rough ground that we had climbed on one of our past escapades exploring the city. Now, there were a few plants and trees planted there, but I still recognized it and remember the huffing and puffing, and the few choice words I uttered to my husband as we neared the top. At the time, we didn’t realize that we could have used the bridge, instead of the rough incline, to get to our destination, if only we had walked a couple of streets over. Now, we used the very pretty concrete bridge which was renovated in 2018, and has great views over both neighborhoods and crosses a busy street.
Now we are heading back towards our starting point, but the map directs us to a dead-end street. It seems there are apartments blocking the way! We take a detour around them, but lose the trail. No signs and now we are on a major intersection close to Balboa Park. We follow the GPS which takes us across the busy road and up onto a dirt trail. We recognize this too, being another hike, which we took on a previous trip. This part of the walk takes us along the side of a canyon on a dirt track, through sagebrush and cacti, not to mention a few homeless people hunkering down in the trees. There are numerous trails and we keep checking the phone to make sure we are on the right one. Looking out for rattlesnakes and navigating the uneven terrain makes the last part of this walk a little more challenging with some steep areas. Eventually we head up to the top of the canyon and are in Balboa Park and in the desert garden. Here we see beautiful cacti, some seeding and others flowering, all unique shapes and sizes. We liked a tree that reminded us of Jabba the Hutt. Others looked like alien plants from other planets and we picked up some good ideas for Katie’s desert garden.
Our final bridge is between the desert garden and the lovely sweet-smelling rose garden. This bridge is a modern concrete pedestrian bridge taking you into the heart of Balboa Park to the Bea Evenson Fountain. We take our last selfie, thank goodness, and return to the car. My goal of 10,000 steps almost doubled and a final gulp of water and we are on our way home, just before the rain starts to set in.
In all, a lovely walk with some interesting sights, sounds and scenery. Highly recommend.
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