Noe Valley Voice July-August 2003

Noe Valley Fitness Walks:
Our Hills Will Mold You into Shape in a Jiffy

By Olivia Boler

Get out of your car! For crying out loud, it's summer. Time to get in shape. And what better place to get in shape than Noe Valley, with its abundant hills, gorgeous views, and corner cafés promising post-workout pastries and coffee?

The consensus among fitness professionals is that Noe Valley, because of its hilliness, is the perfect neighborhood for walkers who want a workout.

"The hills are a challenge," says Fran Aldwell of Purely Physical Fitness, a workout center on Church Street. "You can avoid them or not, depending on your fitness level."

"Noe Valley produces some interesting challenges," echoes Lori Shannon, owner of See Jane Run sportswear on 24th Street near Vicksburg.

Her store sponsors a drop-in five-kilometer (about three miles) walk/run for all levels every Sunday at 10 a.m. "On our walks, we try to include stairs, and there are a lot of hills."

The course changes from week to week, but the group usually kicks off at See Jane Run and roves through the hills on 23rd and Guerrero streets. Shannon says walkers often reward themselves by pausing at Dolores Park at 20th and Church, famous for its terraced lawns and daring sunbathers. There, walkers can take in the view of Mission High and the city skyline before heading back to the store.

But those walkers among you who are hankering for even more of a workout might want to try one of the fitness walks designed by Noe Valley resident Patty Jones, a certified personal trainer and owner of Pathways to Fitness. Jones supplied the Voice with two neighborhood walks--the Stair Walk and the Downtown View Walk--each guaranteed to work up a sweat (and make you feel svelte).

And the Voice couldn't resist adding a bonus trek, which walkers with or without pets should lap right up.

Stairs and the Steepest Street in the City

Patty Jones' Stair Walk takes 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the walker's pace, and involves lots and lots of stairs. It's a good idea to carry a bottle of water, especially on a warm day.

Starting at 24th and Church streets, walk north on Church to 22nd Street. Jones recommends stopping and stretching at the corner. "The intensity is about to pick up!" she says.

Once the stretching is out of the way, head up the 22nd Street stairs towards Vicksburg Street. This section of 22nd, with a gradient of 31.5 percent, just happens to be one of the steepest drivable streets in San Francisco (it's tied with Filbert Street between Hyde and Leavenworth), so those who conquer it on foot deserve a plum, or two.

"When you get to the top, you can turn around and enjoy the views of Potrero Hill to the east and the Bay Bridge to the north," says Jones. "You'll probably need to catch your breath anyway."

Continue uphill on 22nd Street to Noe Street. Turn right on Noe and walk uphill. Noe and Hill streets intersect at the top, and then Noe heads downhill. Keep going until you get to Liberty Street, then turn right and head up the stairs.

Take a breath, and then turn around and go back down the stairs to Noe Street. Turn left on Noe and head back to 22nd Street. Go right on 22nd, continuing as you cross Castro Street and going uphill until you hit a dead-end. Take the stairs down. These will pop you out onto Diamond Street. Turn right back around and head up the same set of stairs.

At the bottom of the stairs on Diamond, go left. At Elizabeth Street, go right. Cross Douglass and Hoffman streets; then climb the stairs on Elizabeth to Grand View Avenue. At the top, take a deep breath, and then turn around and go back down the stairs.

Back on Douglass Street, turn right until you hit 24th Street. Turn left and walk back to Church Street.

You've done it! You deserve coffee! A bagel! A seat on the sidewalk outside Martha & Brothers!

"But don't forget to stretch your lower body before you cool off," Jones reminds.

Downtown View Walk

According to Jones, the Downtown View Walk is good for those who are basically fit, which means walking at a quick pace and still being able to chat. For those who want more of a challenge, repeat some of the stairs and loop the park a few more times. For those who want less, have a seat on the park bench and survey your domain. This route takes 45 minutes to an hour.

Beginning in Noe Valley at 24th and Church streets, go south on Church to 27th Street. Before heading right up the hill, stop and stretch your muscles.

Turn right on 27th and continue up to Noe Street. Cross the street and take the 27th Street stairs. Continue walking on 27th Street, down the next set of stairs to Castro Street and Newburg, which hits Castro and 27th streets at a diagonal. Go left up Newburg to Duncan Street.

Go right onto Duncan Street, and when it hits Diamond, go left. Take Diamond up to Diamond Heights Boulevard. Turn left on D.H.B. and walk to Walter Haas Park (on your left). Descend the wooden steps into the park, and use the park path to make a loop two or three times.

"You can use the park benches to do pushups and triceps-dips," Jones says. "And the playground bars are great for pull-ups." She suggests doing a set each time you loop the path. This is also the site of a beautiful view of downtown San Francisco, particularly from the south side of the park. Take a breather as you admire the vista.

Take the wooden steps back up to Diamond Heights Boulevard and turn right. At Diamond Street, go right. Follow the sidewalk downhill to 29th Street and go right down the steep hill (be careful of your knees). When you hit Castro Street, turn left heading uphill and crossing Valley and 28th streets. Climb the steep set of stairs between the apartment buildings and pop out onto Duncan Street. Go left on Duncan and then right on Newburg.

At the end of Newburg Street, bear left onto Castro. Walk all the way down Castro to 24th Street and go right to get back to Church Street. It's time for a snack, but don't forget to stretch first.

Something for the Pooches

For those with dogs, who prefer to sniff interesting smells while exercising, a walk through Glen Canyon Park is a must. It's also a little bit of country in the heart of the city, a quick escape to the trees without having to drive over the Bay or on freeways. This walk can take as long as you and Scout like, but will probably run at least an hour and is approximately three miles long.

Start your trek at the Upper Noe dog park at Church and 30th streets, and walk west up 30th. Just as the street begins its steeper ascent, turn left onto Laidley Street. This is a good place to stretch those lower muscles.

Laidley wends its way below Billy Goat Hill and is home to some of the most interesting houses in the city, from a turreted castle to quaint Victorians to what we used to call back in the 1980s "Miami Vice minimalist." Laidley is also fairly flat, so you can keep a brisk pace.

Continue on Laidley to Castro Street, and take a left on Castro for one block. Go right on Chenery Street. At Chenery and Diamond streets, you'll find yourself in the heart of Glen Park. You might be tempted to get some ham and eggs at Tyger's on the corner, but bypass it, heading on down Chenery.

At Chenery and Elk Street, you will see the ball fields of Glen Park. Cross Elk Street and go right. Enter the park on your left and walk past the tennis courts. At the playground, you'll find a water fountain, which is a good place for four-legged pals to get a drink. Dogs should remain on leash, especially since they'll be tempted to head into Islais Creek. San Francisco's Rec and Park Department is trying to restore the creek by planting native plants, and dogs tend to break down the banks and muddy up the water.

Head past the recreation center building and continue along the path. Use the two wooden bridges to cross over the creek. Keep your eyes open for red-tailed hawks, which are known to soar into the branches of the sycamores, willows, alders, and eucalyptus trees. Watch out for poison oak (although it's usually cut back by Rec and Park).

Stay on the trail to your right, and head up the hill. Your dog friend will probably want to take the lead (dogs love coursing through the high grass) and if he's big enough, might be able to give you a tug up the hill. At the top, follow the stairs to the left, which will pop you out at the back of Christopher Playground (located on the far side of Diamond Heights Shopping Center).

Stroll through the park and take the path past more tennis courts to the sidewalk of Diamond Heights Boulevard and head left. At the intersection of D.H.B. and Duncan Street, go right on Duncan for two blocks, heading downhill to Diamond Street. Go right on Diamond for one block. Turn left on 28th Street and head down the hill until you arrive back on Church Street.

It's coffee time! Take your pick of Martha's, Hungry Joe's, or Café XO, and sit outside with your pup. Make sure he has plenty of water. And don't forget to stretch before cooling down. Pat yourself on the back. You deserve it!