Travelling on foot, details emerge out of the blur of our rapidly accelerating world. In San Diego, we stumbled upon a great walk that passed through vintage neighborhoods, historical areas, tourist highlights, and attractive natural sceneries. Like all of the best walking trips, it started at our front door.
From the lobby of our rented condo in the residential Banker’s Hill neighborhood, our great urban walk of San Diego began with the crossing of three historic pedestrian bridges. First, we walked across the 1905 Quince Street Bridge, a 236-foot long wooden-trestle bridge spanning Maple Canyon. After passing scores of early 20th century homes, we swung by the 1912 Spruce Street Bridge, a 375-foot long steel suspension bridge. A third bridge, the 1931 steel-arch First Avenue Bridge, carried us from Bankers Hill toward Little Italy.
Little Italy is a scenic 48 square block neighborhood, originally home to a tuna fishing colony. At one time, the area was considered the “Tuna Capital of the World”, employing as many as 40,000 fishermen and cannery workers. Today, along India Street, the commercial artery through the heart of Little Italy, the foul odor of dead fish has been replaced by the pleasant aroma of oven-baked pizza. Crossing the railroad tracks, we walked down to the Embarcadero, where the tuna fleet once brought in its catch.
The Embarcadero is now a touristy waterfront promenade overlooking San Diego Bay. Along the Embarcadero, we passed the “The Star of India”, an 1863 windjammer and the oldest ship still sailing. Other historic vessels nearby included steam-powered boats, submarines, and a replica of the 100-foot galleon San Salvador, Cabrillo’s 1542 flagship.
Heading south along the waterfront, the crowds of tourists swelled as we passed the B Street Cruise Ship Terminal, Broadway Pier, and USS Midway aircraft carrier maritime museum at the Navy Pier. Along the way, war memorials reminded us of San Diego’s military importance and strategic naval location as the principle port of the Pacific Fleet. Across the bay, we could see San Diego’s two active Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, the USS Carl Vinson and USS Theodore Roosevelt docked securely in their home berths.
The tourist traffic on the wide esplanade continued as our walk transitioned into the Seaport Village shopping and dining complex. There, we watched a stacker of balancing rock towers, a blower of giant soap bubbles, and a flyer of huge colorful kites. Reclining on the green lawns of the Embarcadero Marina Park, we admired the sleek sailboats and grandiose motor yachts gliding across the scintillating surface of San Diego Bay.
Reinvigorated, our walk resumed past the San Diego Convention Center, where 15,000 Bernie Sanders supporters formed a 3-mile long line to attend a rally for the populist presidential candidate. The queue of well-mannered and rational young social democrats snaked past a pier of elite yachts, where multi-million dollar pleasure craft and state-of-the-art sailing vessels silently mocked their socialist political ideology.
When our walk reached the south end of the embarcadero, we crossed the modern Harbor Drive pedestrian bridge, and continued around Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres major league baseball team. Beyond the centerfield fence, we strolled through the grassy 2.7 acre “Park at the Park”, where a statue of “Mr. Padre” Tony Gwynn is characteristically driving a pitch to the opposite field for one of his 3,141 career hits.
Rounding third and heading home, our walk ran though the Gaslamp Quarter, an area of 16 square blocks of downtown San Diego, where historic buildings have been renovated into a dynamic restaurant district. For the final leg of our 8-mile walk we climbed from downtown up onto the west mesa of Balboa Park. With the late afternoon sunlight filtering through the leafy canopy, we slowed our pace in the relative peace and quiet of the park. Returning full-circle, we concluded our great walk of San Diego back at our familiar front door.