Escape to Alcatraz
I absolutely love tourist attractions and historically important sites. But, I’m guilty of planning too much and committing to very little when I travel. I really like to feel out the day when I wake up. This is not always conducive to seeing said attractions, so I am working on improvement in this area. Haha.
Alcatraz has been on my list for quite some time and I was thrilled to explore it for the first time on such a beautiful day. Alcatraz is also a place you definitely need to plan to visit ahead of time or you will not get on a boat. The island has such an unusual story and I feel like I only made it through the first chapter. I will need to know more, eventually.
My sister and I sailed out on the first boat Sunday morning, Mother’s Day.
We started our self-guided tour of the island, deciding to end our day with the island’s famous audio tour. The first point of interest was the Bachelor’s Quarters, including this automobile, belonging to the warden.
I never thought about employees of the federal prison and their families actually living on the island. Well, they did! This is what remains of the Officer’s Club that included a bowling alley, dance floor and hosted evenings of Bingo, Ping-Pong and movies. I mean, who could complain about this view?!
The Storehouse was picturesque on it’s approach and provided a cool picture backdrop as “ALCATRAZ” is printed on it’s rooftop.
Next up, was the Water Tower and Cell Block. We learned there are no natural resources on the island, everything had to be transported from the mainland by boat and barge. This, along with salt water saturation that severely eroded it’s buildings, made the penitentiary very expensive to operate, and forced it’s closure after only 29 years.
The Warden’s House was burned down by the American Indian Movement Occupation of Alcatraz on June 1, 1970. These are the remains of what used to be a three-story 15-room mansion, where four different wardens resided during their reign on The Rock.
The lighthouse on Alcatraz was the very first built on the U.S. West Coast. This ice plant or “Persian Carpet” was planted in order to beautify the island and can be seen from San Francisco’s shores.
The Yard. If walls could talk, right?!…
I was most surprised to learn, that modern day Alcatraz is a nesting habitat and sanctuary to many seabirds. And, that the name Alcatraz was given to the island by a European explorer, and means “Island of the Seabirds”. We lucked out with our timing and got to see the birds nesting and a few little chicks too!
We ended our day with the audio tour, walking the halls of the Cell Block, Dining Hall and Warden’s Offices, learning only of the years Alcatraz was a federal prison. I understood immediately why so many tried desperately to escape. Freedom seemed only a swim away (1.25 miles), and San Francisco’s glittering shores could be seen from windows; parties and music (especially on New Years Eve) could be heard drifting over the sea. It must have made the punishment so much more unbearable in those 9×5′ cells. Unbelievable.
I loved spending time with my sister, learning more about her and connecting without distractions in an interesting environment. This was the perfect way to kick off our Mother’s Day trip. More SF adventures to follow.