Let's Do The Math
A brisk 30-min steep-incline walking workout will burn about 300 calories; an hour will burn 600. If you do this a few times a week, you've got a good routine going.
If you take an all-day walk like this one, you'll have a blast, eat great stuff and burn nearly 3,000 calories along the way. (FYI, 3,500 calories = 1 pound.)
5K Run: about 350 calories (about 30 min. at 6 mph)
4-hour Tour of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (including two laps around the Temple of Dendur and climbing all the stairs): 1,000 calories
If you're a Google Earth lover, you can take a 5-minute fly-over of The San Francisco Walk. Just Download, open and "play tour".
While you're walking, you'll want to sip water regularly and frequently to keep yourself hydrated and fresh. Avoid expensive, environmentally unfriendly bottled water; filter and fill up at home and carry your own.
When I hike, I always wear my CamelBak backpack with its built-in water reservoir and conveniently in-my-face water "bite valve" that never drips or leaks. If you don't have one of these, check out these handy 50-ounce and 100-ounce packs and this kid's 1-liter Pack. For something smaller, I use CamelBak's BPA-free bottle with that cool and highly functional bite valve.
While you're eating something more complicated than a piece of fruit, you might want to have this reusable bamboo utensil kit with its own carabiner clip. They make the case from recycled soda bottles; the bamboo is both sustainable and biodegradable.
Home via Public Transportation
If you do the whole Walk, take the SF Muni Light Rail
"N" Line to the Metro Embarcadero stop, a couple of blocks from our start point. $2 for adults; children free; seniors & "youths" $.75. About 20 minutes, depending where you get on, anywhere along Judah Street (2 blocks south of and parallel with Golden Gate Park and The Panhandle.)
If you do the 5-mile Walk to the Exploratorium, you can take Muni Bus #30 to Market and 4th Streets.
And there's a way home if you just want the 2-hour Walk That Nibbled San Francisco. Here are two ways to get home early:
At Union & Laguna Streets (2.8 miles from start), turn left on Laguna and walk up, up, up to Clay Street, then down, down to California Street. This will add .6 miles (most at a 9% incline) to your Walk and burn about 150 calories. Then turn left at California Street and walk 4 blocks to Van Ness where you can hop on the California Street Cable Car for a classic 10-minute ride to the end of the line. $5.
For a slightly longer Walk, follow Laguna down to Ft. Mason; then, head back up Laguna to California (1.1 miles) and east to Van Ness (.4 miles) for a total distance just under 5 miles in about 2 hours. Take the Cable Car home.
Click to see the big, detailed Google Map I made for you with sightseeing and eating notes.
Walk the walk. Eat the ice cream cone.
As I hit the final stretch of a killer 13-mile, steep-terrain hike in Glacier National Park, totally sweat-drenched, I wondered how many calories I burned during the 8- or 9-hour trek. I figure it was somewhere in the vicinity of 5,000. Which got me thinking about day-long walks -- anywhere, anytime - that burn thousands of calories. Way more than you (should) eat in a day.
Which made me think: what a great way to understand the relationship between calories in vs. calories out: you take a beautiful, interesting walk, eat great food all along the way - and you've got an all-day culinary tour with a calorie-deficit. You know, go ahead and get that ice cream cone if you, literally, walk the extra mile.
So here's the first in a series of Exercise & Eating Extravaganzas. If San Francisco's not really conveniently located for you, see if this doesn't inspire you to map your own Walk. (If you do, please send me a link.) Eat locally, walk locally.
If you do this whole thing, you'll cover 16 miles in about 6.5 hours and burn about 3,000 calories. This assumes a steady pace of 2.5 mph (including the uphill sections), no long stops. As they say, your mileage may vary. So may your lunch, breakfast and/or dinner.
If this is a little more time and/or distance than you're prepared for, I'll suggest some logical places to bail out early and grab mass transit back to our scenic and tasty starting point at the Ferry Building Farmers Market.
Here's a summary of The Walk; the detailed map (made with the wonderful Google Maps) with location and eating notes is here.
Are we there yet?
It's a beautiful morning. You start with a .3-mile cruise around the Market and Ferry Building. You buy some locally grown fruits and vegetables, locally made cheese and bread and chocolate and whatever. You hit the sidewalk for a flat 1-mile stretch along the waterfront. Then you head inland and up, up, up the very beautiful Filbert Street stairs: 300 feet to the top of Telegraph Hill for a spectacular 360-degree view; great place for your Farmers Market breakfast if you haven't already eaten it. Back down the other side into the heart of North Beach, San Francisco's Little Italy. About 1.75 miles to here; about 40 minutes, not including your breakfast stop.
Next leg: west on Union Street for 1.2 miles; uphill for 3.5 blocks at an average incline of 10%, then back downhill for 4.5 blocks plus 3 more blocks on the level to Laguna Street. About 25 minutes if you keep your pace on the uphill.
Now, turn right and go north on Laguna for .6 miles, all the way to Fort Mason, right on the Bay; 10 - 15 minutes. It's a gentle slope back down to sea level -- and to Greens, a great restaurant with a vegetarian menu. You're only 75 minutes and a little over three miles into The Walk, so it's not mealtime unless Greens is a real destination for you and you've had only a piece of fruit from the Farmers Market.
Next leg runs 1.3 miles along the water, then inland to the beautiful and fascinating Exploratium and Palace of Fine Arts, where you'll take a spin around the grounds and lake before making your way, carefully, across Richardson Avenue to Lyon Street. About 30 minutes.
Now you're ready for the urban mountain ascent: .75 miles up Lyon at an average incline of 12%. The Presidio will be on your right all the way. At Green Street, the road ends and you take an impressive flight of stairs up to Vallejo Street; then another flight up to Broadway. One more block to Pacific at the southeast corner of the magnificent Presidio. 15 - 20 minutes; breathe deeply. You'll burn about twice as many calories per minute on this incline than on a flat surface.
Here, you'll wind your way back down to sea level for about 2.2 miles through the Presidio, a 1,500-acre National Historic Landmark. About an hour, with views of the Pacific, the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge that will slow you down.
Another 15 minutes and .6 miles right along the shoreline, then up some really steep stairs and under the Golden Gate Bridge. Spectacular views while you walk along the top of a sheer cliff (the footpath is safe and well-traveled) and gradually descend to Baker Beach. You're on the sand, the hills of Marin are across the Bay and you're 8 miles and three plus hours into it. Picnic!
You're good to go: with the Pacific Ocean on your right, it's 1.5 miles to China Beach; 2 more past Land's End and the Seal Rocks to Point Lobos; and 1 more through Sutro Heights Park to the northwest corner of Golden Gate Park. This is pretty spectacular scenery; a little under two beautiful hours to cover this 4.5-mile stretch.
Now you make your way back to the east, 4 miles across the 1,000 acres of Golden Gate Park and the Panhandle. Between the Conservatory of Flowers, the De Young Museum, the Academy of Sciences and the Bison Paddock, you could spend a week or two here. If you keep moving, you'll be here for about 90 minutes.
From here, there are several public transportation options to get you back to the Ferry Building - and into Ciao Bella Cafe for that ice cream cone. Of course, if you really want to go for it, you can walk there: another 4 miles brings the day's total to an even 20. And you get an extra scoop.
So this is a pretty great day. The Walk is free. The food can be pretty cheap. And the total sensory experience should put your mind in slow motion and full appreciation of beauty.
If you're actually going to do this, spend some time with the Google Map I've prepared. Lots of details and notes there about food -- and places to catch mass transit back to the starting line, whether you walk 3, 5 or 16 miles.
If you're not doing The Walk (but wish you were), I'll bet you can take this as a template and map your own local adventure walk.
Coming soon to Way of the Day: The Walks That Ate ... New York, Charleston, Omaha, Park City, Seattle, Santa Fe and way more.
A New Way Every Day for a year - for $10. Subscribe now.
Raise Your Standard of Living + Lower Your Cost of Living. A walk like this gives you the immediate benefit of a great day. Making exercise a habit gives you the long-term benefit of great health. Cost: free walking, cheap eating.
Every Thing Is Everything
"... modest levels of physical exercise during middle age increased the probability of successful aging beyond 70 years ... [reducing] osteoarthritis, falls and hip fracture, cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, cancer, obesity, diabetes..." Evidence Regarding the Benefits of Physical Exercise, Archives of Internal Medicine, JAMA, January 25, 2010
Exercise is Better.Cheaper.
"Lifestyle changes [exercise] and treatment with [the drug] metformin both reduced the incidence of diabetes in persons at high risk. The lifestyle intervention was more effective ..." Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes with Lifestyle Intervention, New England Journal of Medicine, 2002.
"... the cost per QALY (quality-adjusted life-years) was approximately $1100 for the lifestyle intervention [exercise]; and $31,300 for the metformin ..." Annal of Internal Medicine, 2005.
You decide: a lifetime of free, beautiful walks - or $30,000 a year for drugs with side effects.
Do your homework: check out the Farmers and Artisan Purveyors at the Ferry Terminal Market. While you're at it, browse the restaurants and shops inside the Ferry Building.
Need To Know
Where to find public bathrooms along the way.
Greens To Go is great if you didn't stock up at the Farmers Market. Or make your own in advance: Everyday Greens: Home Cooking from the Celebrated Vegetarian Restaurant
Pizza? If this sounds like the way to cross the finish line and put the Ate in the Walk, Little Star Pizza (846 Divisadero St between Fulton & McAllister) is less than 10 minutes from the east end of the Panhandle. Get the deep-dish Little Star (spinach, ricotta, feta, onion, garlic). Alternatively, Pizzetta 211 (211 23rd Ave. at California St.) is a longer walk, but it puts you reasonably near the California line Cable Car for a classic ride back to the starting line. Try any of the weekly specials or the ever-present Rosemary-Fiore Sardo Cheese-Pine Nuts pizza; good cheese salad, too.
If you decide to do the Walk in reverse (that is, start in Golden Gate Park and finish at the Ferry Building) you can stop into Tony's Pizza Napoletana (1570 Stockton Street at Union) for a classic from a master pizzaiolo with 4, count 'em, 4 different brick ovens. (Get the Margherita from the 900-degree wood-fired oven; there are reasons it won the 2007 World Pizza Cup in Naples.) And if you take The Walk in reverse on a Sunday, you can start the day at the Divisadero Farmers Market (Divisadero & Grove Streets), 4 short blocks from the eastern end of the Panhandle.