Foggy Assets

Fog pouring over Twin Peaks around the September Equinox…

“Fog, Fog…
I love the Fog
I trip in the water, I fall in the sand
I just love the Fog…”
                        -Zann Cannon Goff, 1978


I wrote that simple and simplistic little poem when I was seven years old, up on the Russian River in Guerneville, where we lived at the time. I was halfway through my Second Grade school year, and I was excelling in my English class such that they thought it was doing me a disservice to stay there. They bumped me up to a Fourth Grade English class for the rest of the school year, and the very first assignment I had was to write a poem. This poem. My mom was very pleased with my poem, and very supportive of me writing. She is a writer herself, after all. She was so supportive that, on the way home from school that day, she brought me by the Russian River News and they put that little piece into the very next issue! Even had a photo of me hunched over the counter in my pigtails, writing it in pencil on a scrap of paper for them. (Thanks, Ma!)

With that poem, I think fog sorta became “my” thing. I owned love of fog after that. I have always been a bit fog-obsessed. I remember one house we had up in Willits during my high school years. We were up on a mountain called Shimmins Ridge, north of town about a dozen miles. Then, up seven miles of dirt road, with steep and winding switchbacks much of the way. Sometimes the fog would get so thick at night that I’d have to walk in front of the car to make sure we were still on the road. I’d have to put a white plastic bag on my hand and keep my hand on the hood so that my mom could see me. We’re talkin’ fog.

Years later, in a California Ecology class at CCSF, I got to understand how California’s fog system works. I wrote a post about microclimates about a year ago when I first started this here blog here, and highlighted the fog’s mechanics. It still fascinates me to no end. It’s one of those uniquely California things, our fog system, and so ubiquitously associated with San Francisco. I think from the early days of that poem I somehow knew I would land here in SF some day.

Over by Sutro Forest, this shot shows just how much the fog really can water the plants. There was no rain. This is a fog puddle.

One of the most remarkable things about our fog is just how wet it really is. One of the survival stories in the Gardens of Alcatraz is about how many plants survived forty years of neglect with no water but Winter rain and Summer fog. Many plants there still do! You know how, on a rainy day, you might get under a tree to stay dry? In the fog it’s the complete opposite. The taller trees can catch the fog on their leaves, condense it, and send it “raining” down below. You’ll see a circle of water around the tree with dry all around that – vice versa of the usual rain shadow under a tree. When you experience this, you recognize that the fog is no small feat. It’s a significant amount of water, and indeed our redwood forests depend solely on that foggy coastal zone for survival. They are ultimate fog-catchers.

Many times I’ve taken pix of the fog rolling in over our hills. I love how Eureka Valley, where I live in the Castro, is one of the warmer enclaves, and the fog splits around us even as it pours in. Eventually we cool enough that the gap gets smaller and smaller, until we ultimately meet the same foggy fate as our neighboring valleys that don’t benefit from the big fog-block of Twin Peaks.

Recently I’ve been taking videos, too. Yesterday it suddenly occurred to me that it would be fun to do a post on fog and use these videos. Then, I’m reading a favorite SF blog last night, Burrito Justice, and what do you know? A post about fog! Serendipity! Their post highlights a fabulous old book called The Clouds and Fogs of San Francisco, by Alexander McAdie. “Fog is San Francisco’s greatest asset,” begins one chapter. Despite the chill the fog brings, I’m somehow proud of our foggy City. It’s a quirk unique to us, and I can’t imaging living someplace warmer. (Incidentally, the book is viewable free online on the Internet Book Archive!) Anyway, here are those videos. Fourth one is my favorite.

Video 1: 20th St at Eureka, 16 September 2011

Video 2: 19th St at Noe, 24 August 2012

Video 3: 19th St at Sanchez, 3 September 2012

Video 4: Top of the Liberty Steps at Noe, 27 September 2012

I still love the fog, and always will love the fog. I still trip in the water, I fall in the sand. I just love the fog.

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