It must have been quite a surprise when José Francisco Ortega and a group of scouts from the Spanish Portolá expedition reached the crest of this small and unassuming hill on the San Francisco peninsula and saw San Francisco Bay for the first time. Their European “discovery” is marked by the National Park Service with a small plaque. Now of course it is an easy hike from Pacifica or San Bruno. I’d been up here with co-author John Hart while working on our San Francisco Bay book, but a return visit was long overdue.

Bright sunshine is always a challenge when photographing. Here I shot upward, directly into the sun, showing the backlit grasses and the ridge of Montana Mountain in the background.

The grass unfortunately is the invasive and troublesome exotic Jubata grass from South America, another unintended consequence of the explorers’ discovery and settlements that followed.


Agency: National Park Service
Location: GGNRA, Sweeney Ridge