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BDK: A Flood of Disappointment in San Francisco

BDK: A Flood of Disappointment in San Francisco


I had high hopes for BDK. Leading the kitchen is Heather Terhune, formerly of the Chicago restaurant scene and Top Chef alum. So this review isn’t really about the food, it’s about the experience, and my experience at BDK left a lot to be desired.

I was a guest at the Monaco, the adjacent hotel, and thoroughly enjoyed my stay there. The décor, service, and overall experience there were quite nice, and may have further heightened my expectations about the restaurant, since I quite naturally expected a similar standard of service in the eatery as the hostelry.

Sadly, this was not so.

At around 7 p.m. it was bustling with energy and quite crowded, usually a good sign. But it was loud. Very loud. So loud, in fact, that I had to lean close to the hostess to speak and hear the exchange when I inquired about a table for one. Despite the crowd, there were several dining tables empty, so when I was told it would be a 45-minute wait, I was slightly surprised and inquired politely about it. I was told they were reserved, and was offered instead a table in the bar, a small café table in the midst of, once I sat down, towering bar tables and stools. And due to the crowd, I was probably bumped four or five times in the first 5 minutes as staff and patrons all attempted to make their way through the maze between the dining area and the bar. My ire was building.

I sat and waited for a server. And waited. It began to dawn on me that the wait staff isn’t quite attuned to dealing with dinner patrons in the bar. Finally, a pleasant young lady approached with a cocktail drink binder and dinner menu, and took my drink order. I ordered a martini, began reviewing the menu, and waited some more.

When the drink finally showed up several minutes later, it was, shall we say, a disappointment. They serve their martinis in a small, stemmed glass along with a side-car – a small carafe containing the over-pour from the original mix. It’s supposed to make you feel like you’re getting a little something extra. Except my martini glass, small to begin with, wasn’t near full (about two-thirds) and when I poured in the side-car, the drink still didn’t get to the top of the glass. Now, if the drink ($14) is supposed to fill the meager glass and then some, why pour a drink that doesn’t do that at all? As I told the manager later when he came by my table and inquired if I was enjoying my meal, I don’t care if the drink cost $20 or more, as long as it is full; don’t bring me a short pour and pretend it’s something more. He didn’t really get the point, telling me the bartender always pours the same amount (he’s been a bartender for 20 years he said) so he’d check it out. That was the last I heard about it. Of course the drink appeared on my check, fully priced, and nothing was done to make me feel better about it. After the crappy table and the slow service, I was losing my enthusiasm for the place.

After I ordered my meal, over the din, I waited some more. By now I had finished the one and a half ounces of precious martini, so all I had on my table was a knife, fork, and empty martini glass. No tablecloth. No water. No bread. No salt and pepper. All further reinforcement that dining in the bar at BDK is a bit of a pioneering effort. When my salad arrived – a wonderful mix of frisée and roasted baby carrots – it made the fork, knife, and empty glass a little less lonely, but didn’t do anything to get the wait staff to bring the rest of the necessary accompaniments. I waited a few more minutes before grabbing another busboy, hoping that someone would see my plight and bring the bread, water, salt and pepper before I called attention to it. I think I’d still be waiting for a glass of water now had I not tracked someone down.

Oh, and did I say that it was loud in there? Earsplitting.

The braised short rib I ordered eventually arrived, and was great, but the long and the short of the whole experience is that it fell disappointingly short because one relatively small issue led to another, which led to another, and then another. I was given a bad table (which admittedly I accepted), a disappointing drink, and tardy delivery of the basic complement of dining accessories. So, the cumulative effect of all of it left me feeling like maybe the food, as good as it was, didn’t make up for the rest of the experience. Worse still, I brought what I thought was the most egregious offense (the drink) to the attention of the manager, and he did nothing to make me feel better about it. He didn’t offer to take it off my bill; didn’t offer me another drink; he didn’t do anything at all.

Perhaps they really don’t care about someone like me, a hotel guest who may or may not return any time soon. Since I travel to San Francisco on business at least half a dozen times a year, and typically patronize the eating establishments of the hotels I stay in, this is an ill-advised assumption on their part. The experience may have been enough of a disappointment that, not only do I skip the BDK if I stay at the Monaco next time, I may very well skip the Monaco entirely.

Talk about missing the point.


Notorious Pump Station Spilling Sewage Again

In what could become one of the state’s largest sewage spills, a pipe leading from a notorious Sorrento Valley sewage pump station ruptured Thursday, sending millions of gallons of raw sewage into Los Penasquitos Lagoon and the ocean.

San Diego City water officials, calling the incident tantamount to a “disaster,” said that 20 million to 30 million gallons of sewage will backwash into the lagoon and ocean before the pipe is repaired today and the pump station back on line.

That spill would be among the largest ever in California, dumping into the ocean the sewage equivalent to what is produced daily by a city of 200,000 people, said Terry Wilson, an EPA spokesman in San Francisco. Wilson said that several months ago another large spill dumped eight to 10 million gallons of sewage into the East Bay near San Francisco.

Mayor Maureen O’Connor responded to the Sorrento Valley spill by calling on residents living north of Miramar Road to refrain from “unnecessary flushes from the toilet . . . postpone dish washing and clothes washing” and to “cut down the time people spend in the shower.”

In addition, the spill triggered a city ordinance imposing an immediate moratorium on the issuance of building permits for the fast-growing communities served by the facility, known as Pump Station 64. That moratorium covers Sorrento Valley, Penasquitos, North City West, Mira Mesa and Scripps Ranch, among others in San Diego’s northern tier.

“I think we’ve reached catastrophic proportions today,” said Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer, whose 1st District includes the Pump Station 64 area. “Now, we do not know how to control the spill.”

Wolfsheimer said, however, there was a chance that heavy rains forecasted for the San Diego area today could help alleviate the spill by diluting the sewage, flushing it through the lagoon and washing it away from the beaches.

County health officials will be checking this morning to see how much of the beach, if any, should be quarantined. Signs warning against swimming have been posted near the mouth of the lagoon.

The spill couldn’t have come at a worse time for the city, which is spending $20 million to immediately upgrade the pump station. A succession of capacity problems, mechanical errors and human miscues have caused the pump station to overflow into the lagoon 59 times in the last eight years.

The last sewage spill from Pump Station 64 came when 1.5 million gallons overflowed into the lagoon on Thanksgiving Day--an incident that prompted the regional Water Quality Control Board to impose a fine of $1.5 million against the city. The majority of the fine was suspended, but the city was still forced to pay a record $300,000 for the holiday accident, which was blamed on operator error.

Thursday’s mishap “took everyone by surprise,” said Yvonne Rehg, spokeswoman for the city’s Water Utilities Department. “It’s definitely a shocker. It’s definitely a disappointment.”

Rehg said the pipe that broke was the 36-inch “force main” that leads away from the station, over a 300-foot incline and to the city’s waste water treatment plant in Point Loma. The pipe is concrete-reinforced steel, she said.

The main cracked, however, when the pump station suffered three weather-related power interruptions between 9:30 and 10 a.m. During the momentary interruptions--the longest was 10 seconds--sewage reversed its flow and headed downhill toward the pumps, said Rehg.

As the sewage backed up, “check” valves on the pumps closed to prevent the pump station from flooding. With nowhere to go, the sewage built up enough pressure to rupture the underground pipe about a quarter-mile from the station, said Rehg.

The rupture sent sewage gushing through a field and into Roselle Street, where the pump station is tucked in a row of businesses.

Jennifer Ikel, manager of the Premier Services Recovery, said one of her employees saw the sewage erupt from the pipe, which is buried in a field at the end of Roselle Street. The break sent effluent streaming into a lot where the firm keeps 250 repossessed cars, she said.

“It was like a geyser that had gone 10 feet into the air,” said Ikel. “It was unbelievable. We had cars and the water was up to the doors.”

City water officials shut down the pump station at 10 a.m., leaving the 19.5 million gallons of sewage that flow through the system daily nowhere else to go but into the lagoon and eventually the ocean.

Rehg said the rupture was six inches wide and 24 inches long. Although administrators first feared it could take two to three days to repair it, Regh said Thursday evening that water department crews will be able to patch the pipe by sometime after noon today.

“We could lose between 20 and 30 million (gallons of sewage) because you’re talking between 24 to 36 hours,” Rehg said about the overflow.

City Manager John Lockwood said Thursday he doesn’t believe state water pollution officials, who have the power to impose a $10 fine for every gallon of sewage spilled, will hold the city liable for the accident.

“If we had, due to negligence or lack of effort, caused the problem, I would be very concerned,” said Lockwood. “But at least to this point, it looks like the staff did everything it could. It was beyond our control.

“In this case, we were the victims of the problem, not the cause of the problem,” said Lockwood.

Mary Jane Forster, chairman of the regional water board, said she “tends to agree” with Lockwood, but added that she and her colleagues will have to wait for a full report on the spill, most likely at their April meeting.

“This is a very difficult position to be in,” said Forster. “We already know that the pump station and its adjoining parts have big problems. The city is working very hard to correct the problems . . . .

“I tell you, I think that when you impose a big fine, you have to be able to prove that it (an accident) was willful and negligent,” said Forster.

Thursday’s incident is sure to sharpen the debate between those who believe the problems at Station 64 are a series of unrelated mishaps and others who argue the station is fatally flawed because of inadequate capacity.

Lynn Benn, chairperson of the Torrey Pines Planning Group and a resident near the lagoon, has argued publicly that beleaguered Pump Station 64 is ill-equipped to handle the burgeoning sewage needs of northern San Diego, and she termed the spill Thursday as “inevitable.”

Benn said her community, which borders the lagoon, has long complained about the station and other sewer problems that send waste water into the streets.

Despite that, water and city officials continue to allow developers in San Diego’s northern tier to hook into a sewer system that is “inadequate to carry all of the sewage being pushed into it,” said Benn.

“We found the water board and the city to be really unresponsive. The appearance to us in this community is that it was growth at any price,” she added.

City water officials and building industry representatives, however, say Pump Station 64 has the capacity to handle the current and near-future sewage needs of northern San Diego, along with the cities of Del Mar and Poway. They point to a $20-million capital improvement program aimed at installing larger pumps and a second force main, thus increasing the station’s capacity to 35 million gallons a day by 1988.

“In terms of the harm to the community, a spill of this magnitude and duration is obviously devastating, obviously much worse than anything that has happened,” said Kim Kilkenny, legislative counsel for the Construction Industry Federation, which represents 1,400 builders, architects and lenders.

“Again, it is important to emphasize that it’s not a capacity problem,” said Kilkenny. “The station wasn’t near capacity. The problem, as I understand it, was due to the temporary stoppage in the surge of power, causing the line to burst.”

Kilkenny said construction in the Pump Station 64 service area accounts for 20% of the building in San Diego County. “It is not the least bit fair to make future home buyers the whipping boy for the city’s inability to operate that station in a safe manner,” said Kilkenny.

On Feb. 20, Lockwood ordered that builders could continue to pull building permits for construction in the area, but they would have to promise not to hook up until November, when two new 500-horsepower pumps are installed at the Sorrento Valley station.

Lockwood issued that directive because calculations by the Water Department showed that the number of outstanding hookup permits granted in recent months could mean theoretically that the total amount of sewage flowing to the troubled pump would exceed its 20.5-million-gallons-a-day capacity.

The city manager said he didn’t expect that to happen because there is an average of six months between the time a developer pulls his permits and hooks up a new home or business into the sewer system. He also said that developers, fearing a moratorium because of Pump Station 64, were stockpiling the building permits just in case.

The moratorium triggered by Thursday’s spill, however, supersedes Lockwood’s directive last month and prevents the city from issuing any building permits at all. Lockwood said he would urge council members next week to lift that ban and stay with his previous directive.

How Pump Station 64 Works

Pump Station 64 collects up to 40 million gallons of raw sewage a day from residences and businesses in Del Mar, Poway and northern San Diego communities and pumps it to Point Loma for treatment.

1. As sewage enters the pump station through a 48-inch pipe, rocks and debris are filtered out. 2. Sewage then collects in a 100,000-gallon “wet well.” 3. One or more of the six pairs of 200-to-500 horsepower centrifugal pumps suck the sewage from the well and increase the pressure on the effluent to drive it up a 300-foot rise after it leaves the pump station. 4. Depending on the rate of the flow, up to five pairs of pumps may be engaged. One pair is held in reserve for emergencies. 5. The sewage is pumped out of the station at more than 150 pounds per squareinch of pressure into a 36-inch, concrete-lined steel pipe. 6. The pressure is sufficient to drive the sewage 13 miles to Metro Pump Station No. 2 near Lindbergh Field, which then pumps it to the Point Loma sewage treatment plant. What Officials Believe Went Wrong


Jeanne Kessira

All visions of cake involve a moist, creamy texture, not some dry and bland outrage. If for some reason your cake is dry and crumbling apart, poke holes on the top and brush it with condensed milk or a simple syrup. This makes it more like a poke cake, but your guests won't notice the difference. You can also serve it with ice cream or yogurt for a last-minute option.


The Flakes That Never Managed to Fall

SAN FRANCISCO — With a Pacific storm coinciding with a blast of cold Canadian air over their fair city, residents here spent much of Friday in giddy anticipation of a long-absent guest: snow.

Predictions had called for the possibility of the first significant snowfall in San Francisco since February 1976, when all of an inch fell, according to the National Weather Service. It inspired a weeklong flurry of activity among civic leaders and commuters — as well as dreams of flying down some of the city’s famous inclines.

“I can’t wait. It’ll be crazy,” said Marisa Belaski-Farias, 23, a graphic design student from Hawaii who has never seen snow in person. “I have a cardboard box at home. Hopefully there will be enough snow to sled.”

But as the day progressed, it looked increasingly like that outing might have to wait. The storm brought soaking rain and howling gales in the early hours, but in classic San Francisco fashion — weather here can vary hour to hour and block to block — the morning rain gave way to clear skies and, in some quarters, profound disappointment.

“It’s a beautiful sunny day in San Francisco,” one Twitter user, LNSmithee, wrote in midafternoon. “Under normal circumstances, that would be great. But earlier this wk, we were promised snow.” (An unhappy emoticon was attached.)

Meteorologists were still saying that the city might — just might — get a dusting on Saturday, as a Canadian cold front lingered over the city and spotty showers moved in from the ocean. But according to Chris Stumpf, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Monterey, Calif., “It’s going to be a little bit harder to get it to sea level.”

Still, the very possibility that San Francisco could see snowfall led to all manner of mock dismay by online wiseacres, including Isitsnowinginsfyet.com, a Web site that offered a blunt assessment of the outcome: “No.”

There were more serious responses. Mayor Edwin M. Lee warned of unseasonable cold and asked city homeless shelters to increase capacity and outreach to the indigent. Crews planned to monitor roads for flooding, while the Department of Public Works planned to offer free sandbags.

Snow is more common outside the city, with small amounts accumulating at scenic mountain peaks. It is rare in San Francisco because moisture hitting Northern California is generally warmed by the Pacific before making landfall.

In this case, however, the rain was being met by a cold blast coming in overland from the north.

Still, for some, the hype turned their feelings to mush even before the storm came and went without leaving any snow.

“I’m already over the snow in San Francisco,” wrote Michael Owens, a Twitter user. “And it hasn’t even happened yet.”


When Startups Fail, Silicon Valley’s Millennial CEOs Like to Share Feelings

Employees at the offices of Tint, a San Francisco marketing startup whose founders have shared candid, emotional stories about running the company.

Rolfe Winkler

When it comes to bad news, many companies bury the announcement in a boilerplate press release. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ryo Chiba decided the best medicine was to narrate his company’s layoffs in excruciating detail.

“I closed my eyes and counted to three while in an empty and dark conference room,” wrote Mr. Chiba, the 26-year-old co-founder of San Francisco marketing startup Tint, in a blog post last month. “I told myself that I was ready to tell my friend and co-worker that I would be laying him off.”

Mr. Chiba’s 3,000-word essay admitted business blunders, revealed Tint’s cash balance, revenue and salaries, and gave an impassioned play-by-play of the “brutal and ugly” process behind layoffs.

“Suddenly, the valve in my heart twists open, and all of the feelings start flooding out: The disappointment, the guilt, the anger, and sadness,” he wrote.

In the more established corporate world, Mr. Chiba’s detailed confession is alien. Fortune 500 CEOs don’t usually unburden themselves so personally or admit mistakes.


As Its Coffers Swell, Red Cross Is Criticized on Gulf Coast Response

In New Orleans and the coastal flood plains of Mississippi, many people are complaining that the American Red Cross was missing in their worst hours of need and are worried that its billowing relief fund may bypass them entirely.

The organization did not open shelters in flood-prone areas and was therefore unable to provide food and other necessities to people closest to the coast ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

"The Red Cross has been my biggest disappointment," said Tim Kellar, the administrator of Hancock County, Miss. "I held it in such high esteem until we were in the time of need. It was nonexistent."

Even some volunteers are disgusted. "I will never, ever wear the Red Cross vest again," said Betty Brunner, who started volunteering in 1969 when Hurricane Camille destroyed her house but quit last week over the organization's response in Hancock County.

Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck, the Red Cross had only one shelter in the county, and it was far from some of the most populated coastal towns. It had no shelter in New Orleans.

"It's purely a safety issue," said Armand T. Mascelli, vice president for response operations at the Red Cross. "People expect a Red Cross shelter to be safe, not to be at risk of flooding." Frustration over the early absence of the Red Cross is now compounded by the realization that the organization has collected the bulk of public contributions, money that will be spent on emergency rescue and relief, not long-term assistance, and may never get to the coastal areas.

The organization has garnered almost three-quarters of the $1 billion that Americans have donated to help the hurricane victims, with endorsements from President Bush, corporate America and many nonprofit organizations. Its duty, mandated by Congress, is to provide immediate assistance, a need that is rapidly diminishing as victims leave shelters.

Some people are asking whether the Red Cross can use all its money effectively as its role winds down. "Once we're out of the relief phase, what capacity does the Red Cross have to rebuild communities?" asked George Penick, president of the Foundation of the Mid South. "That's not their core competence."

The Red Cross says it will need every penny, and it just raised its estimated costs for Hurricane Katrina to $2 billion from $1.5 billion. "The scope of this is just so huge," said Joe Becker, the Red Cross senior vice president for preparedness and response. "If you took New Orleans out of the equation, Mississippi and Alabama would be a bigger job than we tackled in all four of the storms that hit Florida last year."

But time and again in past disasters, the Red Cross has raised more money than it has needed for relief. It has also been less than clear in the past about where its money goes, and it has rarely shared its money with other organizations that tackle long-term needs of victims.

So, at a meeting of charity officials last week in Jackson, Miss., Mr. Penick asked whether the Red Cross would share its wealth.

"Especially in rural areas and small towns, the Red Cross was either absent or overwhelmed," Mr. Penick said. "You had churches and nonprofit groups taking care of the evacuees in any way they could with whatever money they could scrape together."

Mr. Penick said that when he asked a Red Cross representative at the meeting whether it would reimburse these organizations, "he said he didn't know."

Responding to the complaints from coastal Mississippi, Winnie Romeril, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross in the disaster area, said the organization was unprepared for the scope of the disaster and initially lacked enough fuel and supplies. She added that the Red Cross had 23 shelters in three of the most affected counties in Mississippi.

The Red Cross decided in the mid-1990's that it was unsafe to maintain shelters in flood plains, a decision that piqued New Orleans officials, said Dr. Bernadine Healy, a former president of the organization.

Dr. Healy said she negotiated with Louisiana officials to support state-operated shelters until the disruptions caused by Sept. 11.

"The obligation of the Red Cross is to oversee the sheltering of people in disasters," she said. "I had been working with the governor to find a compromise so that the Red Cross would be there at the very least to provide supplies for their shelters."

The Red Cross's mission is to provide immediate shelter, medical care, sustenance and small amounts of cash, usually $800 to $900, for clothing and other necessities.

It said on Monday that $1.4 billion of the money it hopes to raise will go to financial assistance, $744 million for food and shelter, and $78 million for mental health services. As of Monday, the Red Cross had spent more than $521 million.

Some victims have complained that the Red Cross is reluctant to dispense cash the organization maintains that tight control of cash helps foster accountability. Outside a shelter in Baton Rouge, volunteers distributed papers last Thursday with a toll-free number for assistance and pointed to a sign saying that only residents in the shelter would be helped there. Some tried to argue the point, to little avail. "We were just getting the runaround from the Red Cross," said Mia Norflin of Carrollton, La.

Through Friday, the organization had handed out roughly $225 million in cash assistance to 236,000 people. Its shelters have housed more than 2 million people for at least one night, and, together with the Southern Baptist Convention, it has served more than 12 million hot meals.

About 36,000 people remained in 232 Red Cross shelters on Monday.

In Texas, Charlotte Toney applauded the organization for reuniting her with her husband and three foster children last week. Evacuated from New Orleans early because she had diabetes and was recovering from surgery, she ended up at a hospital in Houston.

"I was so out of it, but when the lady from the Red Cross called and said, 'I found your children,' I was screaming and hollering," Mrs. Toney said.

Mr. Becker said the Red Cross was unlikely to give money to other groups that might pick up the recovery effort after the relief stage.

"If we feel we have enough money to meet our mission, we'll tell America we have enough money and recommend giving to other organizations," he said.

On Oct. 30, 2001, the Red Cross said it had received $547 million in Sept. 11 pledges, which would be enough, but the total swelled to twice that amount as donations continued to roll in for victims of the attacks.

Devorah Goldburg, a Red Cross spokeswoman, said that it would take many organizations to address the needs of the hurricane victims and that the Red Cross had told CBS and MTV not to raise money on its behalf and to find other charities. During the broadcast of the Emmy Awards on Sunday by CBS, donations were solicited for Habitat for Humanity.

In some of the nation's biggest disasters, the Red Cross has raised more money than it has needed. As of June, the organization still had roughly $40 million of the more than $1 billion it collected for a fund it created after the Sept. 11 attacks.

It raised $55 million for the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco and spent only $12 million on direct disaster relief, angering local officials who wanted some money to build a homeless shelter.

It spent about a quarter of the money raised after the attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, and the Minnesota attorney general held public hearings to prod it to release $4 million retained after the Red River floodin 1997.

The Red Cross and other organizations use money generated in response to giant disasters to offset the costs of other, smaller crises. But many donors are insisting that their gifts be used for a specific disaster.

The Red Cross has always pledged to honor those designations, and it created the special fund for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. But many people became upset after laerning that some of the money would be used to prepare the Red Cross to respond to future attacks.

Dr. Healy resigned, and the Red Cross recommitted to spending all the money on the victims. The special fund swelled to more than $1 billion.

In his book "After: How America Confronted the September 12 Era," Steven Brill described livery drivers parked in fleets of cars outside a Red Cross facility in lower Manhattan to pick up checks to help make up for lost business.

STORM AND CRISIS: CHARITIES Correction: September 21, 2005, Wednesday An article yesterday about the Red Cross response to Hurricane Katrina misspelled the given name of the organization's vice president for response operations, who said that for safety's sake shelters were not opened in flood-prone areas. He is Armond T. Mascelli, not Armand.


Records raise questions as probe continues

A criminal investigation being conducted by the Houston Police Department remains active. The findings of the sheriff&rsquos inquiry have not been made public they were presented to a committee May 13 that determines whether any staffers violated office policies. If any did, the committee recommends disciplinary actions for consideration.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez reviewed the recommendations &ldquoand any disciplinary actions are anticipated to be carried out in the coming days,&rdquo according to the office. Investigators collected 73 statements from 37 employees and 20 jail detainees identified footage that showed all staffers who entered Simmons&rsquo cell block and reviewed jail phone records and round sheets.

&ldquoThe circumstances surrounding Mr. Simmons&rsquo death warranted a complete and thorough investigation, which I am confident our team has provided,&rdquo Gonzalez said in a statement. &ldquoWe hold our duty to ensure the safety of all those entrusted into our care as sacred. Mr. Simmons&rsquo family deserves a full, unvarnished explanation of his death, and our community has a right to full transparency. Anyone found to have violated our community&rsquos trust will be held accountable.&rdquo

The autopsy had not yet been released Thursday, but a medical examiner spokeswoman confirmed the manner of death was a homicide the primary cause of death blunt force injuries of head with subdural hematoma.

Records show the jail did not properly document face-to-face observations for a period of more than four hours on the day of Simmons&rsquo death.

Sheriff&rsquos spokesman Jason Spencer said he did not know if the officer who found Simmons unresponsive was the first to see him following the fracas, after which Simmons had been evaluated by jail medical staff before returning to his cell.

Records obtained by The Chronicle raise questions about how Simmons was checked on following the episode, which authorities previously said ended with him hitting the floor.

State code requires all jail facilities must have &ldquoestablished procedure for documented, face-to-face observation of all inmates by jailers no less than once every 60 minutes. Observation shall be performed at least every 30 minutes in areas where inmates known to be assaultive, potentially suicidal, mentally ill, or who have demonstrated bizarre behavior are confined.&rdquo

An inspector wrote in a report from the jail standards commission dated April 5 that such observations were not properly documented between 7:15 a.m. and 11:24 a.m., upon review of video and written documentation from the day of Simmons&rsquo death. And it was not the first time the issue was flagged to the jail in recent months.

According to an inspection conducted by the commission between Nov. 30 and Dec. 4, 2020, the jail was found to be out of compliance on the issue. A re-inspection report dated April 9 showed both half-hour and hourly face-to-face observations were being conducted as required.

In response to numerous questions, including whether a medical doctor evaluated Simmons after the altercation and about the lapse in documenting observations, Spencer said he could not answer due to the ongoing investigation. He noted the jail is currently in compliance of jail standards.


Flooded but unfazed: Guerneville stands tall as muddy waters slowly ebb

1 of 13 The flooded farmland near the Russian River near River Road in Forestville, Calif., on Thursday, February 28, 2019. The area along the Russian River sustained heavy flooding after an atmospheric river dumped almost 20 inches of rain in two days. Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 13 Forestville Fire Department Engineer Chuck Franceschi ducks under the River Road Bridge as he drives a rescue boat through the flooded Russian River to patrol communities affected in Forestville, Calif. Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Jessica Christian / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

3 of 13 Mailboxes are seen partially submerged outside a home along the flooded Russian River in Forestville, Calif. Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Jessica Christian / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 13 A submerged basketball hoop is seen along the flooded Russian Drive along the Russian River in Forestville, Calif. Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Jessica Christian / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

5 of 13 A resident of a partially submerged home parks his kayak near his front door along River Drive in Forestville, Calif. Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Jessica Christian / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 13 Trees and street signs are seen submerged in high floodwaters along River Road near Mirabel Park, Calif. Thursday, February 28, 2019. Jessica Christian / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 13 Guerneville resident Jeremiah Fox, 43, paddles out on a kayak as he attempts to navigate through high flood waters to check on his property along Highway 116 in Guerneville, Calif. Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Jessica Christian / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 13 Barns, portable toilets and vehicles are seen floating in high floodwaters along River Road near Mirabel Park, Calif. Thursday, February 28, 2019. Jessica Christian / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 13 An abandoned car is seen submerged in high floodwaters in the parking lot of the Farmhouse Inn near Mirabel Park, Calif. Thursday, February 28, 2019. Jessica Christian / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 13 trees and street signs are seen submerged in high floodwaters near Mirabel Park, Calif. Thursday, February 28, 2019. Jessica Christian / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

11 of 13 Pete Gilmore wades through his neighbor's yard after checking his and her house on River Drive in Forestville, Calif., on Thursday, February 28, 2019. The area along the Russian River sustained heavy flooding after an atmospheric river dumped almost 20 inches of rain in two days. Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

12 of 13 Ed Florentino wades through the water in his front yard as he checks out his house on Grays Court where he's lived less than a year off River Road in Forestville, Calif., on Thursday, February 28, 2019. The area along the Russian River sustained heavy flooding after an atmospheric river dumped almost 20 inches of rain in two days. Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

13 of 13 A home is seen partially submerged by high floodwaters along River Drive near the Russian River in Forestville, Calif. Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Jessica Christian / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Dawn broke under bright blue skies Thursday in Guerneville, and with it came hope that the soggy ordeal might soon be over for the nearly 2,000 people still stranded on day two of the Russian River flood.

But it won&rsquot come fast. And it won&rsquot be cheap.

The brown lake of floodwater that transformed downtown into a 300-yard island of dry land had receded a bit by noon, but it looked like the townsfolk will still be marooned until late Friday. Or even Saturday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation Thursday for Sonoma and four other Northern California counties affected by storm damage to funnel in aid yet that won&rsquot change the fact that anyone whose property suffered significant damage has months of nail-biting repairs ahead.

&ldquoIt&rsquos a war zone, man,&rdquo said John Sundberg, 62, as he climbed out of his kayak after paddling through north Guerneville to check on a friend&rsquos house. He pointed to his pal&rsquos neighborhood, on Mill Street, and shook his head. &ldquoThat right now is just a huge lake,&rdquo he said.

The same sort of misery greeted residents and business owners throughout the North Bay wherever rivers and creeks jumped their banks. More than 3,000 homes were swallowed by floodwaters all along the Russian River.

The Barlow, a huge arts, dining and shopping collective in Sebastopol, got whomped with 4 feet of merchandise-ruining water. In Forestville, the natural gas service to the town blinked out. Up the North Coast in Humboldt County, a man died late Wednesday night when he was swept away by floodwaters while trying to save his children. The three children were rescued.

Newsom&rsquos emergency order also included Lake, Amador, Glenn and Mendocino counties, and it came exactly one week after he issued a similar storm-related declaration for 21 counties throughout California. That number may grow next week, when National Weather Service forecasters say another atmospheric river is set to arrive Tuesday and stay all week.

Meanwhile, two weaker storms are coming this weekend. The future for places like Guerneville, the hardest-hit community this week, holds little certainty.

So, as they have time and time again in past floods, the locals carried on Thursday, one unflappable step at a time. Some put their canoes away. One woman clopped her horse, Diva, down Main Street, free at last to romp after being cooped up for days. With the town&rsquos main grocery, Safeway, reopened after a day of shutdown, locals began filtering in and a semblance of normalcy began to return.

Shirley Valley, 71, drove her truck into town to shop at first light, after being stranded in her home on Armstrong Woods Road since Sunday. A creek had flooded to block off access.

&ldquoThe first time I saw the blue sky, I thought, &lsquoWow, there&rsquos hope. It&rsquos going to be OK,&rsquo&rdquo Valley said.

She should know. Valley has lived in Guerneville since 1963, and she&rsquos seen the most epic floods in the town&rsquos history.

&ldquoThis is nothing compared to the &rsquo86 flood, when the river was flowing down Main Street,&rdquo Valley said. &ldquoThis is the deluxe of the floods, because we had lights, I had internet, everything. I call it the Cadillac of floods. It could have been so much worse.

&ldquoWe&rsquore old hat knowing the ins and outs of this.&rdquo

Under Thursday&rsquos clear skies, the river continued to inch down all day &mdash more slowly than expected, but steadily. Readings in the morning measured the waters at 44.47 feet, said Drew Peterson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The shoreline was visible at first light 200 feet lower down the main streets than the previous night, when the river hit its peak at nearly 46 feet by 9 p.m. But even as conditions improved with every hour, driftwood, bloated diapers and other detritus littered River Road as if an angry child had flung his toys. Submerged cars were beginning to reappear after 24 hours underwater, the muddy roof of a white pickup truck bearing traces of the flood.

All roads in and out of Guerneville, and many of the other villages sprinkled along the shoreline, were still blocked by the roiling river, and they were likely to remain that way most of the day &mdash a disappointment, considering forecasters had predicted Wednesday that the Russian River might drop to the point of flood stage by noon Thursday.

Based on past similar floods, the cost to fix ruined wallboard, contaminated water systems, waterlogged car parts and other damage will run into the millions. The 2005-06 floods in the North Bay, when the Russian crested at 41.6 feet &mdash about 4 feet lower than this week &mdash wreaked more than $400 million in damage.


Yosemite Valley is under siege from tourists. Can it be saved?

John Buckley has visited Yosemite more times than most will in a lifetime. As a young man, he remembers padding along the banks of the Merced River, which meanders through Yosemite Valley, the park&rsquos main destination, with nary a soul in sight. &ldquoI used to go out there during springtime, and you could walk, and you&rsquod see a person maybe every five or 10 minutes,&rdquo Buckley says.

To anyone who has visited the valley in recent years, the idea of an unencumbered stroll in the valley must seem like a quaint anachronism.

&ldquoNow it&rsquos just a string of people on the trails and you&rsquore walking right next to a line of cars on the road,&rdquo says Buckley, 69, executive director of Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, a nonprofit group that works to protect and improve the Sierra Nevada environment. &ldquoIt&rsquos much less of a natural experience.&rdquo

It&rsquos no secret: We love national parks. And we&rsquore visiting them in record numbers, in some cases stretching their resources and infrastructure beyond what was ever intended. The most prominent example may be Zion, where 4.5 million people swarmed the park&rsquos relatively modest 146,597 acres last year &mdash about twice the visitorship the park saw just 15 years earlier.

Visitors to Yosemite, which is one of the five most frequented national parks, hovered around 3.7 million people annually for the decade leading up to 2016, when the count spiked to upward of 5 million for the first time ever. (The number came back down to about 4.3 million last year park officials are bracing for a crush of tourists this season.) The deluge of people &mdash to Yosemite Valley specifically &mdash has park officials anxious to find a release valve as summer approaches and the onslaught of cars and campers begins.

&ldquoWe have to manage the experience and manage expectations,&rdquo says Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman. &ldquoWe realize that for a lot of people that either come from the U.S. and around the world, this is their one and only trip to the park. It&rsquos incumbent upon us to protect that experience as much as we can.&rdquo

Annual visits to the park are soaring.

This isn&rsquot the first time Yosemite officials have contemplated these problems or taken steps to curb crowding.

In fact, in the 1980s, the National Park Service backed off a plan it had initially approved to all but ban private vehicles and remove most buildings in the valley by 1990, much to the disappointment of conservationists. (At the time, the Park Service floated the idea of building a light-rail system &ldquooperated by 21st century technologies&rdquo to help reduce congestion.)

Trails around the valley are constantly being improved. For instance, the Yosemite Conservancy and the national park service are jointly funding a multiyear $13 million project at Bridalveil Fall this year. Several years ago, the park revamped the loop trail to Yosemite Falls, one of the shorter and easier trails in the park that leads to one of the most famous features, making it easier for people to get there (and easier to leave). In 2010, officials instituted a permitting system to ease pileups on the notoriously jam-packed hiking route up Half Dome after four people slipped and fell to their deaths. (No one has died on the hike since the permit system took effect.)

In 2015, after seven years of negotiations among the Park Service, local business leaders and other stakeholders, the park adopted the Merced Wild and Scenic River Final Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. It&rsquos a long, exhaustive list of analyses, allowances, prohibitions and user limits.

Multi-tiered Yosemite Falls, recharged by rain and snowmelt, and photographed from Sentinel Meadow, is one of several waterfalls that has turned Yosemite Valley into the showpiece of the world.

Courtesy National Park Service Show More Show Less

2 of 46 Click on to see photos of the famous national park from our archives. Show More Show Less

3 of 46 Trailing mists of snowstorm swirl over Yosemite Valley. Photo courtesy of Unite States Department of the Interior National Park Service. October 1, 1990 Show More Show Less

4 of 46 Visitors view Yosemite Valley and Little Yosemite Valley from the Glacier Point outlook in Yosemite National Park. Associated Press photo. May 10, 1989 Show More Show Less

5 of 46 Yosemite Valley - This time of year is exciting for pictures and watching nature. A layer of fog rolls in to add interest to the scene. Snow is seen next to the river. March 14, 1980 Gary Fong/San Francisco Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 46 A Yosemite ranger surveys the snowpack along Tioga Pass Road in the park's high country. The record snowpack (at that time) delayed the reopening of the road at least until mid-June. Usually the road, which was closed each winter because of snowpack, is reopened by the Memorial Day weekend. UPI photo. May 18, 1983 Show More Show Less

7 of 46 Three Brothers peaks in Yosemite National Park. Photo courtesy of Southern Pacific. April 17, 1934 Show More Show Less

8 of 46 This photo was taken August 11, 1988, for a story about the crowds at Yosemite Park. These sun lovers are swimming in the Merced River which was at a very low level that year. Steve Ringman/San Francisco Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 46 Cathedral Spires in Yosemite National Park. Associated Press photo. June 3, 1936 Show More Show Less

10 of 46 This family is enjoying a bicycle ride by Ahwahnee Meadow. Upper Yosemite Fall is in the background. 1980 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

11 of 46 One of the many wonders that attracted some 129 million visitors in 1966, is the 1,430' Upper Yosemite Fall in Yosemite National Park. Here the ice cone at the base of the fall, formed in the late winter and early springs as the flow of water increases, rises to a height of several hundred feet. Warmer weather and a heavier flow of water causes the cone to break up. National Park Service photo. June 9, 1966 Show More Show Less

12 of 46 An artist at Sunrise Camp waves to the woman on horseback, Sheridan King, who delivers provisions to the camp. July 18, 1990 Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle Show More Show Less

13 of 46 Ranger John Roth talks to some kids he suspected of jumping off the Stoneman Bridge. May 30, 1994 Michael Maloney/San Francisco Chronicle Show More Show Less

14 of 46 Trail ride to the top of Nevada Fall. Stables located at Tuolumne Meadows, Wawona, White Wolf and Yosemite Valley. 1980 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

15 of 46 Hikers stop at Sunrise Lake in Yosemite National Park. July 18, 1990 Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle Show More Show Less

16 of 46 View of Yosemite Falls at the beginning of the walkway. At that time, there were plans to redo the approach. May 27, 1992 Liz Hafalia/San Francisco Chronicle Show More Show Less

17 of 46 Snow shoeing in Yosemite Valley. january 3, 1982 Eric Luse/San Francisco Chronicle Show More Show Less

18 of 46 Climbing Leaning Tower in Yosemite National Park. October 15, 1961 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

19 of 46 Yosemite National Park - Crossing Sunrise Lake. July 18, 1990 Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle Show More Show Less

20 of 46 Yosemite Falls after a spring snowstorm. Photo ran July 18, 1935 Courtesy of Standard Oil Company Show More Show Less

21 of 46 Yosemite National Park Cathedral Spires. June 1, 1934 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

22 of 46 Arched Rocks in Yosemite Valley. July 14, 1929 C Miller Show More Show Less

23 of 46 A nearly dried up Yosemite Falls. Photo courtesy Yosemite Park and Courier Co. October 3, 1988 Show More Show Less

24 of 46 The Yosemite that comes to mind when you think of its natural beauty and ruggedness. This is looking in the direction of Half Dome, with some deer grazing. September 20, 1990 Scott Sommerdorf/San Francisco Chronicle Show More Show Less

25 of 46 Tenaya Canyon in Yosemite Valley is a result of the massive grinding action of the ice age. This view from Glacier Point gives the camera fan a superlative view of the Sierra Range with majestic Half Dome at the right. Photo from Santa Fe Railway. July 18, 1976 Santa Fe Railway Show More Show Less

26 of 46 Sentinel Rock in Yosemite Nation Park. July 11, 1950 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

27 of 46 Mirror Lake in Yosemite Valley. July 14, 1929 C. Miller Show More Show Less

28 of 46 Yosemite National Park, lake just above Vernal Falls. August 12, 1987 John O'Hara/San Francisco Chronicle Show More Show Less

29 of 46 Yosemite National Park - Campers waiting for the next available camp site. They started lining up at 1:30 a.m. that morning. May 26, 1978 Gary Fong/San Francisco Chronicle Show More Show Less

30 of 46 Yosemite National Park - The giant sequoia in the park's Mariposa Grove often grow to a height of 250' in their life of 2,500 years or so. 1980 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

31 of 46 Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service. June 1933 (published in the paper December 8, 1989 Show More Show Less

32 of 46 Yosemite National Park. May 17, 1959 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

33 of 46 Half Dome seen from Glacier Point. The dome is one of Yosemite's outstanding landmarks, rising 4,892' at the east end. A cable staircase leads up the back side to the summit, which is 13 acres in area. September 21, 1995 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

34 of 46 This is the view looking down the trail towards Lower Yosemite Falls which is falling in the background (at a very low water level). The story that this photo was originally used for was about the crowding which really showed up at that popular trail up to the base of the falls. Visitors only have to walk about one half mile from their cars to the site, making it very popular. August 11, 1988 Steve Ringman/San Francisco Chronicle Show More Show Less

35 of 46 Yosemite Park National Park Service photo showing Cavalry Trooper of the U.S. Army at the base of the fallen Elephant's Foot Tree in the Mariposa Grove. Ca. 1900 Show More Show Less

36 of 46 El Capitan at Yosemite National Park (undated photo). Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

37 of 46 A team of experts were looking at ways to remedy the overcrowding of Yosemite Valley, suggesting no more overnight stays, and on the other side of the scale, building more lodging. National Park Service Photo. March 4, 1968 Show More Show Less

38 of 46 Frazile Fall in Yosemite National Park. Many park officials had never heard of frazile, but this phenomenon of ice crystals and snow forming as flood-swollen Upper Yosemite Falls drops 1,430' through freezing temperatures caused this ice jam, pushing toward Yosemite lodge cabins. Two marine pumps relieved the danger that day. Associated Press photo. April 26, 1958 Show More Show Less

39 of 46 Yosemite Valley photo courtesy of the Santa Fe Railway. November 14, 1970 Show More Show Less

40 of 46 Yosemite National Park. June 28, 1964 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

41 of 46 Yosemite Valley is world famous for its waterfalls and granite sculpture. The 620' Bridalveil Fall is flanked by the Cathedral Rocks. 1980 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

42 of 46 Hiking in Yosemite National Park. October 7, 1991 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

43 of 46 Shown here is Colonel C.G. Thomson, superintendent of Yosemite National Park, unveiling the bronze plaque in memory of Stephen T. Mather, organizer and first director of the National Park Service, at ceremonies held at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley on July 4, 1932 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

44 of 46 Yosemite National Park. May 12, 1994 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

45 of 46 A magnificent view of Yosemite Falls and overlook of Yosemite Valley can be obtained from Glacier Point, and hours' drive from the valley. September 1980 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

46 of 46 Yosemite Valley takes on a different perspective when viewed from the east. Glacier Point is at the far left. North Dome on the far right. Cathedral Rocks and the top of El Capitan can be seen in the background. 1980 Chronicle archives Show More Show Less

Included is a plan to cap the number of people in Yosemite Valley at 20,100 per day (and set a limit of 18,710 people at any given time) to foster &ldquoan enhanced &lsquosense of arrival&rsquo&rdquo among visitors who may be opening their car doors beneath the park&rsquos magnificent granite monoliths for the first time. Other provisions call for increasing day use parking in the valley, boosting the number of campsites and lodging units, and reducing traffic congestion.

Whether there has been meaningful progress toward those goals is up for debate.

Wawona Visitor Center is a hot spot.

Upward of 8,000 cars and a potential 23,000 tourists &mdash well above the established user limit &mdash have been counted in the valley on summer days in recent years. Horror stories of two-hour traffic standstills are common among anyone who has tried getting into the park on a sunny Saturday. (There&rsquos actually a new term for the scenario of sitting in standstill traffic in popular natural settings: greenlock.) Chalk the cause up to whatever you like: Instagram-loving Millennials, legions of retiring Baby Boomers or hyped-up, state-funded national park promotional campaigns.

On a recent trip to Yosemite, Buckley found himself bumper-to-bumper on Highway 120 coming into the park&rsquos west entrance. When he finally got to the valley, he couldn&rsquot find a parking space and wound up cutting his day trip short. &ldquoThat is simply irresponsible park management,&rdquo he wrote in an email. &ldquoTo charge people and to allow them to enter Yosemite, but not to inform them that there are no available parking spaces, is just not right.&rdquo

Last summer, the park started offering reservations on 150 parking spaces in the valley. But what happened, Gediman says, is drivers who had reservations would swoop into whichever parking spaces were available wherever they wanted to go. &ldquoWe had spaces we had to keep empty all day&rdquo for people who reserved them but never showed, Gediman says. And in other places in the valley, people would just double-park. A traffic roundabout installed at the eastern end of the valley hasn&rsquot helped much either.

Tracking the traffic around Hetch Hetchy.

Pundits and former park officials have floated the idea of hard-capping the number of tourists allowed in certain national parks &mdash as much for the health of the land as the user experience.

&ldquoThese are irreplaceable resources,&rdquo Joan Anzelmo, a retired Park Service superintendent, told Yale University&rsquos online magazine Yale Environment 360 last year. &ldquoWe have to protect them by putting some strategic limits on numbers, or there won&rsquot be anything left.&rdquo

This summer, the goal at Yosemite is to begin to ascertain, with precision, where tourists are going, what they&rsquore doing, when, and for how long.

&ldquoWe&rsquore trying to analyze the way people are visiting the park,&rdquo Gediman says. &ldquoWe want to look at use patterns for people.&rdquo

For instance, on certain weekends, park officials will halt traffic on Highway 140, one of the two main arteries Bay Area travelers take into the park&rsquos west side, and release cars incrementally to spread out motorists.

Random visitors will be asked upon arrival to carry a GPS unit with them during the course of their stay. That information will go to the national park service.

&ldquoThere can&rsquot be a lot of infrastructure changes &mdash it wouldn&rsquot be appropriate in Yosemite,&rdquo says Frank Dean, president of the Yosemite Conservancy, which funds park improvements and has taken an interest in understanding the tangle of activity in the valley.

&ldquoYou don&rsquot build your way out of this challenge, you manage it.&rdquo

Gediman, however, says the park won&rsquot ever be able to manage away crowding and gridlock. &ldquoThe solution isn&rsquot all on us it&rsquos going to have to come from how visitors come here and use the place.&rdquo

Another element of the Park Service&rsquos overall strategy involves posting suggestions for planning a valley visit. They cover what you might expect: Come early. Leave late. Make campsite reservations in advance. &ldquoPack your patience.&rdquo But of course there&rsquos no secret formula for outmaneuvering the millions-strong blitz of valley visitors &mdash although some have tried concocting one.

Last year, a San Francisco engineer and rock climber, looking for a workaround to the tedious trial-and-error process of claiming a campsite on www.recreation.gov, wrote a computer script that scraped the system for campsite cancellations and availability at Yosemite. (It&rsquos since been copied several times, making one wonder whether sharing it publicly negated its intended purpose.)

All this raises the question of what we want and what is reasonable to expect from our national parks. It&rsquos the question Gediman carries with him every day at work: how to balance serving the public and preserving the wild.

It&rsquos unlikely that the experience of visiting Yosemite is in for any revolutionary changes any time soon. What&rsquos clear is this: If you want to avoid the mess, steer clear of the valley. If you&rsquore hoping for a natural experience in the most popular place in the park, you need to recalibrate your expectations.

&ldquoPeople need to understand,&rdquo Gediman says, &ldquothat they&rsquore not going to get a wilderness experience in Yosemite Valley.&rdquo

Gregory Thomas is regional and local travel editor at The Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @GregRThomas

Lose yourself &mdash and everyone else

&ldquoYosemite Valley represents less than 5 percent of the park, but it&rsquos where well over 90 percent of visitors go,&rdquo says Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman. The park encompasses more than 748,000 acres, and yet the vast majority of its millions of visitors are drawn to that little buzzing sliver of traffic snarls, selfie sticks and, now, a Starbucks. If you&rsquore willing to venture beyond the valley, it&rsquos easy enough to put some distance between yourself and the masses and find the oft-stunning, if less-hyped, pieces of the park. Those who do are apt to find a more peaceful and fulfilling nature experience. Here are three hikes to get you started.

Hetch Hetchy Valley

In one of his screeds condemning the proposed O&rsquoShaughnessy Dam, John Muir exalted Hetch Hetchy Valley to church-level status, stating that &ldquono holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.&rdquo Today, it makes for a laid-back respite from the park&rsquos more popular valley. For a day hike, take the relatively flat foot path around the reservoir to the picturesque Wapama Falls (5.5 miles out and back), or continue all the way to the soothingly loud cascades of Rancheria Falls (13 miles out and back). The Rancheria Falls trailhead (which passes Wapama) starts at the dam.

Pro tip: Bring a water filter and tap San Francisco&rsquos water supply at the source &mdash from the falls, not the reservoir.

Moderate out and back 8 miles 900 feet of elevation gain

On the eastern edge of the park is this gem of a hike, which doesn&rsquot attract the same level of attention as hikes that start in Tuolumne Meadows. The trail takes you above Mono Lake and its famous tufas once you hit the pass, go about a quarter mile farther and you&rsquoll arrive at a shelf overlooking both Mono and Upper Sardine lakes. Start: Just inside the Tioga Pass entrance along Highway 120 is the Mono Pass trailhead (it&rsquos easy to spot from the road).

Pro tip: If you&rsquore heading out from the Bay Area, make sure Tioga Road is open before you go!

Chilnualna Falls

Moderate: out and back 8.4 miles 2,300 feet of elevation gain

The Mist Trail gets all the attention, which has kept this awesome trail under the radar. But with several falls along the route and a 50-foot cascade at the end, Chilnualna Falls is worth the trip. About 5 miles into the park&rsquos southern entrance on Highway 41, you&rsquoll spot the Wawona Hotel (now called Big Trees Lodge) drive across the bridge over the Merced River and take a right on Chilnualna Falls Road. The trailhead parking lot is 1.5 miles up the road.

Pro tip: Go in late spring, when flows are high and the falls are surging.


PRO FOOTBALL: Opening Day Extremes: Redemption and Disappointment Spectacular Finish Dooms Jets in OT

For four quarters today, for one game, for one season opener, the Jets showed they were equal to the National Football League's best.

And they might have escaped from San Francisco with a tie or a victory. But in a game of shifting fortunes, high drama and quirky plays, the 49ers defeated the Jets in sudden-death overtime, 36-30.

The winning score was beautiful, if you were a 49ers fan: a 96-yard touchdown run by Garrison Hearst, who stiff-armed the rookie safety Kevin Williams at the 20, and who eluded clutches and grabs in a 17-second run to the wind-swept end zone, right where home plate is. The official time of the score in overtime was 4 minutes 8 seconds.

''I can't be more disappointed than I am right now,'' Jets Coach Bill Parcells said.

And yet, the way Parcells looks at football, it came down to a mistake -- ''To just being able to concentrate long enough to win one of these.''

Of course, there were many plays in the game, which the Jets tied as time expired on John Hall's 31-yard field goal. The drive to tie the game featured Glenn Foley connecting on third- and fourth-down passes.

''We thought we were going to win when we forced the overtime,'' Foley said. ''We had them pinned back and then they broke the big run. They deserve credit for winning, but it was a tough loss for us.''

Foley -- 30 of 58 for 415 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception -- may have come of age in this game. He was forced to pass since the 49ers took away the Jets' running game.

'ɺ lot of reporters have been asking me about running the ball against eight-man fronts,'' said Curtis Martin, following his Jets debut in which he produced 58 yards on 22 carries. ''Today is an example of what can happen.''

So while the 49ers massed their defense at the line of scrimmage to stop Martin, other opportunities opened for Foley and his receivers.

Foley and his receivers repeatedly connected on clutch third-down plays, often for long gains. Two of Foley's scores went to Keyshawn Johnson (9 catches for 126 yards, 2 touchdowns). Johnson is such a fan of Jerry Rice's, that his original contract called for extra money if he was able to amass many of the statistics that Rice has.

Rice, meanwhile, marked his return from two serious knee injuries by catching 6 passes for 86 yards, including a 14-yard score.

Despite all the yardage, the comeback to tie, the grace under pressure, Foley is still looking for his first complete-game victory. This was his sixth career start, and the Jets are 1-5 in those games.

The Jets' performance, despite their grittiness against a team that was 13-3 last season, was far from perfect. The offensive line committed three of the Jets' four penalties in the opening half. And Hall's kickoffs continued to be a problem.

Meanwhile, Young did what he usually does. He froze the defense as he spotted players on timing routes. It was Young's third touchdown pass of the game late in the fourth quarter that seemed to put the Jets away. His 31-yard pass to J. J. Stokes, who leaped in front of Williams, gave the 49ers a 30-27 lead. The Jets, though, tied it on Hall's field goal.

The Jets scored the game's first points on a Hall field goal after getting the ball on a turnover.

Williams grabbed the ball as it bounced off Irv Smith's fingers. Williams, the only rookie starter on the Jets' defense, returned the ball 34 yards to the 49ers' 27. Hall soon connected on a 24-yard field goal.

Then Young led an 84-yard march that culminated with Hearst's 5-yard run up the middle of the Jets' defense and a 7-3 lead. It was a bad drive for the Jets' defenders, who gave up big passes to Rice, Smith and Terrell Owens.

The Jets had big plays of their own, including a Foley-to-Johnson 41-yarder that propelled them to a 10-7 lead. But the 49ers soon retaliated with a 63-yard drive, Young connecting with Stokes on a 6-yard score.

That 14-10 lead withered on the Jets' final drive of the half, though, helped by Leon Johnson's 33-yard kickoff return. Antonio Langham interfered with Johnson on the San Francisco 7, and Foley found Chrebet for the 6-yard scoring pass and a 17-14 lead.

On the 49ers' first drive of the third quarter, Wade Richey produced a 22-yard field goal to tie the score.

But the Jets showed resilience, looking as if they were accustomed to doing this sort of thing against top teams. It indicated their 9-7 record last season was no fluke. Chrebet grabbed a 48-yard pass, a penalty took the Jets to the San Francisco 15, and Johnson soon faked out Langham and sprinted into the end zone to catch a 21-yard touchdown pass.

Now it was Rice's turn. He caught a 21-yarder from Young. And on a fourth-and-6, Rice took Young's short pass and converted it into a 14-yard touchdown.

But Jason Ferguson blocked Richey's extra-point attempt and the Jets held a 24-23 lead. Richey had been picked up by San Francisco only 10 days ago.

The Jets increased their lead to 27-23 on Hall's 32-yard field goal. On the scoring drive, Martin caught a short pass and converted it into a 22-yard gain. Martin had four catches for 41 yards. But this was no ordinary game, or an ordinary moment, and Young directed the 49ers back, hooking up with Stokes on a 31-yard touchdown as the receiver leaped in front of Williams.


My Biggest Whole30 Failure Wasn’t a Failure at All

This entire week I’ve been sharing my experience of doing the Whole30 program, but I haven’t talked too in-depth about my Whole30 failures. So, you guys … can I tell you a secret? I cheated. Like, really truly fell off the wagon for a minute. The thing is, it ended up not feeling like a failure at all. Now, before the diehard Whole30 crowd comes out of the woodwork to write me curt letters of disappointment or throw proverbial rotten tomatoes, let me explain.

On the fifth eve of my Whole30, I ventured into San Francisco to attend my husband’s boss’ birthday party. She was turning 40, and in true San Francisco style, she rented out the back room of some way-too-hip-for-me bourbon bar that doubled as a speakeasy. The room was exceedingly narrow, dimly lit, and filled with strangers. I walked in and immediately began to sweat — not just a little, either. It was a very unladylike slick of anxious sweat that decided to pool between my shoulder blades and cling to my dress.

I’m claustrophobic, so I felt as if I was in some sort of booze-drenched, tiny-room nightmare. I took some deep breaths and tried to masquerade as a normal adult human that didn’t feel as if she was about to die in a tiny, Prohibition-themed, back-alley bourbon bar. Did I mention I like bourbon? Because, I do — a lot. Did I mention it was a very expensive open bar? Yeah, that too.

Before heading out for this soirée, I fed myself a sensible Whole30-approved dinner and decided I would heroically sip on sparkling water with lime. But that’s not exactly how it all unfolded. My husband’s coworker, probably noticing my questionably sweaty bangs and look of panic, gave me a glass of something pricey that had been aged in a one-of-a-kind, gold-encrusted mahogany barrel, and blessed by Bolivian wood nymphs (perhaps an exaggeration, but this stuff was fancy), and I started sipping.

Fast forward to the next morning as I awoke crying with an aggressive hangover my head throbbed in my ears. I shook my husband awake and through tears told him I was probably dying. This is not the triumphant part of the story, if you’ve already guessed. This, my friends, very much felt like failure. It turns out when you’re eating really cleanly, it only takes a little bit of bourbon to make you feel like you’ve been poisoned. I don’t recommend it.

It was after I had rehydrated myself and rejoined the land of the living that I made the executive decision to just let it go and carry on with my program. I understand this isn’t exactly how things are supposed to go. I’ve read the stringent rules, and the strict no-cheating policy — I get it. But for me, it was deeper than that. Yes, by Whole30 standards I had failed, but on a personal level, it was a chance to be kind to myself. Something that I rarely take the time to do.

I try to be a compassionate and understanding human being in my day-to-day life. If you talk to me about your struggles, I will most likely embrace you and make you a batch of soup. I have empathy for others, but historically I do not hold the same sort of compassion for myself. I’m a diehard perfectionist with a judgmental inner voice. Maybe you have one of these voices too — the kind of voice that chimes in with you’re not good enough and other gospels of self-doubt. I don’t like this voice much, so I’m trying to shift and change in order to reclaim this part of my brain and flood it with nicer words and more positive truths. It felt counterintuitive to me to beat myself up in the process of trying to do something nice for my body.

I set out on this Whole30 journey with an intention to heal and feel better. Sure, I made a mistake. No, I wouldn’t make it again. (Gosh, my headache was relentless.) And yes, I might have tacked on a couple days to my Whole30 sentence to make up for my personal bourbon-fest, but being militant with my already perfection-hungry self didn’t seem as valuable as patting myself on the back and being understanding. So I drank more water, took it easy, and told myself I would do better tomorrow. In a plan that is designed to be rigid and heavy on the tough love, I managed to find some compassion and the strength to decide I am not my failures or struggles, but rather the sum of all of the positive intentions behind them. I am enough, and that doesn’t have to look like perfection. Not for 30 days — not ever.

Gina is the mind behind So. Let's Hang Out. When she isn't cooking, taking pictures, or chasing after her puppy dog, she is usually doodling polar bears on napkins.


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