The “Way Down South” Barbeque Pork Sandwich is one of our best–it’s made with love and effort and you can taste the difference. We start with Snake River Farms All Natural pork shoulder dry rubbed with just about every spice in the house. We let it sit 24 hours and then slow cook it on low heat for hours in our special sauce that includes beer, coca cola and coffee. Lots of folks leave off the slaw but honestly I think it’s the best part—it adds this great sweet, tangy crunchy texture to the sandwich. Barbeque pork is so popular that many “pre cooked” options are available and honestly some of them are pretty tasty but when you taste them side by side—you can taste the difference. Thanks to Vu Ong for this gorgeous picture!
Colors are some of the most remarkable springtime features of Angel Island. The terrain sparkles with ruby reds, sapphire blues, topaz yellows, pearly whites, and emerald greens—but these colors come from wildflowers, not gemstones. One of the most commonly asked questions on Angel Island “What is the name of the gorgeous purple flowers?” The striking plant with towering purple blooms is the Pride of Madeira is a rapidly growing tropical shrub that is native to Madeira and the Canary Islands. The plant is deer tolerant so it thrives on Angel Island. The varieties of wildflowers on Angel Island are those found throughout Marin County, and March, April, and May are the best times to catch the annual bloom. Although there are flowers along the Perimeter Road, there are many more higher up on the island. The suggested route for optimal viewing is to hike up the Sunset Trail to the top of Mount Livermore (788 feet) and come back down the North Ridge Trail. The distance of this journey is about four miles total.
It’s that time of year again when whales can be spotted in the strait between Angel Island and Tiburon. Yesterday a young whale breached several times putting on a show for folks riding the Angel Island Tiburon Ferry. It’s not known why the whales show up in Raccoon Strait—scientists believe they could be hiding from predators or just taking a rest. The whales are in the midst of their migration heading some 10,000 miles from Alaska to the warmer waters of Baja.
On Mother’s Day, Sunday May 12th, 2013, Mom’s ride the tram free with the purchase of one child tram ticket. Our tram tours offer a wonderful way to take in the views from Angel Island while listening to a recorded audio history of the island. Public tram tours are at 11:45 and 2:00 and advance tickets can be purchased at www.angelisland.com
The Cantina (open on weekends) has a brand new top to bottom menu featuring tacos, burgers and ceviche. We are making all our salsas in house and be sure and ask about our “inspiration taco”–a special taco inspired by the organic seasonal vegetables. The Cantina burger is delicious featuring Cojita cheese—a Latin American goat cheese with a salty nutty flavor, grilled pickled onions, guacamole and our special sauce. All this served up on a Ciabatta Roll and a side of cumin lime slaw.
Our FREE live music series on the deck of the Angel Island Cantina is starting in April! Come out and enjoy three of our most popular bands during Spring Break from 2PM to 5PM. The Cantina will be open with a brand new menu and Lagunitas Beer on tap. There’s no better place to spend your weekend than Angel Island State Park.
April 6 – The David Thom Band (bluegrass)
April 7 – Derek & Damir (acoustic rock covers)
April 13 – The Royal Deuces (rockabilly)
April 14 – Danny Montana (country/Americana)
The herring are running again in San Francisco and it’s quite a show in the waters around Angel Island State Park. When you take the ferry to the island you can see flocks of gulls, pelicans and other seabirds diving into the water for fish that are literally jumping out of the water. Seals are also popping up everywhere enjoying this seasonal snack.
The migratory baitfish enter San Francisco Bay in winter to spawn. Most herring are just 5 to 8 inches long, yet the females lay about 30,000 eggs in a single spawn. The clusters of eggs cling to rocks, seaweed and docks. They hatch into small fish in about a month.
Mules played an important part in the development of Angel Island. They served as the primary source of transportation on Angel Island during the late 1800’s.The mule barn at Camp Reynolds was constructed 1870 and served as a barn and adjacent blacksmith shop. You can still see the hitching posts used to tie the mules in the concrete the left of the road leading into Camp Reynolds. Mules have played an important role in military action throughout this nation’s history. Pack mules provided unlimited mobility to cavalry, infantry, and artillery units.
In 1495, Christopher Columbus brought four jack donkeys and two jenny donkeys to the New World, along with horses. These animals would be instrumental in producing mules for the Conquistadores in their exploration into the American mainland. (Mules are a hybrid of donkeys and horses) However George Washington played the major role in the development of the mule population in America. He recognized the value of the mule in agriculture and became the first American mule breeder. His success is in large part due to a gift from the King of Spain. King Charles gave Washington two jennies (female donkeys) and a 4 year old male named appropriately “Royal Gift”. The Spanish donkeys were a larger breed donkey than the ones found in America and the introduction of the famous Andalusian donkey would eventually help to reshape the landscape of the country.
After the Revolutionary War, Washington started a program to develop a larger, stronger mule to be used on farms – - to replace horses in the field. In less than fifteen years Washington had 58 mules working at Mount Vernon. It is said that mules from Washington’s stock became the forerunners of mules that were the backbone of American agriculture for generations in the southern U.S.
By 1808, the U.S. had an estimated 855,000 mules worth an estimated $66 million. Mules were rejected by northern farmers, who used a combination of horses and oxen, but they were popular in the south – - where they were the preferred draft animal. One farmer with two mules could easily plow 16 acres a day. Mules not only plowed the fields, but they harvested crops and carried the crops to market.
During the Civil War mules were depended upon to transport artillery and supplies. The Union Army used about one million mules – - which they purchased from dealers. In 1864 alone, the Union Army purchased 87,791 mules. The South, on the other hand, used only half as many mules – - which the soldiers had to provide on their own. Mules, therefore, were taken from Southern farms for military use, making work at the farm much more difficult. Some historians have speculated that the shortage of mules might have contributed to the South’s ultimate defeat. It was reported that President Lincoln, when reviewing Union army troops, paid more attention to the comfort of the mules than of his officers.
Angel Island has always had deer but the resident Coast Miwok Indians guaranteed that the population was kept under control. Scientists believe that deer swm across Racoon Strait from the Tiburon peninsula and keeping the population stable. After the Miwoks, the US Army controlled Angel Island for over one hundred years and allowed hunting on the island.
It wasn’t until 1964 when Angel Island became a state park that the number of deer began to increase. The Island is a square mile and isn’t home to any deer predators. When hunting was banned the deer population grew dramatically and quickly. In 1976 the park decided to reduce the herd. Fifty deer were shot. The transported carcasses were met by television crews in Sausalito. The bloody scene was broadcast across the Bay area that evening. The ensuing public response caused the State Park to halt the program and the island was soon overrun with deer again.
By 1981 it became clear that something had to be done. Several options were proposed: Introduce coyotes. Allow hunting by the rangers. Capture the deer and airlift them off the Island to safety. Unfortunately all of the above were discarded for various reasons although 215 deer were moved to the Mendocino National Forest. After just three months 50% of the deer were dead and by the end of the first year only 30 deer remained alive. The total cost was $100,000.
By 1984 the deer were overrunning the island again. The SPCA then started a sterilization program. They captured female deer and implanted birth control devices. But they kept catching the same does over and over.
Public hearings on the continuing deer problem began in 1985. One serious proposal was to introduce coyotes to the island. But the vision of deer being eaten by coyotes was too much for the SPCA and the general public.
Finally a consensus was reached. Angel Island rangers could reduce the herd by periodic hunting. Biologists estimate that a herd of 200 deer is the carrying capacity for Angel Island. Now the deer are more vigorous, healthier and never beg from the public. The venison is donated to St. Vincent de Paul to feed the hungry. The hides, hooves and antlers are saved and used in naturalist programs all over the state. Like the natives before them, the rangers waste nothing of the deer.
Camp Reynolds is a beautiful spot to visit on Angel Island. It is a 20 minute walk from Ayala Cove and offers spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and small beach that’s great for beach combing. Camp Reynolds has a wonderful collection of Civil War era buildings and two restored buildings that are open to the public on weekends. Many people are surprised to find “Civil War” buildings on Angel Island however after California became a state it declared itself Union with neighboring Nevada going Confederate. Washington soon became concerned about the lack of defense in the San Francisco Bay and several studies were commissioned for comprehensive defense of the Bay. Angel Island was the “second line” of defense in this scenario. It would take a few years but finally in 1863 construction began of the first military post on Angel Island, Camp Reynolds. Progress was slow; the evidence suggests that most of the command did not get into quarters before winter—they spent the winter in tents. Two officers’ quarters were completed in 1863, together with some service buildings, but the balance of the original Camp Reynolds buildings, including two sets of barracks for enlisted men, were not completed until 1864. In that same year, the post’s first hospital (there would be three over the years) was built some distance to the north, in a cove that had been known as Racoon Bay or Glenn Cove. After the Civil War, Camp Reynolds was reopened as a depot for recruits and a training post for the infantry. Serving at Camp Reynolds was hard on enlisted men. It was a cold, foggy post with only a government steam launch to bring word of the outside world. Officers and officers wives would go off on that steam launch to San Francisco to engage in a social life but the enlisted men were not given that opportunity. Today due to the work of Dr. Robert and Mary Noyes the Bake House and Officers Quarters 11 has been restored and is open to the public on most weekend days.