World War II Bunkers!

IMG_0614The Greg opened his newly purchased bottle of Vitamin Water only to have some of its contents suddenly spill onto the ground, “Shit. It’s frozen.”

Indeed it was. The inside of The Greg’s Vitamin Water was almost entirely a block of ice save for the few melted bits that had dribbled out as soon as he opened it. The fridge at the shop he purchased it from obviously had its temperature set to Antarctica. Why does this matter? Well, my friends and I had just spent half the day hiking around the Marin Headlands, exploring the remnants of the artillery emplacements left over from the Second World War. Because of all this hiking, The Greg was quite parched. Alas, since his freshly acquired Vitamin Water was now more frozen solid than a polar bear’s dwindling home, sating that thirst would have to wait.

“Try shoving it in your crotch if you want it to melt faster,” I said to him in encouragement. In hindsight, I don’t think that helped much.

At this point in the afternoon we were in Japan Town in San Francisco. When I say we I’m talking about myself and my friends Joel, Micah, and The Greg. I had had a brilliant and adventurous idea to drag everyone along to the Marin Headlands just north of San Francisco to explore the World War II bunkers that remain there. And when I say I dragged my friends along, fighting tooth and nail to remain at home playing video games and watching clown porn, only agreeing to accompany me on this expedition because of the promised bribes of sushi and blow, what I really mean is that the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey, did you guys know that there are World War II bunkers that are still in the Marin Headlands, and we can go explore them? We should go. Also, we can have lunch in Japan Town after.

Joel: That sounds awesome. Let’s go.

The Greg: I’m in, but I’m actually in it for Japan Town. I’ll text Micah.

As you can see it was quite difficult to convince my friends to join me in exploring history. It would have been easier to convince the populace at large that The Phantom Menace was a decent movie (full disclosure: I liked the prequels). And so we set off on a bright and shiny Saturday morning where we could engage in one of my hobbies of pretending to be Indiana Jones, and then gorge ourselves in one of Japan Town’s many restaurants.

The Greg, Joel, and I live in Sacramento, but Micah lives in Santa Rosa. Because of this we agreed to meet at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, which is right next to the Golden Gate Bridge. It also happened to be right next to where we wanted to go, and there’s free parking. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone about the free parking spot. It’s probably the only place in the entire Bay Area that doesn’t charge you the equivalent of fifty gold pieces for parking. Another surprise benefit of parking at the Bay Area Discovery Musuem? There is a set of old artillery bunkers already there. Given the position of this battery, it was obviously intended to protect the interior of the bay. The battery lay just northeast of the Golden Gate, and faced Alcatraz. I’m sure that when the guns were present in decades of yore, they menaced and intimidated the earliest whale watching tours.


Anyway, we explored the concrete structure and took many pictures. The bunkers underneath were gated and locked, so we couldn’t enter. What we could see was that all the interior crevices had been filled with trash, and likely some hobo droppings. Many of the walls had graffiti, including one that looked like little Smurfs climbing the stairs. Despite the rubbish and the spray-painting version of Gargamel’s bane, I still got a kick out of it all. I love exploring historical places, especially involving military history. So you shouldn’t be surprised that I struck a pose on top of the World War II artillery battery emplacement, doing my best to look dramatic.

The seriousness (or lack thereof) was immediately erased when we began the walk down hill towards the car. Joel thought it would be funny if one of us rolled down the road so he could get a picture of it. I volunteered. Once I began my roll down the hill and Joel snapped away with his camera, that’s when The Greg decided he would “assist” with his foot.

There is photographic proof. Just look!


After reaching my car we drove over to the Marin Headlands. The road that takes you into the headlands is a small and windy road that is somehow congested with the same traffic levels as Mumbai. The Marin Headlands are a popular day trip destination and tourist spot, so we did our best to ram our way through, Mad Max style.

Witness Me!

Oh, and Joel tried to photograph our ears while in the car. However, the pictures kept getting photo bombed by Micah and I’s middle fingers.

We had to drive past the parking area for Battery Spencer, the first set of bunkers. There were way too many people, and not a single hope of parking there. We drove further into the headlands and found a nice spot, and more importantly, a place to park at Hawk Hill. From this vantage point we were treated to some excellent views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco off in the distance. And also located at Hawk Hill was a tunnel that took us into the concrete remains of what once housed massive artillery guns. Just look at the pictures below.


As you can see, the position where these huge guns sat had a total view of the California coast, able to spot any potential naval threat coming at us during the war. While were exploring one of the tunnels, Joel thought it would be a grand idea to get the other three of us to stand in a “Charlie’s Angels” pose for a photo. After some gentle coaxing, we all agreed to it. My part in this would be in the middle, holding my hands aloft as if holding a pistol. However, it was not to be. You see, just as Joel was about to snap the picture, I saw The Greg duck away from out of the corner of my eye. I quickly turned to find him cackling like a young prankster who had just spiked his sister’s ice cream with Worcestershire sauce. I knew then that the joke had nearly been on me, so I responded in the way we all would in those circumstances with, “Oh fuck you.”

The pictures below is our botched attempt at “Charlie’s Angels”while The Greg howls with laughter.

We were able to explore two of these gun emplacements as well as other smaller platforms, and even what appeared to be a small observation deck. As we approached it was suggested that one of us try to climb on top of it. When I say “suggested”, what I mean to say was that Joel, The Greg, and Micah were all looking at me as they said, “Someone should climb up there.”

And so it fell upon me to make the arduous climb of about five feet. I positioned myself on the concrete wall so that I could reach the railing of the observation deck. I grasped the railing, and steadied myself to make sure I had the proper grip and leverage to pull myself up. As I was doing this I heard Joel call out from behind me, “God dammit, Private Pyle! Do you mean to tell you can’t do one lousy pull-up?”

Yes I can. And did. I even stopped to make a “Charlie’s Angels” pose on the observation deck. Such is the life of those who seek out adventures in the footsteps of history.

We finished our exploration of the area, some of which involved hiking up and down a hill or two. Afterwards we crossed the Golden Gate, and headed to San Francisco’s Japan Town for lunch. Did I mention I love Japanese food? Anyway, after lunch we headed over the crepe shop for some…um…crepes…and that’s where The Greg purchased his aforementioned frozen Vitamin Water. We returned Micah to his car at the Bay Area Museum, and that was when we decided we could really use a beer at Moylan’s. Moylan’s is a Northern California brewery that produces a great Scotch ale called Kilt Lifter.

And they have it on tap! Just behold the glory of Kilt Lifter on tap!


We finished our beers, parted ways with Micah, and the three of us drove home to Sacramento. After dropping Joel off The Greg reached into the back seat to see if his Vitamin Water had sufficiently thawed enough to drink. It had been several hours at this point. But alas! It was not to be. The Greg stared in dismay as his cure for dehydration was still a block of ice.

“I told you that you should’ve put that in your crotch to melt it faster,” I reminded him.

Without pause, The Greg responded with, “If I jammed it in my hot crotch, then the water would end up boiling. I don’t want that.”

Here are a few more pictures of the old fortifications in the Marin Headlands:


3 thoughts on “World War II Bunkers!

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