Monday, December 11, 2023

Seven Bridges Walk (December Nights at Balboa Park)

On Saturday, we decided to complete the Seven Bridges Walk that loops through Banker's Hill, Balboa Park and Hillcrest over 5.7 miles. Our first stop was the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge that we first visited back in 2017 to take some AcroYoga pictures in the middle of the 375 foot span. It had been a little scary lifting Tori in the air 70 feet over Arroyo Canyon. The bridge was built in 1912 by the City of San Diego to connect the hilly neighborhood to the former trolley stop on 4th Avenue. On this visit, the bridge was busy so I stayed in the middle of the path to avoid the rocking back and forth caused by all the foot traffic.

Our second stop was the Quince Street Bridge that spans Maple Canyon between Third and Fourth Avenues. It was our first time visiting this wooden trestle bridge that was built in 1905 for only $805 before being rebuilt again in 1990 due to termites and dry rot for $250,000. The pretty bridge is 236 feet long and 60 feet tall and was also built to access to the Fourth Avenue trolley line.

Our third crossing was the Cabrillo Bridge in Balboa Park, built in 1915 for the Panama-California Exposition. When it was first built, a man-made pond lay under the 120 foot tall bridge where the 163 Freeway now passes underneath. At least 50 people attempted suicide from this bridge before the taller Coronado Bridge was built over San Diego Bay. We hadn't planned it, but we stumbled onto the two-day December Nights event in the park. If we had known about the event in advance, we probably would have picked another day for our walk to avoid the heavy traffic into the neighborhood.

The El Prado promenade was decorated and crowded with food trucks, gift vendors and buskers. We detoured over to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion where a Christmas choir was performing before the 8pm Switchfoot concert. On the far side of the park, we crossed the smallest bridge of our walk, the El Prado Bridge and explored the Rose and Desert Gardens. Our favorite was the chubby little Queensland Bottle Tree.

Since we were distracted by the December Nights and starving, we decided to backtrack through Balboa Park instead of completing the loop up Park Avenue. Walking along the back paths, we passed the skeletal dome of Botanical Building in the middle of its three year renovation. The arboretum was originally built in 1915 and is scheduled to reopen in 2024. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" is playing at the Old Globe Theater and the California Tower was all lit up with Christmas lights. Walking north to NOLA on 5th in Hillcrest, we both ordered the New Orleans Trio to try the Gumbo, Etoufee, Jambalaya with Red Beans and Rice. They were all delicious and we finished by sharing the White Chocolate Bread Pudding.

Since we skipped the final bridges of our walk, we returned a week later. We parked north of the Vermont Street Bridge and crossed the 420 foot bridge over high-speed Washington Street in the canyon between University Heights and Hillcrest. This new bridge was built in 1994 to replace the original 1916 wooden trestle bridge demolished in 1979.

Walking down University Avenue, we passed briefly into North Park to visit the Georgia Street Historical Bridge. The single arched concrete bridge was built in 1914 after a streetcar line was cut through the ridge on Georgia Street. Electric trolleys ran under the 50 foot tall bridge along University Avenue until 1948. During the 2016 renovation, they discovered two sets of old railroad ties when the lowered the roadbed under the bridge.

Walking north along Park Avenue, we entered University Heights. It was my first time visiting this part of the city and we went all the way north to the Old Trolley Barn Park overlooking Mission Valley. For dinner, we ate on the rooftop deck of the Kairoa Brewing Company, the New Zealand pub right next to the lighted neighborhood sign of a trolley car. The food was delicious and the large fries may be the best I have ever had. Crispy on the outside, but light and airy on the inside. I would also highly recommend the Wagyu Jam Burger (Gouda Cheese, Bacon Jam, Bibb Lettuce, Heirloom Tomato, Garlic Aioli and Brioche Bun).   

Technically, we only crossed 6 of the 7 seven bridges of the urban loop walk, but we didn't feel the need to visit the boring freeway overpass on University Avenue. We have driven over it many times in the past though.  :)

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