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Best of the Bay 2013: Recreation

Mobile ranger stations, redwood retreats, and drinking and exercising.

Roving Ranger Station
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Basic Training
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Tricked-Out Ranger Station
At first glance, you might take the flashy green-and-orange clunker for a taco truck. Not so. In a quest to make park information more accessible, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the Presidio Trust teamed up with Base Landscape Architecture to create the first-ever Roving Ranger station: a retrofitted bread truck that cruises local parks and neighborhoods. The rangers’ new ride is decked with reclaimed artifacts, like woodwork from a fallen Golden Gate Park cypress tree. Visitors can peruse the mini-library, get information on trail conditions, kick back in the lounge area, or get the scoop on local wildlife and park lore. Amelia Glynn

Redwood Refuge
SoMa may be the nexus of tech-inspired creativity, but in a quiet forest outside of Santa Cruz, the new Wellstone Center in the Redwoods sparks innovation in a more serene setting. Weekend-long workshops in cooking, photog- raphy, and writing are led by experts: Mark Dessert of Oakland’s Raise the Root, Pulitzer Prize–winning photographer Kim Komenich, and author (and San Francisco contributor) Steve Kettmann. Groups are restricted to the single digits, so you’ll never be amid a crowd of strung-out city slickers as you hike the creekside trails. Dinners like homemade lasagna are served in the communal dining room, and the hot tub acts as a liquid campfire for swapping stories before bedding down in your own micro-cabin with valley views. All-inclusive rates from $500; 858 Amigo Rd., Soquel, 831-471-8459 Lani Conway

Airbnb Alternative
Airbnb always sounds like a good idea—until the third day of your vacation, when you’re arguing over whose turn it is to take out the trash and wash the sheets. Portico Club blends flush homes with hotel conveniences in over 60 destinations around the world. Club members, who pay a $2,500 fee to join, are paired with an “escapist” (a sort of travel curator who can point you to the best local dive or kid-friendly swimming pool) and an on-call concierge who stocks the fridge and turns down the sheets. For a weekend getaway, there are currently six local properties in Portico’s portfolio. Dragon’s Leaf in Sonoma, for one, is a farmhouse embedded in a vineyard, with a private pond (rowboat and floating dock provided), a picnic area, a wine barrel hot tub, and a wraparound porch. $300– $3,000 per night; Jenna A. Scatena

Stationary Workout
With the Marin Headlands beckoning just across the bridge, indoor spin gyms can seem dull. But New York transplant SoulCycle’s 45-minute up-tempo classes aren’t normal workouts; they’re more like a sweaty, no-judgment dance party. Offering candlelight in lieu of fluorescents, charismatic, saucy-cheerleader instructors, and pounding Top 40 playlists, the classes combine the self-bettering mantras of yoga with the in-it-together energy of boot camp. The weekly sign-ups spur an online click-a-thon each Monday. You thought Burning Man tickets were bad? SoulCycle’s prime classes in New York book up in minutes. 1601 Larkspur Landing (near Sir Francis Drake Blvd.), Larkspur, 415-285-7685; 2095 Union St. (Near Webster St.), 415-695-7685 (Open Late Summer) Lauren Murrow 

Park for Dolores Graduates
So you’ve finally outgrown drum circles and Hunky Jesus contests—not even the Truffle Guy does it for you anymore. You’re in luck: Pacific Heights’ revamped Lafayette Park just opened after a year of “closed for construction” signs. The $10 million makeover has transformed a mountain of matted yellow grass into the city’s freshest turf: lush Frisbee launch ramps, squeaky new tennis courts, and an amphitheater with terraced seating, plus a shady piazza at the summit that outdoor-exercise fanatics are drooling over. Lafayette’s off- leash pooch run has been expanded and enclosed on three sides, and the new playground offers natural rock-climbing structures, serpent-shaped crawl tunnels, a footbridge, and a 60-foot-long hand-pumped creek for floating toy boats while parents sip rosé—er, supervise—at nearby picnic tables. All 11.5 acres command storybook views: Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Twin Peaks—and the top floor of Danielle Steel’s mansion. Gough St. (At Sacramento St.) Lavinia Spalding

Way to Pretend You’re Spiderman
The Bay Area isn’t lacking in indoor cliffs, but six-month-old Dogpatch Boulders is the most sociable and challenging. Colorful walls rise 17 feet, and new climbs are set every week, from novice-level to overhanging past vertical. Expect a high ratio of yoga pants and male shirtlessness. But despite the ripped contingent, the vibe is encouraging. Drop in on ’80s-themed Tuesday nights, when neon unitards dot the cliffs and pop hits blare from the speakers. 2573 3rd St. (Near 22nd St.), 415-800-8121 L.M.

Boozy Boot Camp
Now there’s a solution to the eternal 5 p.m. dilemma of choosing between getting fit and getting drinks: Basic Training’s Friday happy hour boot camp starts out as a muscle-toning sweat fest, but wraps up with a well-earned pint at a bar like Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. And for a reason to rise early on Saturday mornings, its adventure class takes you racing between bunkers in the Marin Headlands or sprinting around Fort Funston and ends with a brunch at Beachside Cafe or mimosas at another local spot. 415-519-6483 Rachel Ward

Just when it seems that the boutique gym trend is taking over, Studiomix reminds us that big gyms have their place. Designed for people who want a fun workout but don’t have the time to sprint from TRX in Nob Hill to yoga in Hayes Valley, Studiomix offers a dozen classes a day. Mystie Webster opened the facility last year after management roles at Crunch and Equinox, where she realized that gyms need to offer more classes and health amenities. She took over a sleek, industrial, 30,000-square-foot space in the AMC Theater building on Van Ness and started tapping her favorite local trainers to lead classes. Now seven studios cater to different workout styles, and members vote on classes they want, from Muay Thai to Dance Fix Fridays. The gym also provides a Wi-Fi lounge, a sauna, a massage studio, an onsite traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, nutrition coaches, and a café serving organic protein shakes and healthy meals. 1000 Van Ness Ave. (Near O’Farrell St.), 415-926-6790 J.A.S.

Adreneline Rush—With Craft Beer

The next time you cruise Class III rapids, leave the Bud Light and soggy chips behind. O.A.R.S. rafting company’s new Epicurean Adventures on the Tuolumne and American rivers cook up a four-course meal—such as skirt steak and rosemary Yukon potatoes—with a rotating cast of brewmasters and vintners to keep you hydrated. Catch 21st Amendment’s Shaun O’Sullivan over the Fourth of July weekend, pairing his hoppy brews with Cypress Grove cheeses on the Tuolumne River shores for three days. Or opt for the Cork and Paddle evening series, with local wineries like Lava Cap at O.A.R.S.’ new luxe South Fork campground. Not bad, for river fare. From $195; Annie Tittiger


Read more Best of the Bay
Best of the Bay 2013: Bayview Fix-ups
Best of the Bay 2013: Brunch Without Borders
Best of the Bay 2013: Game-Changer Bars
Best of the Bay 2013: New Subspecies
Best of the Bay 2013: Upgraded Napa Agenda
Best of the Bay 2013: Culture
Best of the Bay 2013: Food
Best of the Bay 2013: Recreation 
Best of the Bay 2013: Socializing
Best of the Bay 2013: Style

Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco

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