On clear nights when the moon is new, astrophotography enthusiasts and keen Instagrammers flock to HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse to capture otherworldly images of an expansive sky flooded with stars. In winter months, the stargazers are treated to views of Orion in all his glory in the west, the Gemini twins Castor and Pollux right above him, the Big Dipper in the constellation Ursa Major pointing to Polaris the North Star, the Little Dipper in Ursa Minor, plus a host of unnamed stars twinkling many light years away.
Steam rose from the rain-soaked concrete at the Emeryville Amtrak Station, where I was boarding a morning train to HI Sacramento hostel. Inside the train car I overheard a young woman with an indeterminable European accent ask another passenger which was the side with the best views. “This side,” he said, meaning the left side facing the tracks and a couple of tall hotel buildings, so that’s how I chose my own seat.
Each year, HI USA’s Great Hostel Give Back program give hundreds of participants from dozens of groups the chance to stay for free at HI hostels across the country in exchange for volunteer service hours. From volunteering in soup kitchens to participating in environmental clean-ups, this year’s participants will donate thousands of hours of their time to good causes in our diverse communities.
There aren’t many places you can sit in the city with a view of the Bay and a reasonably priced cup of coffee, but then, there aren’t many places like Café Franco at HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf hostel. The cute and cozy café, which is open to both hostel guests and the general public, is the perfect spot to stop by for a breakfast bagel or a hearty soup-and-sandwich lunch when you’re taking a break from strolling the greens of Fort Mason.
One of the things that makes San Francisco beautiful is the colorful collection of people from many corners of the world who contribute to the eclectic melting pot of a city. Generations of settlers have brought the rituals, arts and foods of their home countries, connecting travelers and visitors with different cultures just within the Bay.
From National Park land to downtown streetscapes, hillside perches to coastal lighthouses, HI USA hostels are located in some of the most beautiful settings Northern California has to offer. So perhaps it’s not surprising that so many staff members across our hostel network are talented (and prolific) artists: they’ve got a lot of inspiration to work with!