Going to Angel Island

My birthday is coming up, and I have a tradition of never working on my birthday. So I took Monday and Tuesday off, and started poking around for fun things to do (instead of work). I saw that there was a campsite available on Angel Island for my birthday, and I got pretty excited about that: I had always been curious about Angel Island, but have never actually gone. So I booked the site for two nights (from November 2nd – November 4th), and started getting excited about spending my birthday camping on an island. I got more and more excited about it with every passing day. Even if the island was lame, it would be fun to just putz around the island with my husband for a couple of days. To be so close to, yet so far from the city.

I started to look for maps of the island, so we could find our way to our campsite (and also identify any interesting-looking trails), when I found this notice of park closure (on a totally separate website that I had never seen before – seriously this island has like ten different “official websites”):


and I got scared. No ferry service from November 3rd until November 7th? Park closed? Why was I able to reserve a campsite if the park was closed? I started scrambling to make other close-by camping plans, but it seemed too late for everything near the Bay Area. That, or all the other parks were closed, too.

I called Reservation America, the service that the California Parks Department uses to reserve campsites. I asked them about the closure, and they told me that I was wrong. Reservation America assured me that the park would remain open for the entire month of November. I wasn’t reassured. They asked me where I saw this notice of park closure, and I told them the CA Parks Department’s URL. They told me since that wasn’t their website, so I would have to call (415) 435-5390, which is the Parks Department’s Angel Island line.

That number is the most useless number in the world. Nine of out ten times, the line hangs up on you immediately after the first ring. One time out of ten, the line will forward you to a useless voicemail that basically says “Call between 9AM and 5PM” which I was doing.

So then I called the Blue and Gold Fleet. I love Blue and Gold, I use them to commute to work, and very occasionally for leisure. I know all the ferrymen and they are super nice. Surely, if anybody knew anything about ferry service to Angel Island, it would be the ferry service! The guy at Blue and Gold told me that 100%, for sure, absotively posolutely the Blue and Gold Fleet would be servicing Angel Island on November 4th. I asked him about the closures, and why the Parks Department would say otherwise, and he seemed kind of insulted by what I had said, and told me that he would never spread false information, and that what he said was totally true. He also said that I couldn’t get my information from the parks department, and that if it didn’t mention the closure on www.AngelIsland.com, then there was no closure. That website he suggested made no mention of said closure.

Since I like Blue and Gold Fleet so much and I am so familiar with them, I wanted to believe him. I tried to convince myself that I could just show up and camp there, and everything would be fine. But deep down I was still stressing. What if we were stranded until November 7th? I wouldn’t care too much, but my work would probably be annoyed by that. I started announcing to my husband, “I don’t care, I’m going to show up on the 2nd and start camping! If I’m stranded, them I’m stranded, I don’t care and it’d be all their fault anyway! What are they gonna do, MAKE ME SWIM? AAAHAHAHAHAHAHA! HAH HAAA!”

The only department that seemed to know anything about the closure, was the one department that I couldn’t get in touch with (due to their ridiculously useless phone line, mentioned above). I actually started liking the idea more and more of purposefully stranding myself there, just to prove to Angel Island how much I hated it. I almost requested that full week off of work, just so that my job wouldn’t be in Jeopardy because of this mess. Then I would just sit there on the Island indignantly, long after I stopped enjoying it. That would show them! THAT WOULD SHOW ALL OF THEM! They say I’m crazy, but I’m not crazy! THEY’RE THE CRAZY ONES! But even as I grew more enamored with the poetic justice of this plan, I knew it was an incredibly stupid idea.

In a last-ditch effort for answers, I went to www.AngelIsland.com like the ferryman suggested, and emailed them through their Contact form. A day or so later, I finally got a good, clear answer from… that department, whoever they are. They explained to me that there would be no ferry service, but that I could still camp if I could find alternate ways off the island (and suggested a relatively inexpensive water taxi service: http://tidelinesf.com/), then said that they would assist me in getting a full refund from Reservation America if I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) arrange an alternate way off the island. It was a huge relief. I finally knew for sure what was going on, and how to fix it. It was a bit more money than I wanted to spend on my birthday, but it was cheap enough that I decided to go ahead and book the water taxi. I am still really excited about this camping trip, after all.

I mean, seriously, I wouldn’t have even known about the closure if I didn’t start doing research on my own. To this day, nobody has contacted me to let me know about the closure in the middle of my reservation (outside of my calling them and asking for answers). I wonder if anybody else will be stranded next week? If this is how they communicate with everybody, then probably.

Deep down in my secret heart of hearts, I am still romanticizing the idea of purposefully stranding myself on Devil Island just to show them how angry I am at them, though.

Update 11/01/2014:

Tonight, on the eve before our departure, I fianlly got a call from somebody on Angel Island who told me that they decided to let everybody with camping reservations use the state boat (for free) to get back to the mainland. Which was a humongous relief for me, I was somewhat anxious about paying for that water taxi. Whew!

Update 11/05/2014:

So we took the state boat back, which dropped us off at Tiburon just in time for us to take the Blue and Gold commuter ferry back to the Ferry Building. It was all seamless and stress-free, and everybody on the island was super nice and accommodating about the closure. Now I kind of wish that I never did any independent research, so that I would have never heard about the island closure until Saturday night, and then I would have been happy and blissfully unaware of the issue until they already had a nice clean solution for it. It turned out to be such a non-issue and I was just wasting my time stressing over it.

Author: Steen

Steen is a nerdy biologist who spends a lot of time trying to cultivate Chloroflexi, who also likes to draw comics, play video games, and climb.

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