“Bob!” someone in a sun hat shouts.

Crosstown Trail: Bedpan Alley

An experiment based on an article from the New York Times.

“Bob!” someone in a sun hat shouts.

Local bikers helped carve out trails in the Laguna Honda area.

Local bikers helped carve out trails in the Laguna Honda area.

Amber Hasselbring, the executive director of Nature in the City, a nonprofit to encourage local engagement with nature and public open spaces, joins us for the next leg, her 19-year-old intern, Jeffrey, in tow and looking stricken by the hills and heat. She points out the coyote brush about to bloom and even admires the lustrous poison oak. She hears a chirp and immediately identifies it as a white-crowned sparrow.

From behind a shrub, a lanky man in work pants emerges. This is Matt Blain, who made enough money working at Google that he could quit and do what he really wanted to do: bushwhack and mountain bike. He is part of a group of determined volunteers — the SF Urban Riders — who made this crosstown trail possible by clearing a long bramble-filled canyon that runs alongside Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center and lets the north and south legs of the trail connect.

When the hospital learned what the bikers were up to every weekend on its property, they surprised everyone and embraced it. The bikers began gathering 60-strong with machetes to hack away at the brush. Matt calls the trail Steep Ravine. Others refer to it as Bedpan Alley.


First, we cross through a field of daisies and pass the hospital. There’s a small farm with geese and goats. An old man in a wheelchair is enjoying the sun and watching us trek past.

Then we dive down into the new trail, cocooned in greenery. The hospital once used the area as a dumping ground, and to the side of the trail in the brambles is a scattering of ancient sinks, bottles and, yes, a few bedpans, though these bikers have been hauling them out.

But Bob’s enthusiasm has started to get to me by this point, because all I am really looking at are the wildflowers and the moss, the spa-smelling eucalyptus forest above us, and the sweet engineer in front of me who decided to spend his days making this for us.

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