Townsend Street used to be at the town's end. Fifth and Mission was sand-covered hills. Harrison Street was a marsh. Even if you know these facts already, you probably haven't looked at large-scale photographic evidence of them – and certainly not while standing at one of these downtown spots. "BayBoards" is a project that uses art and science to present huge, outdoor pictures of various Bay Area locales. Oaklanders can get reacquainted with the oak land, former home to a rare oak forest and currently known as 12th Street and Peralta. In Albany, project artists have discovered an 1861 photo taken close to where 580 South is now – suffice to say, it shows wildflowers.
Five bus shelters and a billboard hold the images that make up the San Francisco wing of "BayBoards," called "Two Quick Centuries in 7 Long Blocks": Along Fifth Street from Market to Townsend, the displays show the hidden past and allude to the imaginable future. Artists Elise Brewster, Susan Schwartzenberg, and Robin Grossinger speak at a reception for an accompanying exhibit of archival materials at 5 p.m. in the Main Library's History Room, 100 Larkin (at Grove), S.F. Admission is free; call 557-4277 or visit www.stillhere.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Sweat in the new year
According to Chinese astrologers, the Year of the Monkey is characterized by rapid-fire exchanges of ideas and movement and energy in all areas of society. If you believe it, start proving it right away with the Chinese New Year Run 2004, a brisk 10K jog (with a 5K walk/run option available for you slightly less sporty primates) through San Francisco's Chinatown.
Given that the neighborhood's narrow lanes and Byzantine alleys are crowded even on weekdays, what makes these crazy runners think they can fight their way through the throngs of New Year's weekend celebrants? Well, the blocked-off streets help, as does the early hour. But part of the thrill of this race is ducking and dancing around vendors, tourists, merchants, and onlookers. The sprint begins at 8 a.m. at the corner of Grant and Sacramento, S.F. Registration is $35; call 576-9622 or visit www.ymcasf.org/chinatown.
-- Joyce Slaton
Get Dirty for Earth Day
Muir Woods spiffs up the premises
Each day, Muir Woods staffers replace invasive nonnative flora with native species, maintain the park's trails, and care for the redwoods. But once a year the park stages a veritable groundskeeping blowout – by the end of Earth Day 2003, for example, 400 volunteers had planted more than 2,100 seedlings from Muir's nursery, removed 178 garbage bags full of weeds, and rehabilitated footpaths. At this year's event organizers hope to do even better – and they need your help. Willing gardeners should show up at 8 a.m. at Muir Woods Visitor Center, Muir Woods Trail (between Muir Woods Road and Panoramic Highway), Mill Valley. Volunteering is free; call 561-3030 or visit www.nps.gov/muwo.
-- Joyce Slaton
Mount Tam Falls
Although it could be the title of a Busby Berkeley musical starring Esther Williams, "Waterfall Extravaganza" is actually a slide show and hike. Knowing the scenery around Mount Tamalpais, though, it should be just as dramatic. Slides from author Ann Marie Brown's California Waterfalls (at 9:30 a.m.) precede an eight-mile traipse up the mountain, led by Brown. Tickets are $10-12, and reservations are required; call 255-3233 or visit www.greenbelt.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser