Don't you just love to hear foghorns blowing on the frigid bay while you lie snuggled in your warm bed? In a city that's somewhat estranged from its liquid milieu -- if it weren't for our hilltop ocean and bay views we could almost forget that this place is practically an island -- the picturesque lighthouses with moaning horns that dot the coastline are some of the few tangible reminders of our maritime past. Get to know them on the "SF Bay Area Lighthouse and Maritime History Tour," a new excursion from the San Francisco Bay Whale Watching company. Participants head out on a snazzy motor yacht with United States Lighthouse Society President Wayne Wheeler, putter under the Golden Gate, and hit lighthouses from nearby Alcatraz (the oldest West Coast watchtower) to the East Brother Light Station in Point Richmond. Along the way Wheeler shares photos and relates historical anecdotes about these and other Bay Area beacons. Bring a warm jacket and listen up starting at 1 p.m. (and continuing Sundays through Aug. 29) at 85 Liberty Ship (at Marin Ship), Sausalito. Admission is $75; call 331-3804 or visit www.sfbaywhalewatching.com.
BY JOYCE SLATON
Spruce up the urban forest
With Friends and American Idol in reruns, it's time to turn off the TV, go outside, and remind yourself why you pay so much to live here. National Trails Day is a chance to do just that, letting the athletic and the sofa-bound alike celebrate the great outdoors at the gorgeous Presidio and its former air strip, Crissy Field. Drop in at either the Presidio Officers' Club (50 Moraga at Arguello) or the Crissy Field Center (603 Mason at Halleck) between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to participate in trail/habitat restoration projects. Or pedal over to the Officers' Club for a guided cycling tour of the sprawling former military base and a family-friendly stroll along the Ecology Trail, or to Crissy Field, where rangers lead a 3.5-mile run and a history walk. The alfresco affairs are free; call 477-2757 or visit www.parksconservancy.org.
BY JACK KARP
Yerbas muy buenas
Learning the secret uses of plants can be intimidating. I know I often think of Shakespeare's "weird sisters," those three famous witches, with their steaming enchanter's cauldron and its complicated, disgusting-sounding recipes. But some call the study of how to use plants for medicine "simpling," which should tell us something. The idea is that vegetation growing abundantly nearby might be the very thing you need to cure what ails you, whether it's a spider bite or hay fever. Learn more at a "Medicinal Herbs Slide Lecture and Garden Tour" by Sapna Bhan, starting at 9 a.m. at Strybing Arboretum, Ninth Avenue & Lincoln, S.F. Registration is required and costs $25; call 661-1316 or visit www.strybing.org.
BY HIYA SWANHUYSER
The long-running and famous Union Street Art Festival is, as it has been for the past 27 years, the place to be for strolling among the stylish, looking at tons of affordable art, and stuffing yourself with gourmet treats. What's not to like? The fest begins at 10 a.m. each day along Union between Gough and Steiner, S.F. Admission is free; call (800) 310-6563 or visit www.unionstreetshop.com.
By Hiya Swanhuyser