Writing on the Wall

We took a cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf where we met our friends, Colin & Ethel. Then we took a ferry to Ayala Cove on Angel Island. You know it’s going to be a good day when you start with a cable car ride down Russian Hill followed by a ferry ride on the bay.

1) Ayala Cove (P1-828)

Luckily, there were tickets available for the 11am tour of the newly opened Immigration Station. I say luckily because, unless you’re part of a group, you can’t purchase or reserve tickets in advance.

We hiked about a mile to the Immigration Station and got there just in time. Lynn, the docent who led us through the station, gave an excellent tour.

3) Immigration Station (P1-804)
4) Immigration Station (P1-818)

9-1245 Immigration Station (P1-814)

Most people are familiar with Ellis Island in New York where European immigrants were processed into the U.S., but not everyone knows that immigrants from many other parts of the globe were processed through Angel Island. And while Europeans were typically allowed into the country in a matter of hours, many Angel Island immigrants, especially the Chinese, were held for days and months waiting to learn if they would be admitted or deported. While they waited, some carved bits of poetry into the station’s wooden walls. The poetry, as it turns out, is what saved the station from the wrecking ball and led to its becoming a destination at the Angel Island State Park.

9-1244 Immigration Station (P1-820)

Poem by Anonymous Detainee/Translation: 

Detained in this wooden house for several tens of days,

It is all because of the Mexican exclusion law which implicates me,

It's a pity heroes have no way of exercising their prowess.

I can only await the word so that I can snap Zu's whip.

From now on, I am departing far from this building.

All of my fellow villagers are rejoicing with me.

Don't say that everything within is Western styled.

Even if it is built of jade, it has turned into a cage.


After the tour, we walked back to Ayala Cove and got a very quick lunch at the café. Then we boarded the tram for our island tour.

The tram takes the perimeter road all the way around the island. We were especially interested in seeing how much damage last October’s fire had done. From San Francisco, it looked like the entire south side of the island was going up in flames, but now we could see that the fire had run up a few ravines and spared most of the island.

The tram tour was very good. We had just enough time left to tour the Angel Island Visitor Center at Ayala Cove and then caught the 3:20 ferry back to San Francisco.

It was a great day on Angel Island: Excellent weather, great tours, good friends, lots of fresh air and exercise.

© Virginia E. Vail 2012