For AP Weekly Features
A California state park since 1958, Angel Island is several times larger -- and far more picturesque -- than its stony, forbidding sister, Alcatraz, site of the infamous penitentiary abandoned since 1963.
Six thousand years ago, Miwok Indians hunted here. By the 1800s, Angel Island was serving as a military base, a role it played in mobilizations from the Civil War through the Cold War.
It also functioned as the Ellis Island of the West, where tens of thousands of mainly Asian immigrants were detained before being admitted to the United States or deported.
The island, said Skip Henderson, executive director of the Angel Island Association, a local nonprofit fundraising organization, "encapsulates the entire history of the Bay Area."
Most visitors arriving at Ayala Cove by ferry from San Francisco, Marin County or Oakland are Bay Area residents -- children on field trips, history buffs, sun worshipers in search of secluded beaches, hikers seeking panoramic views of the bay. Some of the day-trippers hop aboard a tram for a 45-minute, five-mile ride around the island on Perimeter Road, then board a ferry back across Raccoon Strait to the charming Marin County town of Tiburon.
The island, however, merits taking it slow -- on foot or bicycle -- from the ferry dock, where amenities include a caf? and visitors' center.
Most visitors head to the island's western side, attracted in part by Camp Reynolds, where one can tour the Civil War outpost's restored wooden barracks.
Then there's the view. Sausalito, an artists' enclave and marina, lies to the west across a mile or two of choppy water.
Farther west, the headlands of Marin County plunge into the Pacific; here, from land's end, the Golden Gate Bridge crosses to the northernmost tip of San Francisco.
As one continues counterclockwise on Perimeter Road, the northern half of San Francisco appears -- Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach, the Transamerica Pyramid, Russian Hill.
For AP Weekly Features
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