I had decided to extend my stay in the San Diego area one extra day, to try and find that beach I’d been wanting to get to. It has been too long since I’ve dipped my feet in the Pacific Ocean.
I’m camped in Ma Tar Awa Viejas Campground. Nice quiet place on the Viejas reserve, full hookups for $35 a night. But there is one peculiar thing about this place.
It’s the first thing you see coming into the campground, a flipped trailer. Joke? Recent disaster? I find out later that the canyons nearby can generate some wicked winds. The wise people who leave their trailers here tie them down. The owner of this trailer was not so wise. Other than that, it is a typical campground. There is an area for long term stay – setup like a mobile park – and feels like one too – no friendly camping vibe here. I am sitting in the field with one nice tree by me – certainly good enough for home base 45 minutes from San Diego.
With today’s goal being to visit the sea again, and walk along the beach for a while, I had scouted out what I thought would be the most remote beach between San Diego and Los Angles. But that meant more driving, an hour and a half, assuming there was no traffic to speak of. I arrive with only a ten minute delay on the 805, pretty good for San Diego.
I pay the $15 for day use at San Onofre Beach. California is an expensive place. I park the RV; no problem fitting my 20 feet into the spots here.
I walk down the steep path to the beach, hoping the highway noise is drowned out by the cliffs. I stand at the bottom, and only hear surf. Good.
This shelter is a useful marker for coming back up – turn up at the flags. But it reminds me Americans like waving their flags. Got to watch for other shelters that may be further down with flags. Don’t want to turn up at the wrong flag!
The beach is a mix of sand, rocks and cobbles. A local told me later that there used to be a lot more sand; the recent wave action has washed the sand away. I’m not complaining, still enough sand for me to find a spot to lay in it if I wanted. But I do have to walk over the larger rocks from time to time working my way down the beach (south).
I find that the beach has both garbage in modest amounts, and “garbage art” of a sort. Having forgotten my sunglasses for this trip, could have have I have taken a pair?
There is also the more abstract, like this pile of white rocks collected from the beach and placed here. I kinda like it – the contrast is nice to look at.
I love the sound of waves hitting the shore, be it little waves on the lake shore, or the pounding surf of the ocean waves coming in off the Pacific. I can fall asleep to that sound anytime. I was sauntering along, a steady plod, plod, plod down the beach – in sync with the sound of the waves, and in places the gravel rolling in the water as it came back and forth up the beach. I’m getting sleepy now just thinking about it…
But there were other cool things to explore, like little canyons that punched into the sea wall. I explored a little ways up one. Only a little ways, as I could see from recent wall collapses that the things were very unstable here. Imagine an earthquake happening while I was walking up these steep canyon walls. On that imagination, I turned back to the sea.
The layers here are fascinating. Gravel – red rock – green – red cliff – green. Every quarter mile down offered a different combination of layers. The low winter sun meant that the shadows were still present, even in the middle of the day – no high noon sun to kill all the contrast with no shadows.
The red sandstone created the best shadows and patterns – stack fingers layered in multitudes, I took many photos of these.
Eventually, I came to a shelf of rock, just being revealed by the lowering tide. Speaking of which, it is always wise to look up the time of high tide and low tide when walking the beach, especially in an area where the beach can get gobbled up completely by high tide. You don’t want to go walking a couple of miles down a beach and then find your return is cut off by the rising tide. I’m not an expert at sea side walking, but this much I have learned.
My shelf looked like a good place to stop and perhaps finally visit the water at least with my feet – I needed to dip my toes in the Pacific to make this day’s journey complete. But I decide to head down a little further in case there is a better spot. Also the one other fellow who had walked down was stopped here, ruining my solitude.
I continue down a ways. Way ahead of me on the horizon I see something different, but I recognize it right away, it is an Osprey Helicopter/Plane (it actually can do both) doing a rise over the horizon, then sinking back down. I wish I was a bit closer, but am glad for having seen one of these in person, even at a distance. It is a marvel of American engineering.
I see my solitude wrecker was actually a fisherman, casting out into the pounding surf at the edge of the rock shelf. I watch him cast about for a few minutes, wondering what fish might be hiding in those waves. I at least can have lunch, secure that my bag of goodies is a guaranteed haul.
To my south, is one solitary surfer – trying his luck on the meager waves of the day. I can only assume I’m near another trail up – they would not walk as far down as have, and I’ve passed at least one other trail up since I started walking.
Eventually the fisherman retires from his casting, and settles down at the top of the beach. It’s about as solitude as I’m going to get for my little dip in the ocean. I find a nice quiet spot sheltered from the big waves and take my shoes off.
I have to admit, there is something primordial in me that seeks out the sea once in a while. It’s like a distance ancestor of mine that lived by the sea calls out to me, telling me I must return to my roots and touch the salt waters once more. But I could be just inserting meaning where there is none.
I splash around in the water a bit. It’s cold, but not so cold you couldn’t swim in it. The air is warm, but not so warm you want to cool off in the water. The waves are high, high enough that I’m worried my meager swimming abilities will be overwhelmed. Thus, I stick to water no deeper than my knees, watching where I go and watching for big waves; they can drag you in even at knee height that suddenly becomes thigh high with a big wave coming in.
It’s refreshing, and most enjoyable to have the sand squeezing between my toes, and seeing what corals and little fishes I can spot in the rocks near the sandy little bit of shore I have chosen to walk among. For a few minutes, I am eight years old again, enjoying the water, the waves, and the sand for what they are. That makes it worth all the hassle of coming here! To be young again, ah – even the illusion of it for a few minutes is wonderful thing.
But reality intrudes and I must return up the beach. The water is much lower now, we are are pretty much at low tide now. I walk more among the sand rather than the rocks further up, making good time back to my starting point. I decide that I am going to make the most of my time here today – no leaving early to avoid traffic. So, off I go towards the San Onofre Nuclear plant – see how close I can get and see the cliffs in that direction.
The cliffs this side are impressive – light yellow sedimentary layers deposited millions of years ago, then a thin layer of coarse rock, followed by more recently deposited till that originated in the hills to the east away from the sea. Good geology lesson to be had here today! Also, they make for great photography.
I plod up the beach (north) – we will see how close we can get to the nuclear plant. I encounter a pair of ladies and their dogs, out for a walk. One is a local, and the other is her visiting friend. “Are you from around here?” The local asks. I seem to be able to pass for a Californian, at least in accent. “I never come out here, even though I live just north of the plant a few minutes away.” says the local. Yeah, I can understand that problem, you never see your local sights, when you live among them everyday. One of the little dogs decides it is going to pursue the bigger dog a quarter mile away, distracting the two ladies and allowing me to continue my walk.
I approach one of the signs I had seen at a distance. I had assumed they were warning you off traveling any further up the beach, but I was mistaken. Evidently, you can continue walking up the beach right past the nuclear plant, if you dare.
But I was done for the day. I take a few more pictures of the contrasting rocks above me and start heading back for the “flag shelter” and my trail back to the RV.
I did see these birds circling about while wandering to the nuclear plant and back. They came close enough that I was able to get a shot of one. I am most annoyed with my camera that it did not pull perfect focus on this picture, especially since this is a California Condor, still a rare bird to be seen these days. But at least I had the privilege of seeing two of these majestic birds soaring above me, despite having come so close to extinction.
I climb the trail, taking one last picture of the vista of the cliffs and the ocean – sad that I know it will be a long time until I can see it again and touch it’s waters.
Unfortunately, my relaxation evaporated on the trip back. San Diego traffic during the rush, on a Friday afternoon. Oh boy. I opted to go with the googles suggestion to avoid the accident on the 805, saving me ten minutes. But I never saw a freeway again until I got on Interstate 5 a fair ways into the San Diego ‘burbs. Yeah, I didn’t sit in Interstate gridlock, but I traded that for not having any idea where I was, in the dark, totally reliant on the big G to navigate me home. Not sure if it was worth the ten minutes saved. Come to think of it, I have no idea if I saved ten minutes, all I know is that is was around two and a half hours getting back to the campsite in full darkness and my relaxation being all evaporated having to navigate blindly following the googles. The googles got me home, but man, it felt like it took every suburban feeder road and back industrial road to get me there.
Oh well, that is it for navigating San Diego. Tomorrow is laundry, dump my tanks, fill water, and head back to Arizona.