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San Diego Extreme City Day Hike

By the DayHiker

This is the third in a series of articles about walking from your home in a highly populated area.  Pt Loma to Oceanside is an 11-hour 39-mile marathon kept interesting by the bay, beaches, and bustle of activity along the scenic coast -line and historic Highway 101 in the San Diego area.  During March 2001, I walked this twice (returned by car) as a training hike for the 100km one day hike along the Potomac River starting in Washington DC on May 5, 2001.

 What a neat hike!  I couldn’t seem to interest my other 50-something friends to join me.   Something about sleeping in, something about “an irrational act … are you nuts?”   So come along and let me share with you some comments and hyperlinks about this walk up the Pacific coast.

 As with the other “city” hikes, a predawn departure (4am) on a Sunday mornings gets the hike off on the right foot … quiet, virtually no traffic except for a few fishermen driving to the docks and previous night revelers crawling home.

 Leaving the Pt Loma Peninsula is by crossing over the San Diego River, also quaintly known as a flood control channel … one is hard pressed to find a river in Southern California.   Bird watching is good in the channel, but not at 5am.  The second hour, finds Shamu snoring as Sea World is passed in predawn light, and the path around east Mission Bay is followed.  The third hour traverses Rose Canyon parallel to Interstate 5 on a road to La Jolla.   A gradual slope is climbed on part of the old Highway 101, now disguised as a condominium-lined Gilman Dr., and then continuing on a walking path through the UCSD campus.

For an interesting side trip or parallel path to Torrey Pines State Beach, go west of the campus to La Jolla Farms Road and Blackgold Rd for a quick stroll by $5,000,000+ homes in one of La Jolla's most exclusive neighborhoods.  Another option is to go a little further north and walk to the Torrey Pines Gliderport.  From either Blackgold Rd or the Gliderport there is access to the Black’s Beach, known for surfing and optional swim suits.   From Black’s Beach, it’s about 2 miles to Torrey Pines State Beach.

Otherwise, continue on to North Torrey Pines Rd, with Scripps Clinic on the left and a sizable presence of high technology companies on the right.  Also, on the left is the highly rated Torrey Pines Golf Course , which is crowded.  It’s a public course, first come first serve.  Golfers sleep in their cars to get tee times.  I feel better knowing they got up earlier than me today.  Each to his own irrationality.

 Hour 5 is spent dropping back down to beach level through the Torrey Pines State Reserve on a trail filled with many joggers on Sunday morning.  Sea level is reached again on the to Torrey Pines State Beach and the Pacific Coast Highway is intersected.  With fast moving traffic, walking on the highway is not recommended.  The good news is very little of it requires walking on the PCH.  Walking on the beach from Torrey Pines State Beach to Del Mar is a good option, but cannot be done at high tide. 

The halfway point to Oceanside is Del Mar, just north of La Jolla is another upscale, possibly eccentric, small community.    Local folklore has it the Del Mar City Council in 1989 declared the city a "nuclear-weapons-free zone.    As I walked through this fine community I’m pleased to affirm there were no mushroom clouds so it must be working.  And radiation is low as the horses are running fine at the Del Mar racetrack, where the surf meets the turf.

Moving on north the still upscale, but slightly less (La Jolla is ground zero for upscale-ness on the coast, with communities south and north a tad less) is Solana Beach, great cliffs and restaurants.  Highway 101 shopping is best here.  Passing by antiques stores, Adventure 16 (good hiking stuff), my favorite stop on the extreme day hike tour is the smoothie drink place.  At seven hours into this super hike this where I sit down for about 10 minutes, and enjoy a protein/carbo/bee pollen/vitamin-enriched fruit drink.  But time is of the essence (why, I’m not sure) so I move on sipping and walking with the next big decision to find a place to dump the empty cup.  Between Solana Beach and Encinitas there is Cardiff-by-the-Sea, a nice, small beachside community that has a restaurant called the Beach House with a good trashcan.  Nearby is San Elijo State Beach, one of the best places to surf and camp on the Pacific Ocean.  It’s also a great place to walk through the campground to stay off the highway.

Encinitas, another great beach community, has an entrance demarked by mid- eastern domes of Swami’s Self-Realization Fellowship Center's bluff-top gardens where Meditation and Enlightenment is practiced.  Moving quickly past its entrance, I find walking 11 hours in one day is enough meditation and enlightenment for one day.

Leucadia is right out of the 1950’s with its motels, diners, shops and no web site.  The walking path is on the fast moving highway at the north end, but tranquility is soon returned by traversing the third state park along this walk, South Carlsbad State Park.  

Carlsbad, bordered by two lagoons with one in the middle, has another very visible landmark:  the 400-foot stack of the electric power generating plant (formally owned by SDG&E, and now owned an independent operator making lots of money).  As a hiker, the small blip of the stack from La Jolla is a reminder of the large distance to be covered.   Once past the Agua Hedionda lagoon (the middle one), it’s best to walk on the beach again for the remaining of the walk to Oceanside.  But the Buena Vista lagoon, depending on the tide, may force you to either get wet, or retreat to the 101 Highway, called Carlsbad Blvd/S. Coast Hwy, to get into Oceanside

One terminus for this super walk is to take a long walk on the Oceanside pier, the longest wooden pier on the west coast. Have a celebratory meal at Ruby’s Diner out at the end.

Many beach towns, many miles, many sites, many attractions …Highway 101 never looked so good.  

Give all or part of it a try! 




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