San Diego Sand
With southern California filling up and filling up, it seems the only place to decompress is the beach. But just getting there involves its own compression. Here's the skinny on four great beaches near San Diego, with tips on where to park and when to go. Catch ya' at the shore!
Black's Beach and Torrey Pines State Beach
Location: Between La Jolla and Del Mar, reachable via exits off the San Diego Freeway (Interstate 5).
A few miles north of La Jolla, just above the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Scripps Aquarium and Pier, lies one of the real gems of the state park system: Torrey Pines State Reserve. Its setting is so peaceful and untrammeled you'll easily forget it brushes against a city of over a million people. Trails lead into stands of the rare Torrey pine, which grow only in this park and on Santa Rosa Island, 175 miles to the northwest Several overlooks offer breathtaking views of the beach 300 feet below. An old lodge, dating from 1902, serves as a visitor center. Some 436 plant and animal species are native to the park, including 144 birds, 110 invertebrates, 85 plants, 39 mammals, 28 reptiles, 23 fish, and 7 amphibians.
In addition to its flora, fauna, and spectacular geology, the reserve is rich in fossils, and is close to where archeologists discovered the bones of Del Mar Man, believed to be the oldest human remains yet discovered in North America The tranquillity of the park is interrupted only by rustling breezes and the occasional sight of a gopher breaking open a Hottentot fig The park offers a truly homeopathic remedy for urban stress: an oasis of calm set beneath an awesome canopy of Pinus torreyana.
The shore below Torrey Pines is Black's Beach, probably the most infamous nude beach in the country, found at the southern end of Torrey Pines State Beach. It is set at the base of the high bluffs between Scripps Pier and Los Penasquitos Lagoon, and is as controversial as it is hard to reach. It is so out of the way we wonder why anyone would bother to get uptight about people enjoying the sun, surf, and sand au nature. Yet the dimensions of the feud have occasionally plunged Black's Beach into the national news.
After 5,000 frolicsome nudists partied naked on the Fourth of July, 1977, the good citizens of San Diego voted that October to ban nudity at Black's Beach. But the clothing-optional sun worshipers were not to be denied. In defiance of the law, nudity still prevails at Black's Beach, although it is best described as occasional rather than pervasive.
Our experiences have borne out that observation. On a sparkling June afternoon several years back-Mother's Day, as fate would have itall we saw were half a dozen men wandering the beach wearing only white socks and tennis shoes. More recently, on a warm afternoon in mid-July the sum total of bathers in the buff consisted of an overweight couple of AARP age and several bearded male loners. We were finally able to decode the putative partitioning of who disrobes where along Black Beach's two-mile stretch, thanks to a gatekeeper at Torrey Pines. Here's the lowdown: the north end is for men only, the middle part is coed, and the south end is for surfers."It's our Hawaii," said the gatekeeper, whose attention had to be pried away from a pod of dolphins whose offshore movements he was monitoring with a pair of binoculars A surfer himself, he added: "The waves are good all over the coast, but for some reason they're particularly big down there."
It's a long, albeit beautiful and rugged, hike to Black's Beach. Getting there is actually easier from above. A stairway descends from the Glider Port (off Scenic Torrey Pines Road). Steeply etched into the cliffs, this point of entry comes with a warning: " Stairway and cliffs unsafe and unstable due to 1993 rains." The warning goes unheeded, and the foot of the staircase roughly demarcates the surfer's zone from the coed nudists' encampment. The safest way down, however, is via the service road that begins where Blackgold and La Jo Farms roads meet. You can't drive a car to it, but your own two feet will deposit you on the beach in 10 minutes or so. Free on-street parking is available, and there are a sufficient number of spaces (with two-hour limits) to handle demand most of the time, summer weekends and holidays excepted. The road to the beach drops steeply in a series switchbacks, passing warning signs ("Danger Hazardous Cliffs Subject to Landslide") an irreverent graffiti ("Do Not Eat or Feed Nudists") before flinging walkers out at the south end of Black's Beach, with the Scripps Pier; in plain view.
Alternatively, you can park up at Torrey Pines State Beach and hike south along the beach. The longer, ground-level Torrey Pine route offers a Kodak carousel's worth of dramatic scenery: enormous toppled boulders, giant piles of talus at the base of the towering cliffs, and huge sheets of blackboard-smooth rock. The whole landscape has a wild, otherworldly appearance. Hikers will want to keep a watchful eye on incoming tides, which could potentially strand the unwary in a cove as they rise.
The less adventurous will prefer to stay in the middle section of Torrey Pines State Beach, a better-than-adequate day-use beach An ample parking area abuts Los Penasquitos Lagoon. Arrive early if you want a parking spot on a good beach day. The cobble-filled beach itself is inferior to the sandy, scenic, and less crowded expanses of Black's Beach.
For More Information:
Torrey Pines Association
PO. Box 150
La Jolla, CA 92037
Torrey Pines State Reserve
9609 Waples St., Suite 200
San Diego, CA 92121
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication