Point Sal is what my new landlord calls “the last untouched beach on the Central Coast.” And I can only imagine why. It’s a trek to get there and it bumps up against Vandeberg Air Force Base, who has tried to close the beach to public access many times, from what I hear.
From the parking lot, it’s switch-backs to the top of the bluffs, which leads you to a meander around the hills and switchbacks down the other side. This is about where I stopped after an hour-and-a-half of walking, because I was running out of time to get back. The road continues, winding around and down to what looks like a soft, sandy beach with almost no one on it.
The road is a combination of dirt and fading concrete, broken up in some places and completely gone in others. At the top of the bluffs, a huge gate greets hikers with a warning sign on it which decrees the area is patrolled by aircraft and guard dogs. Anyone and their stuff is subject to search.
After the gate, signs turn from “no trespassing, private property” to “authorized personnel only, no entry.” But it’s beautiful all the same, with the ocean crashing into bluffs on one side and a beach on the other, a light wind, sun and the smell of salt.
Next time I’m bringing a lunch, water and more time.
I can’t remember the last time I meandered around, exploring a new place with the day to myself. I forgot how much I enjoy it. Quiet, keeping my thoughts to myself, not really interacting with anything or anyone but where I am.
I started out at a eucalyptus grove in Pismo Beach. The monarch butterflies were there, hanging heavy on the branches, weighing them down with folded wings on top of folded wings. They almost look like they are a part of the trees, like leaves except for the occasional burst of color brought about by one or two who fly off the group.
It also happened to be Monarch Day, which culminated with a small festival designed for kids to eat butterfly cake and create butterfly art. People milled around, old, young, families and couples. Grandpas, grandmas, baby strollers and dogs. All of whom huddled by a fence with their camera’s pointed at the ground.
A monarch couple was bright orange and fluttering around on the grass. Their behinds stuck together in the endless struggle of men and women alike.
A little boy asked me if they were fighting. “Not quite,” I replied.
“Oh, they are sexing,” he said in return.
“Something like that,” I said, struggling to hold in my laughter.
The boy was right, it did look like they were fighting as they flopped and flapped their wings on the grass. Apparently the male was trying to fly his mate back up to the cluster, now that their dance was done and the future of monarch babies was certain.
A woman then told her child not to stand next to the dog, which was my pit bull and also my cue to leave. So I left and continued my drive north to Avila Beach and Port San Luis, where I heard there was a dog beach.
There was also Harford Pier, used by fisherman, fish buyers, and walking tourists. Starfish, sea lions, pelicans, and plenty of seagulls hang out. The birds and sea lions follow fishing boats to the pier. Fisherman unload their oysters, crabs, halibut, and other fish into tubs of ice inside of waiting trucks.
It was different then your typical tourist pier covered in fishy restaurants, clam chowder proprietors, and junk trinket shops. There was one restaurant at the very end, but for the most part people fished off the pier without being bothered by the normal tourist crowd.
To the north of the pier is an open space, state park and not many houses. The beaches are tucked in between cliffs with no visible access.
To the south is the PG&E Diablo Canyon outage center and the road that divides work center and tourist beaches. RV-ers camp out on the pavement next to the beaches with chairs perched on top of the five- to 10-foot cliffs above the sand. Dogs run and bark below on one of two beaches that stretch out between the pier and the town of Avila Beach.
And that was where I was headed, in the round-about way it took me to get there.