The historic Lodge at Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Sign at entrance to Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Sign at entrance to Torrey Pines State Reserve.

I hope you enjoyed my last blog post, where I described a hike around the Guy Fleming Trail in Torrey Pines State Reserve. Now I’d like to take you up to see the Lodge.

We’re going to start at the entrance of Torrey Pines State Reserve, just off the Pacific Coast Highway. We’ll be climbing the steep Torrey Pines Park Road all the way to the historic Lodge.

Looking south along Torrey Pines State Beach.
Looking south along Torrey Pines State Beach.

As we begin our climb we bend away from the beach, but pause for a moment to observe the high sandstone cliffs to our south. This wonderful beach, which extends for many miles, will be the subject of a future blog post!

Heading up steep Torrey Pines Park Road.
Heading up steep Torrey Pines Park Road.
Entering a zone full of endangered Torrey pines.
Entering a zone full of endangered Torrey pines.
Torrey pines stand atop eroded sandstone cliffs.
Torrey pines stand atop eroded sandstone cliffs.

The Torrey pine is an endangered tree found only here and on Santa Rosa island. We’ll learn more about it shortly…

View of lagoon and ocean from High Point Overlook.
View of lagoon and ocean from High Point Overlook.

Near the top of the road we come to High Point Overlook, a short trail that heads up some steps for a 360 degree view. Here we’re looking north and seeing a bit of the Los Peñasquitos Lagoon.

Sign about philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps.
Sign about philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps.

This sign stands among some Torrey pines at the top of the overlook. It reads:

The philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps (1836-1932) holds a special and endearing place in the annals of Torrey Pines. Without Miss Scripps, this mesa might resemble what you see to the east: a tangle of roads, houses and businesses.

Although the City of San Diego had set aside some land to preserve the Torrey pines, the best and densest groves remained in the hands of developers who planned to subdivide and commercialize the area. Miss Scripps bought these lots in 1908, 1911, and 1912.

She hired naturalist Guy Fleming to care for and protect this wonderful place in 1921 and funded the construction of his house on the property.

The Torrey Pines Lodge, now used as a visitor center and ranger station, was built with her funds and donated to the people of San Diego. It opened as a restaurant in 1923.

Finally, she bequeathed the City of San Diego the groves of Torrey pines, asking that they “be held in perpetuity as a public park,” and requesting, “that care be taken to preserve the natural beauty of the area” in 1932.

Today’s visitors may thank Ellen Browning Scripps for having the foresight to protect this unique place in the California landscape.

Nearing Torrey Pines State Reserve's historic Lodge.
Nearing Torrey Pines State Reserve’s historic Lodge.

A little more walking takes us to our main destination, the Lodge. An old adobe built in 1922, it originally served as a restaurant! According to the official website, it had stumpy tables, chintz curtains, lampshades made of Torrey Pine needles, and a jukebox! Back in those days, Model T cars had difficulty going up the steep hill, because they didn’t have a fuel pump, and instead relied on a gravity system. When the steeply climbing cars conked out, drivers were told to continue up the hill in reverse!

Banner commemorates 150 years of California State Parks.
Banner commemorates 150 years of California State Parks.
Gap in Lodge's stucco shows original adobe bricks.
Gap in Lodge’s stucco shows original adobe bricks.

This is near the front door. The sign below reads:

When the Lodge was built in 1922-23, thousands of bricks were made on site using local sand and clay. The gap in the stucco coating above deliberately reveals the original adobe bricks.

Portion of large sign outside describing coastal flowers.
Portion of large sign outside describing coastal flowers.
Interior of Lodge is a museum and visitor center.
Interior of Lodge is a museum and visitor center.

I love the interior of the Lodge. There’s so much interesting stuff to see, and so much history and natural charm jammed into one place. The Lodge is open daily 9 AM to 6 PM during summer daylight saving time and 10 AM to 4 PM during winter standard time. Ranger guided hikes are available on weekends.

One of many exhibits in the visitor center.
One of many educational exhibits.
Mountain lion patiently watches visitors to the Lodge.
Mountain lion patiently watches visitors to the Lodge.
Plaque in Lodge credits Ellen Browning Scripps.
Plaque in Lodge credits Ellen Browning Scripps.
Old fireplace shows decades of use.
Old fireplace shows decades of use.

The plaque above the old fireplace reads:

Torrey Pines Lodge dedicated to Dr. John Torrey, for whom, in 1850, these unique trees were named Pinus torreyana by Dr. C. C. Parry.

Sign behind Lodge describes Torrey pines woodlands.
Sign behind Lodge describes Torrey pines woodlands.

Now we’ve headed back outside, around the back of the Lodge. Numerous Torrey pines are all around us, and benches are sprinkled here and there with sweeping views eastward toward developed Carmel Valley and Interstate 5.

This sign reads:

The Torrey Pine tree is one of the most rare pine trees in all of North America. The young trees that you see today may be the remnants of what was once an ancient coastal forest. This natural plant community is found only in nutrient-poor sandy soils, along the sandstone bluffs, canyons, and ravines, of Torrey Pines State Reserve and on Santa Rosa Island. In this harsh arid landscape, coastal fog is vital to the tree’s survival, acting as an air conditioner, shielding the needles from the hot sun and providing most of the moisture for the trees. The twisted and gnarled trees along the bluffs often lean inland, growing close to the ground, as a result of the ocean winds and pruning by salt crystals in the air.

School kids learn about local flora and fauna.
School kids learn about local flora and fauna.

A ranger was giving a bunch of school kids a talk about Torrey Pines State Reserve. They’ll remember this special place for the rest of their lives.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines State Reserve is a must see!
The Lodge at Torrey Pines State Reserve is a must see!

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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