Cool urban art on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach.

Cool art on a music store window on Garnet Avenue.
Cool art on a music store window on Garnet Avenue.

Yesterday I went for a very long walk through Pacific Beach and Mission Beach, two extremely popular beach destinations just a few miles north of downtown San Diego.

I began by walking west along Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach, from around Ingraham Street all the way to the beautiful and historic Crystal Pier. This stretch contains more bars, tattoo parlors, smoke shops and swimwear stores than just about anywhere else in Southern California. It’s a young, hip, beachy sort of place, that’s mostly laid back and unpretentious. You’ll see bikinis and skateboarders and tourists and families and surfboards atop cars and under arms just about everywhere you go.

You’ll also see a lot of very cool urban art: on walls, on windows, on rooftops, in alleys…all over the place! Here are some random pics I took as I walked westward in the sunshine…

Aloha Spirit mural on side of Pacific Beach building.
Aloha Spirit mural on side of Pacific Beach building.
Surfers are a major theme in this popular beach city.
Surfers and the ocean are major themes in this popular beach community.
Mural shows lifeguard climbing a tower among palms.
Mural shows lifeguard climbing a tower among palms.
Street art between two buildings on Garnet Avenue.
Funky street art between two buildings on Garnet Avenue.
Pacific Beach public art features a large seagull.
Pacific Beach public art features a large seagull.
Street art in an alley behind a tattoo parlor.
Street art in an alley behind a tattoo parlor.
Hubcaps and tiles add flavor to a colorful local eatery.
Hubcaps and tiles add flavor to a colorful local eatery.
Another tattoo parlor embellished with urban art.
Another tattoo parlor embellished with bold swirls of urban art.
Photo mural on one wall shows old Crystal Pier and Garnet Avenue.
Photo mural on a wall shows old Crystal Pier at west end of Garnet Avenue.
Sunny Pacific Beach has a sunny utility box.
Sunny Pacific Beach has a sunny utility box.
Images of surfers and beach scenes are everywhere.
Images of surfers and beach scenes are everywhere.

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Hiking Torrey Pines State Reserve’s Beach Trail.

Hiking to the beach from trailhead in Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Hiking to the beach from a trailhead in Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Today is National Trails Day, so it seems the perfect time to blog about one hike I took recently at Torrey Pines State Reserve! The hike was down the Beach Trail, which is one of the most popular hikes in this beautiful place. The coming photos demonstrate why!

The 3/4 mile downhill Beach Trail begins at the edge of a small parking lot near the Torrey Pines State Reserve’s historic lodge, which serves as the visitor center. On this spring day, many small flowers were blooming along the trail, and lots of hikers were enjoying the sunshine as well. Should you ever go hiking here, make sure you wear good shoes because it can be a bit steep in places and the sand often makes slippery footing.

Hikers take beautiful trail through coastal chaparral.
Hikers take beautiful trail through coastal chaparral.
People enjoy vistas from atop sandstone formation.
People enjoy vistas from atop sandstone formation.
Endangered Torrey pine seen beyond fork in the trail.
Endangered Torrey pine can be seen beyond fork in the trail.

You can observe many more examples of the endangered Torrey pine tree in the north part of the reserve. See my post about the Guy Fleming Trail!

The blue Pacific Ocean comes into view!
The blue Pacific Ocean comes into view!
Typical scenery along trails of Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Typical rugged scenery along trails of Torrey Pines State Reserve.
The Beach Trail is often covered in fine sand.
The Beach Trail is often covered in fine sand.
Now we're getting really close to our destination!
Now we’re getting really close to our destination!

It gets much steeper as one approaches the ocean. You can see La Jolla way off in the hazy distance.

Erosion of layered sandstone creates unusual, fluid forms.
Erosion of layered sandstone creates unusual, fluid forms.
Flat Rock can be seen on Torrey Pines State Beach.
Flat Rock can be seen below on Torrey Pines State Beach.
Steps head steeply down from cliffs.
Steps head steeply down from cliffs.
Hikers arrive at the beach!
Hikers arrive at the beach!

The transition from the reserve to the beach seems very sudden as you hike down from the cliffs. Suddenly you hear the surf and see many sea birds. It’s an amazing experience!

Down on the sand.
Down on the sand.
People walk north along Torrey Pines State Beach.
People walk north along Torrey Pines State Beach.

A walk north along the beach about a mile or so brings one back to the main Torrey Pines State Reserve parking lot by the Pacific Coast Highway. If you’d like to enjoy a relatively easy nature hike, I’d highly recommend this one! (Going uphill is more difficult!)

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Quiet spring day at Silver Strand State Beach.

Park ranger removing weeds near beach entrance.
Park ranger removing weeds near State Beach entrance.

The Silver Strand is a narrow strip of land that connects Coronado southward to Imperial Beach. The northern portion is used as a training ground for Navy Seals. Other areas contain housing, marinas and a hotel. Much of it remains in a natural state.

Halfway down the strand, sandwiched between San Diego Bay and the blue Pacific Ocean, you’ll find Silver Strand State Beach, a beautiful state park featuring a great beach, RV parking, a large picnic area, and a boating facility. Apart from the RV area, which is very popular, the place often seems half-deserted. Even during summer weekdays.

I rode my bike through the park on a perfectly sunny spring weekday and I saw half a dozen people.

Closed lifeguard lookout on Silver Strand State Beach.
Closed lifeguard lookout on Silver Strand State Beach.
Except for RVs to the north, beach is almost empty.
Except for RVs to the north, the beach is almost empty.
Kelp on natural beaches is the home of tiny wildlife.
Kelp on natural beaches is the home of tiny wildlife.
Silver Strand Grill is closed and nobody is about.
Silver Strand Grill is closed and nobody is about.
From one empty side of the strand to the other.
From one empty side of the strand to the other.

Here I’m passing through a tunnel under the highway from the Pacific side to the bay side.

Dozens of unused picnic tables on a sunny Spring weekday.
Dozens of unused picnic tables on a sunny Spring weekday.

There are scores of picnic benches on the bay side and very few ever seem to be used.

One small figure sits at end of picnic table row.
One small figure sits at end of picnic table row.
Colorful kayaks at Crown Cove Aquatic Center.
Colorful kayaks at Crown Cove Aquatic Center.

The boating center gets a little more activity on weekends. I’ve seen folks out rowing along the water.

Lots of unused boats on the bay side of Silver Strand.
Lots of unused boats on the bay side of Silver Strand.
San Diego Bay beyond a group of beached sailboats.
San Diego Bay beyond a group of beached sailboats.
Trail leads from Silver Strand bikeway across natural habitat.
Trail leads from Silver Strand bikeway across natural habitat.

You’ll find this natural area in the north part of Silver Strand State Beach, on the east side of the highway.

The wood plank nature trail is in disrepair.
The wood plank nature trail is in disrepair.

The endangered Least Tern nests in clear, sandy areas along the Silver Strand. I wasn’t able to spot any during this visit.

Information sign rusted and unreadable.
Information sign rusted and unreadable.
A rabbit among brittle coastal plants.
A rabbit among brittle coastal plants.

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Torrey Pines State Reserve’s Guy Fleming Trail.

Guy Fleming Trail sign on Torrey Pines Park Road.
Guy Fleming Trail sign on Torrey Pines Park Road.

My very, very, very favorite place in all of San Diego County is Torrey Pines State Reserve. It’s located along the Pacific Ocean in northern La Jolla, between the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course and Del Mar. I took a trip there this morning! I got so many pics, I’ll break my visit up into several blog posts!

Let me start by taking you around the Guy Fleming Trail loop.

There are many hiking trails to explore in Torrey Pines State Reserve. Reaching this particular trailhead requires a short hike or drive from the entrance gate up steep Torrey Pines Park Road. As you head on up, you see numerous pine trees growing atop and clinging to eroded sandstone cliffs. These are the endangered Torrey pines (Pinus torreyana). They can only be found here and on the small island of Santa Rosa, off the coast of Santa Barbara. A good concentration of them can be seen on the Guy Fleming Trail.

Diversity amid adversity on the Guy Fleming Trail.
Diversity amid adversity on the Guy Fleming Trail.

Here we’ve stepped onto the looping 2/3 mile easy level trail. We’re going to proceed counterclockwise. Look at the sign. It reads: The Guy Fleming Trail features a variety of habitats and rare plants. Where else in the world can you find cacti and ferns growing side-by-side under the canopy of a Torrey Pine tree? As you walk along this trail, consider the variety of biomes that you see and factors that create them. Not only must plants adapt to southern California’s climate of hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters, but also variables of solar exposure, salt-laden winds, and erosion.

Trail passes under many endangered Torrey pines.
Trail passes under many endangered Torrey pines.
Twisted branches of Torrey pines in the State Reserve.
Wind-twisted branches of Torrey pines in the State Reserve.
Walkers pause to enjoy a breathtaking ocean view.
Walkers pause to enjoy a breathtaking ocean view.

Here we are emerging above the wide Pacific Ocean. These ladies are gazing off into the blue distance. As I came up to them today, they asked excitedly: “Did you see the whale?” A gray whale migrating back northward to the Bering Sea was lingering just beyond the breakers, touching the surface and spouting every few minutes! This whale seemed to be heading north from Mexico a bit late. It’s almost May!

Looking north near a scenic overlook on the Guy Fleming Trail.
Looking north near a scenic overlook on the Guy Fleming Trail.

This is one reason why Torrey Pines State Reserve is one of my all-time favorite places. Incredible views!  You can see a portion of Los Peñasquitos Marsh Natural Preserve and Lagoon.

Torrey Pines State Reserve entrance gate far below.
Torrey Pines State Reserve entrance gate far below.
Mojave yucca grow beside amazing trail at edge of steep cliff.
Mojave yucca grow beside amazing trail at edge of steep cliff.

Now we’re heading south along the edge of the cliff. Torrey Pines State Beach is far below. When it’s possible to spy beach-goers, they’re very tiny!

Yellow sea dahlias high above foaming breakers.
Yellow sea dahlias high above foaming breakers.

You can’t hear the crashing waves, but the mighty expanse of
ocean seen from above makes a lasting impression!

Pink sand verbenas add bright color to a beautiful walk.
Pink sand verbenas add bright color to a beautiful walk.

It’s springtime and many native flowers are in bloom. These dry, brittle hillsides are covered with coastal sagebrush and chaparral and during the dry summer can appear quite brown and desolate.

Trail heading down toward another scenic overlook.
Trail heading down toward another scenic overlook.
Looking south over a sculpted sandstone canyon.
Looking south over a sculpted sandstone canyon.

Another fantastic view. Many beautifully eroded sandstone canyons run through the State Reserve.  You’ll see more in upcoming blog posts.

A glance back toward the ocean and a lone walker.
A glance back toward the ocean and a lone walker.

We’ve nearly come full circle. The sunshine and warm ocean breeze, the views, majestic Torrey pines, cacti and flowers…you really need to walk the Guy Fleming Trail to fully experience its magnificence!

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Some cool pics of the Imperial Beach pier.

Abstract surfboards welcome people to Imperial Beach pier.
Abstract surfboards welcome people to Imperial Beach pier. This public art is titled Surfhenge, by local artist Malcolm Jones.

Imperial Beach lies south of downtown San Diego, at the extreme southwest corner of the continental United States. The Imperial Beach pier is just a few miles from Mexico. This beach community is a perfect example of laid-back southern California, mostly just locals kicking back, a smattering of tourists, and a good vibe all around. The days are sunny and people are friendly.

Come stroll with me toward the pier and let’s see what’s going on!

Colorful surfboard arches frame a pier visitor.
Colorful acrylic surfboard arches frame a pier visitor. Surfhenge was dedicated in 1999.
Lifeguard tower behind palm trees and flags.
Lifeguard tower behind palm trees and flags.
Benches near the pier are made of surfboards!
Benches near the pier are made of many different style surfboards, representing different eras of the sport.
Imperial Beach pier beckons from the sand.
Imperial Beach pier beckons from the sand.
A few people on the beach on a spring weekday morning.
A few people on the beach on a spring weekday morning.
Looking down the length of the Imperial Beach pier.
Looking down the length of the Imperial Beach pier.
Fisherman cuts bait at one of the public sinks.
Fisherman cuts bait at one of the public sinks.
Gazing down at the blue Pacific on a nice day.
Gazing down at the blue Pacific on a nice day.
Approaching the Tin Fish restaurant at the end of the pier.
Approaching the Tin Fish restaurant at the end of the pier.
Window of Tin Fish restaurant at end of Imperial Beach pier.
Window of Tin Fish restaurant at end of Imperial Beach pier.
Pier pilings rise from an emerald ocean.
Pier pilings rise from an emerald ocean.

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Surfers ride waves near Imperial Beach pier.

Surfer rides a wave just below the Imperial Beach pier.
Surfer rides a wave just below the Imperial Beach pier.

Wow! Check out this first cool pic! Did that come out great, or what?

I’m in the middle of my week off from work, and today I went to Coronado again and biked down the Silver Strand to Imperial Beach. I’ve got more photos than you can shake a stick at!

What a beautiful day. I stood on the pier at a spot between the beach and breaking waves and tried to photograph a group of surfers below. Most of action was too far away for my little camera, but a few pics seem worth sharing…

Surfers wait for the perfect wave near Imperial Beach pier.
Surfers wait for the perfect wave near Imperial Beach pier.
Surfer gets ready to go for a ride.
Surfer gets ready to go for a ride.
Surfer riding a nice wave on a sunny day.
Surfer riding a nice wave on a sunny day.
Guy on surfboard just coasting along the foamy ocean surface.
Guy on surfboard just coasting along the foamy ocean surface.
No fishing in the surf zone on Imperial Beach pier.
No fishing in the surf zone on Imperial Beach pier.

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Happy Easter sandcastle on Coronado Beach.

Sandcastle on Coronado Beach wishes a Happy Easter.
Sandcastle on Coronado Beach wishes a Happy Easter.

I went for a great walk around Coronado today. Lots of pictures are coming!

Seeing how today is Easter, I thought I’d post this pic of a Happy Easter 2014 sandcastle.  Lots of people were enjoying the sunny beach and streaming all around the picturesque Hotel del Coronado!

Boy plays on beach near the Hotel del Coronado.
Boy plays on beach near the Hotel del Coronado.

In the second photo, that’s Point Loma you see in the distance.

View of the Hotel del Coronado from across the beach.
View of Hotel del Coronado from across the beautiful beach.