Charlie Gandy is section hiking the 1,200-mile California Coastline from Mexico to Oregon. Along the way he is sampling and telling stories about beaches and bluffs, food, culture, weather, personalities and poison oak.
When I saw the light come on in this new guy’s eyes, I saw a young explorer opening up to his amazing adventure ahead. I met him as he was headed north exploring the rocky and chaotic California coastline below the famously tall and intimidating, rocky bluffs of Palos Verdes Peninsula. High above waterline there may be rich swells in million dollar homes, but down here Mother Nature is raw and beautiful, the swells are dangerous, and therefore attractive to guys like us.
I didn’t get his name but he gave me some good info on my southward route. The next rocky outcropping creating a point about two miles ahead of me was too wet for him to maneuver but the tide was going out so I might find it passable. He had gone up the bluff, around the point, then back down another path to the coastline.
His question to me was how was I hiking ten miles from Redondo Beach to Rancho Palos Verdes, roughly half the Palos Verdes Coastline, solo and then getting back to my car. He said he was doing five-mile segments then getting out on the street and walking back to his truck.
Here’s my response that made the light to go on in the new guy’s eyes. I said I use the LA Metro bus system for lots of my “Just Outside LA Adventures” and this morning I caught the 232 bus from downtown Long Beach where I live, and rode it to Redondo Beach. It took about an hour and cost $1.75. I hiked south and am about to connect with the 344 bus at Rancho Palos Verdes which will take me over the peninsula and reconnect with the 232 bus back to Long Beach. Time about 70 minutes and cost $1.75.
His umbilical cord to his car had been cut. He heard as a solo explorer a smarter way to reach challenging, beautiful and interesting places. He desired to move through those places at a meditative pace and then keep walking forward, curious about what is next. The new guy was free of the burden of cutting his dream day short to go fetch his car parked five miles back down the road.
This is not about demonizing cars or drivers. It’s about smart use of tools around us to reach adventure. One of the secrets of urban living in California today is transit systems serve all but the true outback regions of our state. Virtually all counties, cities and towns run bus or train service. It may not be frequent, but it is cheap, reliable, safe and web accessible, making planning easy. And because transit is social, the exploration begins when you step out your door and into the shared social space.
I know it’s not for everybody. That is part of the explorer’s experience, developing skills, calculating risks and going where others fear to go.
As a carnomore in Los Angeles I have used LA Metro trains and buses to reach the coastline from Long Beach to Malibu and mountains ranges from Malibu to Mt Wilson. Beyond treacherous parts of Palos Verdes are wide, smooth, populated beaches along the beach cities north of Redondo, Santa Monica and Los Angeles – all with abundant transit service. The Metro 534 bus runs from the Expo Train Line through Santa Monica and beyond to Malibu. I call it my surf and turf ride because it takes me to several great snorkeling shores and challenging trailheads up into the Santa Monica Mountains.
Exploring the southern California coastline is best done as a point-to-point adventure. Heading north or south, (or because the coastline is often more west or east than north or south, it's acceptable to say up or down the coast), doesn’t really matter. The sun will be in your eyes heading down the coast and you will likely have a tail wind. Headed north your calves will get sunburned and often you will have a cool breeze in your face.
Consider how far and fast you would like to hike on the beach then match that with transit routes and schedules. It is very straightforward to start a hike anywhere along the sandy stretches of LA area beaches described above and calibrate where it get off and connect with a bus to return home.
Your tour will be affected by tides and information to plan your trip is found at www.saltwatertides.com. High tides make many parts of Palos Verdes impassible and dangerous. Low tides offer more coastline access, tidepools and awe inspiring rock formations to explore. Low tide on sandy beaches means easy walking at a receding waterline.