We decided to hit the beach while in San Diego and Trail (Anne) picked out a spot that happened to be at Cabrillo National Monument just outside the city. The beaches here are tend to the rocky cliff sort so this was an “explore the tidal pools” kind of beach rather than sun and sand. Personally, unless there is warm ocean swimming to be had I prefer the tidal pool sort. I’ve fond memories of exploring the tidal pools in the San Juan Islands when I was a kid at summer camp.
Unfortunately the schedule for the tides and my proclivity to not wake up especially early meant our arrival was nearer high tide than low, and by the time there would be serious tidal pool action we’d be picking around the rocky beach in total darkness. Undaunted we decided to go ahead and make the trip once we’d had a nice breakfast and simply see what there was to be seen, tides be damned.
The park is at the end of a peninsula and up on a hill with cliffs all around ending in rocky beaches below. Atop the hill there are a number of mini museums, a gift shop, viewing platforms and the parking lot. Even though we came for the beach, when we saw all this we decided to look around up top first. One good rule of thumb when traveling is if you see something that sparks your curiosity, investigate further. You will typically be rewarded and this was no exception.
We started up at the old lighthouse. It is not especially tall or impressive but they have done a great job of making it very educational. The original house is done up like a real residence of the time period complete with numerous small details while nearby is a smallish shed with many informational displays about how lighthouses of the time period worked as well as modern ones. It detailed the daily life, duties and tools of light house keepers and their families, something that was entirely new to me and rather fascinating. Included was a lengthy and humorous poem about the bane and mainstay of the keepers life, polishing brass.
Outside the lighthouse was a whale watching platform where Trail (Anne) was lucky enough to see a grey whale briefly breach the surface whilst I was busy reading the informational display. From there we headed down to the visitors center where there was a small room dedicated to the Spanish who were the first westerners to arrive at the location and the native people of the area who occupied it long before. A small theater showing films about the history and wildlife of the area was next door though we decided to explore rather than watch. I’ve found that generally whatever films are on offer, there is something better on Netflix or elsewhere online we can follow up on later. The observation deck here has a great view of the San-Diego harbor and the large naval base there. We saw some modern war ships and a number of helicopters on exercise.
The park was once a gun emplacement and another small building housed artifacts and photos of how it was fortified and expanded during WWII to defend against a possible Japanese naval attack. There was even a picture of the Yamato, the Japanese super battleship that is the namesake of our Airstream trailer. To guard against this kind of threat they installed a massive 16 inch gun there, though war technology at the end of the war rendered it obsolete and it was decommissioned after only 4 years in service.
Finally, exhibits exhausted, we headed down to the beach. While the tide was indeed too high for any real beach combing we did walk the beach cliff trail which winds from the upper most beach parking lot to the lower one and were treated with some interesting sights. The cliffs here are eroding dramatically and the trail includes many “extreme danger” signs warning you not to stray towards the cliff edges. In some places it was clear the trail itself will need to be moved soon or closed as extreme danger is encroaching on the path itself. The sea was boisterous and frequented by gulls, pelicans, and cormorants as the waves crashed against the rocks below. I found the pelicans especially fun to watch as they fly at length just inches from the rolling waves. Before long a squall from off shore started and we decided to pack it up for the day.
All in all a nice little adventure with many unexpected pleasures and discoveries.