Southern California Historical Hikes and Bike Rides

11.10.11


Active Duty

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and instead of tossing a history lesson at you we suggest heading outside to learn firsthand about Southern California's storied military past. No pop quizzes!


White Point bunker

Bunker Down

When 1-ton shells were test-fired from White Point during World War II, the shock shattered windows in San Pedro 2 miles away. Today, this double-battery bunker on the Palos Verdes Peninsula (used as a coastal defense site from 1942 to 1978), is a whole lot safer—and quieter!—thanks to its re-incarnation as a 102-acre nature preserve. Hike right up to the famed bunker via an easy 1.3-mile loop that's half paved, half dirt. One look at White Point's 17-foot-thick steel-reinforced concrete ceilings reveals why it has withstood the test of time. The inside has been sealed shut, but visitors can still walk through the batteries that at one time possessed the massive naval guns that fired the 16-inch-diameter, 1-ton shells. Heading down the dirt singletrack enjoy the strategic vantage; panoramic ocean views include the Port of Los Angeles and Catalina Island. White Point's duties didn't end with WWII. The grounds served as a Nike missile site, part of a ring of bases (including San Vicente Mountain) that protected Los Angeles against the threat of a Soviet air attack. But the most recent development here is much more peaceful: a botanical garden made up of natural brush and plots of flora indigenous to California. Most of the flowers aren't currently in their prime, but one perennial favorite is still in bloom: California poppies are burning bright.

Take the 110 freeway to its southern end, 8 miles south of the 405/110 interchange. Turn left on Gaffey St., and make the third right on First St. After 1 mile, turn left on Western Ave. (Route 213) and drive 2.3 miles south until it hits the coast and becomes Paseo Del Mar. Curve to the left and drive 1/3 of a mile to the closure in the road and turn left into the parking area for White Point Nature Preserve. Head northwest on a gravel park road, which becomes paved and curves inland, arriving at the first bunker after half a mile. Continue up the road to the second bunker and turn right on a dusty singletrack traveling down a draw in the bluff to return to the parking area through the botanical gardens. Dog friendly!

Camp Pendleton Bicycle

Pendleton Pedal

Camp Pendleton's sprawling 125,000 acres is best known as the primary west coast training base for the U.S. Marines, but there's still a way for civilians to enter the base and see the sights. Hop on your road bike for a 20-mile (round-trip) ride along a paved path that cuts right through the camp. Start at Cristianitos Road at the south end of San Clemente just off the 5 freeway. With the sea breeze washing over you, pedal past Trestles Beach, through San Onofre State Park, and up to Camp Pendleton's metal gate where you'll take the bicycle entrance to the left. Inside the grounds, cruise along the bluffside trail paralleling the Pacific on one side and I-5 on the other. Seasonal creeks carve the rugged shoreline, leaving tiny canyons in the sand. For a closer look at the base, steer beneath an underpass to the inland side of the freeway. As hawks and helicopters patrol overhead, bikers might even spot marines and their Humvees practicing maneuvers along the sagebrush ridges of San Onofre Mountain and Horno Hill. Don't panic if there's a sudden loud rumbling; Amtrak's Surfliner also bolts alongside this part of the path. Pay attention through the final section as it doubles as a military runway and can close without notice. The trail ends just beyond the runway at Las Pulgas Road. Return the way you came. Ooh-rah!

Take the 5 freeway toward San Clemente and exit at Cristianitos Rd. Drive inland to the permitted street parking at the intersection with El Camino Real. The well-marked bike path begins at Cristianitos Rd. alongside the southbound onramp to the 5. Bike over San Mateo Creek and down a road that passes the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station to reach San Onofre State Beach. Proceed 3.25 miles across the beach park through a line of parking lots and campsites. Enter Camp Pendleton, 7 miles from the start, and pedal along the coast to the freeway underpass. On the other side, the path turns to the right, crossing the part-time runway before coming to an end at Las Pulgas Rd. Turn around here and bike the same 10 miles back to the start. Las Pulgas Rd. can serve as an alternate starting point for cyclists coming north from San Diego. A helmet is required when biking through the base.

Port Hueneme Beach Park

Naval Gazing

Just a short distance from the Point Mugu Naval Base, Oxnard's Port Hueneme Beach Park is a place to kick back and exercise a little leisure. Long stretches of sand are great for beachcombing, and BBQ grills offer convenience for cooking up fresh fish caught right from the pier. Take a 1-mile waterfront walk to the historic Point Hueneme Lighthouse. Seals bark in the background while hordes of hermit crabs scurry over the wave-battered boulders below the concrete walk. Or head a few minutes in the opposite direction to a creek-fed lagoon housing an awesome population of sandpipers and snowy plovers. In spring, ankle-high water flows between the creek and the sea, but in the fall an isthmus of sand allows you to keep your feet dry while marching down the beach to the edge of the naval base. On your way, see if you can spot something white on the northern end of the Santa Monica Mountains—it's a cluster of radar towers that serve the naval base. Reverse course when you hit the fence at the edge of the base. Way to storm the beach!

TIP: Don't want to catch your own meal? Grab fish & chips and a pier-side seat at Andy's Seafood & Fresh Fish.

From the 101 freeway, exit at Rose Ave. in Oxnard. Turn south on Rose Ave. and make the first right on Gonzalez Rd. Drive 2 miles to Ventura Rd., turn left, and drive 5.2 miles to the end of the road. Turn right and pull into the parking area for Port Hueneme State Beach. Parking in the lot is $2 per hour. To reach the lighthouse, walk 1 mile northwest up the concrete waterfront walkway. In the other direction, walk 2/3 of a mile past the pier to reach the creek at the end of the trail. Proceed a mile and a half through the sand to reach the edge of the base. Dog-friendly on the paved trail but not on the beach.

Climb Against the Odds

We've all heard that life is about the journey, not the destination. But sometimes the journey and the destination work beautifully together to help you reach new heights. Climb Against the Odds is your chance to climb one of the tallest mountains in the United States: Northern California's Mount Shasta (14,179 feet). The Breast Cancer Fund's annual mountaineering expedition is designed for women and men of all abilities and supports the organization's groundbreaking initiatives to eliminate the environmental causes of breast cancer. The 2012 Climb Against the Odds expedition starts with a 6-month journey to learn the nuances of mountain climbing with the support of your team and an expert training leader. The 3-day climb is an adventure of a lifetime. Starting from the trailhead at 7,000 feet, you and 39 new best friends will travel with professional guides, climbing above the tree line to base camp (9,400 feet), a spectacular moonscape setting. Refill your bottle with water from a glacier that's actually expanding (!), and enjoy meals prepared by your guides. Get an early start on summit day to reach the 14,179-foot peak or your own personal summit. Take a moment to fly a prayer flag in honor or memory of loved ones touched by breast cancer. Conditions permitting, you'll have the unique opportunity to glissade down the mountain back to base camp. Cap things off with a pancake breakfast followed by a rousing welcome from friends, family, Breast Cancer Fund staff, and the Mount Shasta community. Ready to take the first step? Join Climb Against the Odds now to begin your journey!

Climb Against the Odds is June 17–23, 2012.

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