This was the motivation behind an impulse trip to Los Angeles this week. It was a chance to get together with a few online friends, which didn't really justify spending so many frequent flyer miles and hours of travelling for a day and a half. I've never even liked LA that much. But we've had a few trips this year that didn't pan out for one reason or another, so I wasn't passing up this opportunity. I was just going to have to find things I did like about LA.
I've always been a beach-lover, and the Pacific Coast is far more reminiscent of the British one than Virginia's shores. (Much of my growing up was done in Cornwall with its miles of clifftop paths.) Walking is my favourite form of tourism and exercise, but my less enthusiastic children usually limit me to three or four miles. Freed from any sort of consideration for others, I planned an itinerary based around the coast. For Thursday morning, I wanted to explore a bit of the Palos Verdes peninsula: stony beaches and sandy cliffs.
My vague plan was to get to the shipwreck, the SS Dominator, but as I was going at high tide, I knew I might not be able to reach it. I also knew that I didn't have suitable shoes—the internet was recommending sturdy hiking boots with ankle support, while I was packing sandals and thin-soled Vibrams. The shoes ended up being the problem rather than the tide. My pace was so slow that I didn't get anywhere near the shipwreck before I ran out of time. While I had planned a roughly seven mile round trip, I probably only covered about three miles after all.
|Mildly Unsuitable Footwear|
I started at Roessler Point with a detour: following the canyon trail down to pretty Malaga Cove where I watched paddle boarders gathering to make the most of a calm day.
|Paddleboarders from Malaga Cove|
|Malaga Creek reaches the beach|
At Flat Rock Point, there was an easy, gradual path down to the beach on the map. There was also an unmarked trail that appeared to lead straight down the point to the rocks themselves. Somebody had secured a rope at the top to assist travelers—I wasn't sure if I should find that reassuring or alarming. However, this looked far more fun than the well-traveled path, so down I went.
|What could possibly go wrong?|
The tide was too high to get to the rocks the point was named after (I don't know if it's even possible at low tide), so I changed from grossly to mildly unsuitable footwear and set out along the beach only to find myself stranded at a little headland. As calm as the sea was, I didn't feel comfortable wading across slippery and shifting rocks to get around it, so it seemed my choices were to wait for the tide to recede or to go back the way I came.
|No way out.|
The only thing to go wrong was a scraped leg, but there were a few points where I was reminded that I don't actually have the confidence for free-climbing and a few more where I was grateful that I do have small feet. I was also grateful to the guy at the top for passing no comment on this crazy woman who was scaling cliffs rather than coming down the nice, easy trail he had used.
|Looking back the way I came.|
I quickly realised that I did not have the pace to meet my goals. The stones would shift beneath my weight, so I was meandering lightly rather than striding with confidence (shoutout to the hardcore Californian who went blasting past me in flip-flops), and I had to watch my feet constantly. Periodically, I would remind myself to stop and actually look around at what I had come to see.
Nevertheless for two hours, I had the sound of surf in my ears, a stunning view whenever I wanted to look, and while I might not have found a shipwreck, there are always discoveries to be made along a beach.
|Not sure what this started out as, but the ocean does wonderful abstract art.|
|Thanks to whomever built this bench; it was a welcome rest stop.|
Somewhere ahead, I knew there was a cliff path that ran down a drainpipe, and I had hoped to at least make it that far, but as it drew late in the morning, I consulted Google maps and found a closer route back to the cliff to finish out my hike. I felt grateful to modern technology until I started up this alternative trail and realised that Google has a very generous definition of 'footpath'.
|Foot-path, all-fours-path... Eh. Close enough.|
More loose sand and gravel, more searching for handholds... this was a harder trail than the one at Flat Rock Point, and now I had no rope to help me. I made it up, but I would not recommend this as a trail to go down. I'm also sure no Everest climber was more relieved to reach the summit than I. (OK. I'm not at all sure of that. But I had very strong feelings for that stretch of scrubby but level ground at the top.)
I was at the side of Nowhere Road by this point, but modern technology really did come through. All hail online taxi services! In ten minutes, I had a ride back down to sea level and onward to my hotel.
|I've waited in worse places for a cab.|
The way it turned out, it was just as well I had done it alone: I didn't have to worry about my slow pace holding anybody up, I'm sure any travelling companion would have thwarted my first attempt to leave the trail, and were the kids with me, I wouldn't have risked those climbs. Yet for all I'm an introvert who likes her solitude, I'm not really a solo adventurer. I missed having somebody to share the experience with. (This is probably why I'm committing it to blog.)
I won't pass up a similar opportunity, even if I do have to fly solo, but the next few adventures will be with the family. I just need to remember to—every now and then—push for what I want over what they want.