East Beach to Punta Gorda (Oil Island)

August 27: Santa Barbara County East Beach to Punta Gorda (Oil Island). 15.0 miles

Last night the sun went down over land. We are indeed walking easterly now.

At Carpinteria State Beach, we stayed in the “Bike and Hike” section of the park, which meant that we were unable to drive our van and trailer near to our site. The result was that this morning we had to carry all our gear for the trailer back to where it was parked. We were well warmed up before we began the day’s hike.

We started at East Beach a little after 8 AM, and it was already hot. There was no cloud or fog cover to shelter us as we started. Because we had a rising high tide, we started on the Santa Barbara bike path and city streets to get around a tight spot immediately east of the beach. This done, we rejoined the ocean at Butterfly Beach and walked past the Biltmore Hotel there. We made our way along with fair success past Hammonds Beach and Miramar Beach but had a bit of trouble at Fernald Point.

Here we had two things going against us: a 4-foot + high tide and seawalls. We were able to get past the first sea wall by judging the incoming waves and running between them. When one came in, we scrambled a bit up the rough concrete face of the wall, held on, and then dropped back down to the sand for another bit of running. This wall ended in rip rap made from immense granite boulders, which were difficult to navigate. They were easier though than making a go of it in the water: those who tried got completely soaked. This rip rap ended with a second sea wall, which we were able to walk on the top of all the way to the beach at Lookout County Park.

By now the fog had enveloped us, and we were not sure exactly where we were. That made for the following dialogue with some beach walkers we met:

Coastwalk: “What is the name of this beach?”

Beach walker:”Irving.”

For a moment we thought we were in the Catskills. The beach walkers said the beach was also called Summerland beach, and was one of 10 best beaches for its pristine quality. (We didn’t find out by whom it was judged, but agreed that it was pristine, at least partly because there was such little access to it. Linda)

We beach walked around Loon Point with ease until we hit the Serena area where rip rap again slowed us down and got us wet, if we tried walking its base. This rip rap was in front of some houses built out over it, so we were walking under decks in a couple of places. It’s a little like cliff climbing; finding the hand and foot holds that will get one from boulder to boulder. Just before we left the beach at Sandyland, we had lunch, and then started down the railroad tracks to about midway along the Carpinteria Marsh. Here we met up with Burt Elliott, Coastwalk’s coordinator for Ventura County and our guide for the same.

Burt took us first along Carpenteria’s streets and back to our camping spot the night before. Then we hit the beach. Here there are great oozings of tar on the beach and out of the bluffs at the back of the beach. Called asphaltum, this material was used by the Chumash to make their boats waterproof and was later mined by the early settlers. Men wielding heated shovels would extract this material from its natural beds. Near a company pier’s southerly end, tar, the consistency of very thick molasses, was running down the bluff.

By this time we had a low tide working in our favor and we beach-walked to Rincon Point and the Ventura County Line. We rose here to the highway to facilitate moving our support vehicles and did a short bit of unpleasant walking on the bike lane of Highway 1 until we could scamper down the rip rap that protects the highway to the beach, which took us to Punta Gorda and our day’s end. (Jon Breyfogle; photos by Linda Hanes.)

Left: Walkers scramble over rip rap.  Right: Tar seep on Carpinteria Beach.