El Capitan Beach State Park to the Goleta Pier

August 25: Santa Barbara County El Capitan Beach State Park to the Goleta Pier. 14.4 miles

This morning we met our leader, Rob Almy, after we had already begun walking along the bike path in our camp at west end of El Capitan Beach toward the east, where we would have an access point down the bluff to the beach. Rob is the Water Agency Manager for Santa Barbara County and a long-time Coastwalk supporter and day leader.

The walk through our camp was another reminder of how the concept of “camping” has changed since most of our walkers (median age of 62) started camping. Just like the new homes being built today, the paraphernalia now used by car campers seems all oversized. Great pavilions are erected wherein to place one’s folding deck chair. Tents are of a size comparable to some dance floors. And, please, let us not forget the gas-powered barbeques and lamps. Add to this enough children’s toys and bicycles to start up a branch of Toys R Us, and the picture becomes a little more complete. We are all becoming buried under an increasing amount of materialism.

So, we were ready for the beach, and it did not fail us. Walking under fog-filled skies and with a glassy, still sea beside us, we started out. The somewhat broad beach slowly pinched down to almost nothing, and for a short distance we walked on top an old concrete railroad seawall.

Then, back on the beach, we would have alternating sections of sand and then pinch points where a rock formation forced us either up and over or down and around. Down and around was the preferred direction, even though it often meant wading in the water. At one point we stopped for lunch, not because we were hungry, but because it would give the falling tide another half hour or so to decrease the water’s height.

It has been said that war is long periods of boredom punctuated by short interludes of sheer terror. This day for us was long periods of the serenity of beach walking interrupted by short periods of adventure and fun.

This was also a day for tar. The ocean’s surface was very smooth, and we could watch the tar slicks offshore. It seemed that for a short distance along the shore, every wave would bring in another load of bits of tar. Each wave would leave a scalloped line of black tar bits along the shore. One beach smelled like a freshly paved street. Those of us walking barefoot blackened the soles of our feet, but we knew that we could just stop at a hardware store on the way back to camp for “Goop” to remove the tar. Not so a cormorant we found. It had made the soon to be fatal error of also getting messed up with the tar. But there would be no remedy for it this day.

By mid-afternoon, the sun shown through a bit, and a light breeze developed. Nearing Coal Oil Point we met Kendy Radsaky of the Coal Oil Point Reserve. Kendy was monitoring a plethora of snowy plovers; some 200 or so were now in the reserve. When asked if walking across the wet sand as opposed to driving across the same wet sand would be a problem for the plovers, she responded with the professional equivalent of “give me a break”.

Soon after, we left the beach and climbed the bluff into Isla Vista. Here we walked across the Santa Barbara campus of the University of California, where we talked to some students doing good work in the “Native Grassland and Vernal Pool Restoration” area. The site, between newly built student housing and the ocean cliff, is mitigation for the housing. Then it was a short walk to our destination at the Goleta Pier. (Jon Breyfogle; photos by Linda Hanes)

Left, Climbing a seawall. Right, Steve enjoying the surf.