Doheny State Beach to San Clemente State Park

September 13, Orange County Doheny State Beach to San Clemente State Park. 8.7 miles

We began at a bluff top gazebo overlooking the Dana Point Harbor. A short walk through city streets took us to a bronze statue of a 19th century sailor – too muscular to be Richard Henry Dana, author of “Two Years Before The Mast” by his own self description — in the act of throwing a cow hide off the bluff top to his waiting comrades below. Thus, cowhides from California began their journey to the shoe factories of Massachusetts.
In the 1830’s “below” did not include the harbor and would have been a narrow rocky beach at the base of the vertical cliff, a beach exposed to the south and to the storms that came predominately from that direction. We do not look down on such a scene today. We now overlook the harbor and thousands of pleasure craft safe behind rock breakwaters.
This artificial calming of the waters has also changed the cliff face. Erosion material at the cliff base does not wash away with the storms but builds up upon the artificial fill softening the effect of the vertical. The cliffs now appear more benign than they would have in Dana’s day. We descended to the harbor through Heritage Park and then back tracked to the Orange County Marine Institute and the “Pilgrim”, a replica of the ship that brought Dana to the California coast.
We then turned and continued our quest for Mexico, first regaining our campsite at Doheny, now pulsing with the amplified bass of a reggae and world music festival. For the next several miles, it was beach walking for us across Capistrano Beach Park and Poche Beach.
Our starting time for the day was delayed until 1pm so that we could navigate the next section of the walk. A trailer park here has dumped riprap onto the beach making it difficult to pass dry shod except at low tide.
At the end of the trailer park near the Amtrak Station Stephanie Dorey, Mayor of San Clemente, greeted us along with twenty or so city officials, environmental activists and friends. Together we walked past the city pier along the beach and on the ad hoc trail paralleling the railroad tracks. Plans are currently underway to upgrade this trail route, making it safer as well as more useful and aesthetically pleasing. We stopped our southerly progress long enough for a nice reception at the mayor’s house, which overlooks the beach area then continued on to our destination at San Clemente State Park. (Jon Breyfogle; photos by Linda Hanes)

Left: Passage to beach under the tracks at San Clemente
Right: Passage in front of riprap at low tide only, Capistrano.