TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Monday, July 31, 2017

The Pillars Beneath the 5

The main highway in my parts is Interstate 5. I take to get pretty much everywhere. I drive the 5 to work. I take it north and it gets me to LA. I take it south and it gets me to San Diego. And as I have been doing since I was little girl, I daze out the car windows imaging all the places I could discover off of the 5 every time I travel it. I don’t know how may times, dozens, hundreds, I’ve noticed this particular dirt road at the edge of San Clemente just before Camp Pendleton, the marine base. It’s a long, wide road that travels beneath the 5, and heads off to the coast. I’ve made note of that road countless times, but in the 29 years I’ve lived here, I guess it kept slipping my mind.

As luck would have it, this past Saturday (7/29), I finally took the drive to the edge of San Clemente to take a look at that road. It was late afternoon, so I decided to just make a leisurely time of it. I did put on a pack, but that was merely because I didn’t know what to expect. I really just wanted to get out and clear my mind, not to mention move a little. 

I parked my truck on Christianitos Road, not far from the campgrounds. Being that I really wanted a beach destination, I hopped the crash guard and headed to the coast, as opposed to myriad of trails headed inland. Those inland trails will have to wait for another day, a non-summer day, as trees are sparse inland, which means very little shade. And as many who know me knows, I cannot take heat anymore.

The road began as a dirt path, and as it neared Interstate 5, grew shady from lush growth near a seasonal creek. There were plenty other travelers taking this road, most carrying surfboards, some wheeling wagons of day-at-the-beach stuff up from the shore.

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IMG_0687I continued on the dirt path beneath the 5, where the grand pillars that held it up were covered with graffiti.  Four or five marines drinking Dox Equis beer came up as I studied the art beneath the 5. I knew they probably had to be marines because one of them called me Mam when he greeted me.

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Beneath the 8 or so lanes of Interstate 5, the road turned to pavement. It went off to the left, and to the right (where a number of surfers were trotting down, surfboards in hand). I took the road straight, at the welcome to San Onofre Beach sign. From there, it was a slight decline to raised train tracks. I think the mileage totaled about 1.5 to the tracks. Just past that, the shore.

I found a spot in the sand to sit and watch the waves. Then I shuffled through the graveled sand for beach glass. I found a small handful of green, white and clear. The lifeguard stands stood empty, but the beach was far from empty. Though not crowded, this is obviously a surfing beach, with surfers everywhere – in the waves, on the sand, and even on their bikes tugging along their boards. Occasionally, a train roared by. And I noticed that beach goers drank beer freely, as opposed to the beaches near my home where you’ll get ticketed for drinking alcohol.

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There’s an unusual amount of driftwood strewn about at San Onofre. Something I never see at my beaches. And even more interesting are the structures built out of this wood up and down the beach. They are literally everywhere – tepees and huts. The ones being used were covered with towels and such, but many were vacant, ready to be photographed.

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So, after meandering about, hunting for beach glass and admiring all the makeshift huts, I decided to make my way across the tracks. From there I found a little dirt path that lead up to a paved road. This was the same paved road that veered off to the left on my way out beneath the 5.

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About a half mile later, I came to my turnoff, but before heading back, I stepped up on the bridge and peered down at the creek. It was my kind of world down there beneath the giant pillars of the 5, so dark, lush and green. One day, I told myself, I’d come back to explore. And then while looking over, I caught a glimpse of bright colors through the leaves. And that’s when I noticed some heavy-duty graffiti art deep in the growth.

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I knew there had to be a way down. A chain link fence ran along the road to deter people from getting to just where I wanted. But you can’t fence in everything, there’s always a way in. Determined, I headed back to my truck, on the search for a trail that lead deep beneath the 5. It didn’t take to long to find it. The trail was overgrown, and littered with spray paint cans. When I finally located the walls, I found that the graffiti went on and on and on, pillar after pillar. I could have spent all day down there. But I got so deep into the brush, I spooked myself, fearful that I might come upon some guys looking for mischief, and then where was I to go? So, I headed back up, losing the trail here and there. I used the graffiti as a road map, making it back to the road safe and sound.

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3.7 mile lollipop loop:san onofre

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