Tuesday, January 02, 2024

New Year's Day Hike at Black's Beach (La Jolla Trail, Saigon Trail and Sand Trap Canyon)

On New Year's Day, we drove down to Black's Beach to hike the La Jolla Trail. We parked at the Torrey Pines Gliderport where the sky was full of paragliders riding the updrafts along the coastal bluffs.

We have been to Black's many times but we have never walked the La Jolla Trail that runs along the top of the bluff south of the the gliderport. There was a big swell that weekend so surfers were enjoying the big waves below.

Near the end of the trail, we approached the spot of the bluff collapse one year ago in January 2023 during a similar big ocean swell. Even though I am not afraid of heights, I was pretty nervous walking along the shear edge of the unstable bluff that I had watched collapse on the dramatic video posted to social media. Below, we could see the former peak now halfway down the slope.

At the end of the La Jolla Trail, we crawled down a steep path to meet up with the Saigon Trail. We had hiked up this sandstone canyon before but this was our first time descending which I found more challenging, even with better footwear. It was less crowded so we didn't have to wait as long to scramble through the narrow slot canyon.

Heading north along Black's Beach, we now had to walk around the collapsed cliff and boulder field that has now split the long single stretch of beach in two. Below, I have posted before and after pictures of the bluff so you can see the difference between now and January 2021.

Instead of walking back up the regular access trail, we continued north to Sand Trap Canyon along the edge of the Torrey Pines Golf Course. It was our first time climbing this steep switchback trail. This canyon was the turnaround point for the most of the paragliders and we had several fly right past us, skimming the edge of the cliff. The wind started to die down as we walked back to my truck and we saw several paragliders having to land on the beach as they lost too much altitude to land back at the gliderport.

Earlier on New Year's Day weekend, we went to Viewpoint Brewing Co. for dinner.  The brewery's back patio overlooks the Del Mar Racetrack and the San Dieguito River Park. After the earlier rain, we saw a rainbow shining over the lagoon among the beautiful clouds. We each ordered a beer flight to try a wide selection of their brews. Their Chicken Pot Pie was the best I have ever eaten. So delicious!

After our meal, we crossed over the bridge to visit the restored wetlands of the San Dieguito River Park on the Boardwalk Trail. The raised path out into the lagoon is a small spur off of the Coast to Crest Trail that skirts the northern edge of the entire lagoon and will eventually follow the entire length of the San Dieguito River to its source on Volcan Mountain in Julian.

We also visited the Old Grand Avenue Bridge on the south side of the lagoon that originally led out to a U.S. Navy Airfield during World War II. The airfield was used for dirigibles patrolling the coast for Japanese submarines before becoming a civilian airport after the war. The Del Mar Airport was closed in 1959 since its runway was directly in the path of the planned I-5 Freeway. Instead of the bridge being demolished during the wetland restoration project, it has been transformed into a lagoon viewing platform.

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