A short hike into history.

Path: cartan!pasteur!ames!lll-tis!lll-lcc!lll-winken!well!pokey
From: pokey@well.UUCP (Jef Poskanzer)
Newsgroups: ba.general
Subject: A short hike into history.
Message-ID: <5126@well.UUCP>
Date: 1 Feb 88 05:07:07 GMT
Organization: Paratheo-Anametamystikhood Of Eris Esoteric, Ada Lovelace Cabal
Lines: 53

In 1908, the Ocean Shore Railroad opened, running from San Francisco southward along the coast. It was supposed to go all the way to Santa Cruz, but was never completed past Tunitas Creek. It operated as a scenic excursion line for a while, and then went bankrupt in 1921. One of the major reasons for the failure of the line was the huge expense of keeping the track clear of debris from the constant landslides.

In the late 1930s, many parts of the right-of-way were converted into road for the new Highway 1. The highway picked up the abandoned right-of-way at the west end of Alemany Blvd (now called John Daly Blvd), and proceeded south on a thirty-foot-wide ledge cut into the cliffs a couple of hundred feet above the ocean. Naturally, the highway suffered from the same debris and landslide problems as the railroad, and was re-routed to the top of the cliffs in 1957.

This abandoned-railroad-turned-abandoned-highway has now turned into an amazingly scenic trail for an afternoon's walk. Proceed to the end of John Daly Blvd. Where it used to cross Skyline Blvd and become Highway 1, it now dead-ends. Turn north, then take the first left and park. This area is allegedly "Thornton State Beach", but a more apropos name would be "Landslide State Beach". As recently as 1983, you still could drive the first few hundred feet of the old Highway 1 into the park, but the heavy rains that year caused the parking lot to slide into the ocean.

If you walk south along the old road, past the recent landslide area, it's not hard to find where the roadway continued south. The road still shows in a few (very photogenic) spots, but mostly it is covered by many feet of mud, and overgrown with ice plant, wildflowers, and miscellaneous brush (but no poison oak). Through this winds a narrow but quite navigable trail.

The sense of isolation is very strong. The trail seems suspended on the cliff face; no way up to the top, no way down to the beach. What an amazing drive this must have been! The occasional chunks of blacktop, rusting sign-poles, and crumpled guard rails make the trail seem suspended in time as well. I could have easily imagined I was alone in the world after some great holocaust -- were it not for the hang gliders who kept gliding by overhead, sometimes yelling cheerful greetings.

The trail continues south for a few miles, probably all the way to Mussel Rock. I only went halfway, and then found a way down to the beach and returned. On the way back I found a poingnant remnant of the old railroad: a single rail jutting a few feet out of the sand.

Further reading: "The Last Whistle [Ocean Shore Railroad]", by Jack R. Wagner, pub. Howell-North Books; and "Living with the California Coast", Gary Griggs and Lauret Savoy, editors, pub. Duke University Press.

Jef Poskanzer jef@lbl-rtsg.arpa ...well!pokey
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