Monday, May 3, 2010

Bonny Doon Beach: Bluff Trail

 Calfornia Poppy growing near the sand on Bonny Doon beach.

Bonny Doon beach is situated just off Hwy 1 north of Wilder Ranch and just south of Davenport. The parking lot is a vertical strip on the side of Hwy 1, locking the car is a good idea because breakin's are reportedly quite common. The beach itself is over a small sandy hill and a set of train tracks, a small opening leads down a sandy slope to the main beach.

Iceplants line the short trail in to the beach though the largest grouping (pictured) is above on the bluffs.

The beach is in something of a cove and protected by huge coastal bluffs with fantastic rock arches on two sides. A small creek runs out from a presumably man-made tunnel in the base of the cliffs on the main beach. Across the main beach area there is also a second more protected beach hidden on the other side of some rocky outcroppings. As I hiked over those outcroppings to visit some rock tables near the splash zone it suddenly occurred to be this was a clothing optional beach. I'm not sure what compels a person to hang out in the buff on a stormy Monday afternoon but sure enough about six men were sun bathing in the buff. Personally I felt like an intruder in my layers of fleece and a beanie (even for my new england blood it was cold out there) but the rock formations and the interaction of the coast with the beach here is just too much to pass up for a photographer. I did my best to be respectful and left the beach after a few minutes. Let's be honest though, this is Santa Cruz anyway, what else was I expecting?

Rocks along the ocean along the clothing option beach

Waves crashing against the rocks

After exploring the beaches thoroughly the bluffs above have just as much if not more to offer (especially on a cloudy or foggy day). The coastal flowers were in full bloom around the tops and put on one of the more impressive shows of wildflower blooms in the area. From the bluffs the full extent of the coastal area is visible and though hanging tough with the high winds is difficult there are fabulous views of the beach and a glorious rock arch which is not visible from the beach itself.

Rock Arch visible from the bluffs but not Bonny Doon Beach itself.

The bluffs continue on away from the beach, accessible from a small use trail that leads along the cliffs edge. The trail is not maintained and tall grasses do occasionally grow right along its edge making tick danger fairly high. Peering occasionally beyond the cliffs is worthwhile as a huge tide pool shelf sits below the longest stretch of trails. Some worn climbers webbing marks the top of the cliffs above the huge tide pool shelf. There is no non-technical way down to this shelf.

Tide pool shelf viewed from 60-70 feet above on the bluffs.

Several other protected beaches sit  below the cliffs which are inhabited occasionally by seals. More rock arches and unique erosion patterns can be seen below with occasional stops to peer over. Birds also nest on these cliffs. In addition to their nests birds can frequently been seen roaring up over the tops of the cliffs, riding the air current up the coast.

Seal on the beach

The use trail continues on for some way but a thin point between the trail and the railroad tracks makes a nice place to turn around without having to walk through any tall grasses or crush any fragile plants. Another use trail leads back along the railroad tracks for roughly a mile to the entrance to the beach again this time through some great ice plant studded sand dunes on the way in. Generally I found the beach to be an exciting find and if you can deal with a little nudity its a fantastic place to explore.

The dunes.

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