This isn’t my idea of a hike. More like traipsing around.
Laura perches on a rock on Whaler Island with South Beach in the background. Del Norte Triplicate/Richard Wiens
A hike is a journey long enough to provide a cardiovascular workout and time for meandering introspection. But certain destinations, like Point St. George or the sometimes-island of Battery Point Lighthouse, are arrived at quickly to be enjoyed in a directionless way that still involves a fair amount of walking.
Whaler Island at the south end of Crescent City Harbor is one of those places. Tempting as it is to drive down Anchor Way only as far as the Chart Room restaurant, there is another attraction well worth your while at the end of the line.
This is one of those Del Norte islands that was permanently attached to the mainland by a quarry operation. It was once about 10 acres in size. In the 1800s it was home to rendering facilities that gave it its name. It measures 3.65 acres now, the rest blasted away for the construction of the inner jetty that extends from its north side.
What’s left is prime real estate: a jutting mass of rocks, grass and faint trails affording the kind of unique views of familiar features you normally see only from an airplane. It’s also the only place in the harbor where you’d feel safe during a tsunami.
It took Laura and I more than four years of Del Norte residency to get up there, but when we did we weren’t alone. There was shore fishing going on at the southern base, and as we started climbing we encountered a descending couple fresh in from Klamath Falls who had made Whaler Island practically their first stop in Crescent City.
We chose a generally counter-clockwise route that first had us gazing east at the Coast Guard station in the foreground and across the outer boat basin to the main harbor buildings in the background. Rounding to the “island’s” northwestern edge, Battery Point came into view across the bay, then the southern end of the outer jetty.
We’re pretty sure this was the first time we’d ever heard the jangling bells of the buffeted buoys near the breakwater’s terminus. The area’s signature noisemaker, after all, is the nearby foghorn. Its blares blended in nicely, as did the calls of the gulls. We had a soundtrack worthy of the visuals.
You don’t really circle Whaler Island so much as you pick your way between rocky outcroppings. Portions of the primitive paths are next to big drops, so you can’t be taking in the views all the time. Eventually, however, we were gazing at the expanse of South Beach and the heavily wooded point beyond.
As we started back down, our only regret was not having brought along a picnic lunch for an excuse to tarry at one of the perches. Sometimes these opportunities to traipse around Del Norte sneak up on you unprepared.
THE HIKE: Ascend Whaler Island and go whichever way you’d like amid its rocky pinnacles and occasional trails.
HIGHLIGHTS: Jutted out into the Pacific, you can enjoy unique views in every direction: the harbor, the lighthouse, the breakwaters, etc.
SWEAT LEVEL:Some climbing and precarious maneuvering makes this place not for everyone. Still, the whole of it is 3.65 acres, so the only potential perspiration comes from taking care not to fall off one of the edges.
GETTING THERE: From U.S. Highway 101 alongside Crescent City Harbor, turn west on Anchor Way and drive or bike or walk past the Chart Room restaurant to the road’s end.