Richard Wiens, The Triplicate

An infusion of summer sands clears the way

Pebble Beach constantly changes. A vast range of high and low tides is only one variable. Sometimes seaweed smothers the south end of the crescent, other times the namesake pebbles that lure agate-hunters.

Ever-present seagulls may be joined by oystercatchers at one spot, ospreys at another and pelicans at a third. When a dead seal washes ashore from its home near Castle Rock, turkey vultures flock to the scene.

A single storm can accomplish massive feats of sand-shifting engineering.

For all that, there are clearly defined seasons. In the dead of winter, the riled-up surf strips the beach of much of its sand, exposing long stretches of brittle rocks that are hard to traverse.

And now, in the midst of summer, Pebble Beach is at its sandiest. The

plush blanket erases the flat rocks and smooths the way.

It's the perfect time to stroll the mile and a quarter of the

crescent's edge from the town to Point St. George. Plan the 90-minute

round-trip to coincide with a low tide, and a lone rivulet will be the

only obstacle.

Start at the main access off Pebble Beach Drive south of Pacific

Avenue. The steps down lead to a double-stairway. To the left is a

small, unwelcoming cluster of rocks. The decision to take the descent to

the right is an easy one.

The beach at the bottom always seems strewn with something - seaweed,

pebbles or driftwood. But the sprawl of summertime sand is just ahead,

and pleasant enough that you're likely not the only visitor. Give any

unleashed dogs a little space and you'll probably be fine. Generally,

the farther you walk, the fewer fellow beachgoers.

It's about 20 minutes to that rivulet (Elk Creek's tiny mouth). If

you haven't already taken off your shoes and tested the water, now's the

time. This is a full-time hangout for seagulls. Another five minutes,

and there are usually more of them perched atop the first of the

rounded, horizontal rocks that dominate the route's middle-stretch.

Just last month, there was only a narrow passage through these rocks,

but additional sand deposits have cleared a wider path since then.

Low grassy bluffs to your right have now given way to high walls of

rock. About 35 minutes into the walk, you come to a series of shallow

caves draped in green slime. Then comes a miniature waterfall that

trickles in summer, gurgles in winter.

The bluffs go low and grassy again for the final stretch to a

turnaround point imposed by the jut of Point St. George. This is the

closest you'll get to Castle Rock. By now, if the winds permit, you've

been serenaded by the myriad seals who live on lower rocks near the

mammoth wildlife refuge. And if the timing is right, you might have been

buzzed by one of the 30-passenger puddle-hoppers taking off or landing

at the nearby airport.

If you didn't want to turn around, you could pick up an inland trail

that feeds into the first vehicle pull-out on Radio Road (the route to

Point St. George from Washington Boulevard). Trails also lead up and

over the point - a whole new crescent awaits farther north, stretching

all the way to Kellogg Beach.

But the return trip is also inviting. Before setting out, take a

moment to view the expanse of the just-traversed crescent and the

distant homes of Pebble Beach Drive. Maybe the lyrics of the old show

tune will come to mind:

"Summertime, and the livin' is easy."


THE HIKE: A stroll, really, 90 minutes' round-trip (about 2 andfrac12; miles) from the main Pebble Beach access to Point St. George and back.

HIGHLIGHTS: Seabirds galore, maybe including packs of pelicans. Ever-changing views of Castle Rock and, if the breeze allows, a serenade of sea lion barking.

SWEAT LEVEL: Not a drop of perspiration unless you're approached by an unleashed dog of unclear intent.

GETTING THERE: Start at the beach access south of Pacific Avenue, or you could start at the north end by parking in the first pull-out to the left off Radio Road (the extension of Washington Boulevard toward Point St. George).