This isn't my idea of a hike. More like traipsing around.
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.
Mountain goats probably have the best design for this terrain, but
the going is relatively safe if you stick to the trails and open areas
and resist the temptation to clamber up rocks to the very tops. The
views are rewarding enough without the mountaineering.
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
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.