Richard Wiens, The Triplicate

When it comes to hiking destinations, you might say Point St. George is hiding in plain sight. The protrusion into the Pacific north of Crescent City is prominent; its walkways are not. Bluff trails give way to plateaus. Side paths lure travelers inland. Resolve to stay as close to the ocean's edge as possible, and choices must still be made between rocky beach bottoms and higher perches.

For drivers, there are two main access points:

andbull; A large parking lot at the end of Radio Road feeds walkers onto a trail to the beach from where they can walk north on flat sand seemingly forever or turn south and soon find themselves scrambling over boulders and past a series of small caves.

Those directional words are employed loosely - there's really no telling exactly what is due north or south, east or west around here without a compass. And the ambiguity extends to the name of the road. There's no sign for Radio Road and it's really an extension of Washington Boulevard beyond its intersection with Pebble Beach Drive. But the fact that it leads to what was once a military radio facility seems enough to go with the former moniker.

andbull; Then there's the smaller parking pull-off reached sooner - on the left just three-tenths of a mile after the aforementioned intersection. People stop here all the time to take in the side-view of Castle Rock to the south. It's also the perfect place to embark on a trek to Point St. George, because it quickly leads up grassy bluffs to extraordinary views.

Holiday hint: It's a great place to come with your out-of-town guests if they're at all ambulatory after all the Christmastime cheer. Walk for less than 20 minutes and you'll enjoy panoramic views of the ocean in nearly every direction, big visual rewards for little effort.

Or you can do what I did Saturday before last, giving in to the allure of one unfolding vista after another and making a nearly two-hour trek out of it. And I still didn't even make it to the radio tower that rises like a sentry over St. George.

From the parking lot, I appreciated the crescent view toward the city named for such but eschewed the quick path to the beach. Turning right, I followed a trail through an archway of branches, down to the rocky coastline and across an impromptu inlet produced by an inordinate amount of recent rain. Starting back up, I passed on a lush right-turn inland, keeping instead to the green bluff's edge trail.

All that precipitation had fissured part of the path, reminding me of the general instability of the Del Norte topography. It probably won't take the Big One to eventually bring down this part of the bluffs, but hey, that's on geologic time. As for me, within 12 minutes of setting out I was watching the dramatic descent of a Sky West puddle-hopper to the nearby airport, and within 17 minutes I'd risen high enough for a new ocean panorama to the north complete with a first view of St. George Reef Lighthouse offshore and the radio tower a few bluffs ahead.

Soon after, the point's first and most dramatic quarried outcropping came into view. Hard to say what it looked like before it was blasted for jetty rock to help create the harbor. I've scrambled to the end of this finger of land before, a side trip that requires low tide and plenty of extra time.

The route topped out on a flat expanse partially covered with rippling surface water - another special feature of our early monsoon season. Twirling around from here offered about 200 degrees of ocean view - 20 minutes from the parking lot.

The trail itself disappeared from time to time, but the direction was clear as I started down. To the left was the way to the outcropping, but I stuck to the ridge route, rising to another ponded plateau. The airliner took back off and circled south, its occupants perhaps the only folks enjoying better Del Norte views than I was.

It was like walking on a golf course fairway for a while. Another trail back and the right offered another of those inland alternatives. I'd walked half an hour when I glimpsed my car in the parking lot not at all far away - I'd been navigating a semi-circle.

At the end of the green expanse the trail picked back up and widened andndash; obviously a former roadway for quarry work. Soon I was near a gate at the road's edge. From here one could follow another former roadway to the outcropping's edge. It would offer coast access, but from there the way north would have been blocked by the next rocky protrusion, this one unquarried.

I checked out a couple of inland trails that soon turned mushy, then resumed the effort to continue north as close to the continent's edge as possible. This required a descent and a brief rock-scramble to the next crescent rounding another long stretch of rocky beach. At its end was yet another rocky outcropping, this one also leveled by the quarry work of yesteryear.

About halfway along this crescent was a wide path up to the right. I couldn't see where it led, but the presence oftwo groups of people convinced me the road was near. I can't think of anywhere else where you can feel like you're in the middle of nowhere so near a road and parking areas.

The distant lighthouse seemed significant to the naked eye, insignificant in the camera's viewfinder. I rose to yet another grassy plateau, then descended one more time to near sea level. Rounding to the right, yet another crescent came into view. The radio tower was big now, rising just beyond a bluff at the north end of this crescent. Beyond that, I knew from previous experience, was the low route past rocky caves and the high route to the tower and the cypress-shrouded landmark building near the big parking lot.

But it would start getting dark soon, so I chose to turn around an hour and 20 minutes after I started. Headed back, I enjoyed more views of jutting topography and Castle Rock to the south. I didn't retrace my steps for long, choosing instead the inland path where I'd seen people earlier. Sure enough, it was only a few hundred feet to the road, which I followed for about a half-mile back to my car.

With more daylight, I could have gone farther. Then again, I could have turned back much sooner and still have taken in a myriad of wild coastal scenes.

That's the beauty of Point St. George.


andbull; The hike:You choose the distance on this approach to Point St. George from the south.

Highlights:Walk for less than 20 minutes and you'll enjoy ocean panoramas in three directions. Keep going and new crescents are revealed, along with the offshore lighthouse on a clear day.

Sweat level:There are ups and downs, but none that last long. Any sweat would come from walking near precipices or a bit of a rock-scramble if you journey far enough.

Getting there:Embark at the parking turnoff on Radio Road 3/10's of a mile past the intersection of Pebble Beach Drive and Washington Boulevard.