Resolution: Let’s Hike and Preserve California’s Coastal Trails

Here it is 2018, time to make resolutions and promises, perhaps to walk more often and longer, as in walks around the block or local walking trails, day hikes, backpacking treks or pilgrimages like the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

If a daily walk is your New Year’s Resolution, you won’t have to worry about breaking your promise to put on your walking shoes and take a hike. Many communities have networks of safe walking trails for residents and visitors to enjoy year round.

I live in a Northern California county with an extensive walking and biking trail system, much of it paved and easily accessible. There are walking and hiking trails in cities all over Northern California, and beyond, and my dream is to connect trails to trails, with public transportation or safe walking routes. And since I’m a dreamer, how about living in a community with sidewalks that take us wherever we need to go without a car? That’s another post!

My first New Year’s resolution is always to maintain daily walks with my eye on a long walk during the new calendar year. This new year I started on the right foot with a visit to a friend who lives on the spectacular Northern California Coast.

We walked on the California Coastal Trail in Half Moon Bay. The Coastal Trail website features beaches, trailheads, trails and maps from California County seashores.

Maps on California Coastal Trail Website 

This San Mateo County coastal area is driving distance from many Northern California areas. You can drive or bike between hostels near the trails, but they are far apart for most hikers. Check out the Northern California Hostel system for reservations and information.


In spring, 2017 I overnighted at Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, which is about seven miles north of Año Nuevo Reserve, where you can observe Elephant Seals and walk the sand dunes. If your timing is just right, you might see whales and dolphins from the hostel observation deck or even from the beaches.  I hiked trails on and near the shore when I stayed at the Hostel. 

Back to the present:  Yesterday I returned home filled with gratitude for my friend’s generosity and kindness, and for the foresight of people and communities in preserving land and seashores for public uses. Up and down this coastal area are State and local beaches, sea life preserves, hiking and walking trails,  as well as camping sites and hostels.

AND THEN… I walked downtown to the post office and passed the NewsStand, and the Chronicle’s headlines jumped out at me. I’m grateful, yes, but I’m worried that my grandchildren are losing our precious environment. Oil drilling means great risks and devastation on land and sea.

San Francisco Chronicle, January 5, 2018. “Feds unveil plan for ocean drilling.”

I was instantly swept up in childhood memories when I lived in Santa Barbara. I have enough life experience to understand that policies can protect or exploit our environment. However, only recently did I realize that environmental protections and policies can and are being reversed and we now have many areas of our country that might be privatized and our natural resources destroyed.

From the LA Times: “President Trump painted a golden future of “great wealth” and “great jobs” powered by oil pumped from the ocean floor as he signed an executive order on Friday to consider new offshore drilling around the country.”

What a frightening future for our children, unless we stop this destruction of natural resources and land already designated public for the people. But, the LA Times headline, does give me hope:

“Trump’s directive on offshore drilling will face solid resistance in California”

I’m not exactly impartial or neutral on this issue. I will disclose that I have been and am an activist for maintaining oceans for the public and keeping them clean and free from commercial exploitation, in other words working to prevent drilling and anything that threatens the habitats and the public land use. I’m an environmentalist and I believe the shore is for the people and sea life, not for homes and commercial development. OK. Now you know.

My activism began when I was eleven years old, in the late 1950’s (YES!) living in Santa Barbara, bicycling distance to Arroyo Burro Beach, aka, Hendry’s Beach. “In 1947, six acres of Arroyo Burro Beach Park were purchased from the State of California, and an additional 6.8 acres were leased. In 1968, the State granted this leased land to the County.”  This beach now has a cafe and parking lots, so it has expanded in the almost 50 years since I played on the shores. And it is still a public beach! So lucky to have citizens who work to preserve and protect our land, not just for us, but for future generations.

In the 1950’s, the beach was pebbly and rocky and so close to home it felt like our backyard. However,  sometimes tar on the beach was a problem and when we were ready to go home, we lined up for my father to remove the oil/tar from our feet with gasoline. Our summer day camps often loaded the kids in buses and we went to Gaviota Beach for outings. Swimming out to a raft that could hold several kids, I could see oil rigs in the distance. My new flowered bathing suit was ruined with oil and tar stains from one day at that beach.  Off shore drilling along the coast was just part of the scene. The California coast is the site of many oil spill “accidents” that have destroyed habitat and sea life, including the devastating Regugio Oil Spill in 2015.   

But, in between my stories and the present threat to our coast, there have been successful laws and policies to protect our California coast. It’s critical that we  continue to advocate and support the stewardship and protection of our natural resources and land for the public, for the future.

Resistance and policies have prevented and opposed offshore drilling in California for many years now. Moratoriums on building and on drilling have been supported, as well as opposed, depending on your belief about the environment and public land.

You can read about the resistance, policies and future legislation that will be introduced next week to oppose offshore drilling in California. Here’s a quote from the LA Times that fills me with more hope:

“Californians will not stand for this,” said Jennifer Savage, a spokeswoman for the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit conservation group. “We love our coast. It’s our playground, the driving force of our economy, the place where we find solace, joy and sustenance.”

Protecting the environment is another resolution and promise not to break.

Buen Camino and Happy Walking. Irene








2 thoughts on “Resolution: Let’s Hike and Preserve California’s Coastal Trails

  1. Your walking, Irene, is an inspiration. Thank you for taking us to places we haven’t been with your writing…. and for others, who’ve been to these places, you create a wonderful reminiscence.


    1. Thank you, Ruth. It’s wonderful to share. I love to hear your stories, too. I feel like you’re walking with me and I hope readers might have a chance to visit some of my favorite places, too. Buen Camino, Irene


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