Week 214: Cabrillo Beach, Point Fermin Park

August 16, 2020

Walking Los Angeles, Cabrillo Beach Trail, 3 miles

Where to go when the local forecast for the city is 100°? Head out of town to the beach, of course. Looking for a new adventure, Barbara and I drove south to San Pedro's Cabrillo Beach, a pretty cove at the southern edge of Point Fermin and just north of the towering cranes framing the Port of Los Angeles. We parked in the lot at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and headed toward the sand. The morning was California blue-sky-perfect with temps in the mid 70s, and the air a ripe mix of ocean breeze and seaweed. We walked north along the sandy part of the beach, passing the Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse, a historic landmark dating back to 1932, and the last bathhouse built in SoCal. Ride the Red Car down from the city, and for 10¢ you could rent a bathing suit and towel to enjoy your day at the beach. We ventured a short way out on the breakwater constructed at the turn of the twentieth century, but our focus was on the rocky beach leading north to the tide pools. Dancing on and around the seaweed and rocks, we walked near the water as far as we could, and then took the wooden path even farther up the coast. The views are gorgeous. Retracing our way back, we left Cabrillo Beach and walked past the quaint old beach houses on Pacific Avenue and Shepard Street to Point Fermin Park. A pretty park on top of the bluff, its main feature is the old Victorian stick-style Point Fermin Lighthouse built in 1874 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built with materials shipped around Cape Horn, and for its first eight years, Mary and Ella Smith were its lighthouse keepers. After Pearl Harbor, the US Navy used the lighthouse as an observation point during WWII. From the lighthouse, we walked the southern end of Point Fermin Park to the fenced off "Sunken City," ten acres of old pipes and foundations of a housing community that disappeared after a 1929 landslide. And it all started with a gas line break. We walked back on Bluff Place, a collection of beach houses we decided would make an ideal location to shelter in place. At the bottom of Bluff, we sidetracked up and down a fifty-five step Tsunami-escape staircase for fun, then make our way back to the car. By then, the scent of charcoal and lighter fluid had melded with the seaweed and ocean air, bringing back old memories of barbecuing at the beach. Full disclosure: we didn't take the extra trek to White's Point that John McKinney listed in his version of this walk, but we decided it was a great reason to return. I loved this hike—Cabrillo Beach was a hotspot in the 1920s and 1930s, and it still has the old California beach feel. 




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