Week 267: Point Vincente Park Palos Verdes

June 05, 2022

 AllTrails Prickly Pear Cactus Grove via Alta Vincente and Nike Loop, 2.1 miles. 

No lie, sometimes Barbara and I choose a hike just because the name intrigues us. Add the ocean and we're in, like today. Curious about a prickly pear grove, we drove down to the end of Santa Monica Bay for this Palos Verdes hike above the ocean and got so much more than we expected—from little pops of nature to sweeping views and historical curiosities. We parked at Rancho Palos Verdes Civic Center off Hawthorne Blvd and found the Alta Vincente Trail just off the parking lot. A pretty little dirt path lined with white stones led us down an old staircase and we followed the trail toward the ocean. On our right, a bowlful of California sage brush and some condos in the distance—not enough to hold our attention so we focused on the micro-activity in the brush: tree snails making their first (to us) appearance and leaf beetles getting friendly on a branch. But the day was gorgeous and the ocean a perfect blue so we kept walking. As we reached the curve the hike and view got more intriguing. Below us and across Palos Verdes Drive we caught sight of the Point Vincente Lighthouse. The allegedly haunted (hum "Brandy," missing sailor, you'll get it) lighthouse on the National Register of Historic Places was built in 1926 after merchant sailors complained about the treacherous rocks below. We followed the red, ice-plant-lined trail to the South Spire Trail and its short but challenging hike up to intersect with the Nike Trail—a nod to the role this area played from 1958 to 1974 as a Nike Missile Base during the Cold War. Rancho Palos Verdes, the current owner of the land, converted the army buildings and barracks into RPV City Hall! The Nike Trail led us to the Prickly Pear Trail and a wow-inducing, sweeping view of Pelican Cove, the Terranea Resort and Golf Course, and Point Fermin far off to the SE. Gorgeous! We had hiked Terranea in March and had no idea about the web of trails above and around us at the time. The Prickly Pear Trail was the sweetest surprise of the hike. The trail borders the last farm left on Rancho Palos Verdes, once filled with Japanese farmers who grew beans, peas, and tomatoes on the southern slopes from the early 1900s until WWII relocated the farmers to internment camps. The farm we found today sloped down the hill, with lines of prickly pear cacti at the top and plots of sunflowers and wildflowers layering down to the trail below. Prickly pear cacti are native to the land and fed and sated natives who lived in the area for thousands of years—and they apparently DO produce pears! (Just don't get punctured by the spines.) No farmhouse on the property, just a trailer, but the grove was well-tended and lush. At the bottom we reconnected with the Alta Vincente Trail and made our way back to our starting point. If you're in the area or have the $$$ to spend a few days at Terranea to hike and golf, this is one sweet little hike with cool hidden surprises. 







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