I will admit it... I took this trail lightly. I was wrong to do so. The thing is brutal at times. Up and down and up and down, through overgrown berry bushes and a sea of ticks and bear @$!*%. But there is no time to be annoyed. You round a corner and a window through the thick evergreens shows an eagle levitating at eye level, tracing the cliff that plunges to the surf below, where sea lions bark at each other in the waves. Around another corner elk wade through tall grass dotted with wildflowers, close enough to reach out and touch if you weren’t frozen in fear for almost bumping into them, trying not to soil 1/4 of your underwear allocation for the trip. So you get the point… the animals and scenery and black sand beaches are spectacular. This is the California coast at its finest.
Now the logistics: This being Memorial Day weekend, we knew we were in for some crowds. We camped at the northern trailhead Friday night and got an early start. We got all the way out to Little Jackass Creek camp by early afternoon and actually had the beach to ourselves, for a couple of hours. Then the masses caught up. By sunset, a dozen or so camp sites had been set up on the beach. Everyone was friendly enough, but beat up from the hike and wanting some space, clearly not happy to see others already on the beach as they came down the final descent. I feel extremely privileged to have had some time to ourselves. We packed up after breakfast the next morning and booked it to a more secluded spot, on top of a cliff. We put the hammock up and relaxed for the day. That night was one of the best of my life. I sat with my feet dangling, watching the sun sink over the pacific, and all was good in life. On day 4, we mostly had the park to ourselves. Based on that, when I go back eventually, I will be sure to do it mid week when I won’t have to jockey for position on the beach.