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Beach, river, mission: exploring Carmel on foot.

Few of the 7 million visitors who crowd Carmel each year venture far from Ocean Avenue and its side streets. But a new shoreline path and a trail guide to a wooded local park make it easier to get off the beaten track. And fall, when crowds begin to dwindle but weather can actually be at its sunniest, is a good time to explore. Winter storms of 1982 and 1983 devastated Carmel Beach and the bluffs above it along Scenic Road-16 gnarled cypress trees fell, stairways were wiped out, and sand was ripped away from the 22-acre beach. But the storm had a favorable side effect: it spurred the creation of a longplanned shoreline walkway. Now, a pleasant 3/4-mile path winds south along Scenic, from Eighth Avenue to the city limits. As you stroll along the wheelchairaccessible beach pathway, notice its landscaping of native plants: iris, manzanita, wild lilac. At intervals, stairways descend to the beach below. You park next to the trail along Scenic Road, but spots usually fill up by 10 A.M.

If Carmel Beach is crowded, take Scenic Road south to Carmel River State Beach. Often uncrowded, even when town is jammed, it offers a mile-long crescent of sparkling white sand-and the Carmel River Lagoon and Wetlands Natural Preserve, set aside in 1985 and now a rushthick haven for herons, eared grebes, common goldeneyes, and brown pelicans. Fishing for cabezon, lingcod, and perch is good around the rocks at the beach's north and center sections (license required).

Note that this beach is steep, and waves can be dangerous (rangers report at least two drownings per year); never turn your back on the water, and watch children carefully Swimming's risky here; the lagoon is safer (and warmer). Park hours are 7 A.M. to 11 Pm. daily.

Mission views, an arboretum Mission Trail Park is small (37 acres) but rewarding. Park on the road edge by the park's log gate, across the street from Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo (on Rio Road about 1/2 mile west of the intersection with State Highway 1). From the Rio Road entrance, you can hike up the broad, well-graded Serra Trail into oak and bay trees, then farther uphill on narrow Doolittle Trail. From Doolittle, you'll get some outstanding views-of twisted cypress, the sandstonecolored mission, and the sparkling bay. In about a mile, you'll reach a broad trail to the Flanders Mansion, a 1929 Tudor-style house. It's closed to the public, but you can stroll the grounds; the garden uphill is now the Lester Rowntree Arboretum, with a good selection of native plants (a free guide lists them all).

For a free pamphlet on the park, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to City Forester, Box 4491, Carmel 93921.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1988
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