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Sampling California's coastal trails.

Behind these group hikes is a vision of a border-to-border trail

SOME PEOPLE ARE REAL interested in learning about marine life and geology and history," Carl May told us, "and some people just want to walk along the ocean."

Maybe both categories apply to you. That's all the more reason to sign up.

May is a San Mateo County coordinator for Coastwalk, a private, non-profit group that since 1983 has sponsored summer hikes along the California coast. Join one and you can spend one to nine days in purposeful beachgoing: hiking 5 to 10 miles a day in the company of park rangers, biologists, botanists, and geologists who can give you a more than sand-deep understanding of California's most popular environment.

The goal, says May, "is to get people concerned about access to the coast. And, especially, to promote the idea of a California coast trail that would run from Oregon to the Mexican border."

Coastwalk hikers have a pretty easy time of it. Supply vans haul your gear from campsite to campsite--all you lug is your day pack. Dinners are part of the deal. (You provide your own food and eating utensils for breakfast and lunch; you can cook your breakfast on the Coastwalk chuckwagon.)

Campsites may include some locales that aren't normally open to campers--last year, Sonoma County hikers got to bed down inside historic Fort Ross.

And you'll find the pace and the spirit are generally easygoing. "We're not gung ho," says May. "We're not pushy. It's anything but a forced march. We just want people to experience the coast."

(But if you are looking for a more rigorous experience, Coastwalk does have one that's meant for you: a nine-day Lost Coast backpacking trip into the King Range and Sinkyone Wilderness of Humboldt and Mendocino counties.)

The hikes aren't uninterrupted. The very absence of the coast trail promoted by Coastwalk means that you often hike one day in one part of a county, another day in another.

Routes range from beach sand to blufftop trails to--rarely and briefly--highway shoulder. "We only take people along the highway to point out the need for a complete coast trail," May explains.

The first step in signing up is to obtain a registration brochure from Coastwalk, 1389 Cooper Rd., Sebastopol, Calif. 95472; (707) 829-6689. Once you get the brochure, you send it with payment to the Coastwalk group in the county where you want to hike.

Cost is $25 per day for adults, $15 for students, and $12 for ages 12 and under. (Young children require special permission to join the hikes.) To sign up for more than one county, send a separate payment to each.

Space is limited: most walks accept fewer than 50 hikers, and well-established walks, like Sonoma County's, fill up fast, as does the Lost Coast backpack trip. Many walks let you join for a day or two; for others you must commit to three or four days.

Here are tentative dates and route highlights for this summer's 10 expeditions:

Santa Barbara County, June 25 through 28; Coal Oil Point Reserve and El Capitan and Refugio state beaches.

Monterey County, July 9 through 12; Monterey and Andrew Molera State Park.

Santa Cruz County, July 16 through 19; Elkhorn Slough reserve and Natural Bridges State Beach.

San Mateo County, July 23 through 26; James Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and Pigeon Point.

San Francisco County, July 28 through August 2; Angel Island and Fort Funston.

Marin County, August 5 through 9; Point Reyes National Seashore and Audubon Canyon Ranch.

Sonoma County, August 11 through 16; Salt Point to Fort Ross, with kayak trip on the Russian River.

Mendocino County, August 20 through 23; Point Arena, Schooner Gulch, and Bowling Ball Beach.

Humboldt and Mendocino counties, July 18 through 26; nine-day backpacking trip in Sinkyone Wilderness and King Range (24 participants).

Del Norte County, August 27 through 30; the route hadn't been set at our press time.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Fish, Peter
Publication:Sunset
Date:Apr 1, 1992
Words:656
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