30 May 2014

Rincon Point to Tar Pits Park

Rincon Beach Park and Carpinteria State Beach

Carpinteria Bluffs and Tar Pits Park

Locate the trailhead.

Sometimes it is just a good day to have a walk along the bluffs and the beach. "The Rincon" is a legendary place where the highway runs close enough to the ocean to get splash during rough seas and an extraordinary number of people have breakdowns and simply must park by the side for a while. It is hard to find a time when there are no surfers bobbing in the water. Get off the freeway at Bates for a bit more legal access, with a bit of Carpinteria State Beach and Rincon Beach Park on either side of the gated community at Rincon Point. Both have free parking and pit toilets, but the county park has a lot more of it. It also has the trail I want to check out, an old road that extends from the end of the parking lot. As I start, there is only one paraglider drifting low over the freeway and train tracks. I often see them here, generally in groups.

paraglider low on the cliffs
A paraglider hangs just about 100 feet directly above the train tracks without a care in the world. An old wall to stabilize the cliff has become an art installation.

short road along the bluffs
The road ahead.

wooden retaining wall shouting 'locals only'
The old road has retaining walls too, which someone has used to express ownership over something he does not own. This is a message to surfers, and they tend to actually mean people they know rather than people who live there. Down on the beach, a fellow is fishing the surf.

The road meets the railroad tracks, but trail continues across them and up the bluffs to the top. Here trails lead all over the place. Turning back the way I came and climbing a little further, I get to the launch point of the paragliders. It is just a big, flat, dingy area at the end of Carpinteria Ave., and it gets dingier as one gets closer to the road. Tell tells flutter strongly on the nearby hills to keep the frequent paragliders informed about conditions.

land stretching to a point
Looking down on Rincon Point from the launch area the paragliders use.

Turning back, there is a fat dirt track that heads west along the bluffs. Views are generally obscured by high brush. It suddenly turns into decomposed granite with manicured plantings and benches to look out. It is an attempt at beauty quite marred by the orange plastic fencing at each lookout point to keep people from falling down the obvious cliff. One path heads to the road and I probably should have taken this, but I keep going near the bluffs. The path turns back to a wide dirt surrounded by whatever will grow without watering and delivers me to the road a little bit later. I pass one building along the road, then am at the parking lot for the ball field at the end of the Carpinteria Bluffs. Walking through the lot brings me to another path that follows along the edge of the bluffs above the railroad tracks for a while.

westward view
Looking west along the bluffs to the pier that is used to take supplies out to the oil rigs. The trail down is the one I will take later.

roadrunner on train tracks
A roadrunner on the train tracks. It looks about, then lowers its head and coos, tail and crest rising as it does.

paths on the bluffs
There are meadows, currently quite brown, up on the Carpinteria Bluffs.

big ears and bushy tail
This guy stopped nearby and gave himself a scratch.

The trail crosses the train tracks again and continues past an old road down to the beach over to a lookout above a harbor seal rookery. People are not allowed down on the beach while the seals are there, but this view from up top is fair game.

seal reaching around to bite another
The harbor seals sit in close quarters on the beach and sometimes they snap at one another.

many tails being held up from the sand
Sometimes it seems all the seals are doing a bit of yoga.

people walking down the pier
It does not bother the seals when the next door pier becomes awash with activity as a group of derrick workers comes in.

From here, one may continue along the path away from the bluffs shortly, then around a parking lot to Tar Pits Park. There are more paths along the bluffs and picnic tables there, then another access to the beach where there are large oil seeps. It can be fun to poke at the tar with a stick, but be sure to grab a new one rather than grabbing at one already in the tar. Even the spots that look solid will stick to anything near it given time. I have recently poked at the tar, so turn back to go down to the beach along the old road I passed. The beaches here are wide and made wider by the tide going out.

lots of sand
Plenty of sand for walking all the way back to the point along the beach.

The sand crabs seem healthy and are attacking the kelp pieces left by the receding tide with a gusto I have not seen in them before. One ground are swarming around a float so enthusiastically that it seems to be alive and fighting. It turns out that there is also a multitude of real crabs of very tiny size out on the sand. There is also a number of green bell peppers, which the sand crabs are also feeding on when they are broken. It must also be said that there is quite a funny and somewhat unpleasant smell.

a float will soon be no more
Sand crabs taking on a float from the local brown kelp. (There is video of some of the less crazy feeding here.

cormorants on rocks
There are always a few cormorants hanging around getting their wings dry.

tiny green crab by a small stone
Not the smallest of the crabs on the beach, there are some half this one's size, but still quite small. Um, sand in the photo for scale. About the size of a thumbnail.

I find myself chasing a sea gull that has found a much larger crab for itself. At first the crab is struggling, the sea gull keeps dropping it and it scrambles a little way before being caught again, but then it stops. Although the bird keeps running away, it stops from time to time close enough for me to hear the little crunches as it breaks the shell. The crab is soft enough to only require the hard beak closing on it to break.

tiny red crab
A tiny red crab tries to show how scary it is.

animals on rocks
Muscles and snails and chitons, oh my!

crab by goosenecks
Stepping out among the gooseneck barnacles. It turns out that looking at the rocks with attached life means finding even more little crabs than are out on the sand.

At the point, there are a number of rock that are forming some level of tide pools. They have a few sea anemones in them, but are not all that full of life. Out on the waves, a single surfer and a kayaker are seeing what they can catch.

Rincon Point
The rocky point with a few people out enjoying it.

water washing over the pool
Just a few animals in the tide pools.

Continuing around the point, there is a pool of water that is Rincon Creek and a lot more surfers. The waves are quite small for the area and some of the surfers seem to teeter a bit more than usual when they stand. The ones who do not seem a little bored.

Rincon Creek, or lagoon
Water pooling above the sand in Rincon Creek, the county line.

surfer taking the wave
This guy was walking along his board quite happily and I have just unfairly caught him in an awkward looking pose.

Continuing on the beach almost all the way to the wall with the freeway above, there is a dirt path that leads back to the parking. From here, it is just a lot of asphalt back to the car.

©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 31 May 2014

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