Camping @ San Elijo Beach

I hope you came prepared today. We’re going to tramp along the beach and the infamous Route 101 and take in the sights. When we’re done, we’ll find our camping spot and settle in for the night. Have you ever camped at the beach? You’re in for a treat! California campgrounds are notoriously hard to get into, but lucky for you, our reservations were made online months in advance. Don’t let me hear you say the word “trailer”! Sleep in a tent, zip open the windows and enjoy the sound, smell, and breeze of the waves. Okay, once in a while you’ll hear a train, but that’s just part of the fun.

25 miles north of San Diego, between Encinitas and Solana Beach, is the San Elijo State Beach. The campground sits between the 101 and the top of the bluffs overlooking the Pacific, and below it runs the beach.

Park along the highway, watching carefully for bikes in the bike lane before actually opening your door. We’re going to walk down the ramp here to the spot called “Pipes”. Use the restroom before we go, otherwise you’ll just get comfortable on the beach before you realize there’s a hill between you and the facilities. While I wait, I’ll just enjoy the view from up here.  Surfers ride the breaking waves, pelicans glide in long dipping lines searching for fish, and the Pacific stretches out into forever.

Ready then? Let’s go!

We are in the middle of a long narrow-ish stretch of beaches going north and south, inclusively called “Cardiff-by-the-Sea” but today we are headed towards the south. We’ll go north next week.

The tide is fairly out right now and you’ll see locals going for a run, biking, or maybe fishing in the surf, and campers playing Frisbee or football and hanging out with their families. Stop a minute, and I’ll show you how to pull up some sand crabs. They’re tickling little things.

You can see as we walk, that here and there the bluff has “failed”. That means the sand had an avalanche. You don’t want to rest up close to the bluff, okay? Come to think of it, our campsite sits on the top of this bluff. I figure we can tie a guide rope from the tent to a tree tonight, just in case.

There are six massive staircases along this stretch, connecting up top to the campground. We’re going to watch local guys with their personal trainers go all the way to the top and back of every one of them. You can cheer them on or laugh, either way. I still have a coffee in my hand, so don’t look at me. At the south end, where the San Elijo lagoon river mouth runs inland and the beach ends and the seaweed piles up in drifts, we’ll use the campground bathrooms before stepping up to the highway.

Let’s rest a moment, now that we’re back on the 101, and take a photo with Cardiff’s signature sculpture: The Cardiff Kook.

The locals severely criticized this surfer statue; you can read all about it on his website. Not kidding.  So naturally, they took their wacky sense of humor and artsy attitude and decorated the heck out of it when no one was looking. They named a local race after it. They put him on postcards. He has been decorated more times than the president. My favorite of all time: the shark eating him alive. Oh yeah.

Looks like we’re ready to pull in the car and set up camp. I brought the firewood. You get the guide ropes. Dude. Where’s the tent? I am not sleeping in the trunk again.


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