Robert Joseph is planning a four-day walking trip that will traverse white sand beaches, wilderness canyons and wind-swept bluff tops. The surprising thing is that the trek will take place entirely within Orange County, starting at San Clemente Beach State Park and ending at Crystal Cove State Park.
All those things exist in the largely urbanized county; the hard part is stringing them together for one nearly continuous stroll. Joseph worked with public agencies and private landowners to put the route together as the first-ever Orange County event sponsored by Coastwalk, a statewide group working to create a trail that stretches along all 1,000 miles of California's coastline.
The walk, scheduled for June 24 through 27, is open to the public at a cost of $25 per day ($15 for students). Gear will be shuttled from campsite to campsite, and dinner will be provided; walkers will be responsible for their own camp breakfast and lunch. The trip will be limited to 40 people and is already almost half-full.
Coastwalk started in Northern California in 1983 as a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting the idea of a coastal trail and to "nurture the awareness of the coastal environment," Joseph said. As part of its mission, the group started organizing annual walking trips in coastal counties.
"Their goal has been to add a county or two each year," Joseph said. This year, Orange and San Diego counties are the new additions, bringing the total number of Coastwalk counties to 13. Joseph is already planning next year's Orange County walk, which will focus on the northern section of the county's coastline.
Joseph is a former Coastal Commission employee who now heads the advance planning branch for Caltrans in Santa Ana. He took part in a Coastwalk event in Santa Cruz last year and was pressed into service as an Orange County volunteer.
The Santa Cruz walk included Brussels sprouts fields and private lumber property as well as state beaches. "I found it more of an intellectual challenge and less of a physical challenge," Joseph said. "It was a lot of fun. What I enjoyed most was the camaraderie."
June's Orange County walk will mark the first time Joseph has organized such an event, and although it has been a complicated affair, he is happy with the outcome. "I'm very pleased. It's a lot of work, putting something like this together," Joseph said. "The overall reception that we've received from the county and state and city have been really good, as well as from the private property owners that we've been working with."
There were some skeptics, Joseph said. "Not everyone was all that enthusiastic," Joseph said. "Some people didn't think we could do a contiguous trail, but we are actually walking (almost) the whole distance."
The walk will cover about 10 miles a day for the first three days, with the last day reserved for tide-pooling at Crystal Cove State Park and a farewell lunch. The event will begin June 24 at San Clemente Beach State Park, with nine miles of walking on beach sand to Doheny State Park, where the group will camp.
The next morning, the Orange County Marine Institute on Dana Point Harbor will conduct a natural history program for the walkers, along with a historical program aboard the tall ship Pilgrim. From there, the group will walk over the Dana Point headlands along the bluff edge to Salt Creek Beach for lunch.
After lunch, the group will be shuttled to Aliso and Wood Canyons Regional Park, where rangers will lead a nature walk and, after camping overnight, an archeological tour of Indian sites the next morning. The group will continue into Laguna Canyon and the newly dedicated Laguna Coast Wilderness Park with lunch under the sycamores and a walk through lush Laurel Canyon.
From there, the group will proceed to El Moro Canyon in Crystal Cove State Park, site of the last camp.
The walk and its itinerary have been "really well received" despite limited publicity so far, Joseph said. He initially expected that most of the interest would come from outside Orange County, but county residents have provided most of the response. Because of the special arrangements for camping and crossing private property, this is not a route that hikers could do on their own.
"The area's really quite beautiful," Joseph said. "We've been practice walking the trail. . . . There's plenty of (wildlife) activity and plenty of things to see."
Although this walk is primarily through wild areas, Joseph said that future walks may take in some man-made environments. "It doesn't have to be a naturalist kind of walk. It can be sandals and candles," he said. "Laguna Village could be part of a walk."
Two "scholarships" for the walk are available for students 16 to 21 years old. To register, or for further information, call (714) 667-3846.
Coastwalks Set in Other Counties
Coastwalk events are planned in other counties throughout the state. Below is a list of county locations, dates and information phone numbers. Cost for all events is $25 per day for adults.
* Mendocino/Humboldt, June 12-20. (415) 726-6244.
* San Diego, June 14-19. (619) 693-0730.
* Santa Barbara, July 6-11. (805) 964-6477.
* San Luis Obispo, July 12-17. (805) 528-5713.
* Monterey, July 19-25. (408) 648-4847.
* Santa Cruz, July 29-Aug. 1. (707) 539-9652.
* San Francisco, Aug. 4-8. (510) 865-7739.
* San Mateo, Aug. 11-15. (415) 324-1566.
* Marin, Aug. 16-22. (415) 461-5980.
* Sonoma, Aug. 24-29. (707) 823-4071.
* Del Norte, Aug. 30-Sept. 5. (707) 464-2336.
* Humboldt, Sept. 6-11. (707) 822-4360.