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3-HOUR TOUR

To Get on the Beach Track, Go Under the Trestles

September 09, 1993|ANNE MICHAUD | Anne Michaud is a staff writer for The Times Orange County Edition.

Stop at any beach just north of Trestles, and you'll find a fine welcome. There are signs to point the way, parking spaces right near the beach and, sometimes, a concession stand.

Trestles Beach, which is just over the San Diego County line, is more elusive. The parking lot is a mile walk from the water, and the foot path is not at all marked.

When you do find the foot path, you will be greeted by the sentiments of one graffiti artist: "If you don't live here, don't surf here. Go back."

You should ignore the warning. The wild beauty of Trestles makes it worth the effort.

Noon to 1 p.m.: Before you hit the beach, you should stop in for some lunch at Alex's German-American Restaurant. It's just up the street on South El Camino Real.

This is a homey place, a white building with red trim. The plastic tablecloths are straight from a discount department store.

Owners Frank and Rose Russick have put their stamp on this 40-year-old restaurant, which they have owned for about half its history.

Pictures of their 11 kids and many grandkids cover the wall. There are news clippings about San Clemente and the surf scene. And there's also a letter from two Japanese customers, telling the Russicks how much they enjoyed their meal.

The food is served hot and quickly. Frank tends the grill while Rose waits tables. There is bratwurst and sauerkraut, Kassler Rippchen (smoked pork chops) and apple strudel.

Burgers and sandwiches run about $5 to $6; the German meals are a little more, about $6 to $10.

This restaurant, for such a little place, has a wide variety of German beer. There are seven selections from the Spaten Franziskaner, Munich's oldest brewery, according to the menu. Another beer, St. Stan's Amber, is reputed to have been the favorite brew of Frederick the Great.

Before you leave Alex's, take a minute to check out the stacks of used books for sale along one wall. You might bring one along to the beach. Or, if you need a volleyball net, you'll find it here, too.

1 to 3 p.m.: Here is the definitive guide to finding Trestles Beach:

Park in the lot, which is next to a Carl's Jr. and under a huge American flag. Grab your gear, walk back over the freeway overpass, and hang a left onto the asphalt foot path. This brush-lined path is not the only way to get to the beach, but it will get you there, and it will entertain you at the same time with graffiti messages that appear underfoot.

Someone named Andrea is a babe, according to one admiring writer. And a group of surfers apparently liked what they saw at the movies this summer, naming themselves Team Free Willy and adorning the walkway with their tag.

Walk under the train trestle, for which this beach is named, and you're there. The shoreline stretches on either side as far as you can see. Behind you are high bluffs, topped with sea grasses and palm trees.

One of the first things you'll notice about Trestles is that there is an operating Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad line running along the beach. People have been hit by these trains, so stay away from the tracks.

One of the next things you'll notice is that there are no swimmers. It's a rocky beach, so there isn't much middle ground between full-fledged surfing and getting your feet wet. This makes Trestles a relatively safe beach where small children can play in the waves without being tempted to go in too deep.

On the other hand, it's kind of dry if you're an adult who doesn't surf, so be forewarned. The entertainment here lies in watching the huge, rolling waves and the surfers who try to master them. Walk north a little bit, to where there's a wall of sand-colored rocks, for the best view.

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