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JAUNTS : Walk to Combine Coastal Ecology With Camping : The six-day trek will cover 33 miles, most of the county's shoreline, in an effort to promote a state trail.

June 22, 1995|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you want to get to know Ventura County's coastline, walk it.

So says a hearty band setting out Monday on a six-day trek that combines hiking, sightseeing, camping and learning about the ecology of the coast.

This isn't just a casual stroll. The hike is sponsored by Coastwalk, a statewide nonprofit organization that wants to establish a coastal trail the length of California.

Since 1983, the group has conducted these walks in coastal counties to promote the idea. But last year was the first time that Ventura County was included.

It's not too late to sign up for this year's walk, according to coordinator Tom Maxwell, a retired Cal Lutheran anthropology professor who led the hike here last summer.

The walk costs $30 a day, which includes campground fees, dinner and shuttle service each day along the way. But if you just want to walk part of the route without camping, it's $20 a day, provided you can arrange your own transportation.

Although billed as a county Coastwalk, there's no way to explore the entire coast because of barriers such as homes, rocks, high tide and rivers. So the hikers will shuttle around whole chunks of coastline, but whenever possible, they'll walk the sand, covering four to seven miles each day and hiking a total of 33 miles.

They'll take in plenty of sights along the way, such as the banana plantation in La Conchita and the Channel Islands National Park visitors center at Ventura Harbor.

Maxwell has lined up specialists to meet the group at various points to talk about everything from birds to geology. At Ventura Harbor, they'll spend a few hours kayaking.

Last year, the band of walkers had to shuttle around Point Mugu Naval Air Weapons Station, but this year they have permission to walk the base's coastline.

"That's four miles of beach we have not seen," Maxwell said.

Most nights, the walkers will be shuttled to the campground at McGrath State Beach in Oxnard; in the morning, they'll be shuttled to the start of the day's walk.

The last two days, they'll see Mugu Rock and take side trips into La Jolla Canyon, along the Backbone and Overlook trails to Sycamore Cove, finally winding up at Thornhill Broome State Beach.

Last year, about 450 people went on Coastwalk hikes throughout the state's 15 coastal counties, according to Richard Nichols, Coastwalk's statewide coordinator.

"People have a blast doing it," said Nichols, who was on Ventura's County's first walk last year. He hopes that one day there will be a California coastal trail similar to the 2,638-mile Pacific Crest Trail that winds through mountains and deserts from Canada to Mexico.

"Half the coastline has one form of trail or another now," Nichols said.

Another reason for the walks, he said, is to educate people about their right to use California's beach frontage, as guaranteed by the state Constitution. In theory, you have access as long as you stay on the seaward side of the high tide mark--the wet sand.

"Most people think that going to the coast means going to a beach or having dinner at the harbor," Nichols said. "They don't realize there is an awful lot of coast they can get to by walking."

Details

* WHAT: Coastwalk, a six-day hike along Ventura County's coastline.

* WHEN: Monday through Saturday.

* WHERE: Camp at McGrath State Beach on Sunday night; shuttle to the start Monday at Carpinteria State Beach.

* HOW MUCH: $30 a day or $20 if not camping.

* CALL: (818) 707-7163.

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