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Hiking: Ventura County

Bowing to Pier Pressure

August 04, 1996|JOHN McKINNEY

Long, sandy Port Hueneme Beach comes complete with lifeguard towers, separate areas for swimming and surfing, a snack bar and a fishing pier. In many ways, this Ventura County beach is your typical fun-in-the-sun Southland strand; however, Hueneme mixes a lot of business with its pleasures.

The Port of Hueneme, located at the north end of the beach, is the only deep-water port between San Francisco and San Pedro. Offshore oil-drilling equipment, oil, autos, fruit and lumber are among the diverse cargo shipped to and from Hueneme. In his 1913 travel narrative, "California Coast Trails," nature writer Joseph Smeaton Chase observed: "Hueneme is the ghost of a once-flourishing town. On its one business street, the vacant stores, with their hopeless signs of To Rent, stand ranked in shabby idleness, like a row of blind beggars."

More recently The beach area has been redeveloped. Condos and a cultural center were built across from Point Hueneme Beach Park. A pedestrian walkway meanders through a mile-long greenbelt--Bubbling Springs Linear Park--connecting the city's residential area with the beach. The walkway could be a pleasant addition to your hike.

The old Hueneme wharf was replaced by a quarter-mile-long recreational pier constructed in 1978. Walk out on the pier and get great views of the Ventura coast, the Santa Monica Mountains to the east and the Channel Islands floating on the horizon.

From Port Hueneme Beach Park, you can walk up beach a short distance, then out along the wave-battered jetty toward the harbor entrance, but it's not a particularly attractive stroll. Far more enjoyable is the walk along wide and sandy Ormond Beach.

The three-mile-long beach is backed by some dunes that hide most signs of civilization with the major exception of the towering stacks of the Edison Co.'s Ormond Beach Generating Station.

Directions to trail head: From U.S. 101 in Oxnard, exit on Ventura Road and drive 6 1/2 miles south to Port Hueneme Beach Park. Parking costs 50 cents per half an hour or $5 all day. Some free one-hour street parking is available near the beach; farther away, there's two-hour street parking.

The hike: Head south along the beach. Seashell admirers will note the abundance of sand dollars found along this shore; there's a dense bed of the echinoderms offshore.

From Port Hueneme Beach you'll travel onto wide Ormond Beach. Low dunes offer nesting sites for the endangered California least tern. Also back of the beach is a pickle weed- and salt grass-dotted wetland, which provides habitat for many birds.

A bit more than halfway down Ormond Beach, you'll look up at the two giant 750-megawatt oil/gas-fired generating units of Edison's power plant (ah, nature).

Trail's end is the fenced boundary of Point Mugu Naval Air Station.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Port Hueneme Beach Trail

WHERE: Port Hueneme Beach Park Terrain: sandy beach, low dunes.

DISTANCE: From Port Hueneme Beach Park to end of Ormond Beach is 6 miles round trip.

TERRAIN: Dramatic coastline of peninsulas, long sea chnnels and tremendous cliffs more than 1,000 feet high.

HIGHLIGHTS: Unpeopled Southland beach.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Easy.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Port Hueneme Chamber of Commerce (805) 488-2023.

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