by Michael Arnold
If you drive northbound on the I-5 freeway through San Diego (depending upon your final destination, of course) you are likely to pass a small stretch of beach that may not seem of any particular interest. Travelers passing through could easily notice the blue shoreline, white sands, and rocky bluffs which are common staples of California’s coastline. However, if you take the time to explore this location, you will experience something much more than it initially lets on. It is the Torrey Pine State Natural Reserve, and it is one of the only homes of the Torrey Pine, a rare and endangered tree species. With only about 100 surviving trees left, it holds the not so coveted position of being the second rarest pine tree in the world, only behind the Southern Lacebark Pine in China. The reserve is a tranquil and picturesque destination, home of many hiking trails and views to rival California’s better known beaches. Today, visitors can rest assured knowing that the area is being actively protected and restored, but the efforts to get there came neither easily nor quickly.
The Torrey Pine was “officially” discovered in 1850 by Dr. Charles Parry, a passionate botanist who was passing through the San Diego area for work. He returned to the area in 1883, and upon finding that no protection measures were in place, he wrote an account describing in detail the scientific and ecological necessity of protecting this rare species. This marked the first steps in the Torrey Pine’s conservation. Within three years, legislation was implemented that placed one hundred dollar fines (about two thousand dollars today) for anyone who was found vandalizing a Torrey Pine. While this was a big win for the conservationists, aggressive grazing and logging efforts in 1890 left the area naked and the Torrey Pine critically endangered.
More proactive measures had to be taken, so in 1899 conservationists George Marston, David Cleveland, and Belie Angler successfully lobbied City Council to keep 364 acres of land to be protected as a public park. In a few years, however, the lands surrounding the park were in danger of being commercially sold. It wasn’t until a Southern California philanthropist, Ellen Browning Scripps, purchased additional lots surrounding the area and gave them back to the people of San Diego that the park in its current, protected state...could finally come to fruition.
The history of this location was something that piqued my interest and called me to experience its wonder on a personal level. That being said, my hike across the reserve was serene. The closer parking lot was full, but I didn’t mind parking further away to experience a breathtaking walk down San Diego’s shoreline. There are many areas along this stretch of beach that are still being restored, and I felt overjoyed that even today these small gems of land are being actively protected. The hike is not a long or difficult one, so it is a perfect weekend excursion for people of all ages and athletic ability.
When I made it to the top of the reserve’s bluff, I was struck by the sheer simplicity of what I was experiencing- a whale spouting water, wind blowing small sand tornadoes, a squirrel finding shade beneath the afternoon sun. I was simply viewing the world in its natural state of being. Appreciation of Southern California’s beauty only requires eyes and a love for nature, yet it took more than thirty years to place protection on it. The trail is marked with several plaques thanking the men and women who worked to create and protect the reserve. In my mind, the best way we can respect their efforts is by enjoying the beautiful land and ensuring that the reserve and its delicate Torrey Pine survive for as long as we can allow it. I had a great time at the Torrey Pine reserve, and I hope to inspire all my readers to go out and explore our amazing state of California and all it has to offer!
Click the map below for easy to use directions via Google Maps. Stop by Torrey Pine State Natural Reserve for your next SoCal adventure!
About the Author
Hey LoSoCal readers! My name is Michael Arnold and I have been a proud Southern Californian for twenty two years. I am a UC Santa Barbara alumni (Go Gauchos!) who enjoys the outdoors, nature, and generally living healthy and happy. The goal of my writing is to not only publicize some of the great things SoCal has to offer, but to also inspire my readers to go out and have great experiences! Some of my topics of interest include hiking, mindfulness, health and wellness, scuba diving, and poetry.
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Owner, Lead Blogger
Hello, my name is Karen Vazquez. I have lived in Southern California for over thirty years. I realized about four years ago that it was time for me to give back to this wonderful community by supporting local SoCal businesses, performers, restaurants, spas, boutiques, fitness studios, farmers markets and more. My support shines through here by highlighting these fabulous local SoCal spots. You can also follow me on Instagram, Twitter, PInterest and LinkedIn. I will be featuring many local destinations in the area that have been my personal favorites for years and am currently recruiting guest bloggers to expand the voice of LoSoCal. I have had guest bloggers in the past, but aim to incorporate local SoCal bloggers on a regular basis as a fun, creative and collaborative way to connect with the community here. Essentially, LoSoCal is a community blog, and it is meant to be resource to locals in this area and visitors from around the world. Please like or follow LoSoCal on the social media business pages and tell your contacts about the blog. Thanks for stopping by...
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