Torrey Pines State Reserve, located along California’s Pacific Coast between La Jolla and Del Mar, is a 2,000 acre parcel of land where the wilderness meets the sea. It is an authentic testament of the raw, natural beauty which covered southern California before it was developed. The legacy and preservation of this spectacular Reserve is a result of the forethought of local philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps (1836-1932), who donated the land here with the provision that it remain undeveloped forever. It is preserved and offered for us to view and enjoy in a way similar to that which the Spanish explorers, Kumeyaay Indians and early settlers discovered as they arrived to unspoiled beaches, native plants, trees, flora and fauna and prime weather conditions.
The weather was picture perfect for a day of exploration when we arrived for our Sunday morning hike. The Reserve contains six separate trails covering eight miles. We walked along the meandering entrance road (originally a portion of Highway 101 linking San Diego with Los Angeles), then set off on the North Fork Trail toward the beach. The views along this 1-1/4 mile trail were spectacular with scenic overlooks and a steep descent to the beach. Working our way back toward the Visitor’s Center, we covered a few more miles along the Beach and Razor Point Trails, both offering incredible coastal, gorge and badland views.
Hiking this stately Reserve is truly a feast for the senses! Hundreds of varieties of scrub, tree and plant life, and natural wildflowers fill this serene and soulful place. The delicate beauty of each individual variety is astonishing. Butterflies and hummingbirds hover over brilliantly colored lupine, dahlias, poppies, lilies and Indian Paintbrush. These elegant beauties co-mingle with scrub and foliage … some delicately cling to rocks and crevices while others dig their roots deep into the soil and stretch wildly in all directions. Each shrub has its own distinct elements; the leaves of the Laurel Sumac fold while acorns of the Scrub Oak are tucked between hard, prickly leaves. Tiny leaves and delicate flowers fill the long, slender stems of Black Sage, Chamise and Deer Weed. Interspersed throughout the Reserve is the Mojave Yucca, possessing sleek, sharp pointed leaves and creamy white flowers projecting from a long stalk in the center of the cactus.
The stately Torrey Pine (Pinus Torreyana) is the rarest pine species in the United States, and is indigenous only to San Diego County and the Channel Islands along the Santa Barbara Coast. The Torrey Pine is the only pine tree found at this Reserve and it grows prolifically here. It is easily identifiable with its long (commonly 12 inches) needles clustered in groups of five, and heavy, stout pinecones.
The visual element of the Torrey Pines State Reserve is nothing short of spectacular, yet the sounds of nature are just as captivating. Waves crash in the distance, birds sing to one another, animal life scurries in the brush and insects chirp while leaves and nesting birds rustle in the tall trees. The fragrant aromas of Sagebrush, Thyme and Spice Bush caught on a salty coastal breeze add yet another magnificent layer to the sensory feast. From December through February migrating grey whales can be spotted passing along the coast during their annual trek to warmer waters. Hiking Torrey Pines is a wonderful opportunity for any lover of the outdoors who lives in or visits San Diego County to experience pristine wildlife and scenery, and a valuable lesson in the history of this profoundly beautiful area. The Torrey Pines Docent Society has penned valuable literature specific to this Reserve and offers guided walks on weekends and holidays. The Torrey Pines Association also funds numerous projects at Torrey Pines State Reserve.
There is nothing like an exhilarating morning hike to stimulate a voracious appetite for another type of feast … namely FOOD … specifically FISH TACOS! A scenic drive north from Torrey Pines along the Coast Highway brought a bounty of inspiring dining options. We settled on Karina’s Taco Shop in Encinitas, and were immediately drawn to their selection of fresh seafood dishes. The fish tacos and shrimp tacos were fresh, full of flavor and drizzled with a delicious sauce. The ceviche we sampled was robustly flavored with fresh fish, citrus juices, cilantro and spicy peppers. Stop in and pay them a visit at 916 Coast Highway in Encinitas. (760) 633-3300.