I was itching for some adventures in nature today, so the kids and I set our GPS to Natural Bridge State Beach (or so we thought) and an hour later found ourselves pulling into the Wilder Ranch State Park parking lot.
A beach is a beach right? No problem. We paid the $10 parking and set about gathering our beach supplies from the car. I briefly considered bring the Tula and decided against it, I was pretty sure the beach was right down the path. Are you picking up on the ironic foreshadowing?
We walked a short ways down the path and came to a daunting “No Trespassing” sign at a railroad crossing. I had definitely seen that there was some private property within the park, so we turned around and followed a bumpy dirt path for a ways.
We walked quite a ways before connecting to a wide dirt road where we saw the same truck going back and forth several times. We then encountered the exact same railway crossing sign and this time ignored it.
Finally, we passed a couple houses and some construction storage and made it to the Old Cove Landing Trail. I was a little nervous that this was going to dead end into a concrete wall, but we were definitely getting closer to the ocean so we powered on. At this point I had carried my 30 lb son the entire way (estimate just shy of a mile) without a carrier and I was desperate to find a spot of sand to plop down on.
It was so worth it. When I first caught sight of the cliff with the dense purple wildflowers I literally gasped. I found out later that this was Sand Plant Beach and it was perfect! We had it entirely to ourselves, the view was incredible, the sand was play-grade, there was lots of driftwood to play with, and we saw an otter!
After a happy couple hours on the beach, we headed back to the trail to try for a different route home. The problem was we had no concept of how long the path was. It ended up being a lot longer then I anticipated and at one point we even turned back thinking we’d overshot and should just go back the way we came. Fortunately some bikers came along and reassured us.
Despite the will-we-ever-get-home? worries, the Old Cove Landing Trail was stunning! We passed cove after cove, each more beautiful then the last. Some coves had sea caves, some had seals, and all had turquoise water crashing against steep cliffs.
It was an incredible day trip and we didn’t even get to visit the historic Wilder Ranch or explore the sea cave! I can’t wait to go back and I think this just got bumped to #1 on my list of places on the coast to bring visitors.