March 16, 2014

Photo Essay: Among the Crazy Cliff Climbers of Black's Beach

I first visited Black's Beach from the air. I was paragliding with Steve, my tandem pilot, who pointed down there and mentioned that it was clothing-optional. Then he gestured towards the "crazy people" who walk down the cliffs to the beach along eroded stair trails.

My curiosity was piqued, and subsequently found myself on the Torrey Pines Beach Trail, but it was too easy — not nearly as harrowing as the trail by the Gliderport looked.

Yesterday, having an hour and a half to kill on a rare day trip to San Diego, I decided to join those crazy people, and hike down to Black's Beach along an unsafe stairway from the Gliderport.

The trailhead sign advises the public to stay back — DO NOT USE — but there's no physical barricade, and plenty of people climb up and down it on their way to and from the beach.

At first, it's not so harrowing: it's almost paved. Maybe it used to be paved.

But it is severely eroded, and therefore slippery.

Most beach-goers are able to manage it with bare feet or flip-flops.

But it becomes very steep.

The stairs have become so unstable that hikers have carved out a day use trail alongside of them...

...exacerbating the erosion.

I encountered a man coming up who called out to me, "Hello beach neighbor!" When I reciprocated in kind, he warned me of swarming bees.

I walked through anyway.

I could see my beach destination the entire way...

...encountering only one topless woman, despite its reputation for nudity.

Despite the danger...

...the trail withstood constant two-way traffic of surfers, swimmers, tourists, and vacationers...

...with their surf boards, folding chairs, and beach umbrellas.

Although I had to take the trail slowly and carefully...

...being passed by nearly everyone in both directions...

...the ocean breeze cooling the sweat I'd worked up... no point did I feel particularly "crazy"...

...until I had to go back up.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Torrey Pines Beach Trail's Unstable Cliffs
Photo Essay: Dangerous Bluffs

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