By Will Meyst, Education Coordinator for the Dunes Center
On July 4th, our nation’s 239th birthday, my self and a small group of Dunes Center volunteers ventured south from Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve with two goals in mind: 1) reach Mussel Point to view the spectacular geologic formations, and 2) reach Paradise Beach (which I might add is very aptly named) to eat lunch.
Ray Segovia led our small group 2 1/4 miles south along Guadalupe Beach until we came across jutting layers of rock. On top of the rock terraces were massive sand dunes, some that had piled over 500 feet into the air. Ray leads hikes for the Dunes Center and has been exploring the area for decades. He says that Mussel Point, Paradise Beach, and Point Sal are some of his favorite places to visit because they are stunningly beautiful and offer peace of mind. Along with us were Gabby Mendoza and Oscar Iriarte.
After climbing atop the jutting rock terraces, we continued south along the jagged coast. A far cry away from the sandy beach, this area was precarious but incredible. Layer upon layer of deformed rock littered the coastline. Natural tar was seeping out of tightly compressed rock. The ocean’s waves were ever chipping away at the shore, carving out caves, arches, tide pools and other incredible coastal features. This rock, known as the Monterey Formation, was truly a sight to behold. For geology fans, it is an absolute must.
Plant life was abundant as well. Never before have I seen such biodiversity on such an inhospitable landscape (or so I thought it was inhospitable). There were common species like sand verbena, dune lupine, coast aster, and many others. Uncommon plants were present as well – I recognized a couple of individual surf thistles which is a threatened species. I’m certain I saw many other rare plants as well, including the individual I snapped a photo of below, but you will have to forgive my botanical naivety.
Many animals called this area their home as well. We saw pigeon guillemots, pelagic cormorants, leopard seals, and tons of dragonflies and other insects. If you were to look hard, I’m sure many others could also be observed.
All in all, Mussel Point has something for everyone. If you’re a geology buff (or bluff – you geologists might appreciate the word play), a fan of California botany, an animal lover, or you simply want to spend some quality time at a world class beach – this is a hike you do not want to miss out on. This is THE quintessential California coastline. It’s world famous, and it’s right in our backyard.