Central Coast Roadtrip #4: Pismo Beach Dunes

Tuesday Roadtrip Day 2 comes to a close: I made it to the Pismo Beach State Park just in time for some late afternoon/evening light. My objective was to stand in the large, "untouched" sand dunes -- they were the motivation for me to drive up the coast during my week sans child.  And I can't encourage this stop enough for anyone who is traveling in this part of California. It's stunning.

It took some asking to determine if I was in the right spot, since a portion of the sandy state beach is for Off-Highway Vehicular (OHV) riding. While that looked super fun, I wanted to be in the area of the large dunes that were off-limits to those off-roaders. (Plus there's a story of me turning one of those OHVs over at a beach in Cabo while trying to make a jump with it in the sand. I didn't want to risk repeating that at my age....) It's possible to pay the park fee and drive your car on the beach along a trodden path at the water's edge, but I'd read about people regretting their decision to do so when the tide came up and their vehicles got stuck in the wet sand. Or they ended up off the "path" and got stuck in the thick, dry beach sand. In both cases, kind people with trucks and hitches had to help them out. 

Instead, I parked at the free beach parking lot and began walking south down the beach. Even threw some rocks at birds to make them fly again for a photo or two... or a dozen! I continued past the houses for about 1 mile-ish and came to an opening in a fence behind the big dumpsters, just north of the OHV area. At first, the area didn't seem vast, but I just couldn't see over the first crest of sand dunes. The sand was fine and it took some effort to walk in it, but over the first crest I saw an immense vista before me. At the eastern horizon, I could see another crest of sand dunes with a small group of people at the top of one in the distance. I thought, "They're crazy. How did they get all the way over there?... I have to get there!" I checked my water supply and my cel phone battery level: water was good, cel phone charge not great. If I got lost, I'd wish I'd had more of both!

There were large areas of sand that looked simply undisturbed by animal or human foot traffic. There were only a few spots where traces of broken beer bottles or a piece of candy wrapper were buried just beneath the surface. It was incredible to "discover" that this place was here, preserved by the State Parks of California and the vocal environmentalists, for everyone to view and appreciate.

When I got to the top of the second crest of dunes where the small group of people had now left, no kidding, I found an even WIDER blanket of soft sand between me and the visible horizon to the far east. Waaaaay to the east. I couldn't even see that group anywhere or where they went! At this point, I realized that to jump off this crest and into this next valley meant really, REALLY keeping track of my direction if I was going to get back to my car without wandering the dunes in the wrong direction for long...eventually in the dark..and without enough water. My cel phone was dead. Not gonna lie, mild panic set in, but from my current vantage point, I could still see the first crest with the ocean beyond it at my back. I took more pictures and a short video and opted to trek back out of the dunes. I was satisfied that I'd accomplished my mission. I had a mile-ish hike along the shoreline to my car anyway and no idea what time it was. 

Sure enough, on my jog back to my car, I saw THREE cars being pulled out of the wet sand in the tide by big 4-wheel drive trucks!

Check in again for more of my Central Coast Roadtrip and see photos of Pismo Beach Dunes in the Central Coast Roadtrip photo gallery.  You might also notice that I re-organzied my Galleries. If you have any thoughts about how the new categories flow now, I'm all ears!  As always, I appreciate it when you share my websiteIG or FB posts you that like on your social media pages too 😁🙏.