White Point to Point Fermin
Lots to see on this hike in the Palos Verdes / San Pedro area. I started down the beach and finished on the bluffs, as is usual for me when hiking here. In addition to parks at White Point and Point Fermin, I also visited nearby Sunken City and Angels Gate Park.
Driving Directions: Whenever I head down here I enjoy staying on Lincoln Blvd. It probably takes longer than the freeway, but it’s less hectic and I know it pretty well now. From Santa Monica take Lincoln Blvd. southeast in the direction of Venice. Stay on it for a long while, passing through Santa Monica, Venice, and Marina Del Rey. Pass Loyola Marymount University. Beyond that, Lincoln curves to the right and becomes Sepluvda Blvd. Drive passed LAX and through the towns of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach. In Redondo Beach, turn right on Palos Verdes Blvd. There is a somewhat confusing junction in 1.5 miles. At this junction, curve to the right onto Palos Verdes Drive West. Stay on this bluffside road for many more miles. Palos Verdes Drive becomes W 25th Street. From W 25th, turn right onto S Western Ave/Ca-213. Drive 0.6 miles to the end of that road. Go left onto South Paseo Del Mar. Drive 0.1 miles for parking, in the beach lots for a fee or on the street for free.
I arrived a little later than I had planned at White Point. There is metered parking in the upper lot and a set fee to park in the lower lot. I avoided all that by taking one of the few spots on the street.
Looking down and then up coast.
The beach here is very rocky. Whenever I hike on a beach like this it’s always an interesting, somewhat treacherous experience, so it’s a relief to get back to flat ground. I would return along the bluffs on mostly paved road. Photo 2 – This “Danger: Keep Out Sign” was thoroughly ignored.
I crossed paths with a woman on the beach. She seemed quite interested in this bump in the water. Several boats circled it. From a distance and being unfamiliar with this particular beach, I thought it was just a small rock. Turns out it was a dead humpback whale that had washed up on a nearby beach about a week before. It was towed out to sea but the current returned it to the shore. The whale had been tagged by researchers about a year ago. Her name was Wally.
I continued down the beach with Point Fermin now in sight.
I see faces in so many of the rocks.
I knew my trail up and off the beach was coming up somewhere. Confusing the matter, there are several private trails leading up, and some quite sketchy ones as well.
I soon found the trail to the bluffs. I knew I was on the right path because there was a trash can at the bottom and no private trail would have that. The path began as dirt and soon became paved.
I popped up at the western end of Point Fermin Park, which starts as a greenbelt where Barbara Street intersects with South Paseo Del Mar. From above I gazed down on the gorgeous clear water. Photo 3 – There was a buzz in the air. Something was happening and people were talking. It was the dead whale. It had been towed over here, about a mile or so from where I first encountered it.
I hiked toward Point Fermin. The Korean Friendship Bell, located in Angels Gate Park, appeared on the hillside. I would make my way over to it eventually, but first, Point Fermin.
I reached the end of Point Fermin Park, blocked by an unclimbable fence. The area known as Sunken City is on the other side. It’s the ruins of a former neighborhood, destroyed by a landslide in the late 1920’s. My guidebook said to walk around the barrier but those instructions are out of date. I had to find another way in. I backtracked along South Paseo Del Mar to Gaffey Street, which runs perpendicular. Gaffey Street is important to this hike as it not only leads to Sunken City but also the entrance to Angels Gate Park. From Gaffey Street I took the first right onto Shepard Street, and then went right again on Carolina toward the ocean. Photos 3 and 4 – I passed an interesting garden along the way, decorated with a rusty propane tank full of bullet holes. Photo 5 – At the end of Carolina I came to the fence again. I noticed a gap and squeezed through.
I hiked over to the cliff and peered down on a twisted maze of buckled concrete slabs and eroded hillside. Welcome to Sunken City.
I made my way down into the wreckage.
Covered in colorful spray paint, the setting is surreal – strange and unique, which have their own appeal apart from beauty. People lived here once – dreamed, hoped, cried and loved here. I pondered the impermanence of life.
Looking back up at the top. After exploring for a bit more I returned to the gate I originally snuck through.
I walked back up near where I entered. I passed some basketball courts and a few youth hostel buildings located on the property. I followed a paved road that leads other attractions in the park. To my right I saw a well worn trail leading up to what I thought was an old tractor. It turned out to be a new tractor with a guy sitting inside. There were many buildings at the top of the hill, some sort of center for artists. A few pieces of art work stood nearby.
I returned to the road in search of the Marine Mammal Care Center, where they rehabilitate sick and injured seals, etc. I missed it and wound up at the border of a high school, or maybe a junior high. Just before that I passed a bunch of old buildings which looked like they may have been part of the school a long time ago and now sit abandoned. I backtracked to a sign for the International Bird Rescue, which is not open to the viewing public. I believe this is where oil covered birds come to be cleaned and heal up. Right next door is the Marine Mammal Care Center, much easier to spot heading in this direction.
For me this was the highlight of the day. I wish I could have taken more and better pictures but I was shooting through two fences and my camera kept focusing on the fence instead of the seals and sea lions. I did have a nice conversation with a couple of volunteers who told me about the different animals I was viewing. Some of the seals have painted heads in a rainbow pattern, to help identify them. It reminded me of the guy who used to wear the rainbow wig on televised football games when I was a kid.
After visiting the seals I walked back down the road. When I first came through I passed a locked gate for what I assume is the Fort MacArthur Museum and Historic Site. I believe a sign said it was closed on Wednesdays, which was the day I was hiking. There was another gate a few yards away, however, that was open. No “Closed” or “No Trespassing” signs in sight, so I entered. I passed several people there and no one said a word, so I continued into the heart of the area.
There are several interesting displays.
A graveyard for military dogs is here, a special unit called the K9 Commandos. These dogs are not what comes to mind when we now think of military dogs – those who sniff out explosives, etc. These dogs were trained as weapons, to attack and kill enemy soldiers. After WWII they were used as sentry dogs on Nike missile sites. In the 1970’s, when we decommissioned the Nike bases, tragically the dogs were all euthanized as they were deemed too dangerous to be adopted out. Sorry for the sad ending.
The big building in the center of the site is the Battery Osgood-Farley, which was actually built during World War I. The two big guns that once stood here could fire a shell 14 miles out into the Pacific.
I headed up the steep staircase to the top of the structure.
There are a couple of other concrete structures, twins in appearance, to the left and right of the big building. Maybe these are where the big guns were placed?
I had one more area to explore, a micro park named Lookout Point, which is just a bit further up Gaffey Street on the opposite side from Angels Gate Park. I passed a cat mailbox and what I assume to be a haunted house on the way up the road. The etching in the concrete reads, “This Is World Famed Lookout Point”. There are a couple binoculars and a little viewing platform.
Below is an absolutely mind boggling amount of colossal-sized industrial equipment. This shows only a fraction of it.
Photo 1 – Point Fermin
Photo 1 – At the end of the greenbelt portion of Point Fermin Park where I had come up from the beach earlier, I noticed this dog poop bag dispenser, an homage to Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream”. I came to a point where I had to walk through the White Point Nature Preserve, as the street I was on dead ended. This area is the former home of a Nike missile base and also has several trails. I explored a bit but I was hot and tired and had had enough for the day. I crossed over where they once housed the missiles, made it back to the road and then my car. Awesome day!