San Diego: Sunset Cliffs

image -- instagram: @chanelmarlene

image -- instagram: @chanelmarlene

A poetically-written exploration of where rust-colored earth meets wild, open sea. 

A string of sandstone cliffs edges the southernmost point of the California coast, jutting out against the ocean on its way down to Baja. These are the Sunset Cliffs of Ocean Beach. For several stunning miles, anyone can wander to the end of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, turn left, and breathe life-giving sea air while walking, jogging, or simply basking alongside these golden gatekeepers of the Pacific.

I’ll confess: I am partial to gray days and rugged, windy coastlines. But on a socked-in summer morning, or a winter dusk when steely clouds bear down over San Diego, a brisk hike along these cliffs is the next best thing. Watch the waves drift and eddy, embraced in the crook of a cliff side one moment, dashed into a cloud of white spray and foam the next. Watch the lizards and squirrels scamper through the scrubs and wildflowers edging the trail. Watch the lovers wrapped in blankets, hoping to catch a green flash beneath the pier. Watch the surfers dotting the horizon like birds, waiting on their boards, feeling the power of the ocean rise and fall against their weight.

I used to walk these cliffs every day; in my mind, when I am stressed, when my legs and breath grow stagnant in the grit-flecked air of Sunset Boulevard, I still do. I turn off the main road, find a shady stretch, and imagine my way back from this city Sunset to the smell of salt and kelp and sand…to the place where I find fresh vitality in every breath.