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EAT, DRINK & PLAY   -   GET OUT OF TOWN
Get Out of Town! - Jalama Beach
May, 2006 - Issue #19
Miles of undeveloped coastline stretching north and south from Jalama Beach
Miles of undeveloped coastline stretching north and south from Jalama Beach
There is a question I can't answer: Why is a weekend spent camping at Jalama Beach so relaxing? I've tested countless theories over several research-intensive weekends, and with Memorial Day (which officially kicks off the camping season) right around the corner, now is the perfect time to share my findings.

Getting there, and the location itself, might be keys to answering the question. The campground lies about two-and-a-half hours north of Santa Clarita. The stress of life floats away somewhere along Highway 101 as the beaches of Ventura and Santa Barbara glide by. Just past Gaviota you veer off onto Pacific Coast Highway and motor past farms and ranches tucked into the rolling, oak-studded hills. And just before you reach Lompoc, you make a quick left onto Jalama Beach Road.

The last winding 14 miles of the drive culminate at the crest of a hill with a view that will always make me pause every time I come upon it. Stretching north and south as far as you can see is a view the area's former Native American inhabitants would still recognize; the vast blue Pacific rolling onto miles of sandy beaches backed by grassy bluffs that grow into the rolling Coast Range. The only signs of civilization interrupting the panorama are a thin ribbon of railroad tracks, distant ridge-top radio towers, and the 98-site campground below.

The facility is owned and managed by Santa Barbara County. They don't publicize it, and because of its remote location, not many people know about it. Reservations are not available, so ensuring you get a coveted weekend campsite may mean leaving earlier in the week. And that's OK because it leads to more time at the beach. And it also means fewer people. The chance of not getting a site is an effective crowd deterrent.

Jalama Beach Information

Phone: 805-736-3504
Fees: Basic camping, $18; with electric hookups, $25. Day use entry, $6.
Directions: Take State Route 126 west to US Highway 101 north. Exit 101 at State Route 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) just north of Gaviota. Continue north on 1 to Jalama Beach Road and turn left. Continue 14 miles. Road ends at campground.
Reservations: None taken. Campsites are first-come, first-served.
More information: www.santabarbaraparks.org/docs/jalama.html or www.jalamabeach.com
Although Jalama routinely sells out during the summer, there is still plenty of room to follow many paths to relaxation through recreation. The miles of undeveloped beaches and strong swells accommodate boogie boarding, surfing, wind surfing, surf fishing, sun bathing, sand castle building, walking, jogging, rock hounding, kite flying, skinny dipping, stone skipping, tide pooling, whale watching, dolphin watching, seal watching, bird watching and horseshoes. A basketball court and playground are also available. And so is the option of lounging under a shady canopy and doing nothing more than stare at the water until you drift into the total relaxation of a nap.

Another theory regarding the source of contentment centers on food and beverage, as Jalama offers delicacies rarely consumed in more civilized settings. Nothing leads to contentment faster than tortilla chips and cold nacho cheese sauce straight from the jar, except for s'mores and Sam Adams - when consumed in tandem. The famous burgers grilled in the campground store are also a factor to be considered, as is their fresh-brewed coffee that chases away the morning chill and any stiffness attributable to under-inflated air mattresses.

Although many theories are still on the table, my research eliminated some from consideration almost immediately. The cramped community restrooms and pay-for-hot-water showers, for example, and the occasional tent-toppling winds that blow in off the water hinder relaxation.

After years of research, there is still much to be studied. And this summer, settled into a lounge chair next to a crackling fire with a cold Sam Adams in hand and warm marshmallow dribbling down my chin, I'll continue my important work.

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Eric Harnish is a Newhall resident.
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