Monday, February 9, 2015

Between Sea Lion Point and Bird Island: Weston Beach

Splashing waves near Weston Beach, Point Lobos Reserve
In contrast to nearby sandy Gibson Beach, Weston Beach is a pebble beach. It is surrounded by spectacular bluffs, fractured rock formations and rock islands. Weston Beach is located next to the South Shore Trail—halfway between Sand Hill Cove and China Cove in the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, California.

Weston Beach: pebbles and sedimentary formations

Sandstone rock and conglomerates
The Weston Beach area is an excellent place to explore the local Carmelo Formation—a trace-fossil-containing sedimentary rock at least 50 million years old [1-3]. The beach is south-facing and open to storm surf. The frequent sounds of splashing waves, competing with the screams of seagulls, get coined into the memory of most Weston Beach visitors.

Wave action has eroded the Weston Beach rocks into interesting shapes and patterns. You will find large pebbles eroded from the rocks of the Carmelo Formation. The Carmelo consists of sandstone and mudstone including pebble and cobble stones. The sandstone deposit formed on top of the older Santa Lucia Granodiorite basement. Over the last 50 million years further sedimentation onto the submarine Carmelo formation took place. What we see today is a result of tectonic, marine and weather-related activities—lifting, sea level change and erosion—sculpturing these layers and their inclusions.

Intertidal-zone Carmelo Formation patterns
Weston Beach is named in memory of Edward Weston (1886-1958), who photographed life, forms and textures around Point Lobos for 20 years.

Getting to Weston Beach
Turn west at the signed Point Lobos State Reserve entrance next to Highway 1; about two miles south of Carmel and 24 miles north from the Big Sur Ranger Station. Currently, the entrance fee is $10.00 per vehicle. Continue on the park road from the entrance station past the Sea Lion Point Parking Lot. Continue until you see the Weston Beach signpost. To save the entrance fee, you want to find a parking spot along Highway 1 and hike into the park with various options of reaching Weston Beach. I like the long, scenic variant via South Plateau Trail, Gibson Beach overlook, China Cove, Bird Rock Trailhead & parking area, from where you want to continue northwest-bound on South Shore Trail. Walk past Hidden Beach to get to Weston Beach

References and more to explore
[1] Ed Clifton: Trace Fossils in the Carmelo Formation. September, 2013 [].
[2] Jeff Thomson: Natural history of Point Lobos State Natural Reserve [].
[3] Sierra Club: Point Lobos State Reserve [].

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