Best Place to Die on a Very Short Hike

Check the tide tables, don’t bring your dog, and don’t eat anything funky before you tackle this short but punishing hike. These are the things I learned the first time I tried the Shipwreck Trail, when my pit bull and I nearly drowned trying to get a glimpse of the wasted and rusted Greek freighter Dominator, which crashed into the Palos Verdes cliffs one foggy spring night lo these 45 years ago. (I don’t think pirates were involved, just a busted compass or two.) I twisted my ankle that day, and the dog hasn’t stopped limping since. And she didn’t care a hoot for the wreckage, anyway.

So: If the incoming tide doesn’t wash you away, the stench of dead sea life (a porpoise carcass lay here all summer) will retrieve the huevos rancheros from your gut via reverse peristalsis, and the sun will kill you. Turn around and try again, early in the morning when the moon has waned and the tide is low. The view is thrilling, and rarely do four short miles bring such a sense of accomplishment.

On your second and, we hope, more successful trip, when you scramble over those last few hundred yards of sole-shredding rocks, you’ll find the remnants of a real, live shipwreck: a rusted hulk of steel that once carved through waves, a cluster of cylinders that pumped this or carried that. But be warned that the Dominator, whose entire crew survived the mishap, has deteriorated so badly over the years that it could just as well be the site of a plane crash.

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LA Weekly