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Summer days and early evenings are perfectly suited for what could be the finest short walk along San Diego County's 60-mile-long Pacific Ocean coastline. Many but not all San Diegans and tourists are familiar with the unpaved Coast Walk pathway overlooking La Jolla Bay, atop the cliffs honeycombed with the La Jolla caves.

An interesting, if obscure, place to begin is the small parking area (room for just two cars) at the east end of Coast Walk. You'll find it on a short spur street, signed "Coast Walk," intersecting Torrey Pines Road at a point 200 yards east of the traffic signal at Prospect Place.

Originating from there, a cliff-hugging pathway threads between palatial houses and the unfenced brink of the cliffs. A footbridge and steps span a ravine that plunges some 100 vertical feet to the blue-green waters of the bay. On late summer evenings, during rare blooms of "red tide," the undulating water below pulses with bioluminescence -- a factlet you may want to remember for future reference. Beyond the ravine, a spur path and steps on the left go up to the intersection of Prospect Place and Park Row, another possible starting point. Keep straight. Right below you, unseen from this vantage, are the several La Jolla caves, some of which are exposed during low tide, and others that are never exposed to dry land at all.

Presently you will arrive at a grove of graceful Torrey pines on Goldfish Point. Although these trees grow naturally just up the coast at Torrey Pines State Reserve, they were planted here. The path ends just beyond this pine grove, next to the Cave Store, where you may -- if interested and for a fee -- descend some claustrophobic stairs going down a tunnel and into the dank, westernmost cave of the La Jolla cave series.

You've come the equivalent of a mere three city blocks, so feel free to continue walking on the paved sidewalk past La Jolla Cove, around the periphery of Scripps Park, and as far south along the La Jolla coastline as you wish.

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