Our wanderlust has been cramped these last few months, but as avid walkers, my husband David and I have discovered ways to give our local walkabouts renewed purpose. We recently threaded some of Carmel’s less known paths and parks reigniting the spark of discovery and magic that wed us to this paradisal bubble almost 40 years ago.
The Mission Trail Nature Preserve off Rio Road is the epitome of urban connectivity and the perfect place to launch a historical and architectural exploration of Carmel. This delightful dog-friendly 33-acre park has been treated to extensive fire-safe grooming along with signage upgrades. Gem was thrilled to saunter off-leash on the Serra Trail’s cushy woodchip base up to the north entrance. Spoiler alert! Poop fairies are myth so pick up Rover’s waste. Be aware that free dog waste bags were nixed out of the city’s budget, but trashcans remain at strategic locations.
We turned right uphill on Forest Road to Seventh Avenue at the edge of Carmel’s residential neighborhood. A short meander took us behind the Forest Theater along the Josselyn Lane on the way to Ocean Avenue. Rumor has it that the 1910 amphitheater and one of the oldest outdoor theaters west of the Rockies was the novelist Mary Austin’s idea. We passed Devendorf Park, Carmel’s immaculate patch of green named after J. Frank Devendorf, considered the Father of Carmel-by-the-Sea. I was pleased to see that Café Carmel, formerly Wishart’s Bakery still bakes the flaky apricot sticks.
We crossed to the south side and strolled through the hidden Las Tiendas passage to Dolores Street across from Piccadilly Park. The dot of a park surprised us with a secret corridor between Galante Wine Tasting Room and Thomas Kinkade Studio. The tunnel of lights beyond a gate led us to Ocean Avenue’s Carmel Bakery housed in the town’s oldest building since 1899. No peanut butter cookies that day, so we continued to the Court of the Golden Bough and followed the flagstone path around to Monte Verde Street a couple of steps away from City Hall. The homey wood-shingled building with the welcoming garden landing seemed like an unlikely site for the City Council’s notorious debates surrounding community identity.
The Pine Inn’s brick lane courtyard was a sweet shortcut to Lincoln Street across from the Carmel Library’s garden, lovingly maintained by the local garden club. We left the tourist hub’s frantic energy behind at Sixth Avenue where George Lundeen’s exquisite “Love Forever” bronze sculpture of a senior couple sitting on a park bench lends company to the Carmel Heritage Welcome Center. The Center is aptly located in the first house built by Michael J. Murphy, a 17-year-old carpenter hired by Frank Devendorf in 1902. The first Murphy house is credited for setting the trend for “Carmel Charmers.”
The tiny Carmelita Garden on Fifth Avenue felt like a portal into Carmel’s less trampled realm of quiet streets and alleyways. The houses were a visually stimulating collection of quaint and funky to imaginative and impressive. At Fourth Avenue, we turned downhill to the Lincoln Path steps below the picturesque trestle footbridge before linking with Fourth Avenue’s shady split rail creek-side walkway to San Antonio Avenue. As a human owned by a dog, no Carmel walk is complete without a beach romp, so we let the crosswalk and Gem lead us to the boardwalk and beach stairway.
Once our happy husky had her fill of surf sprints at the foot of the Pebble Beach Golf Course we huffed up the sixty-four steps to San Antonio Avenue’s stitch of California Coastal Trail. We were heading to Second Avenue and the base of Pescadero Road when a white post marked “Jane Powers Walkway” caught my eye. Intrigued, we turned up the narrow lane tucked between houses for four cardio-worthy blocks. I later learned that Jane Powers, a bohemian and artist, was married to Frank H. Powers, Frank Devendorf’s friend and Carmel Development Company partner.
We zigzagged to First Avenue at Pescadero Road, my favorite pedestrian-friendly Carmel walk. At the northern edge of town, vehicular traffic is practically non-existent on this almost 1-mile thigh-pumping route overlooking Pebble Beach’s forested canyon. The hilltop neighborhood rewarded us with soaring ocean views and refreshing perspectives. The Camino Del Monte intersection marked our turnaround point, where an oak statue of Father Junipero Serra stood from 1922 until its removal last June. Valued for its “artistic significance” the city took action to protect it from potential vandalism.
Larca Lane’s Forest Hill Park is an enchanting green island with tennis courts and children’s playground highlighted by a redwood-lined path that dips and rises to intersect with San Carlos Street and Fourth Avenue.
Although trees screen the Point Lobos view from the lookout platform in Vista Lobos Park on Third Avenue, the speck of a park is a pleasant gateway to Torres Street for a peek at Carmel’s first storybook cottage. Hugh Comstock built a 244 square-foot fairytale building between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in 1924 to display and store his wife’s collection of “Otsy Totsy” dolls. It was converted into living quarters in 1933 and has undergone meticulous restoration over the years.
Bruno’s Market, 6 miles into our jaunt, around the corner on Junipero Street, was a welcome stop for a pick-me-up snack, but it was mostly a good excuse to nab a fresh Gizdich blackberry pie.
We thought of closing our urban roaming on Carmel Beach, but I talked David into hoofing up the south side of Ocean Avenue to an unnamed spur discreetly tucked between the stately homes on Hatton Road. Back in the Mission Trail Nature Preserve, Flanders Trail took us by the Lester Rowntree Native Plant Garden named after Lester Gertrude Rowntree, a famous botanist and California native plant expert. We stopped to admire the Flanders mansion’s architecture and soak up the view before scurrying across the meadow, down the switchbacks and up the Doolittle hillside trail to our car. Eight miles of rambling had satiated our hunger for novelty and stoked our craving for blackberry pie!
Linda B. Mullally and husband David share their passion for travel, outdoor recreation and dogs through articles, hiking books and photography at www.lindabmullally.com, Falcon.com and Facebook