CENTRAL COAST DOG WALKS
Asilomar's Yellow Brick Trail and Boardwalk
by Pam Bonsper
Imagine a yellow brick road right here on the Central Coast. Well, it isn’t actually a yellow brick road; it is more of a yellow brick trail, and it is part of the State Parks’ Coastal Access Improvement project at Asilomar Conference Grounds. Since 1984, members of the International Wizard of Oz Club have flocked to Asilomar for the annual Winkie Convention. They will miss the yellow brick trail this year because the convention has moved to San Diego for 2014.
But you and your dog can enjoy the newly installed 40,000 square feet of yellow brick and boardwalk trails winding throughout the expansive conference grounds. Leashed dogs are welcome. There isn’t an emerald city at the end of the trail, but it will take you to an emerald sea.
Enter the park through two large stone pillars at the intersection of Asilomar Boulevard and Sinex Avenue in Pacific Grove. Bear to the right and follow the road to the end. Park, then start walking on the yellow brick trail.
Go past the maintenance building toward the many lodging structures. Turn left at the Curlew Marlin Chapel sign and follow the yellow bricks. They will lead you to the boardwalk, which in turn, leads you to a 180ᵒ view of the Pacific Coast, from Santa Cruz to Spanish Bay. While you meander along the wide pathways, take note of the restored native plants: Tidestom's lupine, beach sagewort, and yellow sand verbena, to name a few, while your dog has been obediently staying on the trail and listening to you ooh and ah at the sweeping panoramic views.
Whale-watching boats, screaming sea gulls, and surfers will delight your senses and make your dog pull you toward the beach. You will soon come to a crossroads where you can turn left to go back to the conference center or right to go down to Asilomar Beach.
If your pooch has convinced you to turn right, you will cross Sunset Drive and need to observe the leash rule for the first 100 feet of beach. Then it's all-out freedom—and good luck getting your dog to observe your no barking, no rolling in dead animals, and no kicking sand at beach-goers rules.
After all, that's what canines do at beaches, right? Amongst other things, of course.
If you decide to forego the beach and return to the conference grounds, your dog will delight if you take her to lunch at Phoebe's. Turn left at the crossroads and continue on the boardwalk. You will see the backdrop of Asilomar's Monterey Pine forest as you approach the retreat grounds; when the boardwalk ends, you will be facing the famous Hearst Social Hall with its dog-friendly patio.
Continue across the meadow on the path of wood chips and notice the Crocker Dining Hall on your right. The dining hall, along with the social hall and chapel, is one of the buildings of redwood and granite stone construction designed by Julia Morgan in the early 1900's.
Asilomar's lodges are tucked back into the trees. Although Asilomar no longer allows dogs in its accommodations, there are many dog-friendly inns nearby, right outside the entranceway on Asilomar Boulevard.
For lunch you can take your dog up the tiered decks of the social hall (filled with plenty of tables and chairs for dining) and turn right where you will find a dog fountain/water bowl. While your friend watches your dog, enter the hall and enjoy the beauty of Julia Morgan's interior architecture, where natural light accentuates the beauty of the woodwork.
The massive hall offers many amenities: a huge fireplace and comfy curl-up-and-read couches; a gift shop filled with butterflies and everything natural, and Phoebe's Cafe where you can choose a wine and decide between black mission fig and brie or house-roasted turkey and gruyere panini sandwiches.
The patio has comfy Adirondack chairs, which provide a nice peaceful place to sit and eat lunch or even read a book for a while. Right here in Pacific Grove you can enjoy all the beauty and serenity of a state park that has the feel of a national park. As you enjoy your lunch with your contented, well-exercised dog at your feet, you realize you have done all the things you could imagine doing at the Asilomar State Beach and Conference Center . . . and you've done them with your dog.
All you had to do was follow the yellow brick trail.
As always, remember pet-friendly places are a privilege and require good doggie etiquette. Stay on the paths, keep your dog on leash when posted, and always pick up after your dog.