Jalama Beach - A Most Wonderful California Beach



Hamburgers on one of California's Most Wonderful and Remote Beaches

From: On the Beach
Jalama Beach Hamburgers

Have you ever heard of Jalama Beach? Well stand by because this is a story of a wrong turn that turned into an awesome turn.

Pat and I were driving back from the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey.
That's the "Grand Slam Fest of Cycling." We'd spent the night in Buellton, home of Split Pea Anderson's Soup. I guess we'd been on Hwy 101 heading south for about 15 minutes or so when I saw down the road a huge traffic jam. Red brake lights were slamming on. For as far as I could see, several miles, the traffic was stopped. I hate to be stopped dead in traffic and not know when I'll be moving again. This looked like there might be a major accident up ahead and who knows how long we'll be stopped.

Off to my right I see the exit for Lompoc coming up. I quickly decide that I can drive into Lompoc and pick up Hwy 1 there. That should lead me around the accident and back on to Hwy 101. About 15 miles down the road I see the turnoff for Jalama Beach. I pull over to the side of the road and consult my map. I figure than I can head towards Jalama Beach and intersect Hwy 1. Then I can head towards Santa Barbara.

Unknowingly, I've made a major navigational error. I think I'm on Hwy 246. Actually I'm already on Hwy 1. When I turned towards Lompoc from Hwy 101 I'd turned onto Hwy 1 without recognizing it. Hwy 246 was way back by Buellton and I hadn't realized that I'd passed it. This navigational error means that when I turned towards Jalama Beach the next stop would be Jalama Beach.

Jalama isn't a new place name for me. I'd carried several articles about in in this magazine. But it is way off the beaten track. Though I knew it was a beach of great beauty and solitude I'd just never taken the time to go so far out of my way to visit Jalama.

Well now we're on our way to Jalama and don't know it. I'm still thinking that I'll hit Hwy 1 and turn towards Santa Barbara.

The road is narrow and twisting but not horribly so. Pat gets car sick easily and this road wasn't twisting enough to make her sick. Maybe it's because the countryside we're passing through is so darn beautiful. The mountains are rolling with great oak forests on the north facing slopes. The forest is broken up by vast areas of grass perfect for grazing cattle.

I can tell that we're slipping back into another era. We pass only an occasional farm or ranch. This is like California back in the early part of the 20th century.

The road is gradually working it's way down through the rolling mountain range. We're following a small river to our right. I'm sure that it's dry most of the time. Now, though, with all of the rains we've had there's water flowing in the river bottom. In places there is road work where slides have narrowed it to one lane. Still easy to travel on, though.

Our first hint that we're nearing the ocean is that the bright warm sky we'd been driving under is now covered with low lying clouds. Another couple of miles we see the ocean. I tell Pat that we should be close to Hwy 1 now. Remember, I don't know that I've made a navigational error. Now we cross over the railroad tracks and the road starts back up to the north on a bluff overlooking the ocean.

Uh oh, I tell Pat. We've missed something. We're headed down to Jalama Beach.

We drive into the beach area. It's a county park operated by Santa Barbara County. I stop the car by a motor home and Pat gets out to ask for directions to Hwy 1. When she gets back in and relates the directions to me I know that I've made a major goof. I turn the car around and head back out of the beach area. Then I say, "Hey, let's go back and look around. I've always heard about this place. Let's spend some time here." Pat says that's fine with her. We're in no hurry to go any where.

I turn around and drive back into the park and head for what appears to be a little store. Now I remember hearing something about the famous Jalama Hamburger. "Pat, I've heard that they make an incredible hamburger here. I wonder if they're making them today. Probably not. After all, it's winter and a weekday."

"Let's check it out. We haven't eaten breakfast yet and a hamburger sounds good to me," she says.

The store/restaurant is just what you'd expect on some remote weather pounded beach. It's got a smattering of things that campers and beach people might want and there's photographs all over the walls of wrecked ships and people with their fish catches.

At the counter we meet Bonnie and Steve and ask if they're still making hamburgers. They tell us the electricity has been out for awhile but since they cook on gas they can fry up a couple of burgers for us. I ask for mine with grilled onions and cheese. Pat tells them to skip the onions but she'll take cheese, also.

While we're waiting for our burgers we talk to Steve. I finally figure out where I'd gone wrong on my navigation. When the huge Burgers arrive Pat and I know that we've gone right. We take them over to an eating area where we can look out the window at the wild beach and great breaking surf. I've also got a cup of hot coffee and a Ding Dong. One order of fries is plenty for the two of us.

We sit where we can both watch the ocean and sink our teeth into the juicy burgers. The Jalama Burger is everything it's cracked up to be. And what a setting to be having hamburger, tomato, and mayonnaise juices dripping down your chin. Pat and I take our time eating. Then we mosey outside to walk on the beach.

There's a stream that comes down from the mountains and empties into the ocean. We walk along the stream to the beach, less than 100 yards. Drift wood is all over the beach, not a common sight for Southern California beaches but common in Northern California.

There's only a few people on the beach. Several are surf fishing. Another 2 or 3 are walking the beach like us. Then a few more are propped up against some driftwood logs and watching the surf. The sun has come out now and it's warm. We find ourselves a nice log to sit back against and enjoy the sound and smell of the ocean for awhile.

Here's some basic information on Jalama. The turnoff on Hwy 1 from Hwy 101 is about 37 miles north of Santa Barbara and 8 miles south of Buellton. It's about 14 miles on Hwy 1 to the turnoff for Jalama Beach. Then you have another 14 miles or so to the beach. Believe me. It's worth the drive. The campground has around 100 sites. Some are right on the beach, others sit back from the beach and still more are on a bluff overlooking the ocean. A few sites have shade. That's important if you're camping in a tent in the summer time. You can not make reservations for a site. It's first come first served. Groups, however, can make reservations. Electrical hookups are available but tenters will also find sites perfect for them.
For recorded information call (805) 736-6316 or (805) 736-3504.
For group reservations call (805) 934-6211


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