Point Dume Natural Preserve is just 33 acres, but this wind-blown point of land preserves one of the last undeveloped coastal bluffs in Los Angeles County, and it is unimaginably rich in wildflowers, wildlife and natural beauty. To the Chumash it was a sacred place. To the millions of visitors who walk its trails and photograph its dramatic cliffs and the people who live here it is an enduring landmark. It will always make me think of my father, who helped to preserve it for all of us. All photos @2017 Suzanne Guldimann.
I always find that once I've walked into the preserve, worries and stress recede.
To the east lies Big Dume Cove and the wide sweep of the Santa Monica Bay.
On a clear winter day, you can see all the way to the snow mountains beyond Los Angeles.
If you are feeling adventurous, a staircase leads to Big Dume Cove, below. At low tide, you can walk for miles.
There are tide pools to explore.
Low tide is a window into an alien world that is strange and beautiful, always in a state of change.
If you visit early enough or late enough you may be more likely to meet an egret than you are to see another human being.
Just make certain you give yourself enough time to return before the tide comes in again.
Back on top of the bluff, a rickety boardwalk leads to a whale watching platform.
Looking south, the wild open ocean stretches away to the horizon, as far as the eye can see.
As you stand there, you might see sea lions playing in the water below you.
Or hear the sound of gray whales breathing.
If you stay there long enough, California brown pelicans may glide by at eye level.
And you might see dolphins, either on the horizon...
...Or in the water below you.
From the whale watch, a precarious path takes you round the outer edge of the Point.
Look down and you may see the Point Dume sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks.
Look ahead, and Zuma Beach, framed by the western Santa Monica Mountains, lies spread before you like a tapestry or a plein air painting—the colors almost too vivid to be real.
There's a path leading down to Westward Beach here, but today we're going to the furthest western point of the headlands, beyond ancient dunes, eroded by wind and rain.
After the first winter rains the giant coreopsis turns the bluffs to gold.
Living gold that smells like honey and hums with the music of the bees.
Later, there will golden poppies and bush sunflowers and evening primrose.
Even when the living gold of spring wildflowers has gone to seed, there's the golden light of the setting sun, and the gold of sand and sun-warmed stone.
And all year round there is beauty, and serenity, and wonder.
My father worked tirelessly to help save the Point Dume Headlands. He organized meetings, gave talks, wrote letters, gathered signatures, and even traveled to Sacramento to meet with state officials. It took years, but this place was important to him. He wanted this special place, where flowers bloom and whales pass so close to shore you can hear them breathing, preserved not just as a park but as a nature reserve, for all of us, forever. Thank you, Dad, for everything. I love you, and I miss you.
John Guldimann, 1929-2017
All who come into being as flesh pass on,
and have since God walked the earth;
and young blood mounts to their places.
The busy fluttering souls
and bright transfigured spirits
who people the world below
and those who shine in the stars with Orion,
They built their mansions, they built their tombs,
and all men rest in the grave.
So set your home well in the sacred land
that your good name last because of it;
Care for your work in the realm under God
that your seat in the West be splendid.
The waters flow north, the wind blows south,
and each man goes to his hour.
So seize the day! hold holiday!
Be unwearied, unceasing, alive,
you and your own true love;
Let not your heart be troubled
during your sojourn on earth,
but seize the day as it passes!
—Anonymous, 1160 B.C., Translated from the Egyptian by John L. Foster