I had seen pictures of this strange castle structure, the Laguna Beach Pirate Tower, also known as La Tour, leaned against the base of a cliff, located on a stretch of sand known as Victoria Beach several times, but had never seen it in person.
As a Christmas movie played softly in the background one lonely evening I Googled, La Tour Laguna Beach, read about the structure and tried to figure out where it was exactly located, which proved to be difficult.
Knowing that my family was attending a Christmas party in that general area on December 23, I linked La Tour to the party and began plotting out a pre-party adventure. I wanted to find La Tour, get some cool photos, and then go to the party. My scheme was probably a bit ambitious, but I didn’t care. I pitched it to my mother, father, and older brother, those whom I was going to the party with. Mom was not interested. Dad seemed mildly intrigued. My older brother, Joe, was down for anything.
There were two problems. We didn’t know exactly where the mysterious tower stood. More importantly, it had been raining hard in Southern California all week, and if it kept up we obviously weren’t going to traipse around on a remote beach in search of a secluded landmark in party attire. When my brother arrived from Central California the night before the party, massive sheets of rain poured down.
When I woke up the next morning, the day of the Christmas party, it was still drizzling and my hope of finding La Tour wavered. Our original intention was to travel to the party together, but the plans changed when my best friend called wanting me to meet him at the Grove of Anaheim to see a concert. Joe and I agreed to meet him on the way home from the Christmas party. So now, Joe and I were going to take our own car, find the La Tour, attend the party, and meet my friend at the concert on the way back.
It was around three o’clock in the afternoon when Dad called me into his home office to show me something online. “Look here, it says you can only really get to La Tour during low tide and low tide was at 11:30 a.m. High tide is at 6:30 p.m. It is already after three and you guys haven’t even left.”
I wasn’t deterred and told Joe to hurry up.
While I was waiting, Dad and I were on Google Maps looking at aerial images trying to find the way to the beach from the top of the bluff. We found Victoria Beach and Victoria Drive but no real access to the beach where La Tour stood.
“We are just going to have to figure it out when we get down there,” I said hovering over Dad’s shoulder looking at the computer monitor.
“It’s a suicide mission at this point,” he replied. “The tide will be too high when you get there. I think you should just go another time.”
“Nah, I think I’m going for it. I have made it through plenty of suicide missions. At least it isn’t raining right now. If we get there and can’t see it, then we get there and can’t see it. What have we really lost?”
As soon as we got on the freeway the rain started up again. I began thinking it would take a Christmas miracle to see this thing. “That’s great,” I said. “The suicide mission looks to be over before it even began.”
The rain let up as we were transitioning from the 5 Freeway onto the 133 or Laguna Canyon Road, the road that takes you from the main freeways down to Laguna Beach. We turned onto S Coast Highway and drove south. “Keep an eye out for Victoria Drive,” I said as we gazed at and fantasized about the chic houses build into the hills.
A bit lost, we ended up on the boardwalk along the top of the bluff searching for a way to the sand. This as the sun was about to disappear behind the horizon. Then this nice man with graying hair approached, pushing a fancy baby stroller. We ended up talking and he graciously told us exactly where to go.
“You are a little too far south. Go up one street to Nyes Place and turn right away from the cliff. Then turn left and go under the bridge. You can follow the road down to the beach through the residential neighborhood. There isn’t really parking, but you should be able to find a spot.”
Joe and I bid him farewell and found the beach below the cliff. I was electric when my shoes hit the sand. There wasn’t much time. The sun was pretty much set, a tiny gold sliver shone through the clouds. The tide was bringing seawater close to the base of the cliff. Wet rocks provided a narrow path forward.
“If we get wet we are going home,” Joe shouted as we jumped from rock to rock.
Out of nowhere, we crossed paths with a group of four. Like us, they were in nice clothes and I knew what they were up to. But they were on their way back to safety; we were heading into the danger zone.
“How far is the tower?” I asked.
“Not far, just around the bend,” one of the girls said. “Just be careful. It’s super slippery and some of the waves are coming all the way up.”
I made it around the bend and took my eyes off the crashing waves. And there it was. A small Christmas miracle granted. It was uglier in person, for sure. I kept thinking Rapunzel was going to approach one of the windows and toss down her golden hair. There was no time for daydreaming, though, so I took a few snapshots and we got out of there.
The rain picked back up as we reached the car and grew stronger throughout the night. The party was a blast. Our shoes were sandy, and my hair was a mess, but I had the best story. At the concert, we had to run from the car to the entrance and from the exit to the car because the rain was coming down so hard. Our shoes were soggy, but I wouldn’t change a thing.