The Bucket

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Rating: C

Local residents love to take dips in Carmel Valley's most popular swimming hole, the Bucket, and two other holes near it on weekends.But on weekdays when others aren't around -- best bets include morning and late afternoon -- these Carmel Valley Road sites still get a few skinny-dippers.Usage by them dropped off after a flood washed away some of the plants that kept the hole hidden from view.

Legal status:

Believed to be private property.

How to find it:

From Highway 1, go east on Carmel Valley Road (G-16) for about 13 miles until Camp Stephanie Road. Just after the Camp Stephanie Road sign on the right, look for a place to park. For the next 50 feet, you can park on either side of G-16 (if you're next to a vineyard, you're in the right place), but if you go farther than that, turn around. Walk east on G-16 a quarter mile until you arrive at a hairpin turn at a white bridge or, if they have not rebuilt it, the stumps of a bridge. Stay on G-16. About 100 feet ahead on the right is an iron gate with a Stone Pine sign. Just before it, check for a hole in the fence and a path. Take the trail down the hill. It's steep, so keep your hands free. Follow the path through a 50-foot-long field to a fork in the trail, then take the right branch some 20 feet to the creek. Cross it, pick up the path (fainter but still going in the same direction) on the other side, and a few minutes later you'll be at the beach.

The beach:

It's a small, sandy creek bank that was once surrounded by trees and other greenery.

The crowd:

Up to several dozen persons visit the Bucket on the hottest days.

Problems:

Visibility from the road, parking easy to miss if you drive too far on G-16, finding trail on beach side of creek may be difficult.

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