Afternoon Hike up Bishop’s Peak

Class was canceled today, so spent a few hours this beautiful Tuesday afternoon hiking up Bishop’s for the first time! Parked the car at the top of Highland and began the hike from there. The scenery was breathtaking the entire time, and while the switchbacks towards the top were never-ending, the gorgeous view kept our eyes occupied. Bishop’s is a playground of rocks; we found plenty of spots for climbing along the way. Also loved climbing around on the rocks at the top, though the wind sure did get strong up on the peak! Here’s my pictures from the day:

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My introduction to SUP – the latest coastal craze

I’ve been wanting to try stand-up paddleboarding for some time, and today my roommate and I thought it might be fun to give SUP a try with Morro Bay’s Central Coast Stand-Up Paddleboards! We were right- it was ridiculously fun!

really- could I ask for a better location?

The shop is right on the water, and the owner, Matt, was really friendly and we could tell he knew what he was doing when it came to SUP. It cost each of us $20.00 for an hour rental which included all the equipment (board, paddle, leash) and an introductory lesson before getting in the water.

When we first walked in the little shop, he explained that the current conditions in the bay were not ideal for learning, and there was a really strong southbound current with a lot of wind chop. If we tried going out right at the dock behind the shop, as beginners we would probably end up in Los Osos within the hour.

So, Matt decided to try out something new. We hopped in his car with the paddle boards on the back, and drove up Embarcadero towards Morro Rock until we got to Coleman Beach. This protected, calm little area also known as Mother’s Beach allowed us the perfect spot to get on our boards and ride the current down the bay until we reached the shop. After a brief lesson, we got on and started our first journey gliding through the water, paddles in hand, Morro Rock at our backs. Meanwhile, Matt got back in his car and drove back to his shop so he could meet us back at the dock.

The water was cold and kept splashing up onto my board, but I barely had to paddle with the current. Most of the time I stayed on my knees for fear of falling in with the rough conditions, but towards the end of our ride when the water was sheltered by docks we managed to stand up on our boards. It was a blast riding along the bay, looking at all the boats and shops on either side of me. It was easier than I thought carrying my camera with me, but I didn’t take very many pictures before the housing lens fogged up (gotta get more moisture munchers!).

We also were greeted by a curious sea lion along the way, who swam fairly close to each of our paddleboards.

The water pulled us along so fast that it only took 30 minutes to get back to the dock, so Matt let us practice standing in the calm waters next to the dock, and then offered us half our money back because we didn’t use the full hour.

The experience worked our muscles, as I am sitting here writing this my thighs are already sore, and I’m sure that after an hour of standing up the entire time, I would safely be able to say that SUP’ing is a great core workout.

I was sad to step onto land back at the shop, but excited for my next chance to get back in the water.  SUP’ing is such an awesome water activity on the rise along the California coast.

Sunny Days at Avila Beach

Usually I spend my beach days at Pirate’s or Olde Port (especially during bonfire season!!) but I still love a good sunny day at Avila Beach.

On the weekends, this beach is bustling with people. The beachfront town has such a summery feel, and there is lots to do besides the obvious “sand n’ surf” activities…

For starters, you can walk along or find shade under Avila Pier, visit the Avila Sea Life Center and discover what animals live in Avila’s bay, or just grab a snack and enjoy the sunshine. At the northern end of the beach are some tidepools, but there isn’t a whole lot of life to find in the rocks.


I love most though to just sit on the swings here and bury my toes in the sand.

Spooner’s Cove Montana de Oro

Having spent a good amount of time this past weekend celebrating the sunshine at Montana de Oro (and loving it!) I feel compelled to encourage fellow seashore-lovers to visit Spooner’s Cove in Montana de Oro.

Just a few miles past the entrance of the park and after driving under a canopy of eucalyptus trees, we found the parking lot of Spooner’s Cove on the right side of the road.

enjoying my "perch" above the waves

This beach is not particularly sandy, but is instead composed of small rocks and pebbles. No worries though, it’s still plenty comfortable to recline on a towel and take a relaxing nap.

The first day I came here, it was later in the afternoon and the beach was practically empty. The tide was rapidly rolling in, but we still played on the giant rock structure in the middle of the cove and searched the edge of the water for unusual rocks and shells.

The following day we decided to come prepared with swimsuits and towels.

We started by laying out our towels, kicking off our sandals, and splashing in the creek

The creek on the right side of Spooner's Cove

that runs along the right side of the cove.  It empties out right next to a fun little cave that makes for good exploring during low tide.

the cave

Walking a little more to the left, the tide was low enough so that we could (carefully!) walk out onto the rocky platform and admire the tide pools. I saw a crab or two, some anemones, and lots of algae.

The seagulls are very bold on this beach, and I literally had to chase one for my keys, phone and textbook (yes, I even got some studying in!) before we climbed onto our towels and basked in the mid-afternoon sunshine. Among us were scattered groups of families, other students, and couples also enjoying the pleasantries of Spooner’s Cove.

Word on the street is that Spooner’s is also home to some fantastic diving when conditions are good. I guess I’ll have to grab my gear and find out for myself. But that will be for another day!

Enjoy Spooner’s Cove!

Native Plants of SLO County: Happy California Native Plants Week!

Happy California Native Plant Week! In celebration of this week (April 17-23)  “dedicated to the appreciation, education, and conservation of California’s fabulous landscape,” as the California Native Plant Society so beautifully puts it, here is a short snippet of some of the native plants you can find in San Luis Obispo County! Also, if you want to participate in the Native Plant Week festivities, visit the San Luis Obispo Botanic Gardens on Saturday April 22nd to learn more about native plants in garden.

Toyon 

photo credit: briweldon

Annual Hairgrass

photo credit:Carol W. Witham

California Poppy 

photo credit: docentjoyce

Yellow Wildflowers

taken on Madonna Mountain

Lupine

Mustard Plant

Telegraph Weed

photo credit: lynnwatson

Seaside Daisy

photo credit: vanbloem.com

Spotted Hideseed

photo credit: ron wolf

Milk Thistle

photo taken on Ontario Ridge

These are just a few of my favorites. There are thousands of native plants you can find along the Central Coast!

A little jog on Johnson Ranch Trail

Well, I just got back from exploring another trail, Johnson Ranch. It was a nice, easy trail in the grasslands next to the freeway and South Higuera St. in SLO. Unfortunately I forgot my camera this time, so there are no pictures to share.

We got off the 101 South at Higuera and right there was a nice little parking lot at the start of the trail.

This trail is very people-friendly with a big bulletin marking the beginning and displaying a map of the trail and describing the history behind this Open Space path. All along the trail are little creeks and footbridges crossing them, and on any slippery or muddy parts cement blocks are laid across the path to help hikers keep their footing. Every so often signs marked the trail, warning about conditions, or pointing the right direction. Like I said, this hike is very welcoming to people.

The one picture I took with my phone before we set off on the trail...

It was a fairly short hike, there are two loops, but we only did the first big one. The path is easy for hikers, and we decided to run it. Johnson trail is awesome for cross-country running; we saw many other joggers and runners out there, with dogs and families accompanying them. There were people of all ages on the trail this morning.

The only downside to this trail is that for a portion of the time it is right next to the freeway, so any “natural escape” sounds are muffled by the loud noise of cars rushing by. However there is still plenty of wildlife, including cows (watch out for droppings!!), lizards, birds, poppies, wildflowers, and keep a look out for wild pigs- I saw lots of signs warning about them!

Tomorrow I plan to go back and try running the full two loops of the trail!

Ontario Ridge and Sycamore Crest Trail, Avila Beach

The view from Ontario Ridge

I was told about Ontario Ridge by another hiker we met at the top of Madonna Mountain and decided it would be a fun new trail to try. The hike was a total of 4.73 miles (check out the googlemap snapshot to see the trail loop from above!), and we started at 12:50 p.m. and got back to the car around 3:50 p.m.

google map of hike

We parked at Pirate’s Cove and started the hike through the gate that dead-ends the road. This brush-filled path led us to a cul-de-sac street lined with ocean-view mansions and a walking path.

Following the long row of grand houses, we turned left onto shell beach drive, where there was a little parking area. This was the beginning of the real hike.

The beginning of Ontario Ridge Trail

The start was a short but very steep climb up to the ridge that followed some telephone lines to the left side of the trail. The entire Ontario Ridge hike is literally on the “ridge” of the hill, and follows the steep dips, and peaks of the ridge. While the terrain is challenging, the view is spectacular. To our left we saw the ocean and a bird’s eye view of shell beach and all the large homes adjacent to the hill. And to our right, trees shading the ground and plants covering the hillside.

bottles should be in recycling, not on the trails! grrrr....

We saw a tiny Monterey Ring-Neck snake on the trail, and lots of pretty flowers along with the occasional butterfly.

Monterey Ring-Necked snake photo credit: Brad Alexander

In the middle of the hike we passed through what looked like a radio tower of some sort.

After a few miles along the ridge, the path came to a fork. We decided to go right, heading gradually downhill into the shady tree-lined path. There were quite a few other hikers on this path, and even a couple biking. Halfway down we found a bench at the side of the trail. Eventually we found ourselves at the bottom, where, much to our surprise, we discovered that the trail ended at the Avila Hot Springs.

So, we turned around and headed back up, taking a little break at the bench on the way.

Sycamore Crest Trail

It turns out that the shady trail we turned onto at the fork is a different trail called Sycamore Crest trail, and is three quarters of a mile each way.

The resting bench

Back at the top and once again in the afternoon sun, we took the left side of the fork. This took us straight down the steep hill to the parking lot of Pirate’s Cove.

The hill down to Pirate's Cove

Going down the hill was a slow process, complete with a few slips and slides along the way.

yellow wildflowers with Avila in the background

But we had the ocean in front of us, a view of Avila to the right, and tall yellow flowers lining the trail the whole way down.

not quite the yellow brick road...

At the very bottom we hopped over some low barbed wire, but I’m pretty sure that there is a gate located a little further to the right at the bottom of the path, away from the parking lot.

There are three places that you can park if you want to do the entire hike:

– Pirate’s Cove (that’s where I parked)

– Shell Beach Road at the start of Ontario Ridge

– Avila Hot Springs (next to the green bridge that goes over the road)

Best part: all the parking is free!

Don’t forget sunscreen and a camera, the hike is exposed to the sun but the views are amazing!

First-time hike up Madonna Mountain

Today my hiking buddy and I decided to spend our beautiful, early morning hiking up Cerro San Luis, more commonly known as Madonna Mountain.

This was my first time up the mountain, so we did not know exactly which paths to take, but whichever way we went must have worked because we definitely made it to the top!

We began around 9:10 am, got to the top at 10:30, and finished the hike about 11:30. I would say it’s a little over a two-hour hike, but that is including all the times we stopped to take pictures and admire the view as we headed up. So, the total time could be shorter/ longer depending on your hiking style.

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The hike started at the Laguna Lake Dog Park off of Madonna Rd. At first we walked along a grassy, flat trail that was surrounded by these tiny yellow flowers that just blanketed the fields. The openness here was absolutely unreal, and my buddy even remarked that the beginning of the hike looked like a completely different country.

After sliding through some muddy spots and winding up a little (compared to the mountain itself) hill with a fun rock to play on halfway up, we made it to the bottom of Madonna Mountain.

We hiked up the backside of Madonna, with Laguna Lack at our backs pretty much the entire way up. It was a fairly steep hike, but the view from the top was worth it.

Along the way we passed many other hikers, got passed by a few bikers, and even had a run-in with a little snake in the middle of the path. I’m pretty sure it was a garter snake, but I’m not very knowledgeable on the topic of snakes, and it weaved its way out of sight before we could get a better look.

Anyway, at the very top of the mountain, there are some rocks you can climb on top of, and then the entirety of San Luis Obispo is in eyesight. It’s the perfect spot for getting breathtaking pictures. The sight up there is incredible, and we just sat and took it all in for a little while before heading back down the mountain.

The hike ended in the field of yellow flowers and an accompanying slight breeze, a peaceful ending to a picture-perfect hike.