Carrizo Plain is a National Monument located about 1:45 from San Luis Obispo. Every 12 years or so, it has a glorious superbloom that paints all the hills purple and orange and yellow in great swaths. 2017 was one of those years. February 2016, our first visit to the Carrizo, was not [though we would return later that year for some flowers].
I read the rumors of elk — Tule Elk — roaming the plain, but so far have not caught a glimpse. What Carrizo does have is Soda Lake, a typically dry lake bed that was mined for soda ash, and the San Andreas Fault, which runs along the eastern side of the plain, before the Temblor Range, pictured above.
Carrizo is kind of like a big playground. It’s a huge space, with huge sky, and you can roam where you wish. You can see lizards and snakes and birds and plants and soils and tumbleweeds, sunrises and sunsets. And we would!
Ok, final set :)
I really tried to soak in every moment of the ride back to Las Vegas. That end-of-day light brought out all the colors of the terrain and draped a sense of calm over the landscape.
There are so many striations, rivulets, grooves, nooks, crannies, and gorges here.
And colorful mineral deposits. It’s very possible that this is somewhere near the Mount Wilson wilderness area, since we took the southern route back (the northern route passing over the Hoover Dam).
What a day. Not so often that a single day gets a 3-part Quelle series!
Here it is! THE GC!As we are coming from Las Vegas, this is the West Rim, home of the Skywalk. The Skywalk is a glass walkway hanging 4,000 above the floor of the GC. It will definitely get your heart going! Although, I was probably more nervous in the helicopter:
Clench those hands tight!
The helicopter traced the CO River, with the steep canyon walls on either side. I recently learned that the deepest canyon in the USA is not the Grand Canyon (but OH MY GOODNESS). Hells Canyon in Idaho is the deepest river gorge: 7,993 feet. And Kings Canyon in CA has a depth of 8,200 feet (winner!). The difference? Kings Canyon is a glacial valley. The depth of the GC is 6,093 feet.
Leaving the GC at the end of the day!
My beloved college roommate got married last year, and her bachelorette party involved —-a helicopter ride to and through the Grand Canyon—- (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).
It’s the most visually overwhelming thing I’ve ever done. It felt so unreal the entire time. I can’t imagine being a helicopter pilot and seeing it day in and day out.
We took off from Las Vegas, and it was 30 minutes one-way.
Here we are passing the Hoover Dam:
Lake Mead, looking low
Sooooo much wild landscape!
Next up…Reaching the GC!
Bishop Peak is the quintessential SLO hike. It’s the highest of the morros at 1,559 feet, and the trail is 3.7 miles out and back. A quick jaunt! There’s a less official steep back way up too–for some extra ooomph.
At the very top are great big boulders to scramble up for the best views. It can be windy!
John Muir had this to say on the subject:
The trail brings the traveler suddenly in sight of Bishop Peak… The town is fairly encircled with beautiful hills…the one just named being most conspicuous.
Wow, what a review! Haha. A nice claim to fame nonetheless.
It surely is nice and green in these photos – definitely a winter thing! This is in January 2016.
This is a surprisingly lush hike in Los Padres National Forest, near Santy B! It goes up the backside (north side, non-ocean side) of the Santa Ynez Mountains and looks down on Lake Cachuma. The trail is about 8 miles out and back, gaining 2,300 feet.
Whereas most trails on the Central Coast are dry and sandy/rocky, this one has MUD!
At one point (pictured below), we felt like we could be hiking in Hawaii!
At the top, you can see the Channel Islands:
There’s a peak a little further up (Broadcast Peak, so named for a bunch of radio towers), and as K and I were enjoying our view at our summit, a motor bike appeared and sped up Broadcast. Too disruptive for our tastes :) Other than that, we didn’t see much of anyone along the trail. Made for a nice humid hiking escape!
One of the coolest things about SLO is the morros! Morros are volcanic plugs, essentially the tough necks of old volcanoes that remain when the rest of the volcano erodes away. Islay Hill is one of the morros K and I hit up all the time! It rises to 780′ and is a quick mile to the top.
You can actually make this a loop trail! With the bottom portion heading down through a park and bike path. Both sides have beautiful views of rolling hills.
It looks pretty green here, but this is January 2016. The colors change dramatically as the seasons pass on the Central Coast.
In January 2016, we moved K up the coast to start a brand new job in San Luis Obispo (SLO) and start living that SLO life :D Our first stop after the move? Montaña de Oro, of course!
As native East Coasters, it never fails to amaze us that Californians can walk a sunny beach on New Year’s Day and not be –that– cold.
“Sunny” is also up for interpretation! We soon learned that Montaña de Oro is often socked in by fog, and that clear sunsets are hard to come by! You can often see the fog spilling inland from the coast, filling the valleys with soft mistiness.
I was super impressed with K’s new digs. A tiny house on a beautiful ranch with a long dirt driveway. And horses next door!
The start of a new year, a new “aventure.”
There are a few things I miss from the Santy B days:
Renaud’s Bakery (fantastic croissants and desserts)
Proximity to the ocean
Eucalyptus butterfly groves
Leapin’ Kitchen Lizards(just kidding, I do not miss this)
Noisy wildlife in the fountain
And mostly, Ellwood
Mount Baldy = Mount San Antonio
Baldy sits [presides] at 10,064 feet. It’s the highest point in LA County, and the highest point in the San Gabriel Mountains. It’s also within Angeles National Forest.
At the summit
K and I met up from our northern and southern residences [now swapped] to hike this awesome mountain together in November 2015. I’m pretty sure we did the Mount Baldy loop trail amounting to 11.3 miles round trip, but there are many different paths you can take. I know we passed under a ski lift and felt super proud that we were using our legs to power us up the incline! If you take the ski lift, the total round trip to the summit is 6.6 miles.
On the Backbone
One of the coolest parts of the trail is the DEVIL’S BACKBONE, a narrow section of ridgeline that’s super-steep on either side. I couldn’t take my eyes off the ground [pretty overwhelming!], and I wouldn’t want to hike this with any snow. So sheer!
Looking down on the Devil’s Backbone
Our way down the mountain was full of epic granite…
and stately pines.
Hard to believe this is LA ;)