Montaña de Oro – Happy New Year!

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.”


That Santy B Life

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 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 ;)

Solo Hike on the Fremont Ridge Trail

I thought this would be simple.

After hitting up Knapp’s Castle for sunrise, I would head just down the road to the trailhead for Fremont Ridge and 2 miles out, 2 miles back. As I went along downhill, the trail kept going…and going… I was the only person on that trail that day, and I now suspect that I made a wrong turn along the way. This “trail,” mostly an unmarked fire road, provides great views of the green 154 bridge, aka the Cold Spring Canyon Arch Bridge. It’s the highest arch bridge in CA, and one of the highest in the USA, at 400ft above the canyon (thank you, Wikipedia). You can also see (barely) Lake Cachuma (a reservoir) in the above photo, that blue spot to the right of the mountains.I eventually decided that I had to turn around and head back uphill! I was glad to get back to the car and rewarded with this view of Santy B:

Sunrise at Knapp’s Castle

East Camino Cielo snakes along the Santa Ynez Mountains in Santa Barbara. Up here, there are great views of the ocean and, to the north, Lake Cachuma.

Along this road lies a short trail to Knapp’s Castle, originally built as a mountain lodge in the 1900s by George Owen Knapp. In 1940, the mansion was purchased by Francis Holden to live in with opera singer Lotte Lehmann. A few weeks later, however, it burned down in a forest fire. The stone ruins remain today.

A rope swing transforms the place into a playground!

Morning rays of light hitting the Santa Ynez Mountains

This is a fairly popular place to watch sunrise/sunset, so it was a bit crowded when I arrived (despite my empty photos). Made it a little less spooky!

Desert Sunrise: Happy Halloween!

For Halloween 2015, K and I drove out early to Anza Borrego Desert to catch the sunrise, went back west for a 6-mile hike (Iron Mountain), and finished out the day by swimming in the ocean at La Jolla in the evening. It was one of those hot Octobers in SoCal, when the ocean was still that warm!

That shimmering on the desert floor? That’s the Salton Sea.

We hiked our breakfast in. Bacon and eggs on the camp stove! Free Coleman advertising.

As you can tell, the sun got brighter and stronger and increasingly blinding! Time to break from the land of cacti.

From the desert to the mountains to the ocean…in one day! San Diego.

Inspiration Point, Santy B

Inspiration Point is a nice little 3.75-mile hike (via the Tunnel Trail) in the Santa Ynez Mountains of Santy B. On clear days (most days), you can see the Channel Islands as you look to the south.

The viewpoint (of inspiration!) is at 1,800 feet, and the trail gains a total of 800 as you go along.

It’s a very popular hike, so it can be a little congested (with music-blasting types :O), but not so much if it threatens to rain. After heavy rains, there’s plenty of evidence of micro mudslides and rockslides, particularly at the sandstone walls.

There are connector trails along the way to an area called Seven Falls, but it was so devastatingly dry while I was there that there were definitely no falls.

Gaviota Peak Trail

Gaviota Peak is awesomely situated among juxtaposed mountains and ocean, about a 20 minute’s drive from where I used to live in Santy B. The turnoff for it is right near the famous Gaviota tunnel, featured in the The Graduate.

The Graduate

I have driven through this tunnel many times, always appreciating the characteristic bare rocky peaks of Santa Barbara County.

The trail heads up the north side with views of sloping hills and agriculture, and loops back down through rocky mountains and ocean views.

The color of the hills changes drastically with the seasons. The hills are pretty brown here in October, but in Spring they turn bright green after the rains. And yellow with mustard!

The trail is about a 6-mile loop and also features wind caves! A stop in Solvang for pastries makes for a perfect weekend morning expedition.

If you are super adventurous, there are reportedly hot springs near the trailhead, though I haven’t checked them out!

Huntington Lake

The grad school gang got back together again for some camping, hiking, and hot springs fun in October 2015. There were some cold nights and some pretty sad views of the drought impacts on Huntington Lake, but warm and sunny times with friends. The lake is nestled in the Sierra National Forest, south of the Kaiser Wilderness.

Looking south towards the eastern edge of Huntington Lake

Matching our autumnal experience of the bare lake bed

We hiked up to College Rock on the north side of the lake, about a 5 mile R/T. The rock took some tricky scrambles to get up to, and it sure was windy at the top! We could see some storms hit the other peaks and a bit of snow, so we booked it downhill after that.

Hiking to College Rock

Not pictured: a dreamy evening stroll around the dry lake bed, attempts to cross little rivulets using wood and rocks, trekking to Mono Hot Springs for some warm baths (with little red worms), boys skipping rocks and spending much time trying to jump and balance on a tall tree stump :)


Oso Flaco

This was one of the first hikes I did near my new home! An easy trail near Nipomo, CA (1.7 miles, out & back, flat).

Oso Flaco means Skinny Bear. An interesting history…

The name originates from a 1769 Gaspar de Portola expedition through the area. On the shores of what is now Oso Flaco lake, the men shot and killed a skinny bear for food. The next day, several men in the expedition died. It was fabled that the local Chumash had been in competition with the bear for food, and so fed it tainted food.

Unfortunately, Oso Flaco Lake is also super polluted. The fish have among the highest levels in the state of DDT, which makes sense as the surrounding area (Santa Maria, Nipomo) is a huge producer of agriculture.

The trail is part of the beautiful Oceano Dunes. it leads straight to a beautiful beach.

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