Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Morro Bay (#56)

April 14 - 17th, 2011 - This hike definitely puts the "and beyond" into "throughout San Diego County and beyond," since it takes place about 300 miles north of San Diego in the beautiful region known as Morrro Bay.

Our trailhead, if you will, is in Los Osos at the gorgeous vacation home of a right fine philanthropic couple befriended by my cousin/best friend.

Los Osos is a bulb of land that protrudes out into the bay from the east side. The house was right along the water so what you see here is what I woke up to. Absolutely fantastic.

My family and I had visited Morro Bay on a few occasions in the past. We never visited Los Osos, though, and so had never taken in this particular view of the iconic Morro Rock off in the distance.

It was such a spectacular morning I couldn't help but wander off and explore a little bit. About 12 very short blocks to the east I found my way to Elfin Forest.

How funny is that? I had been totally uninformed about such vegetation until a month ago when I hiked Elfin Forest in Escondido. Next thing I know,  a few hundred miles away, I find myself in yet another Elfin Forest. I can't help but appreciate the universal access these wooden boardwalks provided.

The wetlands here are incredibly rich in all the important things that wetlands provide. I sat and watched birds for about a half hour before heading out this morning and I can't even begin to describe the beauty and quantity of what I observed. If you are a birder, you must make this one of your stops!

Looking back at Los Osos from the Elfin Forest.

What comes in...

         ... must go out!

The twisted humor I derived from this scene was probably not so funny to this pair of mariners who found themselves stuck in the mud for nearly an hour, at times out of the boat in waist-high bay-muck trying to shimmy their boat into deeper water. For the record, though, I gladly gave them a loud celebratory hoot when at last they broke free from their muddy trap.

The "Rock" that looks SO HUGE from a distance...

...just doesn't appear quite as large when you're up close.

Plenty of beach here at the mouth of the harbor looking from the base of Morro Rock.

Not too many miles north of Los Osos is the jewel of an area known as Montana de Oro State Park. On a past trip my wife and I spent pretty much an entire day at Spooner's Cove there, while the boys traipsed around in the caves on this picturesque beach.

This time we chose to hike the very nearby Bluff Trail. Pretty simple concept: it's a trail on...  (are you ready for it?) ...the bluff.

Everything was beautiful about the trail. We were obviously very lucky with the weather. It was so nice I could hardly complain too loudly (though I did) about the hellacious sunburn I did receive. Springtime radiation catches me by surprise every year!

So many other tales could be shared about this four day journey...  trips to the wine country (beautiful!), jaunts to Chumash Indian Casino (expensive!), a visit to the nearby pool hall on our wedding anniversary (cheap!), a drive past Solvang (brief!), and  the list goes on.

Big time thanks to my cousin's friends for sharing their place with him and his wife, and to my cousins for sharing their trip with us.

Another Great, and Very Special, Hike!

The Trailhead

Elfin Forest

Prime Wetlands

View from Elfin Forest toward Los Osos

Stuck in the muck!

Looking up at "The Rock"

Bluff Trail

Spooner's Cove

Cormorants all in a row

Cuz getting closer to the action!

Sunset from the "Trail Head!"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lopez Canyon (#55)

April 4, 2011 - Our hike today was about as impromptu as it gets. Woke up, achieved an appropriate level of coffee intake and asked myself if I felt like hiking. Kind of on the fence about that, and didn't yet have a location in mind. Somehow, though, after narrowing down the options, Wilson persuaded me to make Lopez Canyon our destination for the day.

Next thing we know here we are.

Wow! What a very large (and very empty) trailhead parking lot.

It must be the "natural features." I'll bet people are avoiding this place because of all the natural features.

Seriously, when I think "natural features" the first images that come to mind are beautiful meadows, majestic trees and lots of good stuff like that there. But NO! The lovely features we are talking about here are mountain lions, rattle snakes, and poison oak.

Or maybe the parking lot is empty because its Monday morning and people have other obligations more important than avoiding ticks and snakes.

Actually, we've been close to this neck of the woods before.  This is the west entrance to the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve (#46) where we hiked (coming in from the east side) back in January. From here we could veer left and walk about 3 miles to a pleasant waterfall...

...but we're already determined to discover what Lopez Canyon is all about.

One of the "non-lethal" natural features along the trail is Lopez Creek which we crossed a few times along the way.

We found, and took as a sidetrack to our eastward ramble, what's left of Old Lopez Road.

The best I can make of it (with a limited amount of research mind you), Bonifacio Lopez was an influential and successful person in the region who had 11 kids. One of his boys, Jose Ramon, built a wooden cabin here in Lopez Canyon around 1890 and started a dairy farm. When he died his son and two daughters continued to live there. The homestead was ultimately deserted when the last of the siblings died in 1953.*

It turns out that if we continued upward on the "road" we'd eventually pop out into the modern civilization of Mira Mesa.

Lacking the urgent need for asphalt and buildings, we turned around when we spied the Quolcomm building.

Back on the main trail, a pleasant and unavoidable "natural feature" came into sight. This canyon is loaded with sycamore trees.

The seemingly out of place clumps of green leaves adorning the trees not only intrigued me, they showcased my ignorance.

Turns out to be a good thing my wife was not hiking with me because, out of adherence to cultural rules and norms, we would be smooching a lot more than we'd be walking.

Answer to the million dollar question?


About now Wilson was suggesting that we take our lunch break in a shady spot at the base of a nearby sycamore.

"How 'bout there Boss?"

For a Bolivian walking stick, Wilson really does have a great sense of humor!

It's obviously not so funny when you make contact with this "natural feature!" At least not according to my son, anyway, or his girlfriend for that matter. It appears they didn't read the signs.

A little ways down the path we stop to appreciate the lush vegetation up against the canyon wall. As we're doing that, it slowly dawns on me that the loud hum of a plane I hear off in the distance is not a plane at all. The manic buzz of what I imagined to be the "bee swarm from beyond" suddenly interrupted my "enjoying nature moment" and thrust me into a heightened state of "natural features awareness."

With innocent faces, our eyes turned upward and whistling a nervous tune that says, "We are harmless and pitiful creatures not worthy of attacking," we slinked slowly away, eventually breaking into a slight trot.

We soon find ourselves far enough down the road to redirect our attention back to the beauty of where we are.

We chose our lunch spot in the shade of (but not too close to the trunk of) a beautiful sycamore. Lunch was standard fare as usual: almonds, apples and a peanut butter bar.  Afterwards, Wilson parked himself safely amongst the cobblestone  rocks in the middle of the creek.

Noticing Wilson's obvious fixation on the nearby green grassy meadow I did the "penny for your thoughts" thing.

Wilson whispers a stuttering reply, "I thu-thu-think I suh-suh-saw a nuh-nuh-natural fuh-fuh-feature in the guh-guh-gurass."

True story: On our return trip, after what had been a totally isolated trail experience, we finally ran into three different hikers on their way out,  each of them warning of the rattle snake along the side of the return trail. Just one last feature I guess.

Another Great Hike!


*Proceedings of the Society for California Archaeology, Vol. 16, 2002

Empty Trailhead Parking Lot (and my awesome Malibu)

Beware of the Natural Features!

Left to Los Peñasquitos Canyon Trail...

...or right to Lopez Canyon

Lopez Creek

Turning right to head up Old Lopez Road

Quolcomm Building? Mr. Lopez would be shocked!

Two Natural Features: Sycamore Trees & Mistletoe

Natural Feature: Poison Oak

More Natural Feature: Bees, and lots of them!

Wilson cooling his toes in Lopez Creek

Snakes in the grass?

Friday, April 1, 2011

PCI's San Diego Walk for Water (#54)

March 20, 2011 - Quoting PCI Global, "The world water crisis is one of the most significant public health issues of our time. One-third of the Earth’s population lives in “water-stressed” countries and that number is expected to rise dramatically over the next two decades. Often water has to be carried long distances to the house which takes extraordinary time and effort, a burden borne mainly by women and children. PCI’s San Diego Walk for Water is inspired by the 3 - 6 mile journey women and children make every day to obtain water in order to ensure survival for their families. Participants in this 5K walk will be asked to carry water jugs in an effort to provide a symbolic and educational experience for the walker."

As I am just now getting around to posting this two weeks after the event,  I can tell you that the participants did indeed carry the aforementioned water jugs for the entire 5K trek at Tecolote Shores on Mission Bay!

Appropriately enough, and not by coincidence, the event took place just a couple of days away from "World Water Day" whice fell on March 22 this year.

So here's the deal. We here in the good ol' USofA are spoiled.

Especially when it comes to water.

For my part, I admit it.

You see, this exceptional year of bountiful, and much needed rainfall here in California has been awesome!

Hiking around a variety of our local reservoirs over the recent months (Loveland, Miramar, Lake Jennings, Lake Hodges, Lake Ramona, etc,) Wilson and I have been pleased to note how full they all are.

Indeed, a few days ago Governor Brown declared an end to our three year drought.

Shamelessly, and I'm bearing my soul here, thoughts that came to my mind included, "Now I won't have to worry about which days I water my lawn" and "My water bill damn sure better go down!"

And all this while people in other parts of our world consider themselves fortunate just to get any water at all... even dirty water!  Not to mention that they may have to walk for miles to get it.

Water is heavy!

I wish I could tell you that I carried the water for this event, or at least give you a good excuse why I didn't like, "It would be too difficult to carry the water AND hold Wilson AND take pictures at the same time." But that would be a lie. First of all, Wilson stayed home due to his dislike of sidewalks.  Secondly, the truth is that just the "thought" of walking 5K with a bucket of water made my arms hurt.

But guess what? Hundreds of people did just that... and with smiles on their faces.

With that said, I'll just get out of your way and let you appreciate the pictures, the people in them, and the significance of the overall experience.

 Another great walk!

Want to get involved next year? Want to know more about PCI and their global cause? You can visit their website at:


Buckets! Get your buckets here!

Lake Miramar

Lake Jennings


Feed me, feed me!

Feed me, feed me!

A group of enthusiastic PCI Global supporters

It takes a family to fetch the water!

Must be nice to be special.

Almost there.  My arm hurts!

Healthy foods!

Fun and games!

Great tunes!

A little dancing...

"Waaaa! I want more water...  right now!"

Waaaa! A bird POOPED on me!