Cerro Cabrillo

cerro cabrillo

Week 16. Our first unsuccessful hike. I’d say it was a comedy of errors, but it wasn’t even funny. It was a meh of errors. We parked in the wrong place and started on the wrong trail; the signs were confusing; I was exhausted and couldn’t get my heart into it. So, we hiked around for about a mile and a half and then just headed back to the car. After all of the spectacular hikes we’d been on in the previous 15 weeks, it just didn’t hold up. I’m not sure we’ll go back. Maybe in the spring when the flowers are blooming, but probably not until then.

cerro cabrillo

They call this Tiki Rock. They think it looks like a tahitian carving. Whatever.

cerro cabrillo

Old farm equipment. Meh.

cerro cabrillo

Dried out chaparral. Feh.

(Yet, even dried out the Black Sage below wins my heart.)

black sage on cerro cabrillo

Dead trees. Sheesh.

Looking west

Okay. The estuary was pretty. A highlight.



I also liked this sign: yes no no no. Get out of the way of the horses. Bossy.

Dos and don'ts

Not all of the hikes can be super stars. It’s only right we had one that left us indifferent. At least we tried. And we didn’t get lost; we didn’t get ticks; we didn’t get hurt. So there’s that. Cerro Cabrillo. Hopefully you’ll have more fun than I did.

Week 16

Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View Trail

Falls. View. Coastal redwoods.

Week 15. June 30, 2013. Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View Trail. The Falls trail was damaged during the 2008 Basin Complex fire that consumed Big Sur that summer. For now, the trails are merged with the Valley View trail being the main line, but you can still get to the Falls easily.

trail up



pfeiffer falls


We went to the Falls first, then headed over to the Valley View side.

valley view trail

zebra tree

taking it all in

Back towards the base of the hike. Taking in the height of the trees.

taking it all in again

At the campground there is a sweet, rustic theater that I imaging they use for church services or weddings, but you can also tell they have a place for a big screen. Maybe they show movies, too.


Peak a Week 15

Terrace Hill


Week 14. Terrace Hill. June 22.It’s hard to even know where to start when it comes to this Week 14 hike. It was a short walk up hill (took less than 10 minutes to reach the top), but it was scenic, friends were there and fun was had. It involved (watching others) racing bikes, drinking beer, wearing costumes, stumbling towards mayhem, and general debauchery. I took over 800 photos; where to start when considering what to post left me overwhelmed.

So this is what I’ve decided to do: show you photos of the hike. Show a couple photos of the race and its aftermath. Link to a humongous set on the off-chance you are super curious and want to see more (on my alt Flickr account). And leave it at that.

the walk up
We walked up a short trail.

shane and josie
Josie is a great little hiker.

When we got to the top we immediately saw the people gathered. We were there to watch and cheer.

at the top

Short video from Steve that will give you an idea as to what the race is kinda like.

The start of the race (you can tell the racers — they are the ones drinking).

the start of the race




It’s a relay race, so after your two laps, the next rider in your team jumps on your bike and you give him a big push forward.


Josie and Shane are avid supporters.


As were many others. (Plus, great late afternoon. Couldn’t be beat.)


Dan and Becky.

d & b

Rumor has it the trophy was stolen. I don’t really know how that works. These guys, tho, they had it. So I think that makes them the winners.



Steve, Shane, Di.

steve, shane, dilil j

A shadow of our formers selves, wrapping up the day.

long shadows

week 14

Cerro Alto

Cerro Alto

Cerro Alto. Highway 41. Halfway between Morro Bay and Atascadero, but any address I could find called it Morro Bay. Los Padres National Forest. Hike begins at the campground. $5 to park.

Cerro Alto

In the summer it’s a hot and dusty trail, so bring water. Bring sunglasses. Bring a hat. Bring your patience because the trail is steep. And/or I’m not in the shape I wish I was in yet.

Cerro Alto

The black sage is dried out now. Still lovely if not lush.

Cerro Alto

I learned a new plant on the hike: clematis, a tenacious vine. These are seed pods and they were often way up high and overhead. Dr. Suessian type of fluffy balls. One of my friends said you should be able to put lights inside. That would make for a lovely evening hike.

Cerro Alto


There is a bench right here. As it is about halfway up and in the shade in the afternoon, this is a nice place to sit, catch your breath and stare out towards the ocean.

Cerro Alto

The trail is steep. I know I said it before. It bore repeating.

Cerro Alto

The views at the top are something else. I was really tired and pretty dehydrated at this point (I didn’t bring enough water; I didn’t wear a hat.) and I think it left me too pooped to take a decent photo because these surely do not do it justice.

From the top I could see five hiking spots I’ve done since Peak a Week started: Cerro San Luis, Bishop Peak, Valencia Peak, Black Hill and Harmony Headlands. And I could see two of the beaches I’d visited since Beach a Week started: Morro Strand/A Beach and Cayucos. Actually three — you can see Pismo as well.

Cerro Alto

Cerro Alto

Heading back down.

Cerro Alto

The red splotches you see in the bushes are poison oak. It seems to be an exceptional year for poison oak. Exceptionally bad. It’s thriving.

Cerro Alto

While the top of the trail is exposed, hot, and dusty, the trail closer to the campground is lined with tall trees and great shade. A welcomed return after you reach the top.

Cerro Alto

me on cerro alto

Harmony Headlands Hike

Harmony Headlands

Saturday, June 7, 2013. Harmony Headlands is between Cayucos and Cambria, and just two miles south of our county’s smallest town, Harmony (population 18). A 4.5 round trip easy walk, it’s a coastal access point along a desolate, rugged, lovely coastline previously only accessible if you were a rancher, a fisherman, or trespassing surfer.

Harmony Headlands hike

The hike is kind of divided in two: the first part is a well maintained, straight shot of a wide dirt path lined with hemlock, mustard, grasses and shrubbery. And then there are the dead trees. Three on one side (the middle one upturned and showing root) and three on the other (again, middle roots up). You couldn’t plan it better. Beautiful white skeletons holding steady in the fields.

Harmony Headlands hike

Harmony Headlands hike

Harmony Headlands field


And then you reach this tree, can glimpse the sea and everything changes.

tree with view to ocean

ocean path

ocean path

ocean path

When we began to head back the sun came out. Perfect ending.



I will admit that I thought this was anise. I was close; it’s in the same family as anise, but it’s poison hemlock. Sinister! Don’t go eating thinking you’ll get a licorice taste folks.



Poly Canyon | Week 11 | Peak a Week

Poly Canyon

Poly Canyon is part of the Cal Poly campus and consists mostly of a nicely maintained road lined with oaks, sycamores and chaparral, following a creek path on its north side. Towards the end of the road is the Design Village, a space where architecture students go out to build experimental structures. Each spring the space comes alive with new buildings, sculptures and other cool projects, but for the most part they come down at the end of April.

Some structures are more permanent and you can walk up to them, though are encouraged not to enter with “No trespassing!” signs and warnings of surveillance cameras. With the amount of graffiti inside, it seems as though not many follow the instructions.

Lovely walk and cool buildings. We spent much longer out there than we expected. Overall hike/walk is about 2.5 miles.

This spring/early summer there have been numerous mountain lion and rattlesnake sightings. Maybe because it is hotter and dryer than usual? This is the entrance to the area.


Hotter and dryer seems to work in the favor of poison oak, too. Look at that massive outcrop (it’s the red bit). Yikes!

poison oak

Still patches of flowers to be found.


Off the side of the road is the entrance to the Design Village.

Design Village arch

And a map of the different structures.

the route

The geodesic dome is cool and has an amphitheater inside. I think this would be a great place to bring your lunch during the work day if you work at Cal Poly.

geodesic dome

This structure echoes the dome motif, but obviously isn’t geodesic. More outerspace-ic. Ruin-ic. Cooleriffic. Mustardtastic.

spider building

The Shell House was my favorite and suffered the most from graffiti. Too bad. I vote for a Senior Project to clean it up. In fact, I thought it would be interesting to have senior projects to fix up several of the structures that seem to be headed for ruin.

Shell House

The inside of the Shell House. You can walk up stairs to a second floor. Someone did while we were there and my questions were “are you sure those are stairs and not shelves?” and “Are you sure that’s safe?” I kept my questions to myself.

Inside the Shell House

I am a sucker for a house that plays well with its natural landscape. Love this.

Another view of the shell house

Not sure of the name of this house, but I loved the stove pipes.



The sign to this structure said “Residential House” and it was unclear — did someone actually live in it? It seems like they could. The back side had a great metal-sign collage siding. Loved it. We didn’t linger, though, because it did feel as if we were in someone’s space although you couldn’t really tell if it was inhabited or not.

residential house

The beginning of June means the last green holdouts on the hillsides are losing their fight. Soon it will be all golden, all tan, all brown. All dusty. This last little bit of green was nice to see. (It was a nice, lush green run this year, I think.)

last of the green

More structures from the trail.

view from the trail

This cantilevered structure was really cool. I couldn’t find a name for it (I’ll have to pay more attention to signs next time I’m up there.). An abandoned pirate’s ship… in the middle of a sea of wild grass.

like a pirate ship

oak tree


Valencia Peak

Monday, May 27th was Memorial Day and day one of my new workout regime. For the last few months I’d been walking a ton (hello FitBit), hiking once a week and a zumba class here and there, but no real work outs. It felt like it was time. So Monday I started a bonafide workout regime including lifting weights and the Couch to 5K jogging plan.

I did both Monday, which would you think would be enough. And then I hiked Valencia, a 3.7-mile round-trip hike with a 1275-foot climb (not much, but more than the other flat “hikes” I’d been doing lately). The next day my muscles were not happy with me, but that’s okay. I knew they’d recover.


Valencia is one of the peak trails in Montana de Oro. The trail begins directly across the street from the Bluff Trail (featured here a bunch). 2+ miles one way, mostly gradually up. It’s less travelled than the Bluff trail, so you have more chance of running into wild life.

We didn’t see any of the following. Except for the poison oak. We saw a lot of poison oak. And while we didn’t see a rattle snake, we did see a garter snake (photo to come.)


The trail, about a third of the way up. It temporarily opens wide and then quickly goes back to single-track-ish.


Everything is blooming. Monkey flower, lupin, indian paintbrush, California buckwheat and a ton of other plants I can’t identify.


My mom led the whole way (here we’re turned around so it looks like I’m in front, but you know who the real trail boss is).


The lovely California Buckwheat.


About halfway up, looking towards Morro Bay (aka due north). It was hazy, foggy, clear, windy, and chilly at alternate times.


Flowers everywhere.


The higher we went, the windier it got. It was the kind of wind that hurts your ears, so hats and hoods came in handy. Mom’s hood inspired her to re-enact the hooded monks we’d seen in MdO a couple months before. (Aside: we later found out that video was for English musician James Blake, shot entirely in the park).


Looking out towards the ocean. Steep hillside.


Here is the garter snake. Little guy. Garter snakes are pretty. He slithered away before I could get a decent shot.

Garter snake

Nearing the top. Still with the wildflowers.


We made it! And it was chilly and windy and we only stayed up there for five minutes or so.



And here is the James Blake video. If you watch ’til the end you’ll see the monks as well as Valencia Peak itself (right over his shoulder, on the left).

See all the photos in this flickr set


McWay Falls, Big Sur | Week 9 | Peak a Week

My mom and I have a semi-ritual (meaning we usually do it, but if it doesn’t happen we are okay, too) of driving up to Big Sur for both of our birthdays. We’ve been doing this since I was about 18 years old. That’s a long time, people.

May is my mom’s birthday month, so up the coast we headed. I was excited to take her to McWay Falls in the Julia Pfeiffer State Park because even though we’ve been to Big Sur many times, I knew my mom had never seen the Falls.

We could have gotten on the trail closer to the road, but I think entering the trail from the tunnel makes a much bigger impact.

The tunnel to McWay Falls

And what a beautiful view it is. You have to wander the well-plodded trail a few hundred feet till you see it, but when you do…

McWay Falls

After wandering the homestead/waterfall trail, we took it a bit south towards a hidden campground. This hike can barely be called a hike — it’s short; in fact it is shorter than short, but hike it is (all the maps and guidebooks say so.)

Hiking behind McWay Falls

The campsite is really lovely. Really beautiful. And really not protected at all from any stranger just walking through it to get a view. I asked one of the guys camping here (I asked him on the trail, not at his campsite) how it was camping here with all kinds of other travelers just tromping through his campsite. Not great, he admitted. Too bad, because what a location.

McWay Falls campsite

We continued the trail south. These signs… they are like little beckoning fingers to me. Come closer come closer. I use much resistance to stay away. Mostly.

No no no

The beautiful view looking south. Can you see the flat-roof house in the trees? What a life.

Big Sur coastline

Because I’m still in love with the black sage, I share with you some Black Sage in Big Sur.

Sage and bee

Black sage

I don’t know what this is and the picture is completely out of focus and yet I still love it.

Little flowers

McWay Falls is only one part of this hike. It is really just a part of the Julia Pfeiffer State Park. There are a few little meandering paths you can take.

Fire hose

Afterward McWay Falls we jumped back in the car to continue to drive north. Our destination would be Nepenthe for a late lunch and pie and the Phoenix Bookstore for browsing and creative dreamings.

It was my mom's birthday


We got a ledge seat looking directly west. Lovely.

The view from Nepenthe (direct west)

The birds were out in full force. We are used to the crazy Stellar Jays and their crazy Jay ways. But this day our entertainment was provided by a lovely male Acorn Woodpecker…

Woodpecker in the tree

… who wanted our food …

Our food

… and was successful in getting several french fries from us.

The woodpecker

Week 9

To the M | Week 8 | Peak a Week

This is the third time we’ve hiked Madonna since starting Peak a Week, tho each time has been a little different (see Week 1 and Week 5). This time we hiked to the “M” which most people think stands for Madonna, but really stands for Mission College Prep, which is near this peak’s base.

A note about the name. Everyone will know which peak you mean when you say Madonna Mountain. Even the most die-hards among us will probably slip up and call it that once in a while. This is for the Madonna Inn/Madonna Family that seem to own much of the hill and make a big splash in its south end.

Many people will call it San Luis Mountain, tho truthfully, I hear that less. We normally call it Cerro San Luis, its proper name.

This is the view from about 1/3 up, looking south down broad street. Islay Hill is off in the distance.

Halfway up, looking out

Me :)

Growing up, I always hit the trail at the base of Tassajara on the north side of the peak. But that trail isn’t used nearly as much (I wonder — has that entrance been removed?). Almost everybody enters from the Marsh Street entrance, off the 101 offramp.

The students of Mission College Prep (a private catholic high school affiliated with Mission San Luis Obispo de Telosa, our local mission) take care of it.

The M is for Mission College Prep

View near the M

I mentioned in the last hiking post that I really had a thing for Black Sage this year. It’s seemed to have bloomed more this year than I remember before (or maybe this is the year I decided to notice). The blooms are just beginning to wane.

Black sage

Black sage

On the way down, looking towards Laguna Lake.

On the way down, looking out towards Laguna

The cactus is in full bloom. (I would love to know the story of this stand of prickly pear. How did they get here? Who planted them? Why?)

Prickly pear

The fruit

Nearing the end of the trail, looking out

This isn’t really on the trail, but on the path that takes you back downtown. It just made me chuckle: a fence to keep the weeds out.

This fence cracked me up -- holding back the weeds

Week 8

Los Osos Oak | Week 7 | Peak a Week

I feel obligated to state once again that Peak a Week is really just a weekly hike. Many of these jaunts will not include any gain of elevation. Case in point, our week 7 outing to the Los Osos Oaks (Sunday, May 5).

At the beginning of the Los Osos Oaks area.

This would be a great place to bring paints or pens. It’s a place that is lovely to simply be in. (See Joe Linton’s Los Osos Oaks Pieces for examples.)

But hiking… That’s a tough one. The trails are poorly marked. Steve and I found ourselves backtracking quite a bit… And we never actually “got” anywhere (not that we needed to… the paths seemed to meander to nowhere, gradually petering out to nothing.). The trails are also poorly maintained. Poison oak boarders long stretches of path, reaching its evil tendrils into the trails, so consider wearing long pants.

That said, it was quite pretty. I’d go again.


I love black sage. This year has been an exceptional year for the flowering of the black sage — the season seems to have lasted longer and the blooms are prolific. Huge stands of sage covered in lavender-colored spikes. And the scent. When it gets hot, the scent gets more intense (I’m not sure why). I find myself walking a path — either on a hike, around campus, or even on my walk home — and suddenly surrounded by the strong smell of black sage.

The blooms are just starting to fade now, and I think the green of the sage will dull a bit, too. Soon these will just be big, green-brownish bushes, so I make a point of really taking in the blooms and the scent right now.

Steve on the trail, surrounded by sage

Los Osos Oaks

Steve in the oaks

Los Osos Oaks

Los Osos Oaks

Nasturtiums under the oak limb

Los Osos Oaks

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Peak a Week 7 at Los Osos Oaks