Cal Poly

Goats on campus

Week 17. My first semi-cheat-week. I did hike Poly Canyon — so it does count. But this was really just a lunch walk and almost all my photos were of the animals I saw walking to the Canyon and walking back from the Canyon.

Like the goats, hired to clear a hillside.

Horses on campus

And the horses, huddling in the shade.

Poly Canyon bench and trees

This is on the actual Poly Canyon part of the walk.


I also saw deer. They bolted the minute they saw me.



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

Cayucos, Piedras Blancas and Baywood Park

Nathan and Nadine

Week 18. July 6, 2013. Fourth-of-July weekend was fun and packed. Big, annual third-of-July party with the Kallals; big, annual fourth-of-July campover with the Kormans (pics to come); and a visit with Steve’s friends from Austin. All of it was fun.

The Austin-ites (Nathan and Nadine) were up for Beach-a-Weeking so we headed north. The goal was Elephant Seals, but we stopped in Cayucos first for lunch (fish tacos at Duckies) and then a walk on the pier.

We’d been out there for ten minutes or so when I heard Nadine say “They’re going to jump!” and I turned just in time (and with camera in hand) to catch a backflip…

The back flip

And a gainer…

The gainer

And the swim in.

The swim away

After Cayucos we drove just north of San Simeon to see the elephant seals at the Piedras Blancas rookery. Steve and I visit the seals often. You see different types of elephant seals depending on the season: sometimes it’s all females, sometimes females and their newborns, sometimes it’s just juveniles. Middle of summer means the bulls are on the beach, and personally, that’s my favorite season because they always put on a silverback-gorilla show. Who is the king of the beach?

The warning sign

You can see all of the posturing and bellowing that was going on.

Fights left, fights right, fights in the water, fights erupting from seemingly mellow nappings. Big belching, roaring sounds. And then napping. And then posturing. And then napping. And then some sand flicking. And napping and roaring and fighting and napping. Repeat.

The fights

Because we are far away and it’s all just bulls on the beach, it’s hard to see just how big these beasts are. Fences with handy size charts along the rails can help. Nadine jumped up and added herself to the sizing mix. Here you get a sense of just how big those elephant seals down on the beach are: BIG.

The size chart

I noticed that some elephant seals don’t need to fight, they just need to bellow. They open their mouths and a huge sound comes out. I have a feeling that the sound correlates to their girth, because when big seals bellowed, the other seals literally backed away from them.

The bellow

There was a lot of bellowing.

More bellowing

Coming home, windswept and a little sunburnt, I enticed the team to stop at Good Tides Bistro in Baywood Park for some hot chocolate, promising them that it was The Very Best Hot Chocolate That They Would Ever Have. We drank it on the Second Street Pier, one of my most favorite places.


Nadine, inspired by the earlier-in-the-day Cayucos antics decided to jump off a pier herself. Less fanfare, perhaps, but you gotta start somewhere.

Nadine jumps

Our Austin friends on the Second Street Pier.

On the second street pier

A great weekend. And already two weeks ago. I have more Beach-a-Weeks to post.

Beach a Week #18

Zebra, Big Sur Bakery and Two Pfeiffers

Zebra in San Simeon

June 30, 2013. Month 4. The trip started strong: we were out the door early in the morning, which may be how we got lucky enough to see the zebra.

The zebra are holdover/leftovers from the Hearst Castle private zoo from back in the 20s or 30s. When the zoo closed they left the zebra (and elk and some kind of big-horned sheep) free to graze the thousands of acres of Hearst property. The property butts up to Highway 1, though you never see elk or sheep, but sometimes you will see zebra. Far away zebra. Far away stripey horsey looking animals, if you squint.

We always look for them and they’re not always around, so when we do see them, even when they are far-away, stripey-horsey looking, we get excited and shout “zebra!” to each other as we point out the window.

On this morning we saw two zebra and they were only 40 or so feet from the fence which was 40 or so feet from Highway 1. “Zebra!!” Pointing! Slowly coming to a stop on the side of the road (when we really wanted to slam on the brakes. We are careful even in the face of close-to-us-wild-zebra-sitings.).

Zebras in San Simeon

The two turned into seven as five others walked over to view us humans (“People!” I imagined they silently whinnied and stamped at the ground because they cannot point.)

What I learned: young zebra stripes are brown, not black. Who knew? I mean who besides David Attenborough and those that watch his shows? (Hi Rachel!)

Zebras in San Simeon

They were beautiful. So beautiful. It was a great moment (that stretched into 15 minutes). We stayed as long as they did. They ate the dry grass. They scratched themselves on a nearby pole. They watched us. And then they mosied on.

In the photo above you can see Hearst Castle in the distance, high on the hill.

San Simeon is at the northern tip of our county and not really Big Sur (and surely not Big Sur proper), yet my Big Sur trip would have been a success if this was all we got.

Zebra in San Simeon

We left San Luis early because we had a pointed goal: get baked goods from the Big Sur Bakery. I’ve tried three other times in the last year and have walked away empty handed and the people working behind the counter seem pretty blasé about my disappointment. Whatever, get here earlier, is the jist. “How early?” I’ve asked. “Well, we start selling bread at 9 so you could get here then.”

Big Sur Bakery

I think we go there at 10:30 and the case was already decimated, but we did get a lemon muffin and a berry scone. We sat out on the deck with silly smiles on our faces. The weather was perfect. The light was gorgeous. Crazy stellar jays were crazily squawking and hopping around. And we had baked goods from the Big Sur Bakery. Second success.

Big Sur outfit

The Big Sur Bakery is more than just that. There is a gas station and a gift shop. There are a couple of gardens. The front garden is full of protea, cactus and succulents and the back garden is full of strange-looking willow-branch nest-like hanging sculptures that I find fascinating.

Big Sur Bakery garden

Big Sur Bakery garden

Big Sur Bakery garden

The only problem with Big Sur is the lack of cell signals and wifi spots. We love the Henry Miller Library but couldn’t go in because it had a private event this day. We sat in its parking lot to see if we could use their wifi to upload photos and video. Unsuccessful. (The event, by the way, was a day-long improv workshop that culminated with dinner and a performance and that sounds like a great way to spend the day to me. It was under a hundred bucks.)

Henry Miller Memorial Library

Because of my beach-and-peak weekly committments, we also needed to go for a hike and hit up a beach. Yet, even when we got to Big Sur proper, I hadn’t really picked which hike or which beach. We stopped at one of the Pfeiffers where a park ranger selected a book called Hiking and Backpacking Big Sur by Analise Elliot. Great recommendation. And now I highly recommend it too. Tons of hikes, detailed information, and even a chapter dedicated to flora and fauna.

We decided on two adjacent hikes (both were short and shared part of a path): Pfeiffer Falls and the Valley View Trail in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground. Somehow no pictures from the hikes made it into this post even though it was so lovely and so great and I’d go back there in a heartbeat. You can see photos in my Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View Trails blog post.

For the beach we decided to hit up a different Pfeiffer, just a couple of miles down the road from our hikes. (The beach is run by the Los Padres National Forest; the campground is a State Park. Because of this you’ll need to pay $10 for the hike parking and $5 for the beach parking, but both are worth it, so don’t feel bad.)

It’s a bit tricky getting to Pfeiffer Beach. First, the turn off is not well marked from the highway; then, you meander down several miles of road that seems like it might lead you to a park or it might lead you to some stranger’s house. You can’t quite be sure. The road is narrow, too, and everyone else who travels it is also a visitor and unfamiliar to it and may come barreling towards you in the opposite direction exactly when the road narrows to one lane. That happened to us about five times. We took the road slowly with a lot of caution. That’s my advice to you, too.

Pro tip: Even if it’s a nice day in other parts of Big Sur, grab your sweatshirt before you lock your car to get to the beach. You may not need it or you may REALLY need it. On this day “really” was the adverb in play.

Pfeiffer Beach path

In my blog post about the beach trip I mentioned the wind. It was so windy that I feel the need to mention it again. And the waves were large and ferocious and there seemed to be 100 different rip currents at work. The beach is lovely and beautiful and scenic and gorgeous. Enjoy that and stay the hell out of the water.

Pfeiffer Beach

We saw waves hit this one beach from three different directions. Three. Directions. Waves. Big. Pounding.

Pfeiffer Beach

Do not let this calm fool you. This ocean, it wants to eat you.

Pfeiffer Beach

The extra awesome bonus of this beach is the purple sand. I didn’t know about the purple sand before we went, and truthfully, I was so focused on keeping sand out of my camera that I didn’t even notice the purple sand until we were practically off the beach. “Wait,” I said, “is the sand purple?” In places, yes, but I (really) couldn’t believe my eyes. They were probably fatigued from all the squinting I’d had to do to protect my eyeballs from being sand blasted. Purple? What was I thinking?

But it is purple in parts and some people on Flickr have the photos to prove it.

Pfeiffer is famous for a couple huge looming wonderful rock formations. I didn’t get any good pictures of the beautiful light that streams through the natural bridge or the crashing waves that burst through the holes. But these guys climbed to the top and hung out for quite a long time.

Pfeiffer Beach rock crop

All in all it was a great trip. I’m ready to go again. I think leaving early in the morning was key. Usually when I go to Big Sur I get there in the afternoon. Or, if I’ve been camping, I leave in the afternoon. So the whole driving-early-in-the-morning thing was new to me and I think it made the whole trip better.

Tips for next trip? Maybe leave even earlier and bring a couple carrots for the zebra. Not really. I hear they bite. But still. Zebra.

June 2013

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

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach warning

Week 17. June 30, 2013. This beach is a beauty — no question. And the sand is purple (in parts). But on an off day it’s so windy that at times the sand blasts into your skin like little pieces of evil sharp evil things. And the ocean has a rip current that is sneaky and strong and waves come crashing in from three different directions.

Pfeiffer Beach

Yet, people still get in the water. And then they spread their blankets on the beach and pretend that they aren’t experiencing purple sand dermabrasion.

Pfeiffer Beach running from the waves

These kids had it right. Run! Run for your life kids.

Pfeiffer Beach chasing waves

And I shouldn’t joke because people have died at this beach, getting caught unaware by the rogue rip.

Pfeiffer Beach running from waves

We braved the elements, too.

Steve at Pfeiffer Beach

Braving the wind, watching kids run from waves at Pfeiffer Beach

The trees that line the path to the beach are truly beautiful. I love Monterey Cyprus.

Monterey Cyprus at the Pfeiffer Beach boundary

Trees along the walk back to our car

I heard that if it’s windy in other parts of Big Sur, it’s a windstorm at this one. So here’s my advice: if it’s calm, go. Visit. And know that you are experiencing an amazingly beautiful beach on an amazingly beautiful day. If it’s not calm — let’s say it’s a little breezy elsewhere on your Big Sur trip, go. Visit. But go armed with a warm jacket and a hood (not a hat — it will blow off) that you can cinch tight to your head. And know you are experiencing an amazingly beautiful beach with hellish conditions and stay the heck out of the water.

» See other people’s beautiful photos of Pfeiffer Beach on Flickr
» See aerial photos of Pfeiffer Beach

Week 17

Life heated up

around the korlandia poolside rock fire toasting marshmallows

The last ten-days have been a bit whirl-windy.

Last ten days

  • Porch dinner with the Richards and Kallals
  • Shakespeareoke
  • Big Sur
  • Pfeiffer Beach
  • Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
  • Third-of-July late-night party
  • Fourth-of-July campout
  • Friends visiting from Austin
  • Art After Dark (bon voyage show from Jane)
  • Elephant Seals
  • Cayucos Beach
  • Outdoors movie watching

All that to say: I’m a week behind in posting beaches, hikes and Surs. Time to catch up.

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

Foggy Morro Strand at San Jacinto


Summer started which meant the fog rolled right in. So we went to Morro Bay. Lunch at Taco Temple and quick walk on the beach to pretend we could see the rock.

Steve going through the bush tunnel

Because the snowy plovers live on this beach, laying their eggs in the sand like the dimwitted cuties they are, much of the dunes are roped off and off limits. A trail takes you through a tall-bush tunnel….

tall bush tunnel

I call this photo No and No.
no and no

And nyet to pets.
still no



Looking due north.
looking north

Looking due south. This would be where we would typically see the big looming rock.
view of the rock

one-legged curlew

curlew went a-courtin'

dune flower

yellow flower stand

I’m a sucker for a pun: drift-mas tree.
driftmas tree

me, week 16

Estero Bluffs

Estero bluffs

Just a breath north of Cayucos is Estero Bluffs, a place of shorebirds and rock coves.

Here’s a little of what the walk and beach looked like (a la Steve. Thank you Steve.)

The sign implies “dogs okay” but at the beach there seemed to be big “no dogs” signs. Mixed messages! However, considering the number of plovers we saw on the shore, it would seem the “no dogs” would win out.

Estero bluffs

Estero bluffs

Tons of birds this morning, with the ocean filled with seagulls and pelicans and the rocks decorated with cormorants and wave splashes and the beaches Killdeer City.


cormorants rock on

the cormorants and the wave

I’m not sure what intertidal creature leaves this mark, but obviously it is an early breed of highway man.

trail left by mysterious intertidal creature on the sand

Our beaches are pretty free of trash. This bottle was the only refuse I saw. I didn’t have the heart to pick it up, as it was a new hunting ground for a totally different kind of sea creature.

someone left a bottle on the beach (not us!)

And here is Steve’s video of bottle activity:

This gull was being chased by five other gulls. Five greedy, hungry other gulls.

the gull will have the crab

Looking towards Cayucos.

looking towards Cayucos

And out to sea.

looking out into the ocean

me, week 15