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I'm a self-professed adventure writer and former exercise junkie seeking a long-term relationship with my higher self, healthy workout habits, and a balanced, adventurous lifestyle in San Luis Obispo. Join me as I discover the healthy activities of SLO County, from land to sea.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

SLO Harmony

Grab your walking shoes, throw your kids in the car and head for Harmony Headlands State Park. Nestled between the offbeat coastal towns of Cayucos and Harmony on Highway One, this little-known San Luis Obispo County hiking spot offers a 2-mile portal to the sea. Wide open, kid-friendly trails meander along various ecosystems, transporting hikers past algae-covered endangered species, wispy grasslands, and diverse wildlife. Coyote bushes and thistles run wild, and your children can too.

Harmony Headlands is open daily from 6:00 a.m. to sunset and dogs are not permitted on the trail. To find the park, drive north past Cayucos on Highway One and look for the sign and parking lot located on the left side of the highway. If you drive all the way to the small town of Harmony, you've gone too far. 
When you begin the hike, be sure to stop on the bridge and peer over the edge—you just might spot an endangered Southwestern pond turtle splashing amidst this mucky algae-covered pond.
A few minutes on the trail and you will soon find yourself removed from civilization. The Cayucos Land Conservancy's partnership with the state park has been instrumental in maintaining and providing improvements for this four mile out-and-back trail that leads to the Estero Bluffs on the Pacific Ocean. Contact the conservancy for more information about docent-led tours, where you can learn more about the area's rich cultural history—including tales of the Chumash and Salinan Native Americans, hunter-gatherers who inhabited this area as far back as 10,000 years ago.You will also hear stories of how California acquired the land and how this parcel of over 700 acres almost ended up as a private development.
On my recent tour, I learned that over-grazing of cattle through the years has led the Medusahead and star thistle to run rampant on this land. Conservation efforts are underway to eradicate the thistle, which currently covers much of the acreage and takes over everything in its path. 
During this time of year, much of the landscape is covered in delicate thistle remnants. On some parts of the trail these dried weeds resemble arid snow, blanketing the hills.
Once you reach the gateway to the sea, hang on to your children. This is the turning point where the mostly-level trail gets a bit steep and you don't want anyone falling off the side.
On average, only 60 people per day come out on the weekends to hike this undiscovered Central Coast gem. Different seasons provide the hiker with the juncture to behold diverse flora and fauna, such as wild geese and ducks populating the ponds, and lupine and morning glory spreading across the hills. I'm grateful I encountered this obscure San Luis Obispo County pathway, and look forward to returning in the coming seasons.
Happy trails.

SLO Abeyance

Nothing beats flip-flopping through gritty, loose sand for an intensive workout. And few things are more alluring than the pandemonium of smashing waves.

Yesterday I hopped on Highway 1 to drive to the laid-back coastal town of Cayucos, where I found the wide-open beach and long narrow pier enveloped by blue skies, cottony clouds, and temperatures in the low 70’s…perfect! I plunked my beach chair on the seaweed-strewn shore, ate lunch and hit the sand.

My calves made a worthy effort as I trudged along; the high, shattering surf enticed me. I ventured towards the water and shocked my newly-pedicured feet with ice-cold water as the foamy waves lapped towards the seafront. I captured the pristine surroundings with my camera as Morro Rock loomed in the distance, sun worshippers soaked up UV rays, children ran in the waves, and a pair of body boarders rode the cascading swell.

The clattering echoes of this under-populated San Luis Obispo County beach left me mesmerized. A random afternoon at the beach is good for the body...and for the soul. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Discovery is key. This morning I set out for an early morning walk at Montaña de Oro State Park, not knowing what would catch my eye. I'd been awake since 3:00 a.m., my brain was just as murky as the coastal fog that hung thick in the air, but soon I found my extraneous muse: daubs of sparkling dew. 

Sprawling spider webs laced with moisture first caught my eye; then I noticed the wild thistles gleaming with droplets, as well as soft orange poppies glistening with beads of moisture. These driblets of condensation left their mark high and low along the Bluffs Trail, leaving a clear mark.

The wet, crashing waves disintegrated against the rocks below the cliffs, almost seemingly unnoticed by me as I walked along the trail. My exercise today belonged to discovering the damp, dripping spherules. 

Quite a find.

Sprawling spider web covered in dew.

I had no idea what kind of creature was hiding in this sac, nor did I want to find out.

Look carefully and you just might see the Man in the Moon trapped underneath this thistle.

Beautiful clear droplets covered this thistle.

Milky pearl shapes dotted these pink spikes.
 Dew-covered remnants of whispy thistles camouflaged the ground.
Lovely drops.
Graceful folds.
Ephemeral shapes.
Big drip. Little drip.
Adorned with precious stones.
Dripping with jewels.

Symmetrical, drizzling design.

Drops in the sky.
Spider web lace.
All text and photos Copyright © 2012 by Elizabeth in SLO. All Rights Reserved.
Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in any form is prohibited except without express written permission. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

SLO Morning

This morning I faced a tough dilemma: which beach should I drive to for my Sunday exercise? I tossed around the alluring possibilities of Pismo, Avila, or Morro Bay. But after checking the the weather forecast, my choice was clear: Montaña de Oro State Park.

I arrived bright and early at my old stomping ground and eagerly hit the Bluffs Trail. The blue skies and booming waves beckoned; my camera didn't stay in my pocket for long. I spent a few hours walking, exploring the tide pools, snapping photos, and even ran part of the trail.

Definitely, a wise choice.

Careful not to fall off the trail and end up in the churning mishmash of the sea.
The crashing water has carved its way through the rocks over the years.
On the trail, the pink thistles are drying up this time of year...
...leaving trace whispers behind.
But a few splashes of green and pink remained scattered here and there...
...and this pollinating bee indulged a little.
Just another SLO morning in paradise.