The Annual Cambria Scarecrow Festival: “Where Whimsy Runs Rampant.”

This past weekend Conner and I drove to Cambria which is 35-40 minutes North of SLO on Highway 1 to admire some of the best home made scarecrows that I have ever seen. The Cambria Scarecrow Festival is an incredibly unique event which happens annually during the month of October along the Central Coast in the towns of Cambria, San Simeon, and Harmony.

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The festival began in 2009 with only 30 scarecrows on display, and has since grown into a nationally famed event with hundreds of scarecrows created by local students, businesses and residents. The creativity and variety of the scarecrows is incredible.

The displays range from tributes to past heroes including Teddy Roosevelt and his rough rider pal, and Frida Kahlo and Diego painting. There are movie characters like the famous duo from “Up” and Cinderella when she misses midnight… there are scarecrows that MOVE such as the New Wave Riders which can be seen biking on Main street in Cambria and Lucia grape stomper outside of a wine cellar stomping on her grapes.

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This photo of Lucia is courtesy of the Cambria Scarecrows Facebook page

The Festival is more than just a showcase of scarecrows, it also includes extra activities on weekends. On the official opening weekend there’s wine, music and a silent auction at the Cambria Nursery to kick off the celebration. On the fourth weekend, there’s a 5k run/walk which awards prizes to runners dressed up as the best scarecrows. The final weekend closes off the festival with an Oktoberfest celebration featuring local beers wines brats and music.

If you want build a scarecrow but your crafting skills are a bit rusty, the festival has workshops for helping participants who are interested in building the scarecrow of their dreams. There are design workshops, and workshops to help you restore past creations you have made that you’d like to enter in, again.

And if you can’t participate, there are other ways you can get involved such as becoming a volunteer, a sponsor, or even renting out a scarecrow for your business property. The the rental money will go toward helping fund local art programs.

Oh, and the best part is that the festival is not only a fun way to bring together the community through building decorative art for the city, it’s also a contestThere are a variety of categories for the contest including “Most Imaginative,” “Best Group Installation,” and “Best Animation.”

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This particular scarecrow won the blue ribbon in the “most humorous” category. You can’t see it too well in this picture, but it’s a robber cat, with a dog stuck to the back of his leg, trying to stop him from stealing valuables from this jewelry store. It’s called “Doggie Catcher.”

We thought this scarecrow was pretty funny, too. His name is Wally and he’s outside Cambria Mimosa… hence the enormous mimosa he’s holding. But it’s okay, because he’s really good at sharing.

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Conner tried to look grumpy to pose with Grumpy in the winning entry for the “group” category which included Snow White and all of the seven dwarves. You can tell he’s not as grumpy as the pretty realistic scarecrow he’s impersonating, but it’s a good impression.

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Groot won second place for “using the unexpected” by incorporating the use of pool noodles into his design. So crafty!

You don’t have to be a resident of Cambria to enter in your scarecrow.  All you need is to register your entry by September 15th, and to have a business who will display your entry outside their location in certain designated areas around Cambria from 8am on October 1st through October 31st.

The scarecrows will be taken down after October 31, but if you can’t make it to the festival to admire them in all of their glory in person before that, you can check out my slideshow below and a gallery of some of the most memorable ones on the official website by clicking here!

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Pinnacles National Park: Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies Cave Loop

This past weekend I went caving… Kinda. Conner and I went on a day a trip from San Luis Obispo to the Pinnacles National Park for one of the 10 free days that the National Parks Service offers every year. 

We had been to the park once before last year on another free day (yay free National Park days!). That time, we had entered through the East entrance to hike the High Peaks trail  which was absolutely gorgeous, and I highly recommend. Below is a slide show of when we hiked the High Peaks trail.

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FYI for a Pinnacles trip: There is no road which goes straight through from the East entrance to the West entrance of the Pinnacles, so make sure you know what entrance you want to visit BEFORE you go. We decided to drive to the West this time which was more developed than the East entrance. It had campgrounds, a large visitor’s center with camping supplies, and even a swimming pool.

Since we hiked up to the peaks last time, this time Conner and I decided to explore the caves! There are two separate caves at the park. There are the Bear Gulch caves and the Balconies caves. Whether or not the caves are open depend on the time of year, because there are some resident BATS that colonize in the Bear Gulch cave and raise their young there during the Summer! For more information about which caves are open and when, check here.

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The type of caves at the Pinnacles are called “Talus Caves.” Talus caves aren’t traditional  caverns which travel into the side of a mountain. Instead they’re formed when water eroding the rock of the landscape’s boulders combined with the movement of the tectonic plates at the nearby San Andreas fault line over thousands of years time cause chunks of rock to break off and fall to tumble into a gorge inbetween them. This creates a closed off cave with a ceiling.

Conner and I chose to explore the Balconies caves. There’s more than one trail to the Balconies Caves, we chose a 5 mile out and back moderately challenging route with an added loop which started from the Old Pinnacles parking lot.

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The walk was flat but there was some rock scrambling once we got into in the cave. Climbing through the boulders was exciting. Pro tip: remember to pack a flashlight/headlamp for when you’re in there, because it’s completely pitch dark.

When you’re rock scrambling you’ll also preferably need both hands for climbing which holding an iPhone as your flashlight could interfere with, so a headlamp is the smartest option for optimal visibility and movement.

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This is the route we followed from the parking lot and through the caves, looping back toward the trail entrance.
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We came from the Old Pinnacles trailhead and headed toward the Balconies caves

After we explored the Balconies caves, we backtracked and hiked upward at this sign toward a loop trail with a higher path which featured beautiful views of the enormous surrounding rocks. There were many faces to rock climb along the loop trail too, if you’re into that…

Many varieties of geological formations are observed in the park, but the most prominent are by far are the reddish gray appearing spires which dominate the skyline.

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These pinnacles are the rocky spires remaining from millions of years of tectonic plate activity and lava flows in the ancient volcanic field which is the landscape we know today as the jagged landscape of the park. So cool! Read more information about the different types of rock formations at the park, here.

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Pinnacle spires in the background

In addition to the bats in the caves, we encountered many other types of animals on the trail including bats, hawks, vultures and more.

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One type of animal we encountered..

I enjoy visiting the Pinnacles because it feels smaller and therefore more accessible compared to some of the other national parks, but there is still so much to explore. I know that I’ll be back soon to check out the Bear Gulch caves or hike the High Peaks trail again sometime soon.

Here’s a video I made of our cave exploration!

Vino and Vinyasa- Practice Yoga at a Local Winery then Drink Wine…For Free

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I did something really cool, yesterday. I practiced yoga at a local SLO winery, and I then got to drink wine after the class, for free. Dreams really do come true.

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Sound too good to be real? It’s not! This activity is organized by Lululemon SLO and is held every Thursday in September from 5pm-7pm at Clairborne & Churchill Winery in San Luis Obispo.

Starting at 5:15, Lululemon ambassador and experienced yogi Niccola Nelson instructs a refreshing Vinyasa class on the grass outside this beautiful winery. As you practice your balance and appreciate the energy of the yogi’s around you, you also experience a sort of spiritual connection with the Earth. You watch the sun set below the background of rolling hills, illuminating the space around the trees of surrounding vineyards.

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Spots in these classes are pretty limited because there’s only a limited amount of space on the patio outside, so be sure to sign up on Eventbrite before you go. Taryn and I didn’t know we were supposed to sign up, so we waited for space to open up and were given spots in the class after a few people didn’t make it.

It was a powerful experience to feel the warm sun on your skin and breathe in the fresh air all while looking forward to enjoying wine afterward.

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Immediately following the class is complimentary wine tasting on the patio courtesy of Clairborne and Churchill. You can try for your favorite taste, and buy a bottle to enjoy later. There are also local food venders rotating weekly, such as The Neighborhood Acai and Juice, selling yummy treats to refuel you and give you the chance to treat yoself after the workout.

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It’s a really great opportunity to get your sweat on with a friend, meet other yogis who also share your appreciation for wine, and enjoy the last bits of the Summer sunshine here on the Central Coast. So, invite a friend and come join us next week… I know that I’ll be there! 😉

The Libertine Coffee Bar

Two of my favorite things in the world: coffee and Kelly. Well, Kelly and I are back on the coffee grind (Get it?! Even if you think my pun is bad please keep reading…)! The Libertine Coffee Bar in downtown SLO is my latest and greatest fulfilling conquest in the never ending hunt for the enjoyment my very favorite caffeinated beverage.

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Located on Broad Street right next door to the Libertine Brewing company, it’s open from 6am-6pm and features drip coffee, espresso, kombucha, and a variety of tea. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! SLODOCO has even hopped on this coffee train and is making donuts for the Libertine Coffee bar alongside other local chef’s treats.

I asked the barista for her what her recommendation on their most popular drink would be and she suggested the Bullet Proof coffee. It’s a drip coffee which features a teaspoon of coconut oil and butter (yes, butter…) blended in a magic bullet blender making the concoction creamy mix of froth with just the right amount coffee bite to it. It was filling, too. I only got a 12 ounce but was very satisfied.

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This shop features outdoor seating on the corner of Broad and Pacific. It has an ambiance which makes you feel like you’re at a new and chic modern coffee shop with the rustic authenticity of a spot that has been well loved and established.

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There are many items on the menu which can be personalized like the Liber-tea which is any of their many kinds of special tea’s poured with steamed milk.  Each tea is special, so ask your barista about the many types of teas and the unique backstory on each one.

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I can confidently say I will be visiting their shop many more times to thoroughly experience and explore the many other distinct menu items such as their Vanilla Chocolate cold brew and the Liber-tea.

Go check it out! And hit me up always if you want an espresso buddy…

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Behind the Scenes of Traveling for a Week Straight: What I learned on my Spring Break

Life is about traveling outside of your comfort zone. If you’re not feeling a bit uncomfortable, then you’re not growing. Growing requires discomfort. In order to grow, you need to leave your comfort zone and be vulnerable in the open. Only there, can you accept new ideas openly.

This Spring Break Conner and I traveled down the Southern Coast of California for a week straight stopping in Santa Barbara, Ventura, the Santa Cruz Island, Huntington Beach, Venice Beach, and San Diego. We took the Pacific Coast Highway and sailed along the water which was straight out of a daydream, but with daydreams come nightmares. There were a lot of challenges we faced by traveling a week straight on the trip. Traveling has its high’s and low’s and you have to have the face low’s to get to appreciate the high’s. 

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When we got to where we were staying on the first night away from our sheltered Central Coast city of San Luis Obispo, we were both certainly uncomfortable, but also very excited. It sounds a bit dramatic, but we’re definitely not the same people we were when we left. We learned a lot about ourselves, and the world.

The lessons we learned on our trip are as follows:

Traveling for a week straight can be pretty exhausting. We had nowhere to be during the day to just have a place to rest, because we stayed in a different hostel each night. I left my winter jacket (the bane of my existence, I get cold a lot…) in a hostel in Venice Beach. It was the fourth day of our trip and I was very sleep deprived so I got much more upset about it than I should’ve when I realized it was gone. I was angry at myself for being so irresponsible…but people make mistakes. And usually these kind of small mistakes are very fixable with a little help. This leads me to my next lesson. People usually want to help you out. 

People in many parts of the world are generally good, so have faith. It is important to remember to look out for yourself in unfamiliar places but it is also important to trust and to have confidence in the humans around you. My jacket was in the lost and found at the hostel. No one had stolen it and it was right where I had left it in the storage room. I was so cynical believing that there was no chance I would get it back and that certainly someone has spotted this expensive jacket and decided it was theirs, but we called the hostel and the woman working put it aside for us to pick up on our way home the next day.

Another representation of a time we practiced trust was in La Jolla when I was trying to fit my car into a parking spot inches to small for even my tiny car, and a dad with his two kids saw me struggling among the flow of busy traffic to parallel park my car. He knocked on the window and asked if we needed a hand. I was skeptical and almost declined his offer, but he looked like a good guy. He handed his coffee and hat to his kids next to him and proceeded to do the best parallel parking job I have ever seen. There are a lot of bad people in the world but also a lot of good.

You don’t have to know where you’re going to have a successfully good time. There’s a difference between having no idea what’s happening/where you’re going, and having the desire to explore the world with no plan. We did plan out most of our trip to ensure a safe and successful vacation, but some of the best parts of the trip were the parts where we didn’t have a particular destination in mind. On Santa Cruz Island we picked a hike in a direction that looked nice because Conner doesn’t like maps or recipes (which is odd because he’s a straight forward thinking engineer) and it was a beautiful hike along the plateau of the island that ended in a secluded beach which the bluest water I’ve ever seen. When we were in Venice Beach we wandered along the boardwalk and came upon a street show with the Calypso Tumblers and watched them backflip over a dude who was six feet tall. In the Gas Lamp Quarter of San Diego we wandered along the main drag and came upon a restaurant called Cafe 21 and watched a woman flamenco dance and shared the best chocolate crepe cake of my life. Life is about the journey and not always the destination, so enjoy the ride. 

Let yourself let loose every once in a while! I’m not great at napping or at sleeping in general but in Santa Barbara we went to the Salt Caves and did a meditation session which included me falling asleep and waking up feeling more refreshed than I would have after a full night’s rest. Shortly after we went on a hike to inspiration point where I ate back all the calories I had burned on the hike by sharing (and finishing) a whole bag of jelly beans with Conner at the summit. I indulged in an ice cream at Salt and Straw, I devoured the tiramasu french toast at Brockton Villa in La Jolla, and decided to donate money to a very wise young monk in Balboa Park (using a card reader on his own iPhone…? He says they’re wealthy La Jolla monks…). He then gave me a book on “the human purpose” and his blessing at which point, I’m totally serious, the sun came out for the first time that day. Thank you, buddhist sun God. 

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The world is a very big place with a lot of adventures still to be had, so do not have fear. We met a variety of people from a variety of cultures in the world in our hostels who taught us about where they were from and gave us advice for our future travels. Turns out, even European kids like a good game of beer pong in the States. If you’re afraid of falling, then you can never fly, and you will not make it to the end of the Ho Chi Minh trail in La Jolla on the edge of a cliff. You will not make it to the edge of potato chip rock at the top of Mt. Woodsen. You won’t make a new Australian friend who spent the last three months surfing his way through Mexico.

There’s a lot to learn about the world around that you can’t learn reading a book or online, but simply by exploring. We learned about the difference between sea lions and seals up close, what roads to take in LA traffic (and how to deal with the angry LA commuters). We learned about a difference in safety between exploring Venice at night vs the Gas Lamp Quarter in San Diego at night, and how the entire fire department of San Diego will send seven fire trucks to your hostel at 3am if one person smells smoke in the laundry room (which is good to know how prepared they are). We learned about the difference between many character types of hostels in terms of their particular essences such as how social they are, what amenities they have, and what stories their inhabitants tell. 

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Even though it was only a 6 day trip it was an amazing Spring Break. We hit 8 different beaches in the six different days and traveled over 600 miles meeting people from many diverse countries to find out that the world is a big place which is meant to be explored if only you’re brave enough to get out of your comfort zone.

 

Cerro Cabrillo Hike in Morro Bay

My parents just visited me in San Luis Obispo! Naturally I wanted to show them an exciting new hike, and my favorite hikes are ones with ocean views. In the past, we have gone to Avila Ridge or Montana de Oro to hike but this time we went and climbed Cerro Cabrillo in Morro Bay.

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Cerro Cabrillo means “Cabrillo Hill” in Spanish. It is an out and back trail and despite and only being the 6th tallest of the nine sisters at 900 feet, it’s a moderately strenuous hike. The last 500 feet are an extremely  steep ascent involving rock scrambling.

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The turn into the parking lot is off of South Bay Boulevard and when you’re driving, it comes up fast. It can be a hard turn to see from the road, once you are in the parking lot there is lots of room to park your car.

Begin your hike on the Quarry Trail which starts right at the parking lot. This trail will lead you most of the way toward the top, and is straight and flat for the most part at the beginning.

Travel along the Quarry Trail for a while, and when you reach the Live Oak trail junction, still keep on going straight.

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Continue going straight until you see the trail start to curve left and up the hill toward the tiki head. If you hit the Park Ridge Trail junction you’ve gone too far.

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Twinsies

The trail starts to get steeper here, but keep going because the view from the top is worth it.

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Hi, Tiki head!

The naturally formed tiki head can be seen in the face of the rocks on the side of the hill. You’ll be hiking up past him. This starts to be the part of the path which is not maintained by the park, and you’ll have to do some scrambling in order to reach the peak.

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Right before turning left to make the final ascent

The final ascent is a steep 500 feet toward the top in 4 tenths of a mile on a path which is less well-traveled. Be sure to look out for poison oak as you climb in between the rocks.

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Hi mom! Featuring Hollister Peak in the background

As you ascend, you can see Hollister Peak, one of the other nine sisters off in the distance. Hiking shoes or sneakers with a good grip is helpful on this section of the hike. The sharp slope tested the traction of my dad’s shoes at times… most of the time the hill was the winner and my dad/his shoes lost.

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When you complete the boulder scrambling and shoe traction testing ascent, get ready to feast your eyes on 360 degree views of the central coast including Morro Bay and Morro Rock to the North West, Montana de Oro to the South West, and the Santa Lucia Mountains to the East. YAS.

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Mom, dad, and me with Morro Rock in the background

Below is a link to the parking lot at the trailhead.

The address for the trailhead is South Bay Boulevard, Morro Bay, CA 93442.

Hike to Serenity Swing from Poly Canyon Village

I remember the first time I hiked serenity swing  it was the first quarter of my freshman year on a Monday Night, in the dark, with my new friend I had just made in the Poly Escapes program. We hiked serenity swing for the first time on this random Monday night in darkness because there was supposed to be a meteor shower. You couldn’t see much of Poly or SLO in the dark… but it was still fun. And a much fun that very first time was, every time I have hike it since then still seems to get better.

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Silly freshman Molly doing hikes in the pitch dark

Over the years the serenity swing has changed. People have added a second swing next to the current one, and broken the existing one only to have it be replaced for a seat with what is consistently in my opinion one of the best views in SLO.

This hike is around 4 miles long (depending on which path you take) and has about 950 feet of elevation gain.

From the top you can see Morro Rock north of SLO as well as down south of SLO the Pacific Ocean near Avila. You can see Bishops Peak between the hills of Poly Canyon, the Architecture Graveyard, and the majestic campus of Cal Poly. It’s a beautiful sight.

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Two pretty sights

This trail has a strenuous climb toward the end. It will have you climbing up what personally I think has to be about a 70-75 degree slope while at the same time wind is trying to gust you away. But trust me, in the end the view and the feeling you get when you reach the top makes it worthwhile.

When I did this hike for the blog, we parked in the intramural fields by Poly Canyon Village and trekked up the trail paralleling Poly Canyon Road toward architecture graveyard called Brizzolara Creek Trail. This is why the route in the map I embedded may look slightly different than if you were to just walk along Poly Canyon Road. Ultimately as long as you find your way to the entrance to the Arch Graveyard, you can find your way the rest of the way up the trail.

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The map at the entrance to Arch Graveyard

When you reach Architecture Graveyard, don’t take a left toward it, but instead turn right and walk up the path with a slight hill which will eventually lead you to a house and barn on your right. This path will lead you to the first gate which you can easily open and pass through.

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Gate #1

Walk beyond the gate for a few tenths of a mile to come to a second gate. There’s usually some mud around this area shortly after is rains, so watch your shoes!

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Gate #2

Once you get past the second gate keep right on the lesser steep path. You’ll be on this path for a while. If you have any confusion as to which turns to make, follow my trail on the map embedded at the bottom of the post.

Eventually you’ll reach another gate. This is the last gate you’ll go through before beginning the final ascent to the top of the hill. Turn left.

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Sophia after passing through the third gate

There are two paths to climb to get to the top of the hill where serenity swing is. Both are extremely steep, so it’s best to pick the one that doesn’t have people already on it at the moment (I’m not saying you’re going to fall, but just in case someone else does it’s best to have extra room).

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Both ways lead to the top

For this hike, we took the path which is shown to the left on the way up, and the path on the right on the way down.

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Good thing there are footholds in the ground?

When you reach the top of the climb, go left toward the big tree. It’s the only tree in near sight and the one with the swing hanging from it. Then, go take some basic pictures. Post them to Instagram and revel in the likes. You’ve earned it.

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Basicness

Have another way up to serenity swing you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!