Valencia Peak in Montaña De Oro State Park

One of my favorite hikes in San Luis Obispo county is Valencia Peak. I’m a sucker for ocean view hikes, and if you are too then this is exactly what you’re looking for.

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When I hiked Valencia peak in July, there was some fog on the coast and we felt like we were in heaven…

Montana de Oro State Park is about 25 minutes outside of San Luis Obispo and admission is free, which is perfect for when you’re looking for a quick hike with a view worth the climb. Take Los Osos Valley road until it comes to Pecho Valley Road and take this into the park. See the bottom of the post for exact trailhead coordinates!

There’s parking right in front of the trailhead, but beware that I have seen more than one minivan or sedan bottom out in attempt to park on this dusty and bumpy lot (but luckily Conner’s truck was up to the job).

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The old sign saying that the trail is only 2 miles, before the route was extended and more switchbacks were added to decrease steepness.

The trail is about 2.2 miles up to the 1,347 feet peak, (about 4.5 miles roundtrip) meaning that gets very steep in some parts and also has sheer cliffside drop-offs, so watch your step. Usually when you hike you start a little ways up the hill (think Bishop’s Peak if you’re from SLO) but this hike it literally starts at sea level by the sea, so you’re hiking the full 1,000+ feet!

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Favorite Hiking Buddy  ❤

In the Spring, this route has a plethora of gorgeous blooming wildflowers, but in the Summer we at least get to see what remains of them… Still pretty. About 2 tenths of a mile in, you can look down to see Islay Creek campground which fun fact: I camped there in January once and it was reeeeally cold so if you’re gonna camp there maybe do it in a warmer month.

A little ways up you’ll come to a fork in the path on the right. Follow the signage and take the trail going straighter upwards. It says it’s only one more mile to the peak but keep in mind that it’s a steep one!

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Follow the signs toward the trail.
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Once you see the drop-offs you wont be surprised there’s no mountain biking… or horses… allowed on the trail.

Be respectful of the parts of the trail which are closed for restoration, or roped off to restrict access. The reason they’re closed is either for your own safety, or for the preservation of the mountain itself so that everyone can continue to enjoy it in the future as well.

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The beginning of the trail is extremely dusty while the following parts are covered in jagged rocks. These rocks can become loose and get dislodged so be careful to watch your step when climbing. The higher you get up the mountain the more common and steeper the rocks become.

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As you’re heading up, if you’re facing west toward the ocean, off to the north-west is Morro bay and Morro rock, and South-east is toward Hazard Canyon Reef.

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We did a sunset hike, but it’s a gorgeous view any time of day. There’s a false peak about halfway up the path in which my family and I thought we had reached the top the first time I hiked this trail, but then realized we were only halfway up… Keep on going and enjoying the view on both sides as you walk along the ridge.

Eventually you’ll be climbing switchbacks again. When you get to the real peak, you’ll be greeted by a sign signaling your 1,400 foot accomplishment and giving you the choice to turn either left or right to reach the 360 degree views of the ocean and the surrounding Central Coast.

I think that turning left is faster to get to the wind blown picnic table at the top, but my parents swear that going to the right is faster, and Conner chose to climb straight up the face of the rocks.

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You can see to the ends of the Earth (almost)
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My father looking majestic

No matter how hot the weather may be at the start of the climb, it’s bound to be windy and chilly at the top so I suggest packing a sweatshirt. As always also make sure that you have water to avoid dehydration and put on sunblock to protect your skin as well as sunglasses to protect your eyes as this hike has no shade! And enjoy the views until the next time you come back to Valencia Peak.

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Trailhead address: Pecho Valley Road, Montaña de Oro State Park, Los Osos, CA 93402

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Bob Jones City to the Sea Bike Trail

Today was a beautiful day, so naturally I had to hit the beach. Rather than just driving, I took the scenic route and rode my bike along the Bob Jones trail to Avila Beach. It was beautiful.

This fully paved five mile round trip walk, jog, or ride features views of the San Luis Creek and the Avila Beach Golf Resort Golf Course. The trip is relatively flat and shaded in many parts making it a great opportunity to get outside (and even to end up at the beach!). It is a great trip for any age or physical fitness level surrounded by excellent scenery. As always, make sure to bring water and put on sunblock before heading out on your adventure.

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in San Luis Obispo, so I put my bike in my car, and drove to the trailhead on Ontario road. If the Yaris can haul my bike to make the trip, so can you 😉

To begin the ride, cross Ontario street and watch out for cross traffic as the cars from either side do not have to stop. There is a crosswalk, but still be careful on this busy road. The trail is well marked, and this is what you will see on the other side of the road.

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After riding for a few minutes you’ll reach the sign that honors Bob Jones and explains why the trail is named after him. He was a local activist and in 1983 retired to Avila Valley, until he passed away in 1994.

There are many other people who use the trail, especially on a busy day, so make sure to be courteous to those around you by signaling to them that you’re coming up from behind, and warning them of your presence. If you want to stop and take a break, there are benches which are littered along the sides of the path every once in a while which allow you to relax and take in the scenery.

Eventually you will come to a fork in the path. Go left. The Bob Jones trail continues on toward the left and goes underneath a bridge toward the shade. I’m not sure where you’d go if you went straight but it wouldn’t take you to finish off this amazing ride, which is why you should go left!

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Respect the rules of the trail

Once under the bridge you’ll ride past the Avila Village Inn. Make sure to stay on the path here too, and respect the property and the guests of the Avila Village Inn.

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Coming up on the left side of the path is a playground.

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There’s a basketball hoop as well a little ways up from here, and a helpful sign to put your location in perspective…

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1.7 miles to Avila Beach!!

A few tenths of a mile further up, the road will become wider and you near the property of the Avila Beach Resort Golf Course. In this area it is important to remember to be respectful of the golfers and the golf carts, as they have the right of way. Bike vs Golf cart = not a happy ending for either party….

At around this time, you will also reach the San Luis Creek! It’s a peaceful place to stop and take in your surroundings when you’re only about a mile out from the beach.

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Now begins the journey through the golf course. There’s a slight uphill here, but unless you’re like me the LAST time I tried to bike the Bob Jones trail with flat tires, you’ll make it up the hill no problem. (side note: never EVER try to do a five mile bike ride on flat tires after hiking Bishop’s peak earlier in the day, with your sorority big who bikes at Mock-9 speed…)

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Overlooking the golf course
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Almost to the beach! It took me four tries to get this photo timed right

The last part of the ride is easy, biking over a beautiful bridge and then into a shaded tunnel of vines and flowers.

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San Luis Creek continues through the green golf course
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Thank you fencing, for protecting me from stray golf balls!

The flowery fencing will open up into the city of Avila and all of its bright colors and sandy wonders. After you cross the street, you’re at Avila beach and pier.

Make sure not to forget your bike lock so that you can lock your bike somewhere along the pier rather than having to bring it on the beach with you (I got a lot of weird looks…). And enjoy your triumph in the sun for having biked the Bob Jones trail to the sea.

I had to lie down on the ground to set up my camera’s self timer for that top left shot and also got a lot of weird looks there, too. But it’s a great shot so it was definitely worth it. All in all, Sunday well spent!

Get out there and walk, ride, or jog the all-fitness-level friendly Bob Jones trail next time you’re looking for a prime opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the Central Coast sunshine.

Address: 7001 Ontario Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405

Trailhead coordinates: 35.185651, -120.703016 (35° 11′ 08.34″N 120° 42′ 10.85″W)

Bello Mundo Cafe: Coffee with Culture

I have a problem. Or is it really a PROBLEM, so much as an opportunity?? 😉

I am obsessed with cute coffee shops. After spending countless hours at Kreuzberg, (which I still do, don’t you worry…) I ventured to the other side of downtown SLO to try something new for a change.

Bello Mundo Cafe on Monterey street in San Luis Obispo is a place where you can sit, study, play games, read, and just relax with friends. Homemade chai and almond milk made from scratch are just two of the reasons to stop in and enjoy the ambiance.

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“Bello Mundo” translates to “a beautiful world” in Spanish. They are committed to nice values over “cool” and are committed to doing good however they can. Right when you walk in, live plants and the paintings of local artists line the interior to give the cafe a fresh and vibrant living feeling.

 

The name of the cafe derives from the inspiration of world travel, and how Bello Mundo is a sanctuary to relax, unwind, and connect with real people. For this reason, there is a laptop free section in which board games and books are available for reading, but laptops are not permitted.

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Opened in 2011, Bello Mundo originally served Ecco coffee. The cafe now serves Equator Coffee from San Rafael and Marin County. They believe that in this blend, they found the perfect combination of fruity, citrusy, delicate, and feminine coffee from the originally served Ecco coffee, as well as capturing the more robust flavor of other roasters. For more information on the Little Equator coffee of Bello Mundo visit their coffee page.

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Courtesy of Bello Mundo Website

With a very spacious interior and an open feel with high ceilings and enormous windows looking out onto the heart of downtown SLO, Bello Mundo is a great place to get work done, hang out, or people watch.

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Visit Bello Mundo if you want to experience SLO life at its most serene.

 

Kreuzberg: Latte Art Inspiring Enough to Make You Study

Even the creators and cast of “Friends” would be impressed. Freshly roasted coffee, tea, even some alcoholic drinks, and a good selection of food, Kreuzberg in downtown SLO is a definitely place to try if you live local or stop in if you’re passing through town.

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I love Kreuzberg. It may be my favorite off campus place to study. The atmosphere, the coffee and food, and the overall vibe the coffee shop gives off is unexplainable unless you study there yourself, which you should definitely try. Kreuzberg was authentically started in 2010 by Cal Poly grads who enjoyed the European cafe culture  in the coffee shops of Kreuzberg, a neighborhood in Berlin, Germany. It’s a place to eat, to drink, to hang out, to study, and to get the creative juices flowing all with godly unbeatable latte art.

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A soaking wet Kelly poses with the master latte art of Kruzberg

Personally my favorite drink to get is the Dark Mocha. The master baristas always top with nice looking art and adorn the plate with a small spoon and cookie. The employees are friendly but not overbearing. The feeling of the cafe gives off an antique and unique energy, with art covering the walls in the form of murals, paintings, and homey couches/chairs. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another time and place.

“Kreuzberg will always be one of my favorite places to study in SLO. I love everything on their menu (especially the breakfast burrito) and the overall vibe of the shop is just the best!” -Kelly MacKinnon, First Year Business major at Cal Poly

Click on the images below for a closer view of inside the shop.

It’s located in downtown SLO at  685 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, and open from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Whether you’re looking to study, spend some time “Friends style” in a cozy coffee shop, or eat a good meal at a place started by your own Cal Poly alums, visit Kreuzberg and you will not be disappointed.

Bucket list #4: Eat at the Madonna Inn

Cover photo courtesy of http://www.Madonnainn.com

This past weekend I got to cross four items off of my SLO bucketlist including eating at two restaurants inside the Madonna Inn: Copper Cafe, and Alex Madonna’s Goldrush Steakhouse. We can say that it was a good weekend…

Today I’m going to write about my experience dining at the Madonna Inn. Getting there was easy. If you get off at the Madonna road exit going south, you just need to stay in the middle lane and go straight to get directly to the inn. There aren’t really officially marked parking spaces, just a big parking lot, you kinda just fit in with the way that other cars are lined up.

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Photo courtesy of glamorousbite.com

The Madonna Inn actually has an interesting history behind it. Nestled into a hill beside Highway 101, it is a perfect stop for travelers passing through the central coast. Created by Alex Madonna and his wife Phyllis, it opened on Christmas Eve in in 1958 with just 12 rooms, and the first night’s travelers were given a complimentary stay. Now in 2016, over 100 rooms exist with different extravagant themes, and each room has an inspiration and a story behind it which can be found here. I’ll write more about the rooms in another post someday, but this post is about Madonna Inn’s dining.

We’ll start with brunch at the Copper Cafe on Friday morning. Kelly, Sophia, and I got dressed up in brunch attire and drove to the Madonna Inn making sure to document the adventure extensively with lots of pictures (what’s new?).

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Rocking the brunch attire

The experience was like something out of a fairytale. The glasses we drank water from were goblets of various colors that looked too pretty to drink out of. We didn’t get there until after 11am and we still got to order breakfast. I got a waffle. IMG_0694.JPG

It was a magical experience and the interior of the cafe was very cute. I felt like I had been transported back to the 1950’s/60’s. The walls were decorated with vintage signs, and my favorite decoration was the words “Let’s eat and be forever happy” written across the wooden arch of the counter. Yaaaas.

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As much as I enjoyed Copper Cafe, I was enamored with the decor of the inside of the actual steakhouse which was where we walked in. It was decorated for Valentine’s Day and I can say that I have never seen more hearts or fairy lights in one place in my life.

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After seeing how lavishly adorned the interior of the Steakhouse was,  I was hoping to one day eat inside there, too.. It was incredibly romantic looking, especially decorated for Valentine’s Day… Anyway, later that evening Conner told me he had booked dinner there on Valentine’s night on Sunday (we’re not great at keeping secrets). 😀

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So Valentine. Much Hearts. Many Red.

The Steakhouse was a fancy dinner. We dressed fancy. The menu was fancy and there were fancy people dancing fancily to the music on the dance floor behind our booth. The staff were sweet and the service was quick, especially for such a popular night of the year. The only thing in sight that wasn’t dressed up in pink or red (including us) was the food.

The most exciting part of dinner was that right as we got our first course, the lights went out… No joke, it was pitch dark. At first we thought it was a planned part of the night, but we were quickly informed of the electrical trouble the building was having and handed many glowsticks.

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They gave us glowsticks

The band kept playing, people kept dancing, and waiters and waitresses scattered like bee’s around the restaurant with glowsticks so that each couple could see their food to eat and cut (steak knives are kinda sharp). Lights or no lights, my New York steak was still delicious. And we got a free slice of Madonna’s famous Pink Champagne cake out of the ordeal.

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Dinner by glowstick-light

10/10 would recommend,  and would eat at a hundred more times. Hopefully it wouldn’t be dark again, but I was just happy to be there in the first place!

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Bucketlist Post #19: Hike the Avila Ridge Trail

This weekend, I hiked the Avila Ridge Trail (also known as the Shell Beach Bluff Trail/Ontario Ridge Trail) and it was one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever done. I was trying to find more detailed information about the trail online before going, and was confused by reading the online trail maps. So I decided to write a post about it myself, and how we navigated the hike.

It is listed on http://www.hikespeak.com to be a 2.8 mile hike with 675 feet of elevation gain, and summits at 735 feet. It’s longer if you park along El Portal Drive, or if you make a detour to Smuggler’s Cave toward the end. It isn’t very well marked where to start on the Ontario Ridge Trail coming off of Bluff Drive, but if you would like to take that route I have circled it in red on the map below.

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Blue = the route we took, Purple = Steep grade, Green = Trail to Smuggler’s Cave, Red = Entrance of/Ontario Ridge Trail

I would recommend starting on the Ontario ridge trailhead by the highway, 101 South, as it is a less challenging incline than if you were to start at the entrance by Pirate’s Cove, called “Cave Landing Trail.” Below on the map, the red circle represents where we parked, and the blue arrows represent the official entrance to the trail.

We walked along the road El Portal Drive to the Trailhead by the freeway. There is lots of parking along the side of the road as long as you don’t disturb the residents of the neighborhood.

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The red circle is where we parked, and the red line is the route we took along El Portal Drive. The blue is the actual Ontario ridge trail that we didn’t know existed.

The hike is not an extremely long hike, but is extremely steep at parts. The beginning where we started was the steepest part going up, and there was a steady incline until we reached a plateau view of the ocean to the southwest including Grover Beach and its gigantic sand dunes.

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Conner and his mom making the ascent
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The view toward Pismo Beach

When you get to the top, there’s a rope swing and a couple bowls for dogs to take a drink from. In fact, we encountered many dogs on the way up. If your bring your pet, it’s important to remember to pick up after them, as it’s the last thing another hiker wants to step on.

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Rope swing #1

 

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A panoramic of the view from the top

When you continue along the trail, you’ll come to another rope swing with an even grander view of the ocean. If you’re like me, it means you’ll take 300 pictures in every possible pose/silhouette scene/different lighting/focus.

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As you continue on the trail, it begins to get steeper. You can see a clear view of Pirate’s Cove now, and the slope begins to angle more sharply downward. This is another place that you can start the hike, but again I would recommend beginning at the other entrance.

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It’s a very steep grade.

When you reach the bottom of the steepest hill you will ever walk down, you’ll be in the parking lot to Pirate’s Cove and it’s famous “Smuggler’s Cave.” Continue down the trail to the right to get to Smuggler’s Cave or the Pirate’s Cove beach. It’s a clothing optional beach…

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“Beyond this point you may encounter clothing optional sun bathers.” What a view…

We walked down to Smuggler’s Cave and enjoyed the view from there for a while.

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If you have time, go see the inside of the cave. Again, the photo op’s are priceless 😉 Especially at sunset.

Continue back up the trail to Smuggler’s Cave the way that you came in, and then turn right to get onto Shell Beach Bluff trail which turns into a boardwalk as you get closer to the water. Continue straight on this trail until you reach the end of the trail, or continue onto El Portal if that’s where you parked, like us!

This is a map to the parking lot and official trailhead. There is also street parking in the neighborhood.

Trailhead address: Indio Drive & Bluff Drive, Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Trailhead coordinates: 35.174558, -120.707748 (35° 10′ 28.40″N 120° 42′ 27.89″W)

Bucketlist #50: San Luis Obispo’s BIKE NIGHTTTTTT

I can still hear the yelling, now…

Yesterday Conner, Kayce and Kyle and I went to San Luis Obispo’s monthly bike night which happens downtown at 9:30pm after Farmer’s Market, every first Thursday of the month.

There’s a new funky theme each month and people dress up in costumes to fit the theme. This month was “fairy tales,” and the subtheme was “spirit animals.” Naturally Conner wore his horse mask and I went as his cowgirl.

Above is a higher quality video by Julian Del Gaudio

Bike night was unlike anything else I had ever experienced in my life. It was so… college. It was so San Luis Obispo. It can be described as a ride around a circle of one way streets downtown yelling BIKE NIGHHHHTTTT for a couple hours, but in reality it is so much more.

SLO residents familiar with the event downtown yell BIKE NIGHTTTTT back at you, cars are aware of the event and aren’t usually a problem in terms of safety, and it’s one big mob of crazy awesomeness.

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The only rules are:

#1: Ride your bike and have fun

#2: Treat our community with respect

#3: Assume personal responsibility

The rules go deeper than that, those just being a brief outline of the common sense of bike night. Click here to read the in depth bike night rules of the ride.

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Neigh.

Also, there are real laws that you have to follow too. Cops are everywhere waiting to pick off bikers under the influence, bikers who don’t stop at red lights, and bikers who don’t have any kind of reflectors/lights. Don’t get caught anywhere by yourself as you’re easier to target for a violation like lack of proper reflectors. Stay with the group, as long as you’re not running any lights.

After biking around for a while, everyone meets at the parking lot between Marsh and Santa Rosa street and a dance party breaks out while we wait for everyone to catch up so we can be a group again (Stopping at red lights is important and people get separated).

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I hadn’t ridden a bike in months before going to this event. I used to bike to school every day in middle school, but now I just walk everywhere. It was a bit daunting to hop back up on a borrowed bike and pedal to downtown in the dark (San Luis Obispo is notorious for not having much lighting in the city at night, but that topic is for another day…) and I was just hoping I wouldn’t fall off or crash into another rider. However, everything went smoothly and I was glad I went.

Be safe and watch out for other riders, and be respectful to the community, but let go of that fear of falling, and have fun with the unique experience.

Bike night was great. It’s too bad it only happens once a month, but if it happened more than once I guess it wouldn’t be as special. See you next month, bike night. I’m already planning out my costume.