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!

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.

 

Red Rock Canyon: Calico Tanks Trail

IMG_2095-1This past weekend we went to Nevada for my lil bro’s college orientation, and ventured outside of the SLO bucket list to hike in the Red Rock Canyons. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. We chose the Calico Tanks hike, which was moderate in difficulty and about 2.5 miles long each way (5 roundtrip).

Before we get started on the hike, let’s go over some general tips for hiking in the Red Rock Canyon.

  • Start Early!

By starting in the morning you will have less heat and less harsh sun rays to face than if you went later in the day. We started our hike around 10 a.m. and I still got burnt to a crisp on my shoulders #IrishPeopleProblems

  • Bring LOTS of water

It’s going to be very hot and no matter what hike you do it’s going to require frequent hydration especially if there is not much shade. Water is a must.

  • Slather on the Sunscreen

Even if you don’t burn as easily as me, still put on sunblock as a precaution. It’s better to be safe than to risk a burn or skin cancer. I also recommend a baseball cap to protect your face, and sunglasses to protect your eyes.

Now for the hike.

It’s seven dollars to enter the park by buying a day pass, and once you get in, drive past the visitor center along the 13 mile scenic route until you reach the Sandstone Quarry parking lot. Park there, and head to the trailhead which is marked with information about the surrounding trails including safety tips and what animals you may encounter.

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Once you start on the trail there will be signs for the first half mile or so guiding the way.

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The first part of the hike is relatively flat, but unshaded. The rocks are a lighter brown color, you won’t reach the red rocks until a bit later in the hike. Keep along the marked path in order to not get lost, even though it’s very tempting to climb everything in sight…

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There are cactuses along the side of the path, so be careful as you walk so that you don’t walk into one like my brother!

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Also along the trail are carinsThese man made stacks of rocks which have been used for a wide variety of purposes since ancient times, are in this case to mark the trail.

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Carins
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More Carins

A little further in, things start to get steeper. Ever heard of rock scrambling? It’s a technique for climbing rocks without having to use a belay, and is relatively easy to conquer on this hike.IMG_2064

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Dad conquering the rock scrambling…

The rock scrambling on this trail is pretty basic and I would say that most people who are in moderately in shape can handle it without any problems.

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This hike has about a 450 foot elevation gain and many great photo opportunities for basic girls like me!

See the picture below:

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After about an hour of hiking you will reach this tree. Get some water and enjoy the shade of the tree for a little while because there won’t be much more for a while.

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Shane’s so silly.

After passing the tree, soon you will come to a body of water (depending on the time of year there may be less or more water) and when you get there don’t give up. I say body of water, because it’s not really a lake but there’s more there than a puddle. This is the “Calico Tank” and is usually full of water when it rains in the winter months. If you can because it’s dry, keep going because the best part is yet to come.

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The water

Pass the lake-like body of water on the right. Once you scramble up some final rocks you’ll reach the peak of the hike with an amazing view of the city of Las Vegas and the surrounding area.

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Our mixtape drops this fall…

Calico Tanks was one of the hottest and most scrambly hikes I have been on but it ended with one of my favorite views. After completing the hike be sure to do the 13 mile scenic drive around the park and bask in the glory of the rocks and the dirt because it’s beautiful.

Also be sure to check out the Visitor Center and learn all of the information about the wildlife and the history of the indigenous people who used to spend ALL of their time in the Red Rock Canyon.

Here’s a map to the parking lot, where the trailhead is!

Happy Hiking…

Bucketlist number 11: Big Sur (Bixby Bridge, McWay Falls, Pfeiffer Beach)

 

Author’s note: Green and purple bolded words are links to be clicked on to learn more information about the landmark!

Kelly and I went on a road trip to Big Sur this weekend. It was pretty amazing.  I wanted to see three attractions on our trip: Bixby Bridge, McWay Falls, and Pfeiffer Beach.

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We left San Luis Obispo around 10am. The drive was pretty foggy at first. I was afraid that the rain that was forecasted was finally going to fall. But eventually the sun peaked out from the clouds and reflected off the incredibly blue ocean like an aquamarine gemstone.

Just as a warning to future Big Sur travelers, we lost reliable cell service shortly after Cambria. This means that Google Maps is not a form of navigation that can be used for this trip. Finally after two hours, we got to our first destination: Bixby bridge.

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It was a little foggy, but still beautiful. Watching the ocean crash against the rocks below the 260 foot bridge was hypnotizing.

History Fact: Bixby Bridge was constructed in 1932, five years before the road from Carmel to San Luis Obispo would even be officially opened.

We could have stayed there and watched it all day. But we moved onto our next destination about fifteen minutes up the road, McWay Falls.

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We parked on the side of Cabrillo Highway and started down the “trail” which was only a few tenths of a mile long and featured prime views of the falls everywhere along the way. It took about ten minutes of walking to get to the best view of the 80 foot falls. The beach below is not accessible to tourists, and there’s a hefty fine to pay if you get caught trying to get to it. This is because the reason it’s so beautiful and serene in the area by the falls is that it has not been run down by humans.

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So I’m kind of in a sorority…

We stuck around at McWay falls for a while, going further along the trail to reach another lookout with informational panels on the history of the cove.

History fact: It turns out that there was no sandy beach beneath the falls until 1985 when a massive landslide took the side of the coastal wall into the ocean. 

After checking out the vista point for a while, Kelly and I hiked up past where our car was parked down to the 2 campsites where campers can gain the experience of a lifetime waking up next to the sound of the falls. I asked one of the campers setting up his tent as we were leaving how far in advance he had to book the campsite, and he told me six months. I’m sure it was worth it…

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Looking out over the cliff rocks by the campsite

After McWay falls, we headed up the road to see the purple sand at Pfeiffer Beach. The best time to see the purple sand is after the rain, and lucky for us, we made it to the beach just in time for the sun to poke out right after it had stopped being rainy.

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Fun Fact: The purple color is a result of the abundance of heavy minerals composed of quartz and garnet
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A close up of the sand via http://www.sandatlas.org/pfeiffer-beach-sand/

Pfeiffer beach was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It was unreal. It is not challenging to find, but is off the beaten path and down a couple secluded side roads to get to. Luckily we caught some 3G/LTE action just in time to make sure we were navigating to the right place.

It was 10 dollars to park, but once inside, the views are worth it. Make sure you have cash as the attendant at the booth doesn’t take cards. FullSizeRender-6.jpg

Pfeiffer is sure to be a great experience, whether you want to climb up the rocks to get a better view of the whole cove, run down the soft sanded dunes, make your footprint in the purple colored sand, or get closer to the keyhole arch during low tide.

The day trip to Big Sur was a great adventure. I will for sure be heading back up again sometime soon to do some more exploring. Until then, adventuring in SLO is okay for now, I guess… 😉

View the slideshow of the trip that I made below!

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Why Travel is the Best Gift You Can Get This Christmas

 

It’s Christmas morning and you’re in college. Your generous extended family members aren’t sure what to get you exactly, so they cut you a check.

Now you decide: Do you spend it on a material item like new boots, or something intangible like a weekend trip?

I love to explore, travel, find new experiences and try new things. Traveling expands your mind and opens you up to new possibilities.

These kind of gifts are priceless. Only, they’re not. A day at the slopes or a week long vacation costs a lot of money, but I would much rather have these trips than a new name brand sweater or the latest iPad.You’re taking money out of your bank account, but making your mind richer.

 

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A hiking/camping trip I went on in Idyllwild, CA

 

Material items only provide satisfaction in the short run, while the reward of memories and culture of traveling will last a lifetime. It’s kind of like making an investment. The happiness we get from an experience increases in value over time. Nothing can replace these memories that make up a part of who you are, and these memories make you learn and grow.

It can be a difficult decision, because when you spend your money on a new pair of expensive jeans, they’re tangible. You can feel the jeans and see the jeans and show off the new jeans. But when you use your money to go skydiving, it’s an expensive personal experience that only lasts a few minutes, but is well worth the memories and the sense of accomplishment that comes with it.

 

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My first time skydiving

 

Material items are not a part of you, whereas the memories and experiences you get from traveling connect you with others, and satisfy you for longer. So… go use the Christmas money to go on that weekend trip you’ve been dreaming about the whole semester!  And then write a thank you note telling the one who paid for your trip how grateful you are for their contribution to the elevation of your quality of life.

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