Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Backyard Browsing

My job involves a lot of time staring at a computer screen.  In fact, I probably spend about 95% of my time interacting with my desktop computer while I am clocked in.  As is easily imaginable, this can quickly lead to pasty white skin and a pudgy soft midsection if I’m not careful.  Because of the amount of time required at my desk on my computer, I have made it a practice to get outside and do something active at least once a day, and man has it been fun.


Moving to a new place makes exploration easy.  Every place offers something to discover, and each path winds to a novel place.  While I did live here before, I’ve quickly realized there are so many places I never knew about and didn’t ever think to explore.  Places that are really hard to miss if you’re actually looking.  Such as the multiple hils in the photo below...really, how did I miss those? San Luis Obispo has a series of peaks called the Nine Sisters, arranged in a volcanic chain from west to east.  While a number of the Cerros or Morros (I call them hills) are privately owned, six are accessible to the public.  And I plan to hike each of them.  Two weekends ago, I started with Cerro San Luis, more commonly known as Madonna Mountain (it’s really a hill, says the transplant from the Sierra Nevadas).



This week, I moved on down the chain to Islay Hill (rightfully a hill).  Islay Hill, which is one of the Sisters, is a 5 minute scooter ride from my house and reminds me of a little gremlin.  It is lushly green at the bottom, but as it slopes up towards the peak there is a definite line of shorter, dark green shrubs that from faraway look like a hat sitting atop a hunching little person. Or gremlin, to be exact.  The view from the top, though, is all a brighter green. 

(The narrow but easily followed path to the top of Islay Hill.)


Another of my favorite new spots, which is about a mile from our house, is Terrace Hill. It’s an easy walk and short climb up a rocky slope, and stretches and flattens on top to an open area large enough to throw the ball around with a dog without worrying they'll go wailing off the side.  Sunset is the best time to go (I would assume sunrise is pretty great as well).  

 


A more difficult hike is up Sydney Street.  This one makes me a little nervous thinking about it.  As you approach the trail head, you come to a gate with a sign that says something along the lines of “No trespassing”.  Just behind that sign is a note about a recent cougar siting.  And behind that sign?  One about rattlesnakes.  Yep, you would think at this point I would chalk it up to a solid effort and ride into the sunset on my waiting scooter.  But mustering my outlaw-ness and googling what to do if I meet a mountain lion on my phone, I headed up the shady, steep trail instead.  I had read online that the sign about no trespassing has been there for years, but that it’s actually a public trail that skirts rather closely to private cattle land.  I still had an excuse in my mind if I did get caught—  I’m sorry officer, I was so focused on the predatory cougars and coiled rattlesnakes I didn’t even see the sign about getting shot if I trespass!



 The views are worth the risk of death though, and the work out is one of the better ones that you can do fairly quickly close to home.  It’s a steep climb up to the summit, and this one I will absolutely call a mountain summit.  It’s over a mile, and it’s pretty much straight up.  I don't even care any more, if I sweat as much as that made me sweat, I'm calling it a mountain.  And I loved it. 


The last hike I did was on Sunday.  Montana de Oro is certainly one of the coolest places in SLO County, with its colorful, often empty beaches, eucalyptus groves, and peaks and ravines to explore.  One that I’ve had my eye on for a while is Valencia Peak.  It’s a little over 2 miles up, and rumor has it the views are pretty great.  I set out with a mild hang over (I went wine tasting on Saturday, which is a different story that also involves peaks and ravines), not enough sunscreen, and probably not enough water (did I mention SLO had a heatwave this weekend?).  But I reached the top along with a slough of other hikers (I’m never really alone, moma dear),  in a little over 40 minutes.  The view stretched with a clear shot to Morro Bar, and was the perfect bird-eye perch to inspect the trails I will tackle on a different date when there is less wine and more water coursing through my system.



Waking up with the goal to go outside and do something active every single day has been one of my favorite New Years goals, and is one that has been fairly easy to keep now that the time change has happened and I can take off after work.  It’s amazing what a little bit of blood flow and a little bit of greenery can do for my mental state… and my hang overs.  Cheers to that my friends, and cheers to more adventures around this beautiful rock.


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I grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, ventured south along the California coast for a while, sailed through San Francisco Bay, and have landed back on the Central Coast.  This time I'm a little closer to our rivers and our summits, and a little farther from where I started.