July is National Park and Recreation Month

July 7, 2014

   The great thing about living in Cambria is you need no directions to one of the greatest national parks on earth. Take 46 east, veer left on 41. About 3 ½ hours later you arrive at the south gate to Yosemite.

   Yosemite has been a cherished place for family vacations since I was a kid, and last year I backpacked there for the first time. It wasn’t a long expedition by any means, just far enough out from the valley to camp for a couple of nights. But I saw the park in a different way and it was just incredible. It reminded me of what truly special places our parks are and why we need to preserve them.

Here's a view of Yosemite landmarks, looking north from the trail near Buena Vista Lake. The dome on the left is Half Dome. The pointy dark one is Mt. Starr King.
   It was all wilderness once from Manhattan Island to Iowa to SLO County. By the late 1800s people like John Muir started putting 2 and 2 together, realizing that uncontrolled growth threatened our wild lands. In 1864 President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant (which just celebrated it’s 150th anniversary). And in 1890 Yosemite, except for its famous valley, became a national park – Yellowstone was the world’s first national park 18 years earlier.
   But Yosemite Valley was still in the hands of California. Thanks to John Muir he tirelessly lobbied to put the valley under the authority of the park which happened by 1916 and helped lead the way to a U.S. national park system. Here’s a short history for further reading.

   July is Park and Recreation Month in the United States, and we’re reminded to appreciate and support our public spaces from city parks to national ones. Remember the scare a few years ago when California contemplated selling off some park land to private developers? It makes me appreciate what a treasure the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is in Cambria. Just down the coast, the Pismo Preserve is a vital open space that needs support if it is to become reality this summer. Another treasure on the central coast.

   The ranch in Cambria brings so much joy for it’s wonderful views of the ocean, fresh air and the wild flowers, birds and other animals that live there. But also, the ranch is so key to the fitness of many Cambrians whether it’s to walk, run or take a short bike ride. As I see it, getting outside is one of the essentials of personal fitness. Sure, you can walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike, and that’s all fine, but you actually work a little harder outside than you do indoors. But even more, being outdoors is more inspiring. Don’t believe me? Here’s just one of a number of studies on the matter.

   So, this year the theme for Park and Recreation Month is “Out is In.” Get outside and in a park. The sponsor, the National Recreation and Park Association, is giving away daily prizes for photos of people’s activities in parks posted to Instagram or Twitter (@NRPA_News) using the hashtag #JulyOUTisIN!

   This year I'm looking forward to backpacking Yosemite again on a different trail and next year I plan to see more than 10 national parks over the summer I've never been to like the Grand Canyon, Zion and Great Sands. We'll do some day hikes, bike rides, and an overnight backpack or two... and plenty of chillaxing!

March Madness Comes to Cambria For 2 People I Know

March 9, 2014

   I have the "privilege" of being in a relationship with a man who lives, eats and breaths University of Kansas Jayhawk basketball. He once lived in student housing within a stone's throw from one of the nation's most historic basketball arenas. And it just so happens that John Linn, of Linn's of Cambria, is also a KU grad and has many good memories of cheering on the Jayhawks in that arena.

   To be honest, I really don't care, even though I am periodically reminded the inventor of basketball, James Naismith, was KU's first coach in the 1890s.

   Actually, there is one interesting thing to me about that: Naismith was a physical education teacher who created the game to help athletes maintain their fitness during the winter months in Massachusetts. Even though basketball exploded in popularity and became a highly competitive sport, his passion was always to teach exercise and fitness. That's music to my ears.

Playing Sports Burns Calories

   Remember the sports you played as a kid? You weren't counting calories then. It was just plain fun. No matter what it was -- basketball, tennis, volleyball, softball, etc. -- there was a fundamental joy in playing a game. For many who aren't active, the thought of lifting weights or doing the Stairmaster for an hour doesn't sound very inviting. Time to pick up a racket, glove or ball again.

   If an organized sport like softball or basketball is your thing, Morro Bay has adult softball and soccer leagues. San Luis Obispo offers 3-on-3 basketball as well as softball, soccer and ultimate frisbee. If you'd rather not drive so far to play organized games, there's no reason you can't lace 'em up and shoot baskets on the court at the Vet's Hall parking lot. According to calorielab.com just shooting baskets for an hour burns 238 calories.

  I find it has been fun to discover a new sport. For me that's cycling. I ride with a Sunday morning women's group that goes informally by the name Bella Rollers. I've also ridden with the Slabtown Rollers of Cambria. They're a great group of people. Some other cycling groups are Team Medicare and The Old Farts Club. I don't have a website or Facebook page for you but if you want to find out more just drop by the Cambria Coffee Roasting Company after 10 am and start chatting with someone in a bike outfit. Hey, that's how it works in Cambria!

   Another growing sport in Cambria is pickleball. Great name -- it got me to look it up when I first heard of it. I can see it's appeal. Pickleball is like playing ping pong on a tennis court. It's gentler on the knees and body yet gets you moving. Check out the group Cambria Pickleball By The Sea. They play Tuesdays, Thursday and Sundays at the Coast Union High School tennis courts. They say once you start playing it gets addictive.

   Speaking of tennis, the Cambria Tennis Club is a private group that accepts new members. They maintain and use the courts at the high school. The great thing about tennis is how the racket technology has made the game easier and more fun. And the Joslyn Recreation Center has sports groups, too, like the Table Tennis and Lawn Bowls clubs.

   Oh, and there's golf. It's a game I have envisioned taking up. With lessons most people can play well enough to want to come back again and again to improve their game. I love the idea of walking the course, burning calories, enjoying being outside and engaging in friendly competition. We're blessed with some beautiful courses in Morro Bay and SLO that aren't too expensive and perfect for beginners.

   If James Naismith were alive today I'll bet he'd tell you to just get out there and play... and have fun, whether it's basketball or pickleball.

Cambria Art & Wine Festival Cycling Tour

January 20, 2014

   I know what you might be thinking: a Cambria wine tour bike ride? Why didn't I know about this?

   There is no organized bike ride but it occurs to me, with the Cambria Art and Wine Festival just around the corner, the three popular rides around Cambria could constitute an amazing wine country cycling trail. Whether you ride north to Piedras Blancas Light Station, south to Cayucos, or east on Santa Rosa Creek Road you will encounter vineyards and wineries in spectacular settings. You couldn't ask for a better place to get on your bike. So, if you have never ridden these roads before here are some helpful insights. And although I love wine, on my bike I prefer to enjoy the scenery of vineyards and come back later to taste.

Piedras Blancas Light Station

Distance: 31 miles out & back, north on U.S. 1

   The best time to go is in the morning when U.S. 1 is relatively empty of cars. If you head out after 11:00 am, traffic and headwinds can make this beautiful trip a nightmare. Headwinds are strongest in March and April, and some times in early summer there is early morning fog. The road is in great condition because it has been recently repaved. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Santa Lucia Mountains on the other, it's easy to understand why some European cyclists consider the California coast to be the best place in the world for bike touring.

   In the pastures below Hearst Castle you might see Zebras grazing, especially in February and March. They are descendents of the animals that William Randolph Hearst imported to stock his private zoo in the 1930s. In San Simeon, historic Sebastian's General Store serves up great sandwiches using fresh local ingredients. Sometimes I like to stop here on my way back from the light station to take a relaxing lunch break. The Hearst Ranch Winery tasting room is also in Sebastian's.

   Further up the road is the Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery. The newborn seals are on the beach this time of year and are a lot of fun to watch. They can be viewed every day (even without having to get off your bike) and there is no admission fee. The Piedras Blancas Light Station is still a working lighthouse, a historical park and wildlife sanctuary offering tours and sight seeing.


Distance: 29 miles out & back, south on U.S. 1

   There's a big hill about 6 miles into the ride but aside from that it's fairly flat until you get back to Cambria for a final uphill approach. Like the ride north, the ride south on U.S. 1 is best done in the morning before too many motorists are out on the roads. When Cambria and Morro Bay are fogged in, this stretch of road is often clear because of the headlands. And temperatures are usually a bit warmer on this ride compared to the north.

   I love the scenery of small farms dotting the headlands and the artsy community of Harmony, population 18 (according to the sign). Harmony Cellars is here, too.

   When the road opens up to a sudden view of the ocean you're approaching Cayucos. In town you have a number of choices to stop for lunch. I like Duckie's, a great mid-priced chowder house. It's right at the pier and has outdoor seating on the sidewalk. Before heading back, you might want to do a relaxing pedal around town to see the murals which the Cayucos Mural Society has sponsored for the past 20 years.

Santa Rosa Creek Road

Distance: 20 miles out & back for a relaxing ride; 32 miles out & back or in a loop for experienced cyclists.

   James Taylor could have been thinking of Santa Rosa Creek Road when he sang "I could feel it on a country road." Rolling hills, grazing cattle, chickens, produce farms, and ranches await you without much traffic. But keep your eyes open for deer, coyotes and even a mountain lion if you're lucky. The lovely Santa Rosa Creek accompanies you most of the way. Stolo Family Winery is just outside of Cambria and Linn's Original Farmstore, 5 miles out, is a perfect place for coffee and pie, and pleasant conversation. I like to stop in on the return trip.

   When the coastal highway is foggy or chilly, Santa Rosa Creek Road is often sunny and warm. This is a ride I take easy so I usually only go about 10 miles out. But that doesn't mean it's not challenging. If you ride all the way to Highway 46 you'll have some serious elevation to contend with. Some expert cyclists favor leaving Cambria south on U.S. 1, then east on 46, and then riding down Santa Rosa Creek Road. I would strongly suggest driving the road first before attempting it on a bicycle. The road is narrow and steep with a stomach turning steep switchback -- probably not what James Taylor had in mind.