(No word on what my first stunt will be.) Then right north of Santa Barbara on 101, at the U.S. 1 exit, we stopped in the little lot east of the highway and meandered the half-mile or so up to the hot spring. It's a nice little stop if you're taking 101 to San Francisco. (Many mini-hikes was the theme of the trip.)
After that we checked out La Purisima Mission outside Lompoc (pictures below not mine) and then visited the southern end of the Pismo San Dunes at Oso Flaco before getting to SLO.
Seeing frost on the grass Sunday morning, we headed up to Missions San Miguel and San Antonio, before taking the beautiful and precipitous Nacimiento-Fergusson Road up and over the spine of the Santa Lucias. Here's your loyal blogger on Mill Creek trail, low on the ocean-facing slope of the Santa Lucias in the southernmost part of Ventana Wilderness.
Picture above mine (duh). Picture below not.
The southern part of Ventana is where the very southernmost stand of redwoods is, which continue to recover from the fire a couple years ago. (We never found the campsite, the trail just petered out, as the folks who made this trail report said.) Finishing the hike ahead of schedule at least gave us extra time to see a typical spectacular sunset along Route 1.
We wanted some tacos by the time we got back down to Morro Bay, and tried to go to Taco Temple, which was closed for some reason. Apparently it was Christmas Day. This theme was continued in downtown SLO. Then again, one of the benefits of being in your late 30s is you no longer panic if it's a Saturday night and the dearth of entertainment options forces you to actually relax with people you like!
The next morning we screwed around on the dunes too long so we had to skip going to Big Falls (next time!) - although Chiquito Falls in Trabuco (Cleveland NF) was dry just a couple weeks ago, and we've had no rain since then, so maybe we didn't miss anything. Seeing as a certain anthropologist was too cool to be home when we were visiting, we headed first to the Coronado Butterly Preserve, where monarchs spend the winter (image not mine):
After that we went up and over the mountains behind Santa Barbara to the Santa Ynez river canyon. NOTE: Gibraltar Road is CLOSED, apparently always the case at this time of year. I like driving over those concrete things to go through the river so I was a little disappointed, not to mention that the Red Rock area is pretty cool. But still, the Oso campgrounds aren't bad either.
We finished off with a visit to Painted Cave before continuing south for some good Chinese food in Irvine. My only regret: I still haven't figured out a way to bottle the smell of Central Coast oak forest.