I woke up that morning to a cold drop of water landing right in the center of my forehead. It was pitch black outside as I came to and became aware of my surroundings when another drop shook loose and hit me in the face. I was freezing and the smell of sulfur was pervading my nostrils and wafting through the campground like Karl the Fog in San Francisco. I had left the windows open in my camper the night before out of fear of suffocation (*an unnecessary worry in hindsight) which resulted in a condensation buildup on the ceiling of my camper. The condensation mixed with the freezing temperature shook me awake almost immediately as I slowly started to remember where I was.
I had landed at the Avila Beach Hot Springs after my near-disaster in Pismo. My thinking in going there was that I had almost marooned myself and ended my trip; I needed somewhere to recharge and relax. I checked in that night and spent the next two hours soaking in the epsom/sulfur filled water of the hot springs resetting my mind and meditating on the first two days of the trip. The hot springs had their own campground attached which is where I stayed. It was relatively quiet as I was one of three total campers in the area. I was able to get settled and eat a nice dinner before turning in shortly after dark crept through. After the hot springs my body seemed to be running at a higher temperature. I was sweating just sitting in my camper in my sleeping bag so I decided to open the windows. The unique geological aspect of this campground was that it was called Avila “beach” hot springs but it actually sat behind a mountain and in a deep valley several miles from the actual beach. This caused the temperature to drop pretty quickly on me and mixed with the heat my body was giving off, resulted in condensation slowly dripping on my face from the ceiling of my camper… Either way, waking up early was a blessing, as I had a big day planned…
Avila Beach Hot Springs Campground
My first stop in San Luis Obispo (SLO from now on) was downtown. It was still pretty early so I figured skating around the downtown area looking for coffee was a good move. It was still sleepy and quiet but I ended up going in a few stores and skating around quite a bit until I came to the next spot on my agenda, the mission. The city unsurprisingly, seemed to be built around the mission and every street led towards it. San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission actually looked like a fort upon my initial advance but as I got closer, things started to look more familiar and inviting. Once inside the high walls, I realized it was a lot smaller than it looked from the outside. I went through the tour and walked around a bit but by then was ready for my next destination. I got in my car and drove a few miles north and ended up at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I was overwhelmed by the size from the onset but I got a very “college/university-like” vibe that felt good to be around. I walked around a bit and even stumbled on a hidden area with a bunch of beer bottles, chairs and trash littered about and it made me think back to the “good ole’ days” at USF drinking in parks (but here I guess they just have them on campus).
“I find that I love walking around a city and experiencing it on the ground level.You can really get a feel for the layout and vibe of a place if you simply follow your feet through it’s streets. Feeling the pavement beneath your feet, listening to the voices of locals and the sounds of its natural environment.” – September 22, 2017, 5:58pm, Motana De Oro State Park
I had flown through SLO relatively quickly but only because I was excited to see my next camping location, Montana De Oro. Recommended to me by my aunt, I rolled up to the campsite through a mountain road that went deep into this valley and towards the beach. When I rolled up to the park entrance, my worse fears were realized as the sign read: “CAMPGROUND FULL.” Luckily, I said fuck it and rolled up to the park ranger anyway and I must have been living right because he had one spot open for one night only…Perfect for me. Since it was still early in the day, I decided to do the Valencia Peak Hike. The trail itself was a well maintained, straightforward path but the hike was anything but. I soon realized the “peak” which I had been striving towards for the first part of the hike was actually the first of three separate peaks.
I called back to my running days when I would slap street signs that said “No Stopping Here” and I kept moving my legs, determined to get to the top. It felt good to be so conscious of this one goal and I knew once I reached the top that not only would the view be worth it but the feeling as well. The top of the trail began to get more rocky and was less maintained but the higher I climbed, the view below got smaller but more beautiful. Finally I reached the top and my breath was taken away. I could see the entire state park with the rolling hills leading all the way down to the cliffside and the ocean, there was even a bench for me to sit on.
Reaching that peak and that feeling gratification of getting to the top had me hooked on hiking. From then on, I made it a priority to seek out hikes like that as often as possible. I spent a good deal of time up there on Valencia Peak, contemplating and trying to look inwards but mostly I was catching my breath. The way down included a coastal trail which wound along the cliffside so I decided that would be a nice, relaxing change of pace. As I walked along the trail, I could feel it reaching further out into the ocean and on my right there was a perfect little private beach nestled below the cliffs. Inaccessible, except for those who would risk the plunge through brush, foliage and a steep drop…
I walked back to camp feeling accomplished, tired and hungry. I had just enough time to eat dinner, write in my journal and make my way to the ridge to see the sunset which was becoming a tradition at this point.
After three days out here, I find that I do miss home and I miss my friends but I am loving this freedom and doing whatever I want. I love having my peace and my phone off and away from me and I’m hoping to do that more and more as the trip continues. I thought a lot on my hike about who I am but I still can’t answer that question. – September 22, 2017, 5:58pm, Motana De Oro State Park