Thursday, June 30, 2016

36 hours in San Luis Obispo County

San Luis Obispo is one of my favorite places to take an easy weekend trip. It's a relatively short 3.5 hour drive, making it the perfect destination for a quick getaway. This past spring, we stayed in an airbnb rental in Los Osos, which is nestled just between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay and offers great access to the entire county.

Just like with our first trip to the area last summer, we made it a point to break up the drive down with a quick stop at Pinnacles National Park (read more about our visit here). From there, we headed to Morro Bay for an early dinner at Sunshine Cafe, which we absolutely loved! It's a small cafe with an adjacent market that is full of organic goodies at reasonable prices.

The entrance to the 400 acre property we stayed on.
After dinner we checked into our rental, which was a very rustic miners cabin situated on a 400 acre ranch. I have to be honest in saying that it was probably a bit too secluded for our comfort, but it was a beautiful setting nonetheless and quite the adventure getting to manually light the overhead propane lamps!

When we originally booked the weekend, we had forgotten that Sunday was Easter and that we of course, needed to be home for the Easter Bunny. So we only really had one full day in the area on Saturday. Our first stop was Avila Valley Barn, which we have incorporated into all of our trips to the area because it's such a hit with the kids. For $1, you can buy a bag of veggie scraps and the kids get a solid half hour of entertainment feeding the animals.

We then headed out to Oso Flaco Lake, which is about 20 miles south of San Luis Obispo. It was a bit out of the way, but we really wanted to see something new in the area and this particular hike seemed both unique and kid-friendly. Thankfully it did not disappoint!

There is a small parking lot at the trailhead (parking was $5) as well as free street parking just outside the entrance to the park. The trail starts along a wide path with tall shrubs and trees along each side and eventually leads to a wooden boardwalk that spans across Oso Flaco lake. This was one of my favorite parts of the walk. The boardwalk was well maintained and had safety railings along the entire span, so there was no fear of our kids falling into the water. Gazing out at the calm lake with the sand dunes in the background provided a beautiful backdrop for bird watching and enjoying nature.

The boardwalk portion of the hike is about 1.4 miles and then there is a short portion at the end that requires walking through the sand to get to the ocean. When we made it to the sand it was very windy and the winds only picked up as we continued out to the ocean. I have a feeling that it is typically pretty windy out here, so this is not the spot for you if you're looking for a day of lounging in the sun.

We found a little refuge from the wind behind one of the sand dunes and managed to have some snacks while the kids ran around. The wind didn't bother them a bit. The hike is out and back, so we returned the way we came in and then headed off to San Luis Obispo.

As a reward for all our efforts on the hike we made a quick stop at Libertine Brewing in downtown SLO. If you are a beer lover, then Libertine is a great place to grab a drink and relax. We visited early afternoon on a Saturday and we were the only people in there, which was perfect since we had our kiddos with us.

Our kids often ask if they can smell our beers :)
We finished up our visit with a walk around town and an affogato and ice cream shake at Scout Coffee. They make some seriously good coffee and great desserts, which I highly recommend if you find yourself in the area.

The rest of the evening was spent back at the cabin, where we put together a home cooked meal (the perks of renting a place with a kitchen!) and did a little star gazing.

Have you been to San Luis Obispo County? What are your favorite finds?

Be sure to check out our first visit to the area here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Steep Ravine for my birthday!

I am not one for elaborate celebrations, however, when a cabin at Steep Ravine had a last minute cancellation on my birthday, it seemed meant to be! Typically reservations are booked seven months in advance, but if you make a habit of checking the reservation site weekly, there are often last minute cancellations to be swooped up. 

Let me start off by saying that I am NOT a camper. I don't enjoy roughing it, and would far prefer a home with electricity, plumbing and all those other glamorous things I take for granted in my everyday life. With that said, our budget doesn't always afford us the fancy things in life and certainly doesn't get us accommodations a stones throw from the ocean! So I have a few exceptions to my preference of sleeping in a real bed and Steep Ravine is one of them. 

Perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, these century old cabins provide a pretty amazing backdrop for a little time in nature. This was our second visit to the cabins (see our first visit here) and both times I have left with a huge appreciation for the simplicity of the setting. I am not exactly sure how to explain it, but when you strip away most of your belongings and settle into a bare cabin with just the necessities, it is extremely refreshing. I suppose that's why people love camping so much! Everything seems to slow down. 

We arrived around 3:00 in the afternoon, and after eating a very early dinner (we picked up pizza from Tony Tutto's on the way in), we quickly got to exploring. Our first stop was a small beach at the base of the hillside. On our previous visit, the tide was a bit high, but this time it was much lower and we had easy access to the sand. Both of our girls enjoyed climbing the boulders and tossing rocks into the ocean. 

One thing that immediately struck me as different this time around was how colorful everything was! Our last visit was in September and the hills were brown, but this time the hills were green and doted with calla lilies, poppies and flowering ice plants. 

We returned to the cabin for a short coloring break and some snacks and then took off once again to explore the rest of the grounds. There are a couple of short hiking trails, but we stuck with the main trail that takes you past all of the campsites (where the real campers stay!). The views from the campsites were amazing and had my husband and I really wishing it was something that appealed to us more (maybe someday?). 

We got back to the cabin just before sunset, and the girls quickly got to acting silly. There were some new dance moves and a lot of giggles. Everyone was pretty worn out by about 9:30 and we all packed in tightly on the queen sized sleeping platform in the bedroom. As I have mentioned before, my sleeping expectations for overnight trips are pretty low, especially when we aren't sleeping in real beds. Having a very realistic expectation is the key to success in these situations. I learned that my kids talk a great deal in their sleep and that my youngest loves to toss and turn. Needless to say, I didn't wake up well rested, but it was nothing a cup of coffee couldn't fix.

Since this was a mid-week getaway for us (we took off from work early on Wednesday and then took Thursday off) we opted to keep the meals as simple as possible. For breakfast we ate a delicious assortment of scones and muffins that we brought along with us from The Cheeseboard Collective and some fresh fruit. The mornings can get pretty chilly in the cabin, and we had used all our kindling the night before to heat the place up. So if you are looking to savor the last few hours in the cabin before the 12:00 checkout, make sure you have everything you need to get a fire going. 

After breakfast we said goodbye to the cabin and took off for the nearby town of Bolinas. If you have never heard or read about Bolinas, this NY Times article was pretty entertaining. The town has no desire to become a tourist destination, which in many ways seems to be half of the appeal to visiting. The main strip has a handful of shops and cafes as well as a nice community park to spend a quite morning. We made a quick stop at the Bolina's People's Store, which has a small but nice selection of groceries to assemble a picnic or just pick up some snacks. We grabbed some coffee and fig bars and enjoyed them while the kids ran around the park. 

Our next stop was a few miles down the road at Duxbury Reef. I have wanted to take the kids tide-pooling for a while now, so I was very excited for this portion of the trip. This was my first time visiting tide-pools, so I am not an expert by far, but I enjoyed tip-toeing along the reef looking for hermit crabs and shells. The kids really enjoyed watching the crabs scurry along the reef and swim in the pools of water. 

After our visit to the beach we decided to take the slightly longer route home through the Olema Valley. If you have the time, this drive is really beautiful and well worth the extra couple of minutes. If you are looking to take stops along the way, Point Reyes Station and Samuel Taylor State Park are two great options. Stinson Beach is also a great place to spend the day. 

You can also check out a short video of the view from the cabins on my instagram account. And be sure to follow along for more frequent updates on our trips!

Have you been to Steep Ravine? Any suggestions for our next trip to the area?

Details: The Steep Ravine Cabins are just over an hours drive from Berkeley (about 2 miles south of Stinson Beach). You can reserve a cabin up to 7 months in advance at a cost of $100/night. Bolinas is about a 15 minute drive from the cabins. If you don't have GPS to get you there, you can simply follow the highway through the town of Stinson and at the end of the lagoon there will be a left hand turn that allows you to continue driving along the lagoon and towards the town of Bolinas. For a more comprehensive list of tips on planning your trip, check out my first post.