Day 20 – Paradise Valley -> Cambria CA

We woke up at our indiscreet campsite in the trailside grickle grass, and discovered that plenty of people were passing by and noticing us. The thing is that nobody cared, so that was good. We folded up our camp, hiked back to the truck, and deployed our tailgate kitchen to prepare coffee and bagels.

Yesterday we paid for a full day of parking and “use” of the national forest, so we had no plans to leave early. We came to swim, so we embarked on a day hike to find a place we liked.

At this time of year, this part of the Santa Ynez River valley is a series of spring-fed ponds, and most of them are lined with granite. The first two ponds we came to were busy. One had a sandy shoreline that was kid-friendly, and the other was larger with a high perch for jumping. The third was smaller, but bigger than most swimming pools, and vacant.

We swam for about an hour, exploring the three-dimensional world of rock formations below the surface. After drying off in the sun, we hiked back out and were on the highway by mid-afternoon.

California 154 follows a direct route from Santa Barbara to Santa Maria over San Marcos Pass, while US-101 goes straight west, then straight north. The forests on the mountains, the greenness of the farms and vineyards along the way, and the fresh water swimming holes in the national forest were all much more appealing to us than the parade of offshore oil platforms seen from 101.

After replenishing ourselves at a Chinese buffet in Santa Maria, we pressed on to San Luis Obispo, where we picked up Route 1 to get back to the coast. Our map seemed to indicate that once we passed San Simeon, camping opportunities would be scarce. So we pulled into San Simeon State Park and set up camp high on a windswept hill overlooking the ocean.

Not only had we set up camp, but it was early enough to get a good walk before dark. When we came back to camp, we discovered that the left rear tire on our truck was low, so we will need to deal with that tomorrow.

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