Chasing the Sun - Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara

Chasing the Sun
From Sea to Summit to the Sea Again
Mountain Biking, Hiking and Relaxing
This year we decided to get gone for the Thanksgiving Holiday. We've been watching the weather for the past few weeks and had several different plans depending on which way the storm went. It appeared the best chance to chase the sun was to head South. At least this would allow us a couple of days of outdoor fun before the rain may catch us. 

This is a long post. We did so many things and writing them all down is as much for my memory as it is necessary to tell the story of our adventure. I want to remember as much as possible because we had such a great time! 

Chris took care of all of the logistics on this getaway and he did a great job planning all of our stays and adventures! 

Day 1 - Sacramento to Santa Cruz, car camp
Day 2 - Mountain Biking by the Ocean (Turkey Day!)
Day 3 - Hiking Los Pedros National Forest (#OptOutside)
Day 4 - Santa Barbara and rain
Day 5 - Lounging, then driving home 😞

The week before we left was a flurry of route planning, shopping, cooking, bike prep and packing gear for a multi-sport adventure!! Amazingly, it all fit in the car! We both were off of work early on Wednesday and headed out by 1pm. Thankfully, traffic wasn't an issue and we got to camp just before sundown. 
We camped at New Brighton State Beach

We arrived just in time to watch the beautiful sunset. 
I'm getting the feeling this is going to be an amazing adventure! 

We car camped and LeeLoo (Chris's Honda Element) kept us cozy and comfortable. I have Thursday (Turkey Day) as my day for meals so we started the day with a vanilla protein pancake with walnuts and bananas. 

It wasn't the prettiest thing I've ever made, but it was delicious!!

We broke camp and headed out to Wilder Ranch for a little time on two wheels. We've been out on road rides, but never playing in the dirt. I've been resistant to go mountain biking together, it's usually something I do with girlfriends or by myself. I'm glad I finally caved and decided to go mountain biking with Chris. This is definitely his element and I really enjoyed seeing him having such a great time... like a kid in a candy store. 

And we're off to begin our adventure and couldn't have asked for better weather. 

Good morning!

Meandering along the Ohlone Bluff Trail 

Seriously, who wouldn't want to ride next to this? Gorgeous!

Chris leading the way...

Stopping to enjoy the view

After about 5 miles along the ocean, we headed across Highway 1 and off to begin the second part of the ride around the Baldwin Loop Trail. This single track took us immediately through a field of berry briars and tall grass. Easy to follow, but occasionally one would reach out and grab you. Ouch! But just the beginning of scratches and scrapes for the weekend.

Sheer drop off anyone? Um, no. 

Action shot!

Taking a break and having a great time!

We climbed to the top of the loop, then we rode down into this beautiful tree covered canyon. I wish I could have grabbed more pictures of this part, but I needed my hands to ride. 
Very pretty, but a little bit chilly. I'm ready to get back out into the sun. 

Eucalyptus Loop is next...

LUNCH!! It's turkey day so we had Turkey Burgers! These are not your average turkey burgers though. They contain a tangy chutney, apples, chipotle seasoning and fresh parsley. Served on a baguette with a pear and plum chutney for dipping. YUM!!
I think we are both pretty tired of the traditional roasted turkey for Thanksgiving, so this was a welcome change. I've been making these for years and never thought of having them in lieu of roasted turkey. New tradition? Maybe...
(Recipe link)

This view does not suck! 
Let the descent begin... Woohoo!! We had about 1,000 ft or so of climbing which means we get to go screaming back down the trail back down to sea level. What a fun ride! There were a few dicey parts where things could have taken a turn, but we both made it down safe and sound and had a blast doing it! 

We ended our ride at Wilder Ranch. 

Ocean, hills, canyon, views, single track, fire road, slow climbs, 
fast descents and a ton of fun!!

15 miles and just over 1,000 ft of climbing. 
Pretty mild climbing compared to our hikes, but I may be feeling that tomorrow...

Now off to watch the sunset. We are heading to San Luis Obispo for a quick sleep, then off to Los Padres National Forest for some hiking and hopefully peak bagging. 

Goodbye Santa Cruz. Thanks for an amazing day...

After a couple of hours of driving, we found ourselves on Highway 101 during dinner time and a Turkey Day Dinner to be had. So, a rest stop feast/dance party it is!! We turned on some music, danced to Bruno Mars, unpacked and set up a stove and dining area.  I made Pumpkin soup, salad, sausage stuffed acorn squash and a biscuit with fresh cranberry sauce. I had been prepping for a couple of days at home and had it all ready to go, so it was a quick heat and serve. We were freezing cold and warm soup was exactly what we needed! We were anxious to get to our hotel, so the hot apple crisp will have to wait for another day...
This is one Thanksgiving for the story books for sure! 

We stayed at the Hampton Inn in San Luis Obispo. It's going to be a quick sleep and go. We were up at 5:30, had breakfast buffet at 6 and hit the road. We had a full day of peak bagging to do so we had to get a jump on the drive. We watched the sun come up over the mountains. 

The fire station near Pine Mountain Club. With all the snow and closed roads and another system on our heels, we decided to forego another night of car camping and find a warm place to sleep. After consulting google, yelp and a local Inn, we found a B and B. On first contact, they were sold out, but they called us back after finding out they had a cancellation. Yes! We will take it! A warm bed after a long day of hiking sounds great. AND they have a hot tub! Now we have some hiking to do.

There are 4 peaks within reach of where we are going to start. However, last weeks' weather brought snow and has closed a couple access roads. We will be starting at a different location than originally planned. Chris asked if I wanted to drive up as far as we could go, then start the hike or start from a lower trailhead and bushwhack our way up. I chose the direct route... buskwhack. Shocker!

My cooking duties are over and Chris is now making lunch. Turkey wraps with a smear of goat/cream cheese, cranberries, walnuts, prosciutto and spinach. Can't wait to try them! 

Trailhead coordinates

And we are off on our next adventure! Trailhead Trailfie!

Let the bushwhacking begin. The low laying sagey bushes, great. The prickly "Richard" bush, not such a big deal. Those spear like "Narwhal" pokey plants - AWFUL!! From the bottom of the mountain, they looked pretty interesting. Like something you'd see in the southwest. As we got closer, we learned to steer clear of them!

Chris leading the way. 

The bush is getting thicker and we are getting a little beaten up by Narwhal and Richard plants, but making good progress, we think. There are no trails here, so no idea what we are in for. We just know that up is the direction we need to go and up is the way we are headed!

Trying to navigate through some dry brush. This stuff was fairly easy to crush through. I'd take it any day over...

This!! Those are like spears! Mean, ugly spears. Chris was impaled by one and it drew blood very easily. You can't step on them or move them out of the way at all. We'd occasionally come across an entire area of them and have to find an alternate route. 

And then to our surprise, TRAIL!!! 
We climbed about 1,000 ft through that brush to the top of the ridge and this was a welcome sight. Not sure where it leads, but it's headed in the right direction. UP! After a little bit, we realized this must be a training trail for the firefighters. No switchbacks to speak of, just up. Straight up. I'll take it over the Narwhal bushes anyday!

The higher we got, the more snow we encountered. It wasn't deep, but it was slowing us down as it was pretty compacted and icy. Which translates to slippery and slow going at times. 

Pretty steep stuff, especially with the snow. I found it was easier off trail as the forest floor provided plenty of foliage to brace against so I wasn't slipping on ice. 

As we approached the first peak, we found an abandoned ski patrol building. 

Had to stop and enjoy the gorgeous views.

This trail also had lots of old mountain bike or endurance course obstacles. They were old and decaying, but cool to imagine the guys riding these. Some skilled riders for sure. Some of those jumps were huge! 

We made is to the top of Corro Noroeste (elevation 8,283 ft.) where there is the Campo Alto Campground and a weather station. We thought this was initially not even going to be a peak bag and just a blip on our trip. We had no idea the conditions would make this a 3 hour trek up the mountain. We were carrying a peak log and box with us to leave at one of the next peaks, so we decided to press on, but watching the time carefully. We still had a long trip back to the car.

We decided to head out on the Mt. Pinos Trail. This would take us over to Sawmill and hopefully to Mt Pinos. We will see how far we can get. 

As soon as we pass the trail marker, it was windy! That really brought the temps down and made you think about the time. It would only get colder as the afternoon went on. We started heading down into the valley. Way down. Farther down than we had hoped. Down just means back up again to the next peak. 

We continued to head down and that little voice starting calling out... the voice of reason...
"you're out of time" it was telling me. As much as we both hated to admit it, we weren't going to have enough time to make it to another peak. There were still too many unknowns in front of us and a way out and back to the car was one of them... We had to turn back. Feeling a bit defeated, we hiked back out of the valley and off to find our trail back down the mountain. We will have to decide to bushwhack back or find an alternate route. It's now after 2 pm and with daylight savings, the shadows are quickly getting longer... 

We stopped for a quick lunch break to enjoy Chris' lunch wraps. They were delicious!! We are now ready to double time it down this mountain and get back to LeeLoo. 

We decided to pick up the trail we found at the top of the ridge and follow it down to see where it went. Even if it took us to the road, we would be able to get back to the car quicker than trying to bushwhack down the mountain since the sun will be setting soon and nobody wants to be harpooned by a Narwhal plant in the dark! We saw some interesting plants along the way, but glad to be on a trail heading down. 

On a trail and feeling better about getting back in time, the sillies come back into play. 
He's schmokin'!!

I had a couple of other waypoints named "Car", so this one became "Car LeeLoo". I try to remember to set a waypoint when we are leaving the car for times just like this. When we don't have a trail back and need to try and find the shortest and most direct way back.
We had been continuing down the mountain and headed due North. But when LeeLoo got within 1/2 mile, we decided to turn towards the car and make a run for it through the bushes once again... We are hoping we don't come across anything crazy...

Um...there's a cliff over this ledge. Ugh. We have to backtrack to where we know we can cross the drainage. 

We decided to walk all the way out following the drainage... 

It was crazy full of downed trees, but pretty easy to navigate and seemed to continue in the right direction. We are sticking with it. This turned out to be a good decision. We found the car and all before nightfall!! Now off to the Old Bear B&B for the night! Another great adventure in the books. Not quite what we had planned, but the mis-adventures are almost more fun than having everything go exactly as planned. 

These are our tracks via Strava on iPhone

Thankfully The Old Bear Bed and Breakfast was within about 5 miles of the trail. We are in a quaint little town of Pine Mountain Club, CA. Located in Kern County and with a population of just over 2,000 people. It's our home for the night. 

We quickly felt right at home. The owners were very welcoming and we met Moochi and Heidi their dogs with the crooked ears. We were given the Bluebird room and told that breakfast would be at 8:30 in the morning. Dinner was one of the 5 restaurants in the downtown which were all in one block, the hot tub was on and ready for us after dinner and the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony for the town was in about 30 minutes. We jumped right in! We had a quick cocktail (Hard Root Beer) and headed over to the Christmas Tree Ceremony at the Pine Mountain Club POA Clubhouse

We were again welcomed by everyone. They gave us hot chocolate and cookies and we sang Christmas carols with all of the locals. I took a picture with a man with lit up antlers. As I was leaving, his wife told him he would probably be in the paper. Ha! 
Well, he's on our blog... 

Waiting for the light show to begin...

Merry Christmas!! The tree is lit and the season has officially begun. 
Now lets go eat! We decided on Mexican and ate at LaLena. There isn't much to choose from, but this sounded good to both of us. We shared a bowl of Albondigas soup and a chicken burrito. Just what we needed after a long day of hiking. We have truly enjoyed the days adventure and having a great time in Pine Mountain Club. Looking forward to what tomorrow will bring as we continue on our adventure. 

The next morning, we awoke to the smell of bacon and baked bread. Headed down to breakfast and once again enjoyed the company of the other guests and the owners. We came to find we were with a group of women who were old friends in a book club from Southern California. The woman sitting next to me also lived in Pine Mountain Club, but we quickly found out this is not her hometown. She was a Hollywood actress for Warner Brothers who was quite popular through the 1950's and 60's.  Starring alongside Elvis Presley in the movie Spinout and in several episodes of Maverick with James Garner to name a few. 

Diane McBain is her name. She was very interesting to talk to. Diane wasn't totally forthcoming about her Hollywood adventures and I'm sure there are lots of stories there. She mentioned a book she had written recently (Famous Enough - A Hollywood Memoir) and I look forward to reading more about her. Wishing we had grabbed a pic with her to show on here, but it didn't cross our minds at the time. She had donned a simple gingham dress and pink ponytails on this day as they were all getting ready for the town craft fair. The owner of the Old Bear is an artist and Diane is a quilter and they sell all of their handcrafted goods at the Fair. It seemed like the whole town was going to attend. We are trying to stay ahead of the weather, so we enjoyed our Frittata, mixed fruit and apple stuffed pastries before getting ready to head out. 

I also found an amazing tea that I am definitely buying on Amazon as soon as we leave. Appropriately named "Traveler's Tea" It was yummy!

Let the next stage of adventure begin! Off to Santa Barbara we go. We've been chasing the sun and doing great up until now. The rain finally caught us...

We decided to take a quick break and grab some water and snacks. Chris thought Salted Plums looked interesting enough to try. His face says it all... OMG. I'm soooo glad I decided not to try them!! I'd hate to have to make that same face. I have a feeling they were awful.

We made it to Santa Barbara. It's still raining, but at least traffic has been kind to us. We are staying at the beautiful Fess Parker Resort in Santa Barbara. What a treat! In 1911, the hotel was the sight of two railroad roundhouses. They've kept some of the feel of the era with the arches and artwork in the hotel. Having a son with a major train obsession, this was pretty cool. 

We found our room in the Bougainvillea building, unloaded our bags and found a great place to eat on Yelp. It was delicious! Soup and yummy sandwiches. Great way to start our stay in Santa Barbara. 

With all the adventuring over the last few days, we decided we'd both earned a nap. Between the rain and adventuring a little nap turned into a MEGA nap and 2 hours later....
Well, that was one awesome, well deserved nap...

We lounged around a bit and when dinner time arrived, we headed down to the tasting room for a couple of samples, then to the bar for some delicious flat bread and yep, more wine. 

Is the 10 year port better than the 20? Well, you won't know unless you try them both! We decided we liked the 10 year better. And seeing as how today is NATIONAL CAKE DAY well, that explains the 12 layer cake!! The cake was meh, but the ice cream, OMG! 

The courtyard is roundhouse inspired. Looks very pretty at night. 

The next morning we decided to head down to the pier and hit the craft fair on the way. I'm on the hunt for an ornament for the tree to commemorate our trip. 

It was a little chilly and windy. This is what happens when you have a girl with long hair in the wind... We got a good laugh out of it.

What a beautiful day. I just feel like we needed a couple more days. The sun is now shining and we are not ready for this adventure to end... 

And here he is. Starfish Pirate Pete!! He'll find a home on our Christmas tree this year. Don't know why this one caught my eye, but I had to have it! Aargh!!

Mother Nature showing us her beauty on the drive home. 
Not very often do we get to see a FULL rainbow. 

We stopped in Paso Robles at Odyssey World Cafe for some food before the final leg of the drive home.  Lots of delicious choices on the menu. Most of the sandwiches had fresh baked bread. I chose the Rotisserie Chicken Sandwich and Chris had the Ribeye Steak Sandwich. Both were delicious. The pea soup was yummy too!! We are all fueled up and ready to get home. However, I know that this last leg which means this adventure is coming to an end, I've had an incredible time. We had an amazing journey and can't wait to see where we choose to Get Gone next!! 

I just can't get enough of this guy... ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤