This morning I decided to go hiking. I picked up my trusty copy of Day Hikes Around San Luis Obispo (thanks Rebecca and Anna!) and flipped through it to form a plan. I settled on hiking in the Irish Hills Natural Reserve near Prefumo Canyon followed by a visit to Laguna Lake.
At the Irish Hills Natural Reserve the parking lot at the trailhead holds five cars. I was driving car six. After a little reconnaissance I stashed my car in a pull off in a deserted location down the road, and I hoped it would be there when I returned.
I started hiking on the Mariposa Trail. In the beginning the trail is wide and smooth, though as the ascent of the hills begins it becomes narrow and rough. Down in the canyon there is impressive tree canopy cover. I moved through this section slowly, taking in the interesting shadows and light. The branch patterns of the trees were very cool.
Upon emerging from the canyon the sight of massive overhead power lines is a bit distracting. The hum of the lines is very noticeable. Thankfully they are quickly left behind, and the humming is replaced by the buzzing of the millions of insects near the trail.
I stopped to photograph the valley several times. The line of morros was impressive. Laguna Lake was visible, with Madonna Mountain (Cerro San Luis Obispo) right beside it. Bishop Peak is next, followed by Chumash Peak.
One of the things about California I am still adjusting to is the dryness of the soil. The lush grasses that came up in the winter when we had rain have long since been fried. The only green in natural landscapes is found by springs or on tough evergreen plants. From my vantage point on the hill today it was very evident where irrigation was being provided. Notice the little buffer of green around the home in the picture below. The surrounding golden grass is what is natural.
I took a quick diversion to hike out and back on the Durata Vista Trail, which is an offshoot of the Mariposa Trail. I think the view from the Durata Vista is not as impressive as the view from some sections of the Mariposa Trail. I followed the Mariposa Trail to the far end of the Mine Trail, which I then traversed. One of the reasons I picked this particular hike was the presence of an abandoned chromite mine in the Irish Hills. It was active in the 1800s.
I’m not sure what chromite mining was like, but the view from the mine was pretty spectacular. The commute to and from work would have been a bit tiring, maybe they had donkeys or mules to make the climb?
After seeing the mine I returned to my car, which was waiting patiently for me. My Irish Hills hike covered about 4 miles, with an increase in elevation of about 700 feet.
I drove to Laguna Lake next. From the lake the Irish Hills are visible. You can see the area where I was hiking in the picture below. The chromite mine is the small light colored patch in the middle of the hills, just to the right of the little dip in the ridge line.
The meadow by the lake was very fried. The meadow doubles as a horse pasture, so as you hike the Laguna Lake Trail there are equine spectators.
I stopped to watch the horses for a few minutes. These were very affectionate horses. They were mostly paired up, and the couples were leaning against each other.
I spent some time near the lake as well. The park by the lake has a disc golf course, a fitness trail, playgrounds, a commemorative tree grove, and lots of tables.
Since water is limited in the area, the lake is the place to be if you’re a duck. I saw a few duck species I’ve never encountered on the East Coast.
And then I drove home.