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Coast to peak: Appreciating nature outings at Pismo Beach and Bowden Ranch 

Sometimes, when I allow myself to be really present and cogitative, I can experience the Pacific Ocean like I did when I was little, where every ripple seems to hold the key to the universe's mysteries, where every irregular wave pattern, like a strong backwash colliding with an incoming crest, catches my eye and intrigue, where, standing knee-deep in the water, I start to feel the collective ebb and flow of the surf take on a life of its own.

click to enlarge REWARDING VISTA A steep but fun 1,000-plus foot ascent through Bowden Ranch leads you to the Reservoir Canyon ridge (pictured), where the views stretch from Oceano to Morro Bay. - PHOTO BY PETER JOHNSON
  • Photo By Peter Johnson
  • REWARDING VISTA A steep but fun 1,000-plus foot ascent through Bowden Ranch leads you to the Reservoir Canyon ridge (pictured), where the views stretch from Oceano to Morro Bay.

Forget the thrill of catching a wave on a surfboard or Instagramming the perfect sunset photo—this is the state of mind that I live for and draw inspiration from. It's rooted in a deep connection I have with the coast, cultivated from a young age in frequent trips to Monterey Bay. In these complicated times, it's not easy to tap into that innocent wonder, so I was thankful for it on this late afternoon on Saturday, Dec. 8, at Pismo Beach, as I walked the distance of the beach, feet fully numbed by the winter ocean.

With a lot on my plate this weekend workwise, I made a point to do something active and rejuvenating each day. This did the trick for Saturday. As I returned to the pier on my walk back, the sun was just beginning to dip behind the crystal-clear horizon. I went onto the pier to join the hundreds of people watching, a neat moment of cohesion and calm in Pismo's often-chaotic downtown. And yes, I took a photo and put it on Instagram.

click to enlarge GOLDEN HOUR There's nowhere else I can feel so simultaneously at peace and inspired than on the Pacific Ocean shore. Here's Pismo Beach at sunset, after a long walk down the coast. - PHOTO BY PETER JOHNSON
  • Photo By Peter Johnson
  • GOLDEN HOUR There's nowhere else I can feel so simultaneously at peace and inspired than on the Pacific Ocean shore. Here's Pismo Beach at sunset, after a long walk down the coast.

On Sunday morning, I decided to explore a new trail (for me)—the steep climb up Bowden Ranch to the peak of Reservoir Canyon. The trailhead on Lizzie Street (by SLO High School) is just a few blocks away from where I live, and right next to the La Loma Adobe historic house. An information stand near the trailhead explained that the ranch and the adobe house, which is apparently the oldest standing home in SLO, were granted to the city in 1996 in exchange for a developer's rights to subdivide the neighborhood.

The trail itself is a lot of fun, a pretty sheer ascent paralleling a canyon up to the 1,000-plus foot ridge that offers expansive views from Oceano Dunes to Morro Bay to the west, and Cuesta Ridge to the east. It made for a great morning workout—with far fewer hikers to share the trail with than, say, Bishop Peak across town—and only took about 40 minutes for me going up. The recent rains made the dirt just damp enough to make the descent fun and fast, without much concern about losing my footing and falling on my butt. If you're accustomed to hiking Reservoir Canyon from its more popular trailhead off Highway 101, I recommend trying this alternative for a different flavor. And if you have a stressful weekend and week coming up, I highly recommend breaking up your grind with outings like these! Δ

Assistant Editor Peter Johnson is back to the grind in the office at pjohnson@newtimesslo.com.

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