Great Western Loop -Lost in Los Padres

Day 13 – Los Prietos - 1618 miles traveled

 Campsite at Los Prietos - Los Padres National Forest

Campsite at Los Prietos - Los Padres National Forest

Days 13, 14 and 15 all seem to blur together in campgrounds in the Los Padres National Forest. The nights were cold and sleepless. Our comfy Leesa mattress does not do well in temperature extremes, it seems. We didn’t really notice a problem in the desert heat, but once the temp dipped below 50F in the forest, the mattress was like a brick and we discovered we didn’t have enough blankets. The blanket issue was easily remedied … wear more clothes to bed. The brick-like mattress, however was another issue.

 We shared our campsite with turkeys, squirrels and ravens.

We shared our campsite with turkeys, squirrels and ravens.

We stayed in Los Prietos campground for just a night. It was pleasant enough, but chilly. Turkeys gobbled us awake at dawn, parading through the campground with chicks following closely behind. Squirrels, hordes of them, chittered and chattered, diving into any one of dozens of holes they’d dug which provided, we suspect, a subway network throughout the entire campground. Ravens stood sentry waiting for any possible scrap to scarf up from the picnic table.

Incidentally, it was ironic that we spent Mother's Day in Los Padres, don't you think? I've got a raincheck for a proper Mother's Day celebration in the near future.

Day 14 - Davy Brown

 Cachuma Lake was a scenic spot for a morning break.

Cachuma Lake was a scenic spot for a morning break.

Already cold during the nights, we did the logical thing and aimed for a campground at a higher altitude. (Duh!) We cruised along scenic CA-154 and lunched at the man-made Cachuma Lake, formed by the damming of the Santa Ynez River back in 1953.

 A vista turn-out on the road to Davy Brown Campground.

A vista turn-out on the road to Davy Brown Campground.

We originally planned a stop at a lower campground, but it seemed crowded and the less visited Davy Brown campground, a few more miles up the road, held more allure. The circuitous paved and gravel road climbed and climbed clinging to the side of cliffs.

 Rockslides were common along our route.

Rockslides were common along our route.

The road was passable, though rutted with big holes and the going was slow. We saw signs for ‘falling rocks’ and recent small rockslides were evident in several areas.

 California poppies

California poppies

 Lupine

Lupine

The vistas and wildflowers more than made up for the rough road. California poppies and lupine sprinkled vibrant color against the earth-toned, rock faces and green grass.

 No wifi here, but Blue's solar panels had no problem keeping our computers charged.

No wifi here, but Blue's solar panels had no problem keeping our computers charged.

The campground was rustic, but lovely. We had to ‘level’ Blue for the first time (more on that in David's blog tomorrow). Squirrels were abundant at this campsite, too. One skittered across our roof in early morning, startling us awake.

 Gray, bush-tailed, ground squirrel

Gray, bush-tailed, ground squirrel

 Sunning lizards are great to photograph and don't scare me at all, but the ones that lurk in the vault toilets and startle the crap out of me ... hmmm... not so much!

Sunning lizards are great to photograph and don't scare me at all, but the ones that lurk in the vault toilets and startle the crap out of me ... hmmm... not so much!

Day 15 - Cerro Alto

We originally figured we’d tough out the cold, but our mattress was just too uncomfortable to endure. We retraced our route down the rocky road to civilization in search of a reasonable alternative. We found a local mattress store and picked out a pillow-top mattress that would work, then called Leesa. Their 100-day trial was two weeks from expiring and we wanted to know our options. They confirmed that temperature extremes could be problematic and their customer service was beyond compare. They would be happy to accept our return of the mattress for a full refund … where could they arrange to pick it up? Now that was a problem since we were on the go. The customer service reps (we talked to several) were patient and happy to work with us. We could just donate the mattress to a charitable organization, get the receipt and e-mail it to them, they said. Easier said than done. No one would accept a gently-used, expensive foam mattress in excellent condition. We made close to a dozen calls to charitable organizations in the area. No organization ... not Good Will, nor women’s shelters, nor homeless shelters were interested. Salvation Army would accept them, but the nearest one was a couple hundred miles away.

After several frustrating hours with no resolution to the problem, we reckoned it was time to find a place to camp for the night. We’d made no plans and finally ended up at Cerro Alto campground near Atascadero ... probably the least pleasant site we’d visited. The weather was brisk and breezy. We took a quick 20-minute hike up the trail heeding the advisory to avoid the poison oak and mountain lions. Dusk was already falling. The previous sleepless nights, the frustration of the day and the cold temps left us cranky and tired. We heated a can of chowder on the Coleman stove and called it dinner. Around 7:30 pm, a very large, rental RV with two adults and four young, energetic children pulled in right next to us and ran their generator and heater on and off throughout the night.

Day 16 - Monterrey - A Belated Mother's Day - 1790 miles traveled

 A low-flying Steller's jay buzzed Blue's roof before landing on our picnic table.

A low-flying Steller's jay buzzed Blue's roof before landing on our picnic table.

We were awakened in the morning by a flash of bright blue as a Steller’s jay cruised along Blue’s roof at low altitude. Cold and stiff, we had our morning cup of joe, packed up and hit the road. We checked out other camping options in this part of California … all were showing highs in the 70s and lows in the 40-50s. There’s just no pleasing us … too hot in the desert and too cold here.

We put the mattress issue on hold due to recycling constraints and decided to press on. Though Mother’s Day was celebrated by most moms a week or so ago, I had taken a raincheck for a future celebratory date. After several cold, rocky-mattress nights, I cashed in my raincheck for a comfy bed, a warm room and a fine dinner out in Monterey.

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The ride to Monterey was lovely. We sped past miles and miles of vineyards and agricultural lands. The loamy soil is black and rich and everything was green and lush. Migrant workers hoed and harvested fields. Trucks, laden with cauliflower and broccoli and lettuce, lumbered up the highways. 

And then we saw the Pacific once again. We checked into a cramped, but adequate hotel room in Monterey and showered which provided a whole new perspective on life. We walked hand in hand to Monterey's Fish House and indulged in the house's specialty  and a crisp, cold bottle of chardonnay. Thoughts of stone-cold mattresses never entered our minds.