Safe Adventure: Cuyama Valley, Los Olivos & Santa Barbara
I've been wanting to check out the legendary ranches that define the Cuyama Valley for some time, so earlier this week I jumped on the 5 and headed north to do just that. At Mettler (about 80 miles north of L.A.) I took Route 166 west, which led me past the north rim of the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge (https://www.fws.gov/refuge/bitter_creek/) before dropping me into the ranch rich heartland of Cuyama. This valley is chock-a-block with rugged sweeps of arid magnificence, eye catching mountain vistas and amazing microclimates. All along the way there were classic ranch signs denoting the the colossal tracts of land where cattle happily munched away on the late spring grass and horses congregating in the shade of the pepper trees.
40 miles later I hit the Carrizo Plains Ecological Reserve's South Chinineas Unit (https://wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit/Carrizo-Plains-ER) where the road began to wind up into the Los Padres National Forest (https://www.fs.usda.gov/lpnf). I can't say enough about the beauty and diversity of L.P.N.F. - there is so much to see and explore there that I can't wait until the trails are open again for some on foot adventures.
After descending into Santa Maria, I took the 101 South to Route 154 and made a pass through Los Olivos (https://www.losolivosca.com/). This idyllic town sits in the middle of Santa Barbara County Wine Country and offers a unique blend of Old West charm and patrician panache. After enjoying a little rest in the shady (and social distant) shadow of St. Mark's In-The-Valley Church, I continued on 154, south. I made a stop at Cachuma Lake Vista Point (http://www.countyofsb.org/parks/cachuma.sbc), which was open and virtually deserted, to soak in the views of this magnificent reservoir and the Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains beyond.
Back on the road, 154 wound me through the San Marco Pass before revealing the magnificence of the Pacific from high above Santa Barbara. I stopped to snap a few photos that will never do justice to the view. After gassing up in town, I continued on the 101 South to Ventura where I then headed southeast toward home. This was a lengthy Daycation, but well worth the time and ticks on the odometer.