Entries in ‘Travel’ Journal

Los Osos: Things To Do

Wednesday November 19, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 0 Comments

Are you visiting Los Osos or the Baywood Park area of town for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in this California coastal community.

squash blossoms, Farmers' Market, Los Osos, California

Los Osos Farmers’ Market. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

When I have a visitor from out of town, the first place they want to see is Montaña de Oro State Park, but I also take them to check out Spooner’s Cove, and a short hike down the bluff trail to Corallina Cove for a more local, authentic experience. Baywood, a small community tucked in Los Osos on the most southern inlet of Morro Bay is also worth a look.

Spooner’s Cove got its name, not from kissing, but from a long time ranching family named Spooner. It is where the Park headquarters is located, in the old ranch house. A relatively little known, and fairly new trail is the Point Buchon Trail, stunning views along the coast.

There are a number of great trails in the park, especially for mountain bikers and equestrians.

When I want to escape from everyone and be surrounded in nature, my favorite thing to do is to kayak
out to sandspit – private tours are available via Central Coast Outdoors.

If this is a romantic trip, I recommend walking to the bench at the end of the trail in the Elfin Forest for kissing with a view or Sweet Springs Nature Reserve.

ducks, Sweet Springs Nature Reserve, Los Osos, California

Birdwatching at Sweet Springs Nature Reserve. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

 

Are you traveling with a dog or two? The best place to walk the dog is Cuesta Inlet. This is private property, but the owner has been very generous and allows people to walk their dogs there. Plus he allows people to keep their kayaks and sailboats there too as long as they are licensed and have contact info on them. But please pick up after your dog. That means bring your own bags and carry them out with you. There are no trash cans.

Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit the skate park. It’s located in the middle of town and is excellent, the beach at Pasadena Street is good, too. The Los Osos Library has a number of kids’ programs, events and reading programs, perfect for entertaining kids while traveling.

Noi's Thai, Los Osos, California

Noi’s Thai Takeout. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Food in and around Los Osos

Los Osos has an eclectic dining scene; favorites include La Palapa in Baywood and La Casita on 9th Street (best salsa this side of the border) for Mexican food, Noi’s for Thai and Celia’s for lunch, or the Clubhouse Grill at Sea Pines Golf Resort for sandwiches and salads with live music on the weekends during the summer.

The best place to go for coffee & a breakfast treat, hands down, is Back Bay Café in Baywood. The cafe sits right on the bay and breakfast is included with your stay at Back Bay Inn or Baywood Inn. Sweet!

Looking for cheap food in Los Osos? Sylvester’s Burgers has famously good HUGE and drippy (with great sauce) hamburgers.

Hungry for late night dining? Don’t get your hopes up, Los Osos Baywood is a rural destination offering outdoor adventure and relaxation. It really doesn’t offer much of a late night dining scene. Most restaurants close by 9 p.m. There are a few that stay open later in Morro Bay on the weekends.

Thinking about an expensive, high-end meal, head to Morro Bay for plenty of dining options. It’s about a 10 minute drive from LOBP (Los Osos Baywood Park). For some of the freshest seafood on the central coast and a fantastic dining experience head to the Galley, Windows on the Water, Harada’s Japanese restaurant and Bayside Café in Morro Bay.

Lace Lichen, Elfin Forest, Los Osos, California

Lace Lichen hangs from the trees in Elfin Forest. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Los Osos outward bound

Are you getting a clearer picture of this central coast area? Outdoor adventures like hiking, exploring nature, biking, kayaking, sailing and paddle boarding, layered with California sunsets, is what this place is about. At high tide, adventure seekers can paddle through the mudflats and channels of the Morro Bay Estuary Natural Preserve and its 800-acre wetland. It’s a refreshing dose of natural beauty.

To capture this beauty, get your picture taken in Baywood Park, Elfin Forest, Sweet Springs Nature Preserve, Montaña de Oro or on the Sandspit. The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of Black Hill or Valencia Peak in Montaña de Oro. You can also drive to the top of Cabrillo Estates, hike to the top of Valencia Peak (in Montaña de Oro – a hearty hike) or Elfin Forest, or kayak or hike out to the top of the sandspit or back to the little known “Sharks Inlet” and the farthest westerly spot on Morro Bay, and the hill on top of the Natural History Museum in Morro Bay.

Looking for a little exercise? Walk along the bluff trail in Montaña de Oro right along the ocean or any of the countless miles of awesome trails. After a day of adventure, Sea Pines is the best place to go for a spa treatment.

If you are a museum lover you’ll need to head over to Morro Bay. The Natural History Museum (the only museum in Morro Bay) is actually pretty good for kids, offering interactive kiosks.

Pacific Ocean, Montaña de Oro State Park, Los Osos, California

Montaña de Oro State Park. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Looking for exciting night life? You’ll need to head to San Luis Obispo for things to do. LOBP is lower key after dark. There are a few bars that offer music and pool and are open late night: Sweet Springs Tavern and the Merry Maker. Again, Morro Bay or San Luis Obispo provide more expansive night life opportunities.

Sometime, come back and check out the Pozo Saloon. Pozo is south east of Santa Margarita. It’s over 100 years old and hasn’t changed much in all that time. GREAT family style BBQ where you sit family style. You never know who you’ll be sitting next to. Could be a group of retired physicians or the Hell’s Angels.

If you need more things to see and do in Los Osos, New Times and Bay News will keep you posted on what’s happening in the area. KCBX Public Radio has an extensive calendar of events.

Morro Rock, Morro Bay, Los Osos, California

Morro Rock photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

You can tell a lot about Los Osos from visiting and watching Baywood Junefest, Octoberfest, Boatzart & Bayfest. Sea Pines offers a summer concert series. In the fall look for migrating Monarch butterflies at Monarch Grove or come for the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival, held over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend. More than 250 species of land, sea, and shore birds, both migratory and resident and dozens of endangered species thrive here in the winter. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars!

Insider Tip: I’ll bet you didn’t know that you could kayak out to the sandspit & enjoy miles of secluded, beautiful beaches. Just outside of Los Osos, you can visit Morro Bay or the charming beach town of Cayucos.

What are your favorite things to do on California’s Central Coast? For additional insider tips follow Northern California Travel Writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter.
Article, photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Los Osos Baywood Park.

Serenity in Alaska: Winterlake Lodge Review

Wednesday October 8, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 0 Comments

Living in Lake Placid, New York, the home of forty-six High Peaks and a multitude of beautiful lakes and streams is not exactly a shabby existence, but my husband and I decided to venture to Alaska because it has been in the number one spot on my bucket list since I was ten years old. Fortunately I have a cousin who is a travel agent, Susan Halperin Travel, who set us up on what would be the trip of a lifetime. Knowing me as she does, Susan recommended a rustic, backcountry Alaskan lodge forty miles from civilization; accessible only by floatplane, weather permitting, or ski-plane in the dead of winter. With that, I was set on going to Alaska.

 

"Winterlake Lodge", Alaska

Winterlake Lodge in Alaska


 

Within the wild

After eighteen hours of travel and a night at the comfortable Captain Cook Hotel in downtown Anchorage, we boarded our Rust’s Flying Service floatplane from Lake Hood. Rust’s Flying Service has ten planes available for travel and sightseeing expeditions. The flight was forty-five minutes over one hundred miles of open terrain, with lots of water as it had been raining the past two weeks. We landed on Finger Lake and were enthusiastically greeted by the owners Carl and Kirsten Dixon’s daughter Carly, and several engaging employees. We were treated to hot drinks and warm cookies just baked in their large kitchen where they not only offer a daily cooking class, but produce the most delicious meals planned by Kirsten, a Cordon-Bleu-trained chef. We were shown to our cozy cabin- Happy River- where we had a log bed, private bathroom, oil-heated stove and a fabulous view of the lake. We immediately donned rain gear and met our guide, Josh. For the next three days, Josh took us out in an electric boat where we were entertained by three river otters, swans, loons and a beaver working on a dam he had built. We began to feel the serenity within the wild.
 

"Finger Lake" airplane

Floatplane lands on Finger Lake, Alaska


 

Winterlake Lodge activity

Our days at Winterlake Lodge were up to us and our guide. Activities could include any of the following: hiking easy or more difficult trails right behind the Lodge or on part of the historic Iditarod trail, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, Alaskan bird watching, wildlife viewing, nature exploring including wildflowers, berries, mushrooms, woody frogs and helicopter excursions for salmon fishing or glacier landings with hiking. The guides are all extremely knowledgeable about every aspect of the natural surroundings and clearly love what they do. Of course you could also sit in the Main Lodge, relax and take it all in, read a great book or play some board games available there. After only being there a half of a day, we felt at home and taken care of as if we were part of the Dixon’s family. Everything was so personalized. Complimentary yoga was offered daily at 6:30 am in the wellness room, complimentary massages were available to all guests, and the use of the hot tub and sauna completed the total spa experience. Three meals a day were provided in the Main Lodge. At 6 pm wine and cheese tasting with cheeses from Murray’s Cheese Shop in Manhattan and homemade appetizers were offered. Throughout the day coffee, tea, cold drinks and snacks were available at the coffee bar. You were never hungry. If you chose a day trip as we did, lunches were packed and enjoyed on top of a glacier where we were at one with nature and essentially captured the entire Alaskan experience.
 

"Winterlake Lodge", Alaska

Relax inside Winterlake Lodge


 

Gourmet cuisine in Alaska

Being somewhat of a “foodie” I feel that I must do justice to the culinary experience. All and any dietary restrictions or requests were met with the greatest of pleasure. Milestones were celebrated with a special dessert of your choice along with the daily scrumptious dessert. My husband’s 60th birthday was celebrated with apple pie and homemade vanilla ice cream- his favorite. Each meal was prepared with great thought and creativity and presented flawlessly. My favorite dessert was a combination of lemon cake, meringue, stewed blueberries and fresh homemade blueberry ice cream with freshly grated parmigiano cheese sprinkled on top for the finishing touch!!! Out of this world! I cannot say enough about the exceptional cuisine that we enjoyed over our three day stay.
 

"Winterlake Lodge" Alaska

Finding serenity in Alaska


If you are thinking about going to Alaska, which in itself is impressive for its sheer size (it is 1/5 of United States total land area), and want an experience that combines activities and excursions, cuisine elegance with extraordinary taste and relaxation, then Winterlake Lodge should be at the top of your list. This rustic, luxury lodge epitomizes and exudes all within the wild to help you find your serenity. I have found mine.

If You Go:
Within the Wild Alaskan Adventure Lodging (907) 274-2710
Winterlake Lodge, Alaska

This is a guest post by Dr. Karen Cooper. All photos courtesy Karen Cooper.

Cruising Alaska: Active Adventure Travel

Friday October 3, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 4 Comments

“I’m not the cruise ship type.” I heard this statement over and over during my trip to Alaska with Un-Cruise Adventures. I met an 18 year old traveling with her aunt; celebrating her high school graduation and an 80 year old retired teacher from New Zealand sailing solo. Both guests were cruising Alaska with active adventure travel in mind.
 

“Last year I cruised Antarctica in a small ship,” said Barbara deCastro of New Zealand. “I had to try Alaska. I wanted to compare our fjords with Alaska. They are totally different. Ours are beautiful, but so are these. Alaska’s glaciers are much bigger.”

Two active adventure travelers; yet two unique Alaskan experiences were had on the same ship. What keeps people coming back? “The sort of people who sail on small ships are nice people,” deCastro noted with a smile.

 

"Safari Endeavour" Alaska, cruise

Guests aboard Safari Endeavour are all smiles. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

 

Small ship cruise benefits

One of the benefits of small ship cruising is the flexibility the captain has with itineraries. Our original itinerary had Safari Endeavour sailing to George Island and Elfin Cove. At 25 knot winds Captain Barrett Whitten determined that it was too windy for this destination, instead, he would steer our 232 foot ship to Idaho Inlet. Once here, our expedition guides re-grouped and we were offered “Plan B.”

 

Itinerary change to Alaska's Idaho Inlet. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Itinerary change to Alaska’s Idaho Inlet. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

 

Tracking bears in Alaska

I signed up for the “Skiff and beach walk” adventure on Chichagof Island.  I pulled on my Kamik rubber, waterproof boots, rain gear and personal flotation device (PFD) and headed downstairs to the EZ dock boat launch.

Insider Tip

For those of you who don’t own foul weather gear, Un-Cruise Adventures had plenty of travel gear stocked in their lending library. I also packed my own healthy travel snacks, a water bottle and binoculars – all unnecessary, as Un-Cruise had all of these items ready and waiting for every guest.

With the smell of Sitka Spruce hanging heavy in the air, we walked the beach in search of animals. Armed with bear spray and a camera, our Expedition Guide Kenneth O’Brien led us into the Alaskan rain forest. Chichagof Island is known for housing a dense brown bear population. We saw evidence of the bears in the form of bear scat, claw marks on trees and moss covered bear tracks, but no bears were actually sighted on this particular outing.

Upon return from our bushwacking adventure, passengers were greeted with hot chocolate or coffee – with or without alcohol. Ahh, the benefits of sailing on an all-inclusive small ship. Another benefit of sailing with Un-Cruise Adventures is a complimentary massage offered to every guest. Two of the first floor staterooms were converted to spa rooms. Did I mention that Safari Endeavour also boasts a sauna and not one, but two hot tubs on the 3rd floor deck? Soaking in a hot tub while cruising by glaciers – now that’s a conversation starter for your next cocktail party!

 

"Chichagof Island" mushroom

Colorful mushroom on Chichagof Island. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


 

Alaska" bear tracks

Tracking bears in Alaska. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Does cruising Alaska on a small ship appeal to your sense of active adventure?
 
For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @Nancydbrown and follow @UnCruise on Twitter.

If You Go:

Un-Cruise Adventures (888) 862-8881
3826 18th Ave
W. Seattle, Washington 98119

Article written by and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of Un-Cruise Adventures. All opinions are my own.