Sunday, January 31, 2010

Spring has sprung!

We'll put Morro Bay aside for today, due to breaking news. 

While I'd contend that summer never really left, this past week has had definite signs of spring.  The trees are in blossom!  Here's some photographic evidence from yesterday.




Stay tuned, the last installment (I think) of Morro Bay will be posted tomorrow...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Botanical garden, San Luis Obispo

There's a small botanical garden on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo (or SLO, as it is known, Californians adore acronyms!  And San Luis Obispo is a bit of a mouthful, so it's certainly worthy of one.)

They had a great collection of aloes here, I took some photos.  It seems whenever I photograph plants lately it's late in the day, so the light isn't great, but the plants are so interesting I thought I'd post them for the gardeners and nature-lovers among you.

These are just some sort of flower:


I had wondered what these were when I saw them in L.A., and found out that they are a type of aloe.  There were several varieties of these tall flowering ones, here are a couple:



Loved the patterns of these twisty ones, I think this is an aloe too, it was in that section anyway:



These below are narcissus, aren't they?


More aloes, the second one looks kind of like the donkey tail plant, not sure if it is:



This one's kind of like a tall, woody donkey tail plant:


One of the cacti:


Fan aloe:


Another aloe, forget the name:


Friday, January 29, 2010

Bishop's Peak, in San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo is a college town near the coast, between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Bishop's Peak is a popular hike up one of the mountains that overlooks the town.

Hiking trails in California can be hard to find- they are often tucked away at the end of a winding residential street somewhere, and this one was no exception. 

Here's the first view of Bishop's Peak from near the start of the trail:

The lower parts of the trail went through a couple of wooded areas, I loved these trees:


Another view of the peak:


The middle portion of the trail wound around the mountain, and along the way had great views of the town:


Another view of the top of the mountain, before we turn the corner and begin the steeper part of the climb:


The town is surrounded by mountains and hills.  It's a very pretty (and expensive) place as development has been restricted:


I don't know what this mountain below is called, but we had great views of it on the way up.  We could see it also had a trail, it would be fun to do that one sometime too:


Parts of the trail, it switches back several times:



The upper part of the climb is on hillside that looks like this:


This is just before we start the more barren switchback on the top third of the trail:


There's the summit up there:


Someone up ahead on the trail.  It's a heavily travelled trail, we were passed by many people heading back down, and by lots of people more athletic than us on their way up!  Several runners, which would be very strenuous; it's not a difficult climb but it is long and relentless, with uneven footing in many places, and lots of mud today as it's been raining for a week:


It became very overcast just near the top, so most of my photos weren't great, but this one of the rock with the town in the distance came out nicely:


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hearst Castle

You can see the Hearst "Castle" from miles around as you approach.  In the photo above it's just right of the centre on the horizon line, see it?

Here we're getting a little closer, this is from the ride up on the shuttle bus.  You have to see this place as part of a tour, and the visitor centre where the tours leave from is a few miles down a switchback road.  Hearst owned at one point I think they said 400 square miles of land surrounding his "ranch" (which is what he called it).  It's a State park now.  The weather was unstable last Saturday, made for some amazing clouds!  (Remember, the weather is usually perfect here, so you notice clouds.)

Here's our group climbing the stairs at the entrance of the main compound of buildings.  Those are oranges on the trees- there were orange-laden trees everywhere.

This is one of the guesthouses- looks adequate, I think I could be comfortable roughing it here.

These next two are of the outdoor pool, the Neptune pool:



From a terrace overlooking the pool:


It's not a bad view from the terrace, some of the gardens are in the foreground, and more oranges:


This cathedral-like building is the main house.  Our tour sped by a few outdoor things that we didn't stop to see, because, good heavens, the skies started to spit rain!  The tour guide didn't want to get wet.

I didn't take many photos of the inside as I'm not skilled enough with my camera to handle low light levels, but here are three pictures from the dining room.  The banners are there to bring some colour into the room, Hearst had wanted stained glass windows originally but it was thought they'd block too much light.  Isn't that carved ceiling amazing?



Next stop was the indoor pool.  The gold detail you see is real gold, and it's even on the tiles you walk on.  They say Hearst was disappointed that few of his guests actually used the pool- but back in those days (the 30's and 40's), few people knew how to swim.  The indoor pool was the most expensive part of the construction... I guess when you pave the floor and everything else in gold, that can happen.


This is the diving platform- the pool must be deeper than it looked:

The snaking switchback road on the trip back down to reality:


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The California coast at Moonstone Beach

These photos are of the coastline at Moonstone Beach, which is on the coast between Morro Bay and Cambria.  I took these pictures along the boardwalk there, on my way to the Hearst Castle.