The Natural World

Written by Ruth Ann Angus

April 23, 2021

The view at Sea Canyon.

A Really Green Road Trip

Grab your bicycle, get your helmet on, and let’s pedal through a section of our county reverently referred to as the Irish Hills.
Going green is popular now and it helps make less of an impact on our environment, but for those of you who cannot manage a bicycle adventure, this tour is just as much fun by car.

We start at Prefumo Canyon Road in San Luis Obispo. As you turn onto it from Los Osos Valley Road, you’ll pass some condos, but in a matter of minutes, you are out of town and into a lovely oak tree-shaded wilderness. Immediately you will notice the quiet and solitude. As you start up the incline, you might see turkey vultures soaring overhead on thermals. Watch out for deer that could be browsing in the roadside vegetation.
For bicyclers it is a steady and winding climb up Prefumo Canyon. You will definitely get your exercise. For those driving, be courteous and go slowly and share the road with your cyclist friends.

A bicyclist on Prefumo Canyon Road

Gaining some elevation will bring you into an area of open rangeland. Here the hills are carpeted in velvet green grass thanks to the winter rains. It’s spring and there likely are wildflowers, such as poppies, lupines, and little yellow buttercups. Off to your left, due southeast is 1223 foot Mine Mountain. Was this the location of a long ago mining operation? That certainly would account for the name.
Keep pedaling to reach the summit and take a rest break nearby the old rustic barn on the left. This is one of the only wide places on the road, so for automobile travelers, it is a good place to pull over and get out and stretch your legs.

From this point you can see 1359 foot Stony Peak to the west as well as an enormous panoramic view from the coastal ridge to the north all the way to Morro Rock and the Ocean, and on a very clear day way beyond. Hollister Peak at 1404 feet pokes its head up in the distance.
The ranch you are taking your rest break by is one of the original 1880 settlements of the canyon. At that time this was a dairy cow farm. It has also housed a herd of longhorn cattle. This is open rangeland so beware as you are almost sure to meet cattle, possibly right on road. Small herds of crossbred Angus and Hereford cows and calves and an occasional bull could greet you as you top the grade and start down the other side, now called See Canyon Road. Best advice is, if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.

A peacock on the grounds at Kelsey Winery.

See Canyon is named after 1800s settler Joseph See, who was the first to plant apple trees here. It is thought to be named after the creators of See’s Candies, but there is no proof that the family of Joseph See was related to the family of Charles See, the true originator of that candy empire.
Apples are See Canyon’s claim to fame. The Canyon rests in a small microclimate that is favorable for growing a variety of apples. Long winter cold spells bring a successful flowering season and warm summer days produce excellent fruit.

You will travel adjacent to sycamore-lined See Canyon Creek, past the family owned orchards that grow heirloom and organic apples. At this time of year the orchards are probably closed but you will see their beautiful white and pink flowered trees.
After passing the last orchard on the road you will come to Kelsey Winery. If you brought a picnic with you this is a great place to stop and enjoy it at their tables in the garden behind the tasting room. Of course, a nice glass of one of Kelsey’s vintages would go great along with your lunch. Some of the 130 peacocks that roam the grounds will probably join you. These large colorful birds spend their days wandering in and through the old vines located next to the garden.

The canyon ends at San Luis Bay Drive. From here you can head into Avila Beach. Cyclists can take advantage of a section of the finished Bob Jones City to the Sea Trail that will take you past the Avila Beach Resort Golf Course and through a tidal estuary. Keep your eyes open for waterfowl like hooded mergansers, a variety of ducks, egrets and herons.

Your road trip ends at Avila Beach where you can enjoy the beach, go for a swim, or fish off a pier, eat at fine dining establishments, book an ocean-going sportfishing trip, or go for an easy ocean kayak paddle.
Whatever you choose, your green road trip is a wonderful way to spend a spring day in San Luis Obispo County.

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