Cayucos Pier


Cayucos and Cambria

via Old Creek and Santa Rosa Creek Roads

-- click on thumbnails for larger image --

Warning sign about eating the clams and mussels Cayucos' wooden pier

This ride started from the small coastal town of Cayucos which lies on Estero Bay some 10 km north of the better known town of Morro Bay.

Highway 1 loops inland at this point so Cayucos is a quiet oasis bypassed by the bulk of traffic on California's coastal highway.

You take you life in your hands swimming here Even walking on the pier has its dangers

Cayucos was founded by the Englishman Captain James A. Cass in around 1867 and the wharf was built in 1875. The port was primarily used for shipping cheeses and dairy products from farms along the fertile coastal strip.

House with good ocean views

The original wharf was damaged in storms and was replaced in the 1930s by the current structure.

Whale Rock

South from the centre of town homes line the cliffs ... some hanging out over the ocean.

Every few hundred yards paths squeeze between the houses giving the public access to the beach.

Public paths to the sea Public paths to the sea
Public paths to the sea Public paths to the sea
View beyond Whale Rock around Estero Bay
Turning inland and crossing Route 1 ... ... and on up Old Creek Road

After passing the appropriately named Whale Rock you join the busy Highway 1 for a short distance before turning away from the coast up Old Creek Road.

Cattle on the lower slopes of Old Creek Road

The road first follows Willow Creek as it begins its climb into the hills.

The roads are subject to frequent landslides

The contrast with Highway 1 is dramatic as you find yourself passing through rolling hills and pasture populated by cattle.

Quarry on the eastern side of Old Creek Road

On the right hand side of the road there are a number of quarries ...

First views of Whale Rock Reservoir

... but as you top a small ridge views open out on the left over the Whale Rock Reservoir.

Whale Rock Reservoir looking north ... to where we are headed

The reservoir was constructed in the early 1960s to provide water for the city of San Luis Obispo, some 30 km to the south.

View south along Whale Rock Reservoir with the Pacific Ocean visible in the distance

The road continues to climb past the reservoir and ... as you gain height ... you can see the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

Cottontail Creek Road disappears around the northern end of the reservoir

At the top end of the reservoir Cottontail Creek Road bears away to the left and sweeps around the lake's northern edge.

There is a welcome downhill past the end of the reservoir ... but the climbing soon begins again.

The road climbs and swings round the northeastern edge of the reservoir
Cottontail Creek Road in the distance sweeping around the reservoir's northern shore More hills ahead Trees begin to crowd the road
Warning that the road narrows and twists and turns

Beyond Whale Rock Reservoir the trail moves into the hills - the valley gradually narrows and trees begin to crowd the road.

The current Old Creek Road follows the path of the original Indian track called Old Creek Hot Springs Trail.

Bends as well as hills Farmstead in a shady spot

This trail was used by the Indians ... and subsequently by the Spanish ... as a route from inland settlements to the coast.

One of many old barns alongside the road ... this one had a satellite dish Flowers in the verge One of many streams following down the valley
The trail continues its sinuous progress ... orchards

Along this section of the trail farmsteads become more numerous.

Natural oak and sycamore trees fringe the road ... and groves of avocados and citrus trees line the open slopes above the trees.

... continuing to climb ... Road disappearing into a clump of trees

Most Californian roads have a wide shoulder which gives cyclists a degree of protection from passing motorists.

On Old Creek Road the shoulder disappears completely ... but fortunately it is sufficiently lightly travelled that this is not a problem.

Yet more hazards for cyclists ... Trees covered in moss Will this road ever stop climbing?
A stream running through tree roots Flowers in the verge

California had had a very wet winter and spring and the previous weekend it had poured continuously for more than 24 hours.

... plenty of contours in these parts

Many of the track-side streams were full of water which was tumbling noisily down towards the ocean.

A steep and windy bit ...

As you climb the road surface continues to deteriorate

The trail is prone to landslides and rockfalls so you have to be wary of mud and lumps of rock in the road.

Road dipping briefly ... before resuming the climb Multiple cracks ... meticulously patched

On some parts of the climb the road seems to be peeling away from the hillside ... the resulting cracks in the road surface have been filled with tar.

Horses! False summit with chaparral covered hill ahead

Signs at the junction

Finally after climbing to a height of 1250' you reach the 'new' Highway 46 which links the city of Paso Robles to the coast.

Road names

This highway was only built in the 1970s. Amazingly prior to that the direct route to the coast lay along the narrow Santa Rosa Creek Road - which I was to explore next ...

It's tempting to turn left at this junction - as Highway 46 allows you to freewheel some 8 kilometres back down to the Pacific.

Postboxes at the start of Santa Rosa Creek Road Junction with Highway 46

After carefully crossing the busy Highway you find Dellaganna Ranch and a line of post boxes sitting at the start of Santa Rosa Creek Road.

Dellaganna Ranch ... plus satellite dish Dellaganna Ranch Must be good descending this road
View back down one of the inclines The road far below Creek crossing as the road travels through meadowland
Profile of the first half of the route ... mostly uphill!

Santa Rosa Creek Road is much narrower than Old Creek Road and when on it you feel much more remote.

After leaving the junction the road kicks up again - this time more steeply than before. This climb is known to local cyclists as 'the wall' ... I wonder why?

After cresting the summit there is a welcome descent to meadowland and another stream.

Oaks lining the hillsides Meandering through the meadows Roadside flowers
Will I get through? Evidence of the very wet spring .. and recent rains

Many of the dips in the road were still streaming with water from the storms a few days before.

These cool shady spots provided a break from the strong sun on the more open sections.

Flowers provide a good excuse to get off your bike
... also gives time to appreciate the views. An attempt to show the steepness of the hill ...

Five kilometres after 'the wall' the road steepens again ... this climb lasts longer and is equally steep.

I thought it worth stopping to measure the slope ...

... I've forgotten the answer ... but at least it gave me a break from climbing the hill.

The summit can't be far away ... can it? First views over the other side First views over the other side
Summit views Summit views

Finally after climbing to about 1800' the summit is reached.

Magnificent views then open up to the west ... back towards the Pacific.

The road begins its long descent

From the summit you can see the road twisting and turning its way around the flanks of the hills as it descends into the distance.

Clouds touching the hill tops How does the road find its way through all these hills? Deteriorating road surface
Downhill for 21 km x

After all the climbing this is where cyclists get their just reward ... from this point the route descends for some 20 kilometres back down to sea level.

Grasslands dotted with oaks x

After descending for about one kilometre you reach the junction with Cypress Mountain Drive. This leads back inland towards the intriguingly named Klau Mine.

This I discovered later is an abandoned mercury mine which unfortunately discharges acid residue into the local creek. It now has priority funding for clean-up ... maybe a destination for another time.

A native of the area Junction with Cypress Mountain Drive

At the junction I was met by an inquisitive deer.

The deer cast its eye over the intruding cyclist before bounding gracefully off into the distance.

The junction with Cypress Mountain drive (right) followed by bends (left)
Bends ahead The road dropping away

After the junction the road begins to descend more rapidly before reaching a dramatic S-bend.

This location features in many photo-shoots ... notably in motorcycle adverts.

After rapidly losing height ... and severely testing my brakes ... the trail then drops into a wooded valley.

Trees again line the route ... ... providing welcome shade One of the many creeks joining the route
Not much to stop you falling into the creek Welcome to Cambria Welcome to Cambria

The trees provided welcome shade from the strong sun ... although I noticed that the signs weren't quite so welcoming.

Have we returned to civilization? Final part of the steep descent The creek has swapped sides!
Same creek The smartly kept ... ... Soto Ranch

As the road flattens out small farmsteads start to appear. As you descend further they become larger and smarter. The road is accompanied by a stream which switches from one side of the road to the other.

Is this ... ... a flat ... ... road!
The sign promises Pies, Preserves and Produce Linn's Original Fruit Bin Farm Store

After 4 kilometres of steep descent you eventually have to start pedalling ... my legs weren't that sure they wanted to cooperate ...

... but by an amazing piece of luck I stumbled upon Linn's Original Fruit Bin Farm Store which promised Pies, Preserves and Produce.

Clive Finchamp - ace reporter on Cambria's Newspaper Citrus tree sheltering the courtyard

What was even more amazing was that it was open!

With some trepidation I cycled up the drive way wondering if sweaty cyclists would be welcome. I needn't have worried as one was already there ... and being served.

Fields around Linn's Store

I should add that he wasn't anywhere near as sweaty as me!

By an amazing piece of luck the time was between 10 and 5

My fellow rider was Clive Finchamp who turned out to be a correspondent on the local paper. Clive was a fund of knowledge about the area and the local cycling scene as well as being well read on Winston Churchill.

Farmhouse on a knowle Linn's Original Fruit Bin Farm Store

Another customer asked me if I was an Old Crank. I wasn't quite sure what to make of this ... but Clive explained that it was the name of a local group of retired bike riders ... I guess I must be looking my age.

Linn's Farm was originally an olallieberry farm but this wasn't mentioned on the signs ... perhaps like me they had problems spelling it.

Road hazards continue ... Open hillsides

I stayed at Linn's for some time and had several cold drinks and demolished a whole apple pie.

Eventually it was time to move on ...

Beyond the store the road emerges from the trees and the valley widens and has a much more open aspect.

150 year old farm house

The traffic ... which had been non-existent ... starts to pick-up, and you still have to be alert for debris from rockfalls in the road.

More signs of agriculture

I stopped to admire a white clapperboard house and the proud owner wandered over to tell me that it was 150 years old.

Finally arriving at Main Street, Cambria They want you to come back

Finally you reach a T-junction with Main Street Cambria.

A right turn takes you into this small town which is a peaceful haven from the nearby Pacific Coast Highway.

Cambria sports a cycle store .. or outfitter as they prefer to be called Want an artifact? Cottage industry

Main Street is lined with gift shops and restuarants and ... surprise, suprise ... but somewhat hidden away - a bike shop.

Signs tempting the visitors
The lens from the xxxx lighthouse

Proudly restored and displayed in Main Street is the lens and drive mechanism from the Peidras Blancas lighthouse.

The mechanical drive for the light

Peidras Blancas is a white rocky promentary into the Pacific some 20 kilometres up the coast from Cambria.

This lens provided the light from 1875 until 1949 when it was damaged in a storm and replaced by a more modern design.

The local Lions Club rescued the lens and arranged for it to be restored and displayed.

Harmony ... Population 18 Wide shoulder on the Pacific Coast Highway

All that remained was to return down the coast to my starting point.

This entailed re-joining the Pacific Coast Highway.

Unfortunately at this point the Highway swings away from the coast so you miss the ocean views ... but fortunately it has a wide shoulder ... so is relatively safe.

Approaching Cayucos ... gas, food, lodging ... and ice cream
James A. Cass founder of Cayucos

As I neared the coast Morro Rock appeared through the mist followed by the the curve of Estero Bay.

View towards the shore from Cayucos' pier

All that was left to do was to drop off the Highway back into Cayucos.

As luck would have it a new Italian Ice Cream shop had just opened the day before ... no encouragement was required to try their wares ... bliss ...


Kirby James