Huasna Valley
 
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Arroyo Grande and the Huasna Valley ...

... a first encounter with a Bobcat

-- click on thumbnails for larger image --

The flat and wide Arroyo Grande Valley An attractive church perched on a knowle overlooking the Arroyo Grande Valley

Arroyo Grande lies in San Luis Obispo (SLO) County just off Highway 101, some 5 km from the Pacific and about 100 km north west of Santa Barbara.

Arroyo Grande literally means big ditch ... it sounds rather better in Spanish.

Branch Mill Road runs along the western edge of the valley. The steep valley slopes are covered with chaparral

The ride appears in Sharon Lewis Dickinson's Bicycling San Luis Obispo County, Joanne Rife's Bicycling Country Roads and is one the 'Great Rides' of the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club.

Tractors at work in the fields

The land immediately around Arroyo Grande is flat and mostly given over to intensive agriculture.

Orchard growers

The route first follows Cherry Avenue and Branch Mill Road along the western edge of Arroyo Grande Valley. The steep valley sides are covered with dense chaparral.

Sign to the Huasna Valley A flower bed

After about 5 km you turn right to follow Huasna Road up along Tar Springs Creek.

View northward
View northward
Road climbing and twisting Not too far to go

The creek-side road climbs steadily up away from the Arroyo Grande Valley.

As this road leads to a dead-end the traffic steadily decreases the nearer you get to the trail-head.

White fencing and daisies lining the road White fencing and daisies lining the road White fencing and daisies lining the road
Red octagons ahead Watch out for bikes No way through
Cacti ... punctures ... ? Injured cyclists ... watch out !

The road follows Tar Spring itself past a number of farmsteads. These include Tar Springs Ranch which was named after the beds of asphalt which are found nearby.

Slowly the valley narrows and the chaparral covered sides come closer together.

I was rather alarmed to find a group of birds of pray circling above - were they expecting me to run over a rabbit - or did they have larger prey in mind?

Bird of prey ready to attack cyclist ... Chaparral covered hill-sides

The final section of the road through Tar Springs Creek climbs for about 3 km - the final section rising more steeply to reach an altitude of 1,000'.

Near the top oak and sycamore trees crowd round the road providing welcome shade.

Oak and sycamore line the road Near the top of the climb out of Tar Springs Creek Oak and sycamore line the road
Returning from a different kind of ride A good spot for securing your bike

Most of the farmsteads in this part of California patriotically fly the American flag.

I also spotted a group of horse riders ... who seem rather less common than cyclists.

No end to the twists and turns Watch out for trucks

From the summit the road sweeps down through wide bends into the flat Huasna Valley where the fields were full of cattle and horses grazing.

Huasna Valley Huasna Valley Huasna Valley
Sign for Huasna Valley Road

It was then just a short distance to the turn-off for Huasna township.

Huasna's delightful single room schoolhouse

The guide books say that the village sign indicates a population of 171 ... but I missed it so I can't report whether the town is booming or declining.

School sign

Huasna houses a delightful red school house.

The school has just a single room and was constructed in around 1907.

Straight section of road through Huasna Valley

The school is no longer in use but has been carefully preserved as a legacy from bygone times.

White fences and hump backed hills White fences and hump backed hills

The road continues beyond the township to meet the turn-off for Huasna River and the ... I was soon to realizes ... appropriately named Cat Canyon.

More hump backed hills covered in chaparral

Near the trail head there were a line of mail boxes for farms and houses hidden in the trees.

Line of mail boxes
Turn-off for Huasna River Shaded road leading down to the Creek

Beyond the turn-off the road descends into a shaded glade and at the bottom turns to cross the a creek.

I was looking forward to stopping for a snack ...

Bobcat disappearing over the bridge A bobcat!

... however on turning the corner I was surprised to see a large cat in the centre of the track.

We looked at each other briefly and the cat either decided that I didn't look too tasty or was alarmed by my fluorescent clothing and turned tail and started to disappear.

I managed to take a few photos as the cat ran away off the bridge.

. The Creek Chaparral covered hills

It turned out that the animal was a bobcat. I later spoke to a ranch hand who said that they are much more afraid of humans than we are of them.

Bobcats are classified as small cats ... as opposed to lions and tigers which are big cats. Apparently one difference is that small cats can purr when breathing in and out ... but big cats can only purr when breathing out. Useful to know when you are about to be eaten.

Yet more hump-back hills

From the trail-head the return route was mostly back along the same roads. It is surprising how different the scenery seems when travelling back in the opposite direction. I saw dozens of windmills which I hadn't noticed on the way out.

One of many windmills littering the landscape Downhill most of the way back Sign at the township turn-off

Dropping back into the Arroyo Grande Valley the brightly coloured flower beds contrasted with the shades of green for the Huasna Valley.

Multi-coloured flower beds looked like giant floor mats laid on the valley bottom.

Multi-coloured flower beds nestling in Arroyo Grande Valley
Back in Arroyo Grande Valley Almost back ...

All too soon I was back in Arroyo Grande ... time for a coffee or two.

 

POSTSCRIPT

In 2007 and 2008 the Huasana Valley was threatened with development as an oil field.

Local people joined together to campaign to ensure that, if the development does go ahead, it meets the environmental standards expected by the community. More information can be found at www.huasnavalley.org.

 

Kirby James

 
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