April 6, 2010

Santa Ynez Mountains and Turkey Vultures

Lake Cachuma in the distance below the Santa Ynez Mountains

We have moved our operations to San Luis Obispo for the remainder of the week. But, with the clouds breaking and the sun returning, we decided to take a quick trip up to the summit of the Santa Ynez Mountains to see the spectacular views before breaking camp at Lake Cachuma and heading north.

We drove up the Camino Cielo (Heaven Road) which is a narrow winding road along the summit ridge of the Santa Ynez range. From this road, there are views both south across the Pacific Ocean to the Channel Islands and north across the Santa Ynez Valley and to the San Rafael Mountains.

We took a short 1 mile roundtrip stroll to Knapp's Castle, an early 20th century lodge that was built on the ridge above the Santa Ynez Valley that burned down in the 1940's. Today, all that remains are the concrete foundations and old chimneys.

Funny thing is given the chaparral habitat around it and the ruins, it reminded us of hundreds of old ruins we'd seen in Italy and elsewhere in Europe, but just a few centuries younger.

Last night was also an interesting and educational opportunity for Hilina as four turkey vultures descended down to the field behind our campsite. Hilina and I walked up to them to see what they were up to. It was probably the closest she'd ever gotten to a turkey vulture that wasn't flying, just feet away before they relunctantly flew off.

Eventually, we found the dead squirrel they were working on. It was an educational experience to explain to her the cycle of life, that animals get old and eventually die, but that it helps to give food to vultures and other scavengers that eat them. She seemed fine with the concept and later Linda used that opportunity to explain that is what happened to Maile.

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