What’s your favorite hike in San Luis Obispo? There are many choices, but everyone has their favorite, from the P to Madonna, to Bishop’s Peak. Vote for your favorite!
A good number of crazy people in the last century have attempted death defying climbs and thru-hikes. From hiking the complete Appalachian Trail in 124 days without a guidebook (twice) to successfully ascending the tallest Mountain in the world (and making it back down to tell the tale), humans are always looking for new ways to discover adventure. This timeline shows the historical climbs in the last century famous trekkers have accomplished triumphantly.
Jennifer Pharr Davis is a woman on the move. In 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes, Pharr Davis set a spreed record breaking thru-hike of the 2,182 mile Appalachian trail in the summer of 2011, hiking over 50 miles a day from 5:30 a.m. in the morning to 9 p.m.
She was named Blue Ridge Outdoors Person of the Year, a National Geographic Adventurer of the year, and her Appalachian Trail record was voted Ultrarunning Magazine’s Female Performance of 2011.
The owner and founder of Blue Ridge Hiking Company, Pharr Davis resides in Asheville, NC with her husband Brew and her daughter Charley. You can read more about her and her own adventures in her online blog at http://jenniferpharrdavis.tumblr.com/.
You can also check out http://blueridgehikingco.com/ for information about her trips, books, and media.
In SLO, there is no shortage of hiking trails. However, some are longer and more tedious than others. Here’s a chart representing the number of miles on each trail in the town of San Luis Obispo.
“I felt like everyone was really excited to have me on board and have me go on my first trip.”
Adventure is out there!
There are many places to venture in San Luis Obispo which yield challenging treks and spectacular views, and Poly Escapes is an organization on campus which puts together group excursions for a low fee which not only students, but community members can participate in.
Where It All Began
When I first toured Cal Poly back in April of 2014, I remember being fascinated by the images on the windows of the Poly Escapes room attached to the Rec. Center. There were images of morning yoga hikes, and camping under the stars, and I knew that I wanted to be a participant on these trips as soon as I could. The first week of school in September, I signed up for two weekend trips, and applied to be a “co-leader” or leader in training. I had zero backpacking experience and minimal camping experience, but I love the outdoors and figured I would go for it.
At first, it was nerve-wracking. It was my first month at college, my first month away from home, and I was flooded with anxious emotion about how I had never backpacked before, but would soon embark on a weekend long trip. I was moderately unprepared in terms of gear, with people I had never met before in my life. This fear soon disappeared when I realized that the other participants on this trip were similar in personality to me, and shared my love of adventure.
If you have any interest in Poly Escapes, do not feel intimidated by a lack of experience, because there is no experience required to sign up for a trip. Third year Cal Poly student Dina Saba also originally had no prior wilderness knowledge but signed up for a trip, and had a completely positive experience. “I felt like everyone was really excited to have me on board and have me go on my first trip.” Dina said. Dina gives more insight into her Poly Escapes expereince, as well as students Eric Hsieh and Adam Zaccone in my podcast below, highlighting their favorite trips and memories on their adventures with the program.
Take the LEap
Poly Escapes is everything I hoped it would be when I signed up. I have met many other students who share my sense of adventure and have been able to go on trips which have broadened my horizons and given me a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment that can only be achieved from hours of trekking, to finally make it to the top of that rock which overlooks a valley on top of the world.
There’s no specific rock in particular, they’re everywhere. This is why it is important to take advantage of the opportunity to go on these, to find yourself and broaden your own horizens adventures It’s easy to sign up for a Poly Escapes trip through the ASI Website and find your overlook.
“It’s not very often you get the chance to be with so many people who love to be in the outdoors and go on adventures as much as this group does.” said Adam Zaccone
education and experience
There are a wide variety of trips to try with Poly Escapes. On the trail maintenance trip for the Ventana Wilderness Alliance,, you can give back to the community through volunteer work, as you hack down bushes and trees to upkeep the trails in the Los Padres National Forest, and appreciate the hard work which goes into keeping up trails.
Another example of a trip I enjoyed was Cosmic Camping, an educational experience under the stars learning from a real Cal Poly professor about the universe and its astronomical make up, by viewing the night sky through high-powered telescopes.
Find your Passion!
There are also stand up paddle boarding trips, sunrise yoga hikes, caving, climbing, and many other ways to get involved for a price within the budget of a “broke college student.”
Poly Escapes is an ASI program through Cal Poly which does not operate to make a profit. The trip leaders do their job for the love of the adventure and are often compensated pay depending on how many people sign up, and whether or not they can make a successful food and transportation budget with the money gained on a particular trip without losing money. The participants come back from the trips more educated in the ways of the wild and bonds formed with fellow adventure seekers.
“It’s not very often you get the chance to be with so many people who love to be in the outdoors and go on adventures as much as this group does.” Said Co-leader Adam Zaccone.
This is why the best time to take advantage of these opportunities is now.
On the morning of Saturday, January 30th, I went on a sunrise yoga hike on the 1,292 foot San Luis Mountain, or what is more frequently referred to as Madonna. Cerro San Luis is one of the “Nine Sisters,” a chain of volcanic peaks which stretch East from Morro Bay.
Actually, I didn’t even go to bed before the hike, since we left at 5:30a.m., but I don’t recommend that… Staying up for 26 hours straight isn’t as great as you would think.
We met at the trailhead at 5:30a.m., and then hiked through the fog, and it was COLD. The hike up took about 45 minutes and by the time we reached the top, the sun was just risen above the clouds.
We did some yoga at the top led by trip leaders and co leaders, and then enjoyed some fresh fruit, granola, and yogurt parfaits and hot chocolate for breakfast. Then we hiked down the mountain and got back to campus around 10:30a.m. As the rest of the campus was waking up, I went to bed!!
It was a beautiful hike. Cerro San Luis has many different trails going different directions, so I know I’m going to do another hike there sometime in the future. Sunrise hikes are very peaceful, and it’s enjoyable to see the world (including the Cal Poly Campus!) waking up around you as you practice yoga on top of a mountain.
Today one of my Poly Escapes Co Leaders and I went on a sunset hike to the “P” behind the Cal Poly red brick dorms! It was cool crisp weather, so we used the “be bold, start cold” technique. This technique is when you wear less layers than you think you will need to start off, because as you hike, your body temperature rises and you work up a sweat. If you are extremely sweaty when you reach the top and stop hiking, you will feel colder.
To get to the trailhead, climb up to the highest level parking lot behind the dorms and follow the dirt path at the top to the cattle gate, where the trail begins. The hike is a shorter trip, only about 25 minutes up the longer and less steep way, and about 20 to 25 minutes back down. For those who live on campus no transportation is required except for your own two feet.
The “P” hike is a Poly student favorite, which I have done on many occasions during all times of day and night, and will never get tired of!
Click here and scroll down for more information on the history and tradition of the “P” at Cal Poly.