When you feel like you just need to get the heck outta Dodge for a little while and you have only a little while to work with, Camino Cielo is the perfect getaway spot. It is a short drive of maybe 25 minutes up Highway 154 from most areas in town — no, I don’t drive like a bat out of Hades; it really is that close!
Right near the top of San Marcos Pass, you have an option of taking East Camino Cielo or West Camino Cielo. I recommend them both with equal enthusiasm. Head eastward one time, and then westward the next. They both have features worth the drive where you can get your shot of solace, which is a lot better for you than a shot of caffeine or alcohol.
The views are breathtaking and include wide vistas of the coast, ocean and islands on the south side, and a broad valley and majestic mountains to the north. I recall borrowing a telescope on one of my jaunts and sitting with my back against a boulder for stability and watching the squid fleet working along the front side of Santa Cruz Island.
Then I drove to another spot on the road with a northward vista and used the telescope to watch a herd of a dozen deer graze slowly up a cozy canyon in the Los Padres National Forest. Most of the time a telescope is a bit much to lug around, but a pair of binoculars will help you spot things of interest and amusement.
After all of that visual enjoyment, it helps to lean back against a rock and take a brief snooze. After about 20 minutes of that and I feel ready to go back into town and take on the world.
Both roads (East and West Camino Cielo) have plenty of turnouts and natural settings that beckon compellingly for a picnic. There are usually plenty of critters around to keep up the entertainment level, because even though there is a road and a few homes, it really is a wild area with plenty of critter life. So bring a camera along. But mostly just bring along your need for solace.
Oh, one more thought about Camino Cielo. June gloom will be here soon (typically May through July), and when it makes you feel dreary, Camino Cielo is usually just above the clouds, offering an opportunity for a spot of sunshine on your soul.
Ya know, I could use a break. I think I’ll head up there right now.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.