Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Lost in the Elfin Forest in Los Osos in June

How Not to Get Lost in the Elfin Forest

Part of the Elfin Forest Boardwalk with Black Sage in the Foreground, © B. Radisavljevic

A boardwalk loop is the only trail through the Elfin Forest. Once on the boardwalk, it's hard to get lost in the Elfin Forest. There are signs to lead you to every boardwalk destination. You can find the signs and maps to borrow at each entrance. More signs all along the boardwalk explain what you are seeing. Notice the map of the layout on the photo below. It marks all the entrances. On our first visit we entered on 16th Street, a fact I couldn't remember on this visit. Rather I had noted that a boardwalk trail led to the main boardwalk. So I assumed all the entrances were like this. You can read about that first visit in January 2014, here.

Visitor Information Sign. Notice the Map on the Lower Right of the Layout of Trails, © B. Radisavljevic
Look carefully at the map above. Each entrance is located at the end of a residential street. There are some designated handicapped parking spaces at the end of 16th Street and the boardwalk from the parking area to the main boardwalk makes the forest wheelchair accessible at this  entrance. The many benches along the boardwalk offer those who can't walk long distances a place to rest frequently. Because we parked on 16th Street on our first visit we didn't realize that all the other paths leading to the main boardwalk were sand paths. Some, like this one, below, required a step up with no rail to grab.

White Yarrow Hangs Over Root "Step" on Sand Path Leading to Main Boardwalk
Roots in path could trip people who don't see them in time. © B. Radisavljevic

It's Easier to Get Lost On the Way Back to Your Car

We had forgotten which entrance was handicapped accessible on this second visit since we hadn't been here in over five years. I had planned to go directly to Siena's View that overlooks Morro Bay, so I chose the 12th Street entrance. Santa Ysabela, a main street, leads to all the entrances of the Elfin Forest. There are entrances from 17th, 16th, 15th, 14th, 13th, 12th, and 11th Streets. 

We arrived at the forest at around 5:00 on a Monday evening in June. I quickly discovered that there was no place to park close to the 12th Street entrance. It was trash day, so all the street parking spaces were cut short by the trash containers. I had to back up until I could get to a driveway to turn around in. 

Luckily traffic on Santa Ysabela wasn't too bad so I was able to go back to 14th Street without too much trouble. I did find a place to park there. The friendly person who lived in the house we parked in front of told us when we wanted to find our way back to just look for the telephone pole. He said it was the only one in the Elfin Forest. This is what that entrance looks like. I wish I had taken the picture when I entered instead of when I got back. 

On this visit my husband was suffering from a sore knee and when I saw that the entrance only had a sand trail leading to the boardwalk, I knew my husband would never make it. But the view from the car was good, the weather was cool, and Hubby opted to stay in the car with the windows open and just observe while I went onto the trail to take pictures. It turns out he saw more wildlife from the car than I saw on the trail. I only saw one cottontail. He saw several. I saw birds, a coyote, and several lizards like the one below. 

Lizard on Boardwalk, Elfin Forest, Los Osos, June, 2019, © B. Radisavljevic

I didn't dare get close enough to get a better photo without the shadow since the lizard was pretty fast. I was sure it would disappear if I got closer so I did the best I could with my zoom. The flower hanging into the boardwalk is one of the many black sage plants that seemed to be everywhere and buzzing with bumblebees. 

The Flowers

The main reason we had made this visit was so that I could photograph some of the flowers in June. Very little was blooming on our January visit. I wouldn't exactly call it a garden on this visit, but at least there was more color. I was especially looking for this sticky monkey flower, and I wasn't disappointed. 

Sticky Monkey Flower in Elfin Forest, June 2019, © B. Radisavljevic
As I showed you above, the white yarrow was also blooming, and there was black sage almost everywhere you looked. I was able to photograph the sage, but the bumblebees foraging were too quick to capture with my camera. I was hoping they wouldn't invade my space on the boardwalk. They were very loud, but I guess they were contented. 

Black Sage in the Elfin Forest in June, © B. Radisavljevic

I took close to 200 photos, but the rest I'm saving for another blog. In this post I want to help you avoid what happened to me on the way back to the car. 

How I Got Lost

By the time I had walked for about an hour, I knew I should get back to the car in case my husband was getting tired of sitting there. I should have known better. When I finally did get back, he wasn't even there. 

But getting back wasn't as easy as I expected. It's true there was only one telephone poll within the Elfin Forest, but there were many just outside of it close to the other streets. I had forgotten which street we were parked on. Had I remembered, getting back would have been much easier. The boardwalk marked most, but not all exits with signs like the one below. You can't read it, but it says that trail leads to exits on 11th, 12, and 13th Streets. 

Since I seemed to remember parking on 13th Street, I took this exit. The car was not on the exit where I wound up. What looked like a continuation of the trail at the end was really someone's driveway. 

I called my husband to see how he was doing and he was fine. I told him I was lost and asked him about the colors of the houses around him. I could see the end houses for almost all the streets from where I stood, but not any poles I was sure were in the forest. All the telephone poles I saw appeared to be in the forest until I got closer to them. I told Hubby I'd be back to the car as soon as I could find my way back. 

After talking to a few people I met along the boardwalk, I finally took their advice and tried the 14th Street exit, which was clearly marked with a sign. It did lead me back to the car -- but the car was empty. I called my husband again, and he told me he was using a bathroom. Of course I knew there were no public bathrooms in the area so I was confused until I saw him walking toward me from a driveway. He'd gotten into a conversation with the neighbor who had told me to look for the pole. I also learned the man had gone looking for me. His wife called to tell him I had returned. She also invited me to use her bathroom, for which I was grateful. 

How I Could Have Avoided Getting Lost

As soon as I got to the boardwalk, I should have turned and used my phone to take a photo of the entrance to the path I'd used the way it would look to get back on it . Or I could have made a note of the street name where I had parked the car. Had I done that I would have been able to find my way back from a sign by the trail entrance or by the photo of how the entrance to the way back looks. I also could have noted the colors of the houses on the street closest to the trail access or taken photos of them. Knowing the name of the street would have been the most useful, since then when I asked the way back people would have known how to direct me. 

Hindsight is great. I share this with you in case you are as impulsive as I am. If you do what I didn't, you probably will have no trouble getting back to your car after a walk in the Elfin Forest.

In spite of getting lost, I still enjoyed the walk and wish I'd stayed longer. "All's well that ends well," as the Bard said. By the time I found my way back, the sun had begun to hide in the clouds over Morro Bay. 

Looking Toward Morro Bay from the Elfin Forest Boardwalk, © B. Radisavljevic


  1. A pretty area, even with getting lost!

    1. It's a beautiful area, but it's prettier across the bay where the taller trees are located.Thanks for stopping by.


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