Sometimes you just have to
take the scenic route, even if the hills are windy, the fog is heavy and the
cars twist and turn along the mountain roads. When drive on
Highway 101 between Orange
County and San Luis Obispo so many times, you need a
break once in a while.
San Marcos Pass is a well-paved
road with warning signs about rock slides, twists, turns and even deer warnings
or fire levels. Sometimes the road is beautiful and clear; sometimes it is foggy
and you can barely see in front of you. The prettier drive is heading north. You
come to some vistas where you can see Cachuma Lake and spectacular, scenic
valleys. This is Michael Jackson country.
If you seek a change from the
ordinary, take Highway 154 on your next trip north. Just beyond the State
Street exit where the car dealer and shopping center is located, you'll see an
exit from Highway 101 indicating Highway 154.
The journey is not for everyone.
If you are older and don't see or drive that well, avoid this road and stick
with the easy 101. If your kid is just learning to drive, don't send him
up this pass to test his skills. The road is only dangerous if you do not follow
the speed limit signs. There are several passing lanes along the route but
someone is always in a hurry and trying to pass another vehicle, especially one
of those big, slow trucks that can barely make it up the mountain.
Off to your right after you reach
the peak of the mountain and begin heading down, there are several turn-offs for
Cachuma Lake. Veer off gently and take a look. It is a fabulous lake for
boating and fishing. At the official turn-off, there's temporary
parking for a limited time but you'll be charged a fee to enter. Another "vista"
turn-off has picnic areas, restrooms and a view of the damn. This exit is
free but doesn't provide access to the lake.
Cachuma Lake is a Santa Barbara
County operated facility with camping available.