Cool Places of LA: Oso Flaco Lake / by charles desrochers

Okay, so this isn't necessarily close to LA, in fact it's about a 3-4 hour drive, but I need to talk about Oso Flaco Lake. 

Just north of the agricultural town of Guadeloupe along the PCH, maybe an hour north of Santa Barbara where freshly picked vegetables are loaded onto trains and sent throughout the state, lies one of the most serene and untouched pieces of beaches in all of California.

Passing through the small town where they put mayo on their felafel sandwiches and 15 minutes north, after a stretches of fields that kiss the air with the scent of strawberries, there comes an intersection where ahead lie an out crop of eucalyptus trees, like an oasis in the desert for eyes hungry for topography. To the right of this stop is more strawberries and, today, cauliflower until the hills that separate the 101 from the 1 and to the left, miles and miles of more crops.

If on a whim you take the left and follow the road to its end, past the migrant workers getting off work, carrying their lunch coolers and hitching rides on tractors back to the cars, you'll come to an outcrop of trees and a dirt path. Just past this lies Oso Flaco Lake, which on it's surface doesn't seem like much. It's fed by run off from the fields which is why fishing isn't advised, considering the pesticides. At a small clearing in the main path, an easy one to miss if you're looking down at your phone or lost in thought is another turn to a small boardwalk. That's where you'll find the sight of the above photo.

What lies in front of you is a winding path of wood suspended above the Oso Flaco Lake, which has clear water with a fine silt bottom, clear enough to see the water grass that lies beneath and the bass swimming throughout. Ducks and Pelicans rest and bath on their way down the coast and this would be gorgeous enough but the boardwalk continues still, through more of the lake and eventually onto the dunes. It's not a difficult hike but it does stretch longer than a typical normal walk to the beach. Just like with the lake the boardwalk again bisects a nature reserve for endangered birds and winds more to the point that civilization is out of sight save for the fence to keep wanderers out of the reserve for the animals' sake until again there's a reveal, which feels by design.

At several points the trekker will go through arches of oak or over a blind hill and be treated to a completely transformed landscape, whether it be the lake or marsh, wooded path, walk along the dunes and the finale of miles and miles of untouched beach and a lazy brook running down the sand at low tide. 

Sand dollars and kelp wreck pepper the beach and people are able to walk as far down as they please. If you can manage to carry the supplies than you can picnic and relax for as long as they like. The water is as clear as any along the PCH and because it's so off the beaten path there are few if any other visitors. Because I enjoy the drive so much and for some reason the sleepy Guadeloupe pulls me in the more I drive through it, I can't help but think that I'm going to be here again sometime soon, probably with a lady, but most likely to dig my feet into the sand and wade through the water as the waves crash by my calves.