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Calm on the coast of central California.

WET EUCALYPTUS and a cool salty mist scented the air, as Baywood Park and Los Osos slumbered away on a morning stilled by fog. An occasional heron call punctured the silence, but except for some volunteers working on a revegetation project at a bayfront nature preserve, and a lone cyclist out for an early ride, day broke lazily.

To call a community a backwater is usually an insult. But for these adjoining towns along the estuaries and back bays of Morro Bay, the description applies quite literally. Baywood Park and Los Osos are for travelers inclined to slow things down, who don't mind sacrificing flash for a dash of privacy and quiet. Two of the central coast's most scenic state parks, Morro Bay and Montana de Oro, are just minutes away. For that matter, there are unique natural areas right in town.

NO GRIZZLIES, BUT THE PYGMY OAKS GROW ON

When the Spanish arrived in 1769, they named the area La Canada de Los Osos for the many grizzly bears that lived here. Baywood Park received its less evocative moniker in 1919, when developer Walter Redfield changed the town's name from El Morro, to avoid confusion with nearby Morro Bay.

These days the only grizzlies around are the newly installed statues that greet drivers as they arrive in Los Osos. About 15,000 people live in these towns, hardly the stuff of urban sprawl by Los Angeles standards. But despite the small population, the growing pains are no less real.

One of the most pressing concerns is the fate of El Moro Elfin Forest, 90 acres of pygmy oaks and other trees in Baywood Park along Morro Bay. To protect the trees, a local chapter of the Small Wilderness Area Preservation is trying to acquire a privately owned 39-acre tract within the forest before it is sold for development. For a schedule of the monthly guided walks into the area, call (805) 528-2579.

Two other natural areas adjacent to developed areas have already been preserved. Just off Los Osos Valley Road as you drive into town, Los Osos Oaks State Preserve has a mile-long trail through a forest of ancient oaks. Sweet Springs Nature Preserve has short trails and is great for bird-watchers and monarch butterfly fanciers (from November through March). It's off Ramona Avenue in Los Osos.

WHERE TO KICK BACK

Although the lodging choices are not endless, the quality is good. Back Bay Inn is on the water within walking distance of Baywood Park's small commercial district. Prices run from $35 to $65; call 528-1233. Baywood Bed & Breakfast Inn also overlooks the bay, and features individually styled rooms. Rates are from $80 to $140; call 528-8888. And we can't forget to mention the delicious breakfasts at The Sculptured Egg; call 528-0818.

To get to Baywood Park or Los Osos from U.S. Highway 101, take Los Osos Valley Road northwest.
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Author:Jaffe, Matthew
Publication:Sunset
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:482
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