Dover Canyon Road is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it, but if you like to walk in a quiet and lovely place, it’s worth taking the trouble to find. We approach it by taking Highway 46 W to Vineyard Drive from the 101 Freeway and turning right (north) on Vineyard Dr. You will pass Oak Creek Road and then Jack Creek Road. Then you will go past vineyards and meadows and a bed and breakfast, and several wineries, through a curvy wooded portion, and then a few more like it. Finally you round a pretty steep curve in the shadow of trees and Dover Canyon Road will appear on your left. You will see a very small cemetery to your left on the corner. Turn and park on Dover Canyon Road.
This cemetery is all that’s left of the historic Willow Creek Mennonite Church –well almost all that’s left. There’s also this, attached to one part of the church that did not burn down in 1967. The church combined with the First Mennonite Church in Paso Robles when their building burned down. There were few young people left in the congregation, and the older folks didn’t want to rebuild. You can read more of the story in this history of the Mennonite Church in San Luis Obispo County
As I walked through the cemetery taking pictures, my imagination was stirred by the tombstones. I wanted to find out more about the people buried there — many of whom were pioneer families in Paso Robles. Perhaps I will find out more about them later. But after taking several pictures here, I decided to get on with the rest of my walk. My goal was to walk to the bridge that crosses the creek, about a mile, and then turn back.
Today was an ideal day to walk Dover Canyon Road. After the recent rains it was still damp — so damp that streams flowed into the road from the surrounding meadows and along either side of the road. Normally I have taken this walk in the heat of summer when the meadows are brown and if a car goes by it leaves a trail of dust. Today the weather was comfortable — in the seventies– and there was no dust for the only car that passed me to stir up.
As you begin your walk, the road is straight for about a quarter of a mile. Today the meadows on either side were green after more than normal rainfall, but the deer who had been grazing on the left headed into the forest when they saw me. The creek is flowing to the right of this road.
Walking Dover Canyon Road is normally a quiet experience. If you enjoy solitude, you will find it here. Occasionally a car will pass you, or maybe a horseman, but mostly you will hear only the birds and the roar of the creek at your side. In the summer the creek may be dry, and that sound might be missing. As I walked, I passed a tree that the storm had treated badly. As you can see, this is a very tall tree, and it’s broken branch is almost as long as the tree is tall, which is why it will take three pictures to show the whole thing. The first shows the tree where the branch broke off. The second shows the long branch to its end, and the third shows as much of the entire tree with broken branch as I can fit in one picture.
The first part of the walk from the intersection with Vineyard Drive is straight, and one can see far ahead. It then runs into a ranch and the road curves left. Then the straight stretch below goes quite a way before it heads into the forested areas where the scenery turns into trees draped with Spanish moss. Many also have bright green moss on their trunks. Many of the oaks also host mistletoe high in their branches. You can see the mountains in the distance.
One thing you can’t help but notice are the trees. You can imagine how the weather shaped them into the various sizes and shapes you see. It’s hard to tell at this time of year whether some trees are dead or alive, since the only green some have is in the moss they wear. The trunks go in many different directions, and many have lost some of their branches, which are now at their feet. These trees have developed character as they have fought the elements. An artist could go crazy painting these trees.
I finally made it to my goal — the bridge. I suspected the creek would be very full, and it was. The view was quite different from the right and left sides. From the right, in the background you can see two or three separate streams feeding into the creek.
This is the view from the left — a more solid channel.
I took close to 85 pictures on this walk after I left the cemetery. There is much I don’t have room to show you here — the deeply cut gorge carved out by the stream at the right side of the first stretch of the walk, the tree with its roots crossing the chasm above the water, the fallen tree with its massive roots in the stream, and the endless fairyland of moss-covered trees in forest and meadows on both sides of the road . To see what I saw, you will need to walk where I walked. I suggest you do it soon while you can still be free of heat and dust and hear the murmur of the water.