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Steve, The nature walks at Ventana led by you were spectacular. It was the highlight of my trip, and I was really impressed by your knowledge of the trees, forest and history of Big Sur. I know that I would not have found those trails on my own, and these hikes made a very lasting impression on me. I would give anything to live up there in God’s country. A real paradise! From the comfortable pace of the hikes, to your extensive knowledge, to your endearing personality, thank you for providing such a memorable experience that I will treasure forever. I will definitely be back to Ventana later in the year and hope to take another hike with you. Terri McCormick Agoura Hills, CA USA

Hi Steve, Your walk and knowledge of the area is enlightening. We enjoyed our walk immensely. The restaurant tips were greatly appreciated. We enjoyed Fifi’s & Phils Fish Market. Here’s one for you – Barbaras Fish Trap at Princeton by the sea. Let us know if you get up there. Dan & Anne McClory Sunnyvale, CA US

Steve, While Steve and I loved everything about the Ventana Inn, you provided what will surely be the most lasting impression. You are a superb guide (and restaurant critic!). We’ll never look at a feather the same way again. Semper fidelis, Roxanne Roxanne Beaufort, SC USA

Our walk in the woods and picnic on rocks overlooking the ocean were more than wonderful. I can’t recommend your guided hikes strongly enough–and I’ll never look at a banana slug in the same way again. Many thanks. Paula TevisĀ  London, CA UK

We had a fabulous hike to three enchanting places. We look forward to our return to Ventana and the Big Sur! George and Joan Newcombe Menlo Park, CA USA

Steve, I cannot tell you what a wonderful experience it was to walk through Big Sur with you as my guide. The pictures you have on the website are amazing. Kelley Bowles Dallas, TX USA

Steve, We so enjoyed our guided hike with you. You truly have a gift for bringing the nature, history and folklore of Big Sur to life. The hidden untrampled pockets you showed us and the entertaining and interesting stories made our time in Big Sur all the more magical. Lori M. Los Angeles, CA USA

Excerpt from the L.A. Daily News

BIG SUR – Stephen Copeland exclaimed excitedly as he crashed toward us through the underbrush. His cupped hands held a bounty of pillowy, light-brown oyster mushrooms, freshly plucked from an oak log.

On this walk, however, we weren’t deep in the Santa Lucia back country of Big Sur. Rather, we were on the grounds of the Ventana Inn & Spa, a few steps from a block of weathered-redwood guest rooms, a stone’s throw from the fabulous Cielo restaurant – which, not surprisingly, would have a wild-mushroom salad and a fresh-mushroom risotto on that night’s dinner menu.

Copeland, a passionate woodsman who works with the hotel, was leading a handful of guests on an introductory walk one morning, holding forth on topics no more weighty than hummingbirds, coast redwoods, gray whales, fragrant sage and, of course, mushrooms.

He paused in the woods at one point and said, “The war and 9-11 have clearly driven people to this kind of resort.”

Intrigued by the breadth of Copeland’s knowledge on the morning walk, we opted for one of his guided hikes and were richly rewarded.

He conducted our group deep into a forest, where we beheld a 1,100-year-old redwood, believed to be the oldest in Big Sur. We visited a eucalyptus grove that was so thoroughly invaded by Monarch butterflies that the boughs looked like orange bouquets. We scrambled over moss- covered logs to a secluded 20-foot waterfall.

We ate lunch at a superb overlook of the coastline at Andrew Molera State Park, where far below we could see an otter swimming on its back while wrestling with a morsel of some kind as sea gulls massed above, bent on thievery.

And we had an encounter with a banana slug. Don’t laugh. It was right there in the middle of the forest path, bright yellow and glistening with slime. Copeland knelt and stroked the tip of his finger along its back. “If you do this, usually its eyes will appear here at the front,” he said. “Because, you know, who pets these things?” Indeed, after a moment, out came the eyes.

“People need to slow their lives down,” Copeland said as we lingered here. “Watch a banana slug for a while. In a month he’ll be up here” (indicating a spot 3 feet away).

Eric Noland, LA Daily News

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