Outdoor enthusiast, Cal Poly SLO student, known as half of ‘Kenneth squared,’ falls to death

Two young men pose for a photo with the ocean behind them.
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo University officials sent a campus-wide email Monday morning confirming that student Kenneth Taylor, left, died Saturday “after an accident during a trip to Big Sur.”
(Courtesy of Kenneth Bevens)

Friday’s kickoff of the annual “Make Waves” Film Festival, hosted by the local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, was slated to be the culmination of months of planning by 21-year-old Cal Poly San Luis Obispo junior Kenneth Taylor.

The mechanical engineering student from Richland, Wash. was known as much for his advocacy for the outdoors as he was for his enjoyment of it. Taylor was a founding member of the school’s Alpine Club and served as a trip leader for the campus’ Poly Escapes program, which offers trip-planning services and outdoor training for students.

He loved snow sports and rock climbing, friends said, up until the end.

School officials sent a campus-wide email Monday morning confirming that Taylor died Saturday “after an accident during a trip to Big Sur.”


“The university is in touch with Kenneth’s family and is extending its full support to them and his friends,” Cal Poly San Luis Obispo University President Jeffrey D. Armstrong wrote in the email. “Our thoughts are with them as they grieve their loss.”

Two men, one in a Santa hat with fake beard, pose for a picture.
Kenneth Taylor, right, was known as one half of “Kenneth squared,” a nickname he shared with friend and fellow Cal Poly SLO student Kenneth Bevens, left.
(Courtesy of Kenneth Bevens)

The Monterey County Sheriff’s Department requested assistance to check on an overdue hiker at Salmon Creek Falls and the Pacific Coast Highway, according to a San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s spokesperson.

San Luis Obispo County deputies responded and found a deceased hiker Saturday evening at the base of a 12-story waterfall in the water, according to county officials. The death was not deemed suspicious.

The Monterey County Sheriff’s Department, which is in charge of the investigation, did not respond to calls or an email requesting more information.

The death left one of Taylor’s best friends, Kenneth Bevens, in disbelief.

“What stood out to me about Kenneth was how positive and passionate he was,” Bevens said. “If you needed help with photography, with safety instruction, rock climbing tips or whatever, he always helped.”


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Bevens met his outdoor comrade and namesake in October 2022 at a two-day event hosted by Poly Escapes, which was offering CPR training and wilderness certification, he said.

They called each other “the other Kenneth” and shared an age, a passion for the outdoors and were photographers. They were known around campus and at school events as “Kenneth squared.”

Bevens, a Camarillo native, said he had known a few Kenneths throughout his life, though they all preferred to be called Kenny or Ken. Taylor was the first person he knew, like him, to use his full first name.

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“We were often confused for each other because we had so many of the same hobbies and friends,” Bevens said. “There was nobody like Kenneth, though.”

Bevens said Taylor was more of a landscape photographer and called himself a portrait shooter.

“I was going to teach Kenneth how to print so we could sell our photos at the film festival,” Bevens said. “We just had so many plans and I can’t believe he’s gone.”


Bevens said he was walking through a hallway on Monday when a mutual friend informed a professor that “Kenneth” had fallen to his death in Big Sur.

“Her eyes widened and she asked, ‘Oh my God, which one?’” Bevens said. “I felt like a ghost in a way, because I was always the other one, the other Kenneth. Now I’m not.”