We are suckers for morning motel breakfasts! We love ‘em before we hike. First off, we don’t have to leave the Quality Inn in Pismo Beach for them. We just walk down to the motel lobby; today I get a little decaf with a Danish and head back to our room to watch Sports Center. Ten minutes later I am back to the lobby, toasting an English muffin with another cup of joe. Some scrambled eggs, then a bowl of Raisin Bran and Cheerios with sliced bananas follow. Second, they are served buffet style so there is no waiting. Third, most places have the USA Today. Fourth, Hannah can write post cards. And fifth, it all comes with the price of the room.
Forty-five minutes north on the 101 through San Luis Obispo and Los Osos to Montana De Oro State Park, we have a fourth day of 70 degrees with full sun. Known for its rocking, crashing waves with a bluff trail above, Montana De Oro offers us mountains today on this Saturday of Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend.
After a yesterday of bluff hiking here on the central California coast some 200 miles north of Los Angeles, we come again to Montana de Oro State Park for the Oats Peak Trail. On a trail with no shade or water, I lather on the sunscreen, pull on my floppy hiker’s hat, and slip on my aviator sunglasses to complete my modest attempt at West Coast hiking cool.
Compared to the 3000’ and 4000’ peaks we climbed near Santa Barbara, Oats Peak is a mere 1367 feet above sea level. That said, starting at sea level on the Pacific coast, the Oats Peak Trail is 11 miles of gently sloping switchbacks that will caress our feet for the next four hours.
After a steep climb at the outset, the trail meanders among the scrub brush for miles. On this holiday Saturday, there are many hikers and mountain bikers that give our hike a Hannah and Dan party feel. Generally we see guys on mountain bikes; a running club of women from nearby Fresno, CA passes us going back down the trail.
As the young men and women run or bike by, I wonder what to stay to encourage them. As a guy, it’s easy for me to say looking good to guys. I hesitate to say that to these athletic women. You go girl is a little cliché. You da woman sounds a little frat boy-ish. As I step aside when they zip by on this narrow trail, I try clapping. I am trying out – you’re rocking the mountain. I am looking for something encouraging without being condescending or stupid. Women of the Blog, what would you like to hear on the trails?
As we hike, we notice that this trail could be much shorter up these mountains; these are not steep cliffs in need of mellow switchbacks. And then it hits us that mountain bikers must have had a role in the layout out of this trail. The Oats Peak Trail allows many body types and those with limited hiking experience to enjoy the trail. If you played high school sports and haven’t done much athletically since, this still can be a super hike for you.
Wandering far from the coastline, we see, at the three mile point, few other hikers and only the occasional mountain biker. When we hear one, we step aside and are blown away with their daring to roar down this very rocky, loose stone mountain. I don’t know if it’s the sun or what, but we start thinking that next year we could rent mountain bikes and rock these hills on fat tires ourselves. Honestly, we are not smoking anything.
Nearly two hours in, we pass a faux peak; then in the distance we see Oats Peak. Climbing with purpose over loose stones on the sandy trail, we summit at trail’s end. At the top of Oats Peak, it’s a full 360 degree view of the coastal mountains. Check out our mountain top video.
I rate Oats Peak Trail a 3 of 5 on the difficulty scale. It’s accessible to many levels of hikers and, as a there and back hike, one can turn around at any point. Though there is precious little variety in the scrub desert terrain, it’s California; it’s sunny; it’s 70 degrees. How hard is a little tedium of landscape to take? Not one bit.
Hiking four hours under the coastal sun today demands all that we have and leaves us mellow and satisfied as we drive back to Pismo Beach. We celebrate poolside in the mid-afternoon with the last bit of afternoon sunshine with our California beverage of choice – Dos Equis on ice. California is a habit we don’t want to break.