Dan and Hannah Hike Valencia Peak on the California Coast

Montana de Oro State Park

Montana de Oro State Park

For three years running we have come to Montana de Oro State Park, west of San Luis Obsipo, to hike its bluffs and mountains.  Today we have 1342’ Valencia Peak in our sights.

After a night at the Quality Inn in Pismo Beach we wonder what in the world the United Motel Clerks of America are thinking.  Let me explain.  When we check in yesterday, I ask for a quiet room after our previous night’s experience in Santa Barbara.  She agrees and lets us know that that won’t be a problem since just 20 of the 100 units will be filled this Tuesday night in mid-January.  You think they might spread us out to ensure a quiet night of sleep for one and all.  But nooooooo!  As soon as we get into room 103, we hear loud footsteps above us in 203.  Really?

Quality Inn at Pismo Beach

Quality Inn at Pismo Beach

Being more pro-active than I usually am, I return to the front desk, relate the situation, and ask for a new room.  She smiles, agrees, and gives us room 104.  Would that have been too hard from the beginning?  Settled in, we do have the luxury of an outdoor hot tub and later wine by the expansive pool.

The surf at Montana de Oro

The surf at Montana de Oro

Taking The 101 north from Pismo Beach, we turn west on Los Osos Road which winds its way 40 minutes to Montana de Oro.  There, we pass parking areas packed with the cars of surfers as El Nino churns up the coastal waters.

VP 2A D at VP sign

Passing the nearly empty large family beach, we park by the Spooner Ranch House/Park Headquarters in the shade of some of the few large pines at the park.  The trailhead for the Valencia Peak Trail is 100 yards down the Pecho Valley Road.  In the distance, it is easy to identify Valencia Peak two beautiful hiking miles away.

Mountainside trail of Valencia Peak

Mountainside trail of Valencia Peak

At the trailhead, signs for mountain lions and rattlesnakes warn/scare us all, but it’s a long shot we’ll see a kitty or slithering reptile today.  The positive effects of El Nino are evident as the green leaves on the sage brush-like plants brighten our trail.  With not a tree on this landscape, the green is in stark contrast to the brown on brown of the past years due to the five year drought in California.

VP 2D D on trail above ocean

Winding leisurely into the foothills, the trail of packed dirt is easy on our feet and gently sloping towards the peak.  To our south we see the serpentine Oats Peak Trail (click on California to the left of this blog and scroll down to see the Oats Peak and other Montana de Oro blogs).  The Oats Peak is an eleven-mile roundtrip trail ideal for mountain bike riders.

Nearing the summit

Nearing the summit

Always within view of the turbulent sea to our west, the narrow trail takes us into the interior.  At the one mile mark, the trail sign forbids mountain bikers.  It is soon apparent with the increased elevation and the rock strewn trail that riding would be folly and badly erode the trail further.

VP5A more of trail

The trail steepens and the loose rocks dominate our walking path.  With Valencia Peak always in view, we have the crowning achievement within our reach.  The long sloping switchbacks take the steep out of the trail.  This video is taken within 300 yards of the top.

VP 4 D at top with VP sign

The top is a pile of loose rocks with views to the ocean as well inland toward the rolling mountains beyond.  As promised in Day Hikes on the California Central Coast, we have reached the top in less than an hour.  With 1150’ of elevation gain, the trail is a manageable four miles round-trip for many kinds of hikers.

Top of the world

Top of the world

Though this is an El Nino winter, we have had us a day when tee shirts and shorts in the 60s welcome us to the California coast.  While our VRBO friends Scott and Tree, just 400 miles north on the California coast, are having day after day of rain without end Amen, we are living Albert Hammond’s refrain, It never rains in southern California.

Central California coast

Central California coast

Once done checking out the nearby bluffs above the crashing surf, we drive the Pacific Coast Highway to Cambria less than 60 miles to the north for the night.  Searching the Internet for lodging the night before, I came across the Mariners Inn on Moonstone Beach in Cambria, which offered a room with a king bed for $79, down from $159.  I think, At that original price this must be some sweet room; the come-on price is just because it’s off-season.

On the bluffs of Montana de Oro

On the bluffs of Montana de Oro

Don Miguel Ruiz in his Four Agreements advises me to make no assumptions.  I should have heeded his advice.  The United Motel Clerks of America strike again.  Upon our arrival at the one story Mariner’s Inn, I ask if they’ll be busy tonight.  The clerk says, No; it’s preseason.  Being the Wednesday night prior to Martin Luther King, Jr., Weekend, I then ask for a quiet room with no one on either side.  She willingly agrees, and then goes right ahead and gives us the room next to the overnight manager.  You’re kidding?

White water glory of Montana de Oro

White water glory of Montana de Oro

Ours is a small room with only one chair and a king bed that fills the room.  One might think that this means we’ll be having our evening glass of wine with one of us sitting on the bed.   But that undersells our resourcefulness.  Despite temps near 50F with a biting wind, we notice an outside glass-fronted second floor deck with padded lounge chairs for viewing the Pacific as the sun goes down.

Hannah with Valenica Peak in the distance

Hannah with Valenica Peak in the distance

So, after a 5P sunset walk along the boardwalk at Moonstone Beach directly across the road, in light coats we comfortably settle behind the glass protected deck as we sit with wine and watch the night turn from cobalt blue to black.

And by the way, we have an uninterrupted night of sleep.  We don’t even know the night manager is there.  The dues paying UMCOA clerk knew what she was doing!

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