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Tassajera Peak and the nearby Tessajera BM are located in the Los Padres NF north of San Luis Obispo. They are the two highest summits along a 12-mile ridge that spans between Cuesta Pass on US101 and SR41 to the northwest. The south side drains to Chorro Creek and Morro Bay while the north side drains to the Salinas River and Monterey Bay. Tessajera BM is higher by a mere 2ft, laying claim to more than 1,200ft of prominence. The peaks are located roughly half way along the ridge, some 8.5 miles from Cuesta Pass along the windy TV Tower Rd. A year earlier I had tried to drive my van on this Forest Service Road, only to be stymied without high clearance. Though paved in the distant past, the road has seen no service in decades other than to keep it clear of rock and tree fall. The pavement is washed out in many sections with ruts that are just too nerve-wracking to negotiate without more clearance. It would probably make for a fine mountain bike ride, but I was armed with just a pair of boots on the last day of a seven day road trip.
The route starts by climbing some 500ft in about a mile and half, a moderate gradient. Fog had reached to near the height of Cuesta Pass from both sides, leaving a sea of clouds below me as I climbed higher. Almost from the start the fog was beginning to retreat, but it would be several hours before it had mostly dissipated. Taking an hour to go the first 2.5 miles, I reached the start of the Cuesta Ridge Botanical Area. It's primary purpose is to preserve a grove of Sargent cypress trees. According to the kiosk found there, it is "the largest grove that can be easily reached by car." I don't know if I should be impressed by that or not, but I took issue with "easily reached by car" part. I guess it all depends on how you define "car", but the definition would rule out all the ones I happen to own. I couldn't really tell these cypress trees from other varieties, but then I was never very good at tree identification. Still, it was nice that someone gave them more than a passing thought.
I followed the road as it weaved north along the ridgeline, mostly on the southwest side, but sometimes on the inland side. There were flowers at a number of locations along the way, the cypresses giving way to more uniform covering of low chaparral. I found a newt plying the road, looking out of place. How it managed without water up here was a bit of a mystery. By 9:30a I was in sight of my two objectives. Though Tessajera BM was both higher and closer, I decided to leave it for later. The road traverses the peak well below the summit on the southwest side. Getting through the chaparral might prove difficult, so I wanted to have the advantage of seeing the peak from as many perspectives as possible in order to chose the least demanding brushfest. Tassajera suffers no such difficulty, the road going to towers atop its summit. In order to cut some distance off the spiraling route of the main road, I took the old jeep track up the southeast ridge, arriving at the top around 10:10a.
The highpoint is found outside the several fences that enclose the communication facilities, so there was no need to contemplate a breach of their defences. The highest point is actually within the base of a nest of trees at the summit, one of a handful of such clusters found in the area. There is a fine view to the Pacific Ocean, with Morro Rock just visible under the retreating fog. Santa Margarita can be seen to the east nestled in a wide valley surrounded by other portions of the National Forest. Cuesta College and the adjacent Mens Jail can be seen to the south, just peeking out from the residual fog. Not fifteen minutes later the lands to the south would be almost fog-free, providing a good view of the Morros stretching southwest from Morro Rock to Cerro San Luis Obispo towards the southeast.
Upon leaving the summit, I turned my attention to Tessajera BM. The view of the northwest side was not encouraging, looking every bit as impenetrable as it had on the satellite view earlier. There was no new road or trail that magically appeared. I was back to plan "A" which I had devised from the satellite view. There is a large clearing on the south side of the road, southeast of the summit. It appears that at least one route was clipped through the brush starting from here to reach the SE ridgeline where the brush is thinner and easier to negotiate. Alternatively, it appears one could start up from the start of the SE Ridge further east and follow a less brushy route there. I found the clipped route sufficient, although fairly overgrown by this time. From the start to the top was just over ten minutes, so I really have nothing to complain about. There was a good deal of poison oak growing along the ridgeline, but it was not hard to dance around it. I found the 1932 benchmark complete with the misspelling. I thought perhaps the topo map had simply misspelled "Tassajera", but in fact it was the benchmark itself that had made the error many years earlier. It was impossible to guess that I was standing 2ft higher than the other summit, so I'll just have to trust the surveyors on this one.
Back on TV Tower Rd a short time later, I resigned myself to the nearly two hour haul back to the start. A service truck heading to Tassajera Peak held the only human I saw on the route all day. A deer I startled a few minutes later was the only mammal I noted aside from a few assorted squirrels. It was 12:45p by the time I returned to Cuesta Pass where I had parked. Another two and half hours of driving would get me home to San Jose, marking the end of the roadtrip. Today's outing was the least interesting of the week, but I had no regrets. At least I wouldn't be thinking about TV Tower Rd from now on when I'm driving south on US101...
This page last updated: Thu Apr 25 09:03:11 2013
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