Timber Top
Michaels Hill
Anderson Peak P750 CC
Marble Peak

Mon, Oct 4, 2010
Etymology
Timber Top
Michaels Hill
Anderson Peak
Marble Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 Profile

I had three free days while the kids were both away at science camps with school and Mom busy with her reffing schedule in the afternoons/evenings. I would have headed to the Sierra again, save for a dreary forcast that had rain and or snow on tap for much of the week. In fact much of the state was in the same predicament, the result of unsettled weather coming in from the south through Baja and covering most of the southern half of the state. The reports for the coast were better, so I decided to head to Big Sur and the Ventana area. There were some CC-listed peaks in the southern half of the Santa Lucia Range that I put on the agenda, along with some other nearby peaks as well.

I had planned to get up early so I could drive the two hours in the dark and be ready for a sunrise start, but things didn't work out that way. I lazily stayed in bed until 6a, getting up with the rest of the family and leaving about the same time as they were heading off to school and work. I didn't manage to get started on the hike until nearly 9:30a.

My route to CC-listed Anderson Peak would follow 6-7 miles of the Coast Ridge Rd that runs some 30 miles or so along the high ridgeline following the coast (but then you guessed that from the road's name, didn't you?). Not wanting to hike it from the start in the north, I found a helpful online map that pointed out several options. The one I settled on would take me up to Timber Top, and from there south about six miles to Anderson Peak. I loaded a coordinate for the start location into my GPS and used this to find the point along SR1. It worked like a charm. There is ample parking on both sides of the road here, shaded by some trees on the west side of the road. There was one other vehicle parked here when I arrived, but I saw no other hikers the entire day.

A gate across this old dirt road is simply marked as USFS property, no other signs indicating it as a trailhead. It has been some years since a vehicle last drove on the road, and the trail become a thin thread of trampled grass making its way to the ridge top. It is beautifully open grass slopes with unobstructed views of the coast, ocean, and surrounding country, with none of the thick chaparral found on adjacent slopes. There are some old fenceposts in places, but no active fences that I could find other than the one along the highway. Cattle grazing still looks to be done here.

A little more than an hour brought me to a second gate just before reaching the Coast Ridge Rd. The gate leads to the old Timber Top campsite, little more than a picnic bench and some cut up firewood stacked nearby. A sign indicates simply, "Timber Top" near a cut pine. I hiked to the top of this hill about 50 yards away, not at all satisfying for a summit with mostly obstructed views. There is a second point just to the north that is shown on the map with the same number of contours, so I visited that before satisfying myself I had been to Timber Top (I think the southern summit is highest, fwiw). I dropped down to the road and started the long hike south.

The weather was overcast with clouds blowing in over the ridge and summits periodically, mostly with hazy views, but occasionally clear inland. I hiked for another hour to reach the junction with Cold Springs, indicated with several signs on either sidenorth end of Lockwood Ridge lies Mt. Olmstead, a nicely situated summit overlooking the Big Sur River. I made a mental note to pay it a visit sometime in the future. There were also views to Black Cone to the southeast, another peak on my Ventana todo list. That would be a more arduous undertaking, judging by the amount of cross-country travel involved to reach it.

As I neared Michaels Hill, really a crescent-shaped portion of the coast ridge about a mile from the Cold Springs junction, I veered right off the road and scrambled to the top of the ridge just north of Peak 3,840ft. It isn't clear on the 7.5' topo map which is the highest of two possibilities, so I planned to tag both 'just to be sure'. Dead snags from past fires stood sentinel, unwilling to fall back to earth just yet, while the undergrowth was vigorously reclaiming the surface. Thistles of all types stuck to my boots and socks as I plied my way along the ridgeline. I would have several sessions of thorn removing before the day was done. Peak 3,840ft was a bigger disappointment than Timber Top and I wasted no time in continuing south. Ten minutes later I was atop Peak 3,861ft and judging from the view on both summits, this one appears to be the highest. It has a clear view looking south and southwest, better than the previous point, but unfortunately the clouds were thickest in that direction and the best that could be obtained was a fuzzy view to Anderson Peak. I continued down the ridge heading south, picking up a use trail and intersecting the road once again five minutes later. There were several small water tanks at this point along the road, remnants of an old homestead that once stood nearby. For anyone interested in the easiest way to Michaels Hill, this use trail starting behind the water tank is the best bet.

I spent the next 50 minutes making my way along the road to Anderson Peak. Like Michaels Hill, I didn't find the easiest way until I came back down. I took the higher road on the left at the first fork on the north side of Anderson. This lead to an installation with several buildings on the northwest side of the peak, surrounded by difficult fencing. Hopping the fence would do no good since it did not encompass the summit area. I turned left and bushwhacked up through an overgrown roadbed, up a grassy slope and then onto the flat summit of Anderson Peak. The summit had been bulldozed for an aviation VOR installation used by planes navigating up and down the coast area. A second installation surrounded by the same fencing is found on the south side of the summit, but I saw no easy way to get back down to the road. Taking to more bushwhacking, I threaded my way off the south side just west of the fenceline until I reached another spur road some 100ft down the slope. This spur led back to the main ridge road with a sign found here to distinguish the two nearby peaks. If one follows this sign to Anderson Peak and then takes another spur on the left before reaching the fenced installation, the road will lead to the summit on the southwest side of the peak, without the bushwhacking.

Another mile further south along the road was the last peak of the day, Marble Peak. One first passes through the gated Marble Peak Ranch, no bikes allowed, but hiking OK, then finds the unsigned Marble Peak Trail just north of the summit. There is a trail mileage sign on the opposite of the road nearby, as a way to help locate it. The trail unfortunately does not go to the summit, but instead drops down the east side of the peak and into the heart of the Ventana Wilderness. I followed the trail until it started downhill, then bushwhacked my way up to the summit, aided in places by a faint use trail that threaded through the ugliest parts of the brush.

As the name suggests, the summit rocks are composed of marble and limestone rock, whitish in color. The views are fairly decent in three directions, north, south, and east, but again the cloud cover made obtaining those views rather difficult. I saw no register on any of the four summits I visited, leaving none, either.

What took me 4.5 hours on the way up took only 3 hours on the return, thanks to the lack of bushwhacking required on the way back along with a bit of jogging once I started down from Timber Top. It was just before 5p when I returned to the trailhead, leaving me a few hours of daylight before the sun would disappear. I found a nice grassy spot off the highway and mostly out of view that I used to take a rinse with a jug of some lukewarm water I'd left on the dash. I then drove south with the intention of finding a place to sleep for the night somewhere near the trailhead for Mt. Mars. But during the drive I got the idea in my head of driving up Nacimiento Rd and hiking to Twin Peak near Cone Peak, a peak I had neglected to hike when I first visited the latter. The problem was that there is no maintained trail to Twin Peak and I had no map with me. Would I be able to find my way there?

I recalled my first visit to Cone Peak was in the fog and I had no views whatsoever. I only knew that Twin was somewhere west or northwest of Cone. I drove the 7 miles of pavement up Nacimiento Rd, then turned left on the good dirt Cone Peak Road. I drove past the Cone Peak Trail TH at mile six, then a few more miles to the end of the road, not really sure where it went to. There I encountered another vehicle and a gentleman who got out to welcome me to the End of the Road. I explained my purpose and wondered if he might have a map of the area. No map, sadly, but the gentleman turned out to be Robert Parks who was there to do trail maintenance. I'd never heard of him before, but later found he's one of the moderators on the VWA site and one of the more knowledgable guys on Ventana trails. He gave me a verbal description of how to find the use trail off the Cone Peak Trail along with another alternative that I couldn't remember. After our bit of chat, I drove back to the Cone Peak Trail TH to spend the night. A dinner of sushi and soup would suffice for the day's replenishing. I went to bed around 8p with plans to get up at first light to start my hunt for Twin Peak.

Continued...


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