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Valencia Peak later climbed Sat, Apr 14, 2012|
Oats Peak later climbed Sat, Apr 14, 2012
Leaving Pismo Beach at 1:50p, it took some 40 minutes to drive north towards San Luis Obispo on US101, then west on Los Osos Valley Rd. Though somewhat remote, the park seems to be pretty popular judging by the number of cars and people I saw in the park on this holiday weekend. The trails in the park are geared primarily for equestrians (and there were quite a few horse trailers throughout the park), secondarily for bikers and hikers. A primary draw is a protected beach called Spooner's Cove near park headquarters, with maybe a hundred beach goers enjoying their Sunday afternoon as I drove by. While I had been in Pismo Beach, I had been curious by several signs giving Siren Information, telling you what radio frequency to turn to if a siren sounds. I had thought that these were leftovers from the Cold War era, but here in the park there were more signs and it was prominently displayed on the park map. Reading further, one finds that the "emergencies" in the park for which the sirens are designed cover hazardous material spills, tidal waves, fire, or an emergency at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. The first four are just covers - what other parts of California's coast have tidal wave warning sirens? It is the nuclear power plant that had caused the sirens to be installed, though that seems to be downplayed. The power plant lies a few miles south of the park along an isolated part of the coast sheltered from all land views. If there was a release of nuclear material from the plant, I suppose the sirens would give you enough time to say your prayers before your skin starts to tingle and you develop cancer ten years later.
Near as I can tell, the park lies along three ridgelines running roughly northwest-southeast from the Pacific Ocean inland about 7-8 miles. The route I ran/hiked long was the middle of these three, starting from the Badger Trail TH. I picked this route for no other reason that Valencia Peak and Oats Peak are on some peak list or other - pretty arbitrary really. I left the TH at 2:25p, climbing a short ridge to Badger Camp, and environmental campsite ("environmental" means no water, I think). It is a lovely little hill with the only trees for some distance around, and a fine view of the ocean. There were a couple tents set up there when I went by. I veered off the maintained trail and followed an old jeep trail that took a more direct line for the West Ridge of Valencia Peak, and I followed the ridge up to the summit. I passed a couple who paused to watch me job by in the 90F heat of the afternoon. "You're crazy," was all she could think of, which got a chuckle out of me and a reply to the effect, "Yes, I've been called that before..."
At the summit I found three guys hanging out, having arrived not long before. I did a fast job of taking in the views in all directions (SW - W - N - E), signing the summit log I found there (it was only a few months old and already had many entries), and then bidding the others adieu. I took the East Ridge down from the summit, a short-cut of sorts to intersect the maintained trail that skirts the north side of Valencia. A thin use trail was extremely helpful, in fact it probably would have been impossible without it - the chaparral covering the hillsides here are virtually impenetrable. It had taken only half an hour to climb Valencia, and about another half hour to make it to Oats Peak. The trail is thinner beyond here, seeing fewer visitors. Though slightly higher than Valencia, the views (W - N) on Oats are no better than Valencia and lack the fine views of the Pacific. I decided to continue east heading for Alan Peak. From the map it looked like it would take 40-45min, but after only 20 minutes I came upon a knoll with a sign indicating Alan Peak. I was suspicious, not really believing the sign, though from the graffitti it looked to be 20+yrs old. I wondered if the government moved the sign in recent years as a ploy to thwart would-be terrorists looking for a backcountry route to the nuclear power plant. That seemed far-fetched - I decided it was probably just misplaced. Interestingly, a trail continued east from the sign along the ridge and I began to follow this. I had another 15 minutes before I needed to turn around, so I thought I'd see where it went. It was barely more used than an animal trail one finds out here, but the chaparral had been pruned back to allow a person to make his way through, though I was often hunched over to half my height to get through the underbrush. No horse trail, I wonder if the park service had groomed this trail to the real Alan Peak on the eastern boundary of the park. I followed it for as long as my time allowed, but I came up short by maybe a quarter mile of reaching Alan Peak. It was a bit of a puzzle how and why this trail was maintained in it's odd state, but I wasn't going to solve it today.
I retraced my route to Oats Peak, then took a left turn down a trail leading to Coon Creek. I followed this trail to its terminus at the end of the paved road, then followed the paved road for another mile and half or so until I got back to my car at 5:20p. Total time was just about three hours. I made it back to Pismo beach within 5 minutes of my expected return time, so overall I did pretty good at time management. It would have been nice to have another half hour to explore the rest of the Alan Peak Trail, but perhaps another time - I think I'll come back in the spring next time when the wild flowers are out and the weather cooler.
After reviewing the maps a good deal when I got home, I'm fairly certain that Alan Peak summit sign is misplaced.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Valencia Peak
This page last updated: Thu Jul 2 10:47:29 2009
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