Salinas BM P500
Peak 1,740ft P300
Tessajera BM 3x P1K
Tassajera Peak 2x P300

May 9, 2024
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2
Tessajera BM previously climbed Feb 23, 2018
Tassajera Peak previously climbed Mar 28, 2013
Tassajera Peak later climbed May 10, 2024

Mother's Day and our son's graduation were converging in May, so I combined these in a roadtrip to Southern California. Mother's day would be in Pismo Beach with daughter, then graduation in LA on Wednesday. Mom would be driving to Pismo with Jackie on Friday afternoon, so I took Thursday to head down to San Luis Obispo County for some peakbagging in the afternoon. I picked out a couple of summits around Santa Margarita Lake that I might be able to do. Both are located on private property, but the hikes would be short, less than a mile to either summit. Neither had any reported ascents on PB or LoJ, so I had only the info I could glean from Google Maps.

Salinas BM

The summit benchmark is named for the Salinas River which flows around three sides of the mountain, downstream from the lake, giving the mountain more than 700ft of prominence. Paved Las Pilitas Rd runs along the south side of the mountain, with a spur utility road running a quarter mile up the SE Ridge to a transmission tower. I parked near the locked gate, signed for No Trespassing, but easy to walk around. The road shows nicely on the satellite view, but hasn't seen traffic in a few years. Above the tower, an old firebreak shown on the topo map runs up to the summit. It is pretty overgrown and hard to see on the satellite view, but it works well for foot traffic. The bushwhacking was mild, most of it easy to push aside, and thankfully no poison oak to worry about. It took a little over 30min to reach the summit in less than a mile, with open views in all directions. I found no benchmark at the expected point, but with some searching around, I found it upside down a short distance downslope - seems the bulldozer making the firebreak simply ran it over. I put it back at the summit with some other rocks and a register I left there. I took some pictures looking east to the La Panza Range, then south and east to the much larger Santa Lucia Range. I returned the same way.

Peak 1,740ft

This minor summit is found on the west side of the lake, just outside the state recreation area. There are a few homes at the base and one near the summit. The latter cannot be easily seen in the satellite view, just southwest of the highpoint. I paid the $12 vehicle fee and parked in one of the campground spots near the start of the Rocky Trail. I think it might be free to enter on foot or bike, so one could save the fee by parking some distance down the entrance road. The scenic Rocky Trail is open to equestrians and bicycles, but I saw no one on my visit save three elderly hikers that turned around after less than 100ft on the trail. The trail winds around the southwest side of the lakeshore before climbing to a viewspot above the dam in about a mile. From there, an old road goes south for 2/3mi to the summit. This was the route I'd planned to use, but as I started on the trail, I noted the highpoint was only about 1/3mi above me and the slope looked to be grass and oaks the whole way. This shortcut worked out nicely, going over an unsigned boundary fence, up to a dirt road near the summit (a home to the east is in view for some of the route), which can be followed almost to the top. A short bit of cross-country is needed to reach the highpoint. I stayed to the north side in approaching the highpoint to stay out of view of the home I spied on the other side of the summit. There is a view to the lake from under the oak canopy and a rickety picnic bench just south of the highpoint that has seen better days. I stayed only a few seconds to take photos and beat a retreat back the way I came. About 40min for the roundtrip effort.

Cuesta Overlook

I spent a few hours at a Starbucks in Atascadero to wait out the warmer hours of the afternoon, then drove up TV Tower Rd in the Santa Lucia Range, west of Cuesta Pass along US101. I'd been up this road on several previous occasions, most recently in 2018. At that time, the old pavement, badly potholed, had been removed and the dirt road nicely graded, easily navigated in my van at the time. Since then, the road has seen some degradation and high-clearance is recommended. I figured this would be a good place to camp for the and maybe tag a few easy summits. Cuesta Overlook is a short distance off the roadway, but not exactly trivial. There is a trail off the road (easily seen in the satellite view) that gets one within about 150ft of the highpoint. The remaining distance is an awful whack through dry, over-head brush. A stupid "summit".

Tessajera BM

This is the highpoint of the miles-long ridgeline running northwest from Cuesta Pass. There is a use trail from the southeast, about 1/3mi in length to take you to the summit. It is occasionally maintained and I had no trouble with it today. There is some poison oak, but not enough to be a problem unless you accidently brush against it. Views are quite spectacular, but today there was a good deal of marine haze. This was my 3rd time visiting the summit, so this was really just gratuitous stat-padding (as was the next one).

Tassajera Peak

This is the end of the road, about a mile northwest of the previous summit. The road continues, but is gated and appears to be permanently so. I was able to drive to the very top, finding the highpoint in some rocks and shrubs amongst the collection of telecom towers about the summit. I decided this would be a good place to spend the night - both quiet, and it would let me pad my stats further the next morning with an additional ascent.


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