Chalk Peak P500
Peak 3,503ft
Peak 3,410ft P500

Oct 12, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profiles: 1 2


I was a bit beaten and bruised from the previous day's romp through the Dolon burn area in the Santa Lucia Range, but had enough fight left in me for another day. I would get similarly smacked around today, but would not make the planned third day. That would wait for later in the week.

Chalk Peak - Peak 3,503ft

I had attempted to climb Chalk Peak back in 2014, a short hike from the South Coast Ridge Rd, but it was late in the day, the chaparral was tough and there was too much poison oak. The 2020 Dolon Fire had taken care of the last two problems, at least for a few years until it grows back with the usual vengeance. Unrelated, rough winter rains had washed out the Ferguson-Nacimiento Rd in a dozen places, closing it along with the South Coast Ridge Rd for the past two years. Nacimiento Rd was open on the east side to the Nacimiento Campground, but I would have a longish hike to reach Chalk Peak. I had originally considered an all cross-country route directly up from the campground, but when I had viewed the slopes and ridges from Peak 3,442ft the prevoius day, had found they had not burned as completely as I'd hoped. I came up with a new plan that would hike the paved road for 2.5mi with a 0.6mi cross-country shortcut to reach South Coast Ridge Rd. This worked well enough, but was not an easy effort.

It was just barely light enough to see when I started off from campground around 6:30a. I spent 45min hiking the road as the new day gradually dawned. I was surprised how much darker it was down in the canyon - steep canyon walls block much of the sky, and trees shaded most of what was left. I went past two places where the road had been partially washed out. It looks like there has been plenty of work to remove debris from the roadway, but so far, no efforts to shore up or repair the washouts. The sun was just shining on the tops of the ridges when it was time for me to start up on the cross-country shortcut. It would save me about 2.1mi of additional road walking, but probably wasn't much faster. I spent about 40min on the 2/3mi of steep cross-country, working through some poison oak, burned snags and such. Once on the Coast Rd, most of the elevation gain was done and I could relax for a while. I enjoyed the easy hike along the road for about 1.7mi, with some elevation gain and loss, but easy gradients. There were great views of the Pacific Ocean 3,000ft+ below to the west, down through the Mill Creek drainage. I had some difficulty picking out my two summits with the harsh glare of the morning sun hanging over them to the east, but the GPSr would sort things out. When I was nearly due west of Chalk Peak, I looked for a place to start the cross-country to the summit. Not everything had burned in the fire, so I had to pick a line carefully to avoid the brunt of a bad brushthrashing. I found a line through burned sections that kept me from the nasty stuff, finding it took only 15min from the road to cover the 1/4mi distance to the summit. There was a glass jar laying on the ground, no protection from the sun, nothing to save it from the next fire. It was left by Powen Ru a few months earlier. Seems he hiked it from the coast, a much more arduous way to do it, so props for that. After signing my name, I dug a small hole to at least partially bury the jar, enough to (mostly) keep the sun's UV rays from damaging the paper. Nothing will keep it from incineration in the next fire, however. In addition to the Pacific views, the summit offers views northwest to Cone Peak, north to Peak 3,503ft, east and south overlooking vast stretches of the Los Padres NF.

I retreated from the summit via the same route, then walked about half a mile back north along the Coast Rd until I was southwest of Peak 3,503ft, about 1/4mi away. I was about to start on this next cross-country section, but found my gloves missing when I went to put them on. Seems they fell out somewhere along the roadway since I packed them away (poorly) after getting done with Chalk Peak. I ended up retracing 3/4 of the road I'd hiked before I found them, then back to Peak 3,503ft. Most everything on this peak had burned, but stuff was growing back with a vengeance, particularly the manzanita, scotch broom, buckthorn and poison oak. A few tiny pine seedlings could also be found. There was some dancing around the poison oak, but it still took less than 15min to get to the summit. No register on this summit, but there was no safe place to leave one, I didn't bother with one of mine. Good view south to Chalk Peak and north to Peak 3,442ft, one of the peaks I'd done the previous day. I took an alternate route on the decent to the WNW, one I thought might save me some time. It turned out brushier than the ascent route and slower. Once back on the Coast Rd, I retraced my steps north along the road, down the same shortcut to the pavement below, then back to the Nacimiento campground. The outing wasn't quite 11mi, but I was limping badly for the last mile or so - sucks getting old. This leg has been problematic for the last month and seems to be taking its sweet time in healing. Oddly, it only seems problematic when I'm hiking trails or roads, relatively flat. No problem with the steep uphill or downhill. I was of half a mind to call it day at this point (almost noon), but the other half said, "but the next one is all uphill and downhill - no trail or road!". Guess which half won out?

Peak 3,410ft

This summit is found along the same east-west ridge I'd hiked the previous afternoon on the north side of Nacimiento Rd. It's also almost entirely within the Hunter-Liggett military reservation, not exactly a legal summit, but it's so remote that there's almost no chance of getting noticed. The peak has more than 600ft of prominence, standing out nicely on the ridgeline. My route is probably the shortest at 1.6mi, but may not be the fastest nor easiest. I came to find there are old roads on other ridgelines that may help some, or maybe not at all - depending on how much stuff has grown up over the past decades. My starting point was from Nacimiento Rd, up a side drainage that had spilled much debris on the roadway back during the heavy rainstorms. I hiked up this (now) dry creekbed for perhaps 1/4mi before starting up Peak 3,410ft's SW Ridge. There was some poison oak in the creekbed, but nothing that couldn't be easily avoided - the fire had done a good job of cleaning out the drainage, though it seems to grow back fast. The ridge is consistently steep, though not dangerously so. The charred snags were thick in some places, nearly absent in others. I was a bit worried to find that sections of the ridges had only partially burned, including much of the west side in the upper portions of the ridge. Luckily, the east sides had burned for the most part, leaving only a few very short sections of unburned chaparral that I had to pass through. As hoped, my limp went away with the uphill grind, the leg behaving as if nothing had been wrong to start with, something my mind had simply made up. Who knows? There were sections of limestone that offered a break from the snags, not exactly memorable scrambling, but a nice change of pace. Just below the summit I came across the remnants of the old road/firebreak that once graced the main ridgeline, the same one I had hiked the previous day further west. It still shows on the top maps, but it's been decades since anything has driven on it. It was curious to find about 3-4 rusting tins along the ridge during the ascent. Once I got to the summit, I found a dozen more, and realized they were probably from soldiers during exercises back in the day. It doesn't look like this part of the reservation sees such activity anymore, not in a long time. Besides the two I'd climbed the previous day, there were two other summits within about 1.5mi, one to the north, the other to the east. They are connected by various ridgelines to Peak 3,410ft, with old roads running along them. It would have been better to consider them as part of an all-day outing, rather than as part of my afternoon hike. I'm sure my leg would have acted up again once I started walking the roads, so better to keep them in mind for some future outing. The summit rocks I was perched on were also limestone, offering a good place to leave a register without having to worry about fire damage. After about 10-15min atop the summit, I gathered my stuff for the return. I briefly considered the alternate route to the west where I could see a road running down the ridge, but decided to stick with the known route. Where it had taken more than 2hrs for the ascent, the return went much smoother, only an hour and a quarter needed to get back to the pavement and the Jeep. It was 3:30p by now, and time to call it a day and head for home...

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