Cone Peak 4x P2K CC

Sat, Sep 14, 2019

With: Jackie Burd

Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile
previously climbed Wed, Feb 5, 2014

With the waning Summer, it was time for Jackie to head back to school at UCSB. I had been gone for most of the month and only had a few days with her before it was time for her to leave. She was taking her car with her to school this year, a 27yr-old Miata she and her brother had shared for much of the past 4-5yrs, a gift from Grandma that had once been Grandpa's pride and joy before he passed away. Mom wanted a last weekend with daughter before sending her off, so we had plans to say our goodbyes in Pismo Beach. Mom had reffing work until Saturday afternoon, giving Jackie and I most of the day together. So we made plans to go rock climbing in Pinnacles, then meet up with Mom in Pismo in the late afternoon. It was forecast to be 97F in Pismo, so we got an early start, hoping to beat the heat. We drove in the Miata, a bit cramped but workable. We'd left most of her stuff in Mom's car which we would later transfer to the Miata when we got to Pismo. It was already starting to warm when we got to Pinnacles around 8a, but still pleasant. A few other parties were already at nearby Tourist Trap as we walked up the trail. We hiked up to Discovery Wall where we unpacked our gear, only to find that Jackie had forgotten her belay device. I imagined ways we could do without one of these, but they would have involved rope tricks that would have complicated things. Since the rock climbing was more Jackie's thing than mine, I was happy to let it go. A hike along the coast would be just as fun to me, perhaps more so.

So we packed our stuff back up and left the park, heading south and west to get us to King City. From there we took Jolon Road through the Hunter-Liggett military base, a pleasant backroad that takes its time getting to the coast. This was fine with us since we had no where to be in any sort of a hurry. We caught sight of a bald eagle flying overhead, which on its own almost made the trip worthwhile. As we continued west on Nacimiento Rd, it occurred to me that we could hike the Cone Peak Trail, a route I'd been on several times already, but would be nice to share with Jackie. If I recall correctly, its the closest 5,000ft+ peak to the Pacific Ocean anywhere in CA/OR/WA, and has some pretty cool views. What I'd forgotten was that the TH is six miles off the pavement along a dusty road, not particularly suited for the low-clearance of a Miata, but one it could manage with care. It wasn't until 11:40a that we reached the TH and were ready to head out. Though less than three miles from the coast, it was quite warm here. Shade would be our welcome friend, but there is very little of it after the first half mile or so.

The trail winds its way up the south side of the mountain in about two and quarter miles, taking us a little over an hour. There are fine views looking west and south to the Pacific Ocean and the rugged Big Sur coast, though a bit hazy today due to the marine layer. There was another party already at the lookout when we arrived around 12:45p, with a welcome breeze blowing and plenty of shade provided by the lookout's roof. The lookout was closed today (as it's been on my three previous visits), and whether it's ever open I have no idea. Someone had left a small pile of change near the closed door with a note that rambled on about how neat it would be if others contributed to the pile until it was something larger. Of course that only works until the amount of money is more than any single visitor is willing to pass on. I suspect it will last a few days at most.

There were 3-4 other parties on their way up as we were heading down, showing just how popular this peak is. A few of these parties had done it the hard way, starting from Highway 1 at the Mill Creek TH or another similar one. They had backpacks and were sweating pretty good - clearly earning the peak far more than Jackie and I. I didn't even carry a daypack, letting Jackie carry our water, and looked like I was out on a Sunday (or in this case, Saturday) stroll. We got back before 2p to call it a day, Jackie seeming to enjoy it a good deal. We headed back to Nacimiento Rd and then continued west to the coast highway, driving this south to Morro Bay where we had a late lunch and eventually on to Pismo Beach. We drove past Hearst Castle, the elepant seals, sleepy coastal towns and countless stunning coastal views along the way, sharing the popular highway with the hundreds of other drivers on a beautiful September Saturday. Quite a change from the Colorado mountains I had been recently immersed in, to be sure...


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