Devils Ridge BM
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The Irish Hills are a set of modest hills along the California coast between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo Bay. They are characterized by chaparral and oak woodlands, some pines, much brush, and an ungodly amount of poison oak. The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, CA's last such power station, is located on the coast in this range. Transmission lines run in various directions from the plant, crossing the hills heading north to San Luis Obispo and west to Five Cities. A network of utility roads service the various transmission towers throughout the range. There are public parks on the west (Montana de Oro) and east (Irish Hills Natural Reserve), but most of the range is not open to the public. Still, there are ways to get into the interior of the range if one doesn't mind a bit of trespassing. The utility roads are well-maintained and good for biking or hiking, and it's unlikely you will see anyone else out there.
In Pismo Beach with my wife for a few days, Devils Ridge BM had caught my attention as the fourth highest and third most prominent peak in the range. She wanted to visit San Luis Obispo, so I got her to save me time and a lot of work by dropping me off at the gate found at the junction of Prefumo and See Canyon Rds. It's a long-ish drive up from US101 on a narrow, winding road in See Canyon. There is winetasting and apple orchards, but mostly rural homesteads along most of its length. The gate where she dropped me off was signed for "Right to pass by permission" which I suspect means I'm supposed to have permission beforehand. A couple of garbage containers told me there are folks living up the road. From the satellite view, it looked like they are located about half a mile up the road, right near the junction with the utility road climbing out of Prefumo Canyon. I took my chances and rode in, finding a couple of homes but no one outside. I turned left onto the utility road and found no sign of others living above the canyon. I passed through a second gate about a mile up the road, this one simply signed, "utility gate." I lifted the bike over the gate and continued up the road for several more miles. Fog drifted over and through the hills today, so not really good views, but at least it was nice and cool for so much uphill work.
When I reached the SE side of Devils Ridge BM, I turned onto a spur road and ditched the bike near the transmission tower it serviced, leaving me about 1/5mi remaining to the summit. I immediately found a thin use trail marked by pink flagging. I noticed that a number of the oak trees had been tagged with small metal discs, so likely the flagging was done by an environmental concern, not a fellow peakbagger. While there was plenty of poison oak littering the ground, it was hardly the heavy carpeting I'd encountered the previous evening, and it was possible to make my way to the summit without stepping on much of it. I found the summit more open than the satellite view showed. Seems someone had been up here and cleared out a line of brush along the North and West Ridges, possibly as a firebreak. New growth has already started to reclaim the ridges.
After returning to the bike, I started back along the utility road, noting a second peak I might be able to visit. As I was descending to a small saddle, I found a white pickup truck parked near one of the transmission towers, its driver outside taking photos of the tower with his Ipad. He was a young guy of maybe 30yrs and I stopped for a short conversation. This was his fourth day working out here and I was the first other person he'd seen. He had no idea whether it was ok for me to be there or not, but declared that he personally didn't care. We got along just fine. He was curious what I was doing and how often I visited. I was riding with hiking boots and long pants, so it made sense to him when I told him I was out climbing a few peaks in the area. We would run into each other a few more times - seems I knew my way around the roads better than he did. He took more than one wrong turn trying to get from one tower to the next.
I turned off onto another spur that would take me past Peak 1,627ft, about half a mile from the main road. I parked at another junction on the north side of the peak, leaving me about 1/4mi to the summit along the curving NE Ridge. This had some heavy brush to start that almost had me aborting, but it soon gave way to easier ground under the oak canopy that continued the rest of the way to the summit. Again, there were no views, but I hadn't really expected any. I was just happy that I could get to the top without wading through heavy poison oak.
After returning again to the bike, it was time to call it a day and head back to Pismo Beach. This involved more than 15mi of riding, though most of it was downhill or flat, getting me back before 1p, for an outing taking about 3.5hrs (probably an additional hour had I started from Pismo Beach). That was all the hiking and peaks I had planned for the visit, so it was time to turn my attention to my better half...
This page last updated: Thu Jul 2 18:26:54 2020
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