Frog Pond Mountain P900
Peak 2,060ft P750
Villa 2 BM P300

Jun 16, 2017
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 3 Profiles: 1 2 3

Frog Pond Mountain

There are days when your sickness is presented to you with crystal clarity. I knew ahead of time that the hike I had in mind would provide little joy. It was forecasted to be 86F when I started at 1p, but turned out to be 94F. It would be 96F when I finished. Frog Pond Mtn, besides being a rather silly name, is covered in heavy chaparral, the kind that makes the mountain mahogany I ran into in Nevada look trivial. I would suffer the slings and arrows of all that the mountain could throw at me, all so that I could tick off another CA P900, something that would make no sense to any of my family members and make little impression even on my peakbagging friends. Clearly, this is a sickness.

Frog Pond Mtn is located in San Luis Obispo County, west of Atascadero, off SR41. There is a gated community called Summit Hills on the north side of the mountain. Having done my homework, I knew there was a gap at the gate that would allow pedestrians and cyclists through, so I brought the mountain bike to ride as much of it as I could. Though it was brutally hot, I did well to ride a mile and a half up the pavement, climbing 800ft in the process. I knew which forks to take to get me to an undeveloped lot on the crest of the mountain northwest of the summit. So far so good. With another half a mile to go, things were looking good. I found an old trail, now badly ovegrown that gave me hope that it might not be so bad. I had seen this in the satellite view and expected it to get me within 1/8mi from the summit. Within the first 50yds on this trail I found three ticks on my clothing and a bunch of poison oak I had to dance around. I stopped to flick the ticks off me and consider my position. Maybe I wouldn't get to the summit after all. Having to duck and nearly crawl in places, the ticks would be able to hop aboard almost any part of my body, making it difficult to keep them in check. I caught a break in that these were the only ticks I would see - not sure why they were all at the start, but I was relieved they wouldn't be a constant menace. The poison oak would not be so bad either, but there was still plenty that I had to watch for all the way to the summit. I had brought clippers which I used to help blaze, or rather re-blaze the trail that was difficult to follow. The stiff, thorny brush tore at my clothes and skin, drawing blood even though little skin was openly exposed.

Cresting one rise, I caught sight of the summit 1/3mi ahead with the expected home on the north side, about 75yds off the crest. I saw a guy outside working on a gas-powered weed-whacker. It would start, then die, he'd fiddle with it and try again. I didn't know if his property extended to my route or what he'd do if he spotted me, but it seemed prudent to keep out of sight and sound as much as possible. Some of the heaviest brush I encountered was found where the trail ended at the nearest point to the guy's property. I could hear him fiddling about, tossing tins and equipment, sounding very close. I didn't want to crash through the brush here, figuring he'd hear me for sure, so I quietly as possible took to clipping a trail more thoroughly, hoping he'd get that weed-whacker fired up so that I could make more noise. Sweat was dripping off my face, my throat was coarse and dry, I was hunched over to keep out of sight below the top of the brush and it was not lost on me how ridiculous I was. And sick. Very sick. I heard rattling in the brush and stopped dead to listen - was he coming over to investigate? The rattling got closer and I suspected it was some animal in the brush. I was really hoping it wasn't a rattlesnake slithering underfoot - that would have really made my day right there - and probably got me to wet my pants in the process. I never did see anything and I went back to listening. I heard a starter turning and a vehicle's engine coming to life. Ah! He was going for a drive, maybe to a repair shop or something, but he would be gone momentarily. Once I could no longer hear the car, I started up again, clipping and thrashing at a fast pace - got to get to the summit and back before he returns. A few minutes later my clippers broke - the second pair I've lost in the same fashion, by cutting dry branches too large for the clippers. This turned out to be a good thing because once I stopped clipping, I made much faster progress just by stomping through the brush. It tore my clothes and I up more than ever, but I was making good headway now.

It took me a full hour to go 4/10th of a mile, but I made it to the summit. The views were nothing special - Cerro Alto to the south, hazy Atascaero to the northeast. I collected some rocks to make a small cairn to leave a register in, then beat a retreat. I used the GPSr to make sure I followed the route closely so I didn't end up thrashing a second trail through the stuff. I stopped often to check the device when I could see no trace of my route. Not surprisingly, I made much better time on the return and the bike ride down was actually enjoyable - really the only fun part of the outing. The bad stuff would start to fade out from my memory. In a week I'll remember it as a fine outing. It's a sickness.

Peak 2,060ft

After the last bit of work, almost anything else would be easy, by comparison. This unnamed summit is located 3mi due west of Frog Pond Mtn. The mileage and gain are similar to those for Frog Pond, about 2.5mi and 1,100ft. No bushwhacking needed for this one. Though the summit is located within the Los Padres NF, the only reasonable access is through private property. An unsigned dirt/gravel road off SR41 takes you to a three-way junction in half a mile, all three forks gated. The ones on either side have electric gates leading to residences. The middle one goes to multiple properties, not heavily used. The gate is secured with a series of locks, one for each landowner or agency with access (there are high voltage towers accessed through here). I tossed the bike over the gate and started riding up. I could have ridden all but the last half mile, where a fork of the roads I followed ended at one of the towers. My pedal was coming loose well before this, and without a wrench to tighten it, I abandoned the bike to the side and walked the remaining distance. A couple of large, wooden tikis planted along the roadway and some interesting signage suggested the area was (or maybe still is) some sort of gun club. At the tower, an old jeep road, now just an overgrown trail, leads steeply upwards to the summit. It ends in a small clearing at the top. I was hoping it might continue along the ridgeline for another mile to Dark Range Peak, a bonus to the northwest, but from the satellite view I knew it would be a very overgrown route, at best. In fact, there was no continuation of any sort - just a wall of thick brush. I took some photos of the surrounding views (better than the last one) - Frog Pond to the east, Cerro Alto to the southeast, Morro Bay to the south. I returned much the same way, finding a slightly shorter return that bypassed an old shooting range I had passed by on the way up, picked up the bike and rode it back down. I was surprised to find the gate open as I rode back through it - apparently I had lucked out and missed whoever had recently driven in. Dodged another potential bullet there.

Villa 2 BM

For the last hike, I drove down SR41 to the coast and the Harmony Headlands State Park. What a different ten miles can make. The temperature dropped steadily the closer I got to the coast, from 95F down to 62F by the time I parked at the entrance. Nice! This was a far more relaxing hike, only about 3mi total with barely 400ft of gain. There is a single trail through the park, an old ranch road leading through low grasslands and down towards the rocky shore in a few miles. I turned off about halfway along the road to follow a very old jeep track south up to the park boundary near the highpoint at Villa 2 BM. Cows grazed on the other side of an electric fence, not much concerned by my presence. I found the benchmark at the flattened summit area with a fine view looking north along the coast, the Harmony Headlands dropping down to the rock-studded shoreline to the west. I followed another old trail down to the north from the summit, then followed deer tracks back to the road. A very enjoyable way to end what started out as a very tough day...

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