Indian Knob
Islay Hill P300 CC

Tue, Jun 16, 2009

With: Ryan Burd

Indian Knob
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2

Ryan wasn't too happy about this hike with Dad, at least at the start. He'd been given a choice of going on a run or going on a hike, but was determined to let me know that he didn't really consider that much of a choice. Oh well, at least Dad would get the satisfaction of seeing his son get some exercise.

Indian Knob is the only named peak in a small group of hills between San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach on the east side of US101. Everything I knew about it I gleaned from the 7.5' topo and Google Maps. Google showed paved roads leading up where only dirt roads were shown on the older topo, so it seemed encouraging. The hike itself would be little more than a mile from the end of the pavement.

What I hadn't noticed (and would have been difficult to discern from Google) was that the relatively new collection of expensive homes was a private community complete with a large, gated entrance. We found this shortly after we got off US101 at San Luis Bay Dr and drove north about half a mile. It so happened that another vehicle was just in front of us and they stopped at the gate to use their magnetic card that actuated the gate. We paused there for a moment as the other car drove through, thinking the gate would close behind it. But it didn't do so immediately, and in the pause I decided to follow on through. Ryan's jaw dropped slightly, surprised at this unexpected move. This wasn't going to be the boring hike he expected.

We drove through the community like we owned the place, waving to our neighbors as they waved back at us. It would have been more convincing if we hadn't made several wrong turns that forced us to turn around at the end of a cul-de-sac or in someone's driveway. I didn't expect our luck to hold out, but the pavement nicely ended just around the corner from the last house, actively under construction, keeping us out of view. A use trail took off into the brush from our starting point and it looked like our luck would continue.

We wasted no time in getting our boots on, grabbing our gear, locking the car and heading out before someone from the construction site could mosey over to see what we were up to. The trail, an old 4x4 road, was wide and well-groomed, probably maintained by one of the local residents. When we encountered the first of several barbed wire fences and No Trespassing signs, Ryan began to warm up to the outing. Nothing like a bit of forbidden fruit to liven things up. Under the fence we went.

The trail ended after a half a mile where it joined a dirt road. This we follwed for a quarter of a mile to a junction. Taking the left fork, we followed it around the northwest side of Indian Knob before it started to drop in elevation. I consulted the map to find that neither this fork nor the other one actually went to the summit, but around to the southeast side where there were some old mines or drill holes. We went back to the fork to look for a use trail. The map showed another old 4x4 road along the ridgeline, so it seemed the most likely spot.

Sure enough, we found an opening into the chaparral that we had missed earlier. It led along the ridge, brushy in places, nice and open in others. It took us past a small fenced enclosure complete with gate (purpose unknown), through an open area where we momentarily got lost and wandered off a few disappearing side trails, past an old power pole that sported a two-prong outlet, no longer functioning, and finally on to the summit.

Happily it sported an open, rocky outcrop that gave us some views into the surrounding country. A survey marker embedded nearby told us we were at the right location. The hike had taken us just over thirty minutes. We rested here a few minutes before starting our way back.

It took just over twenty minutes to retrace our steps, seeing no one at all along the way. We had more trouble finding our way out, taking more wrong turns along the twisty roads that ply the hills. More stares from suddenly concerned residents that they had a renegade in their midst. About the time Ryan was starting to worry that we were only moments from arrest by authorities, I found the correct road back down to the gate. Ryan's concern continued as he wondered just how we'd get out that gate. Here I was betting on fire regulations that must allow for evacuation without the need for a card key. Could you imagine a line of cars at the gate, burned during a brush fire because the gate wouldn't open for some reason? I guessed we should be able to push the gate open as a last resort (in case of power failure), but thanks to the wonders of technology the gate was set to open automatically for cars exiting. We sailed through without a hitch.

Before returning to our motel in San Louis Obispo, we paid a visit to Islay Hill, one of the nine sisters extending from Moro Rock at one end to Islay Hill at the other. It is aptly named "hill", rising but 500ft from its surroundings to the lofty height of 760ft. We drove around a bit before hitting upon Tank Farm Rd which travels around the north side of the hill. We ducked into a nice little neighborhood off Spanish Oaks Drive and found a use trail heading up the grassy slopes on the east side of the street. I think if we'd continued driving around to the west side of the peak we'd have found the trailhead for the regular trail that spirals up to the summit. Had we known about it, I certainly would have used it. We intercepted the main trail after a few minutes on the use trail and followed it the rest of the way to the top.

The hike up took all of fifteen minutes. Along the way we crossed paths with several other parties and a few dogs, evidently a very popular local trail. The top features an old utility pole that was sawn off at a height of about 10 feet at some time in the past. Ryan and I took turns climbing to the top of this small obstacle more for the challenge than for the slightly better views it afforded. And the view was fairly nice of the upper Los Osos Valley extending east of US101.

On the return we picked some of the "bless plant" we'd seen on our way up, a gift for Ryan's sister. This particular plant was picked out by her some years ago on our walks to school as possessing special powers, and ever since she rarely fails to pick some when we walk by it, using it to bless all the various objects around us, both animate and otherwise: "Bless Daddy, Bless the sidewalk, bless the cat, bless the weeds, bless the car, etc." Perhaps I should save a small bundle of it to bless the chaparral and other hazards on some of my hikes. Could lead to less blood-letting.

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