Once again, I was back in the Ventana Wilderness, traveling through Fort
Hunter-Liggett to reach summits burned in the 2020 Dolan Fire. This would be
my eigth day in the last month. I had in mind a summit a few miles west of
Junipero Serra, above Santa Lucia Park. I also wanted to check out a few
drive-ups on Hunter-Liggett.
Peak 3,177ft - Wizard Peak
These two peaks lie between Del Venturi Rd to the north and Nacimiento Rd to
the south. I had first noticed them the previous month when I was climbing
Peak 3,410ft about a mile to the southwest. They could have been climbed in
conjunction with that one as they are all connected by a series of roads in
varying conditions, but it was already afternoon and I was out of time and
Since today was Saturday, much of the military reservation was open for hunting.
The reservation is broken into various zones, some open for general weapons,
some for primitive rifles, others for archery. Today, most of the zones were
designated for archery only, including the zones these summits lie in. Knowing
that archery is far less popular than rifles, I figured I'd see few folks. In
fact, I would see no one. I had studied the maps to determine the better roads
that lead to the summits, choosing to drive up
off Del Venturi
Rd. It was an enjoyable drive in the Jeep, possibly a little scary in a less
capable vehicle as some of the gradients were quite steep. I managed to drive
to within half a mile of on its northwest side. The
going over the peak is no longer driveable (at least until
they run a grader
over it), so I had to walk this, an easy enough effort that took only 10min.
is open to
overlooking the reservation. I wasted no time
to the Jeep, driving back up and over Pt. 3,502ft (where there is
a small telecom installation and some ), then
to the slightly
higher Wizard Peak. The name derives from Wizard Gulch, the drainage to the
south that likely predates the existence of the military reservation. I had
to park just west of the summit where the road begins to descend on the east
side. It takes but a few minutes to hike up
to the top where an army is found and more
. After returning to the Jeep, I continued on the road
and northwest down to the San Antonio River. The
road is in good shape, but the
was a bit tricky and I had to
engage my rear lockers to get across the step on the other side. I wouldn't
take a Suburu across this one. I eventually returned to Del Venturi Rd and
drove up to Santa Lucia Park, happy to have seen no one for that whole time.
This was the real outing for the day, a 3,400-foot effort covering seven miles.
My first thought was to use the Junipero Serra Trail in conjunction with the
Santa Lucia Trail to reach a saddle half a mile east of the summit. This had
two problems - first, that section of the Santa Lucia Trail was
in May as Difficult, and second, the half mile of ridge from the saddle had
not entirely burned, requiring non-trivial deviations from the ridge. I
decided to try from the southwest off Indians Rd, an effort that would have
more than two miles of cross-country, but from what I could discern, all
through the burn zone. The north side of the main ridge had not burned, but
the deviations, if needed, looked to be minor.
from the locked gate on Indian Rd just after 9:30a, using the bike for
the first mile and change on the roadway. It would have been easy enough to
walk this since the distance was short, but I still had the bike in the Jeep
from the previous outing, so why not? It took less than 15min to get myself to
my starting point along the road, halfway to the Escondido campground. I locked
to a large bush and .
I found the terrain to be pretty much what the satellite suggested -
, with little in the way of charred sticks and brush. Some of
are quite steep, but the footing was decent in most places,
though a few required care. All class 2. nicely during the
ascent, looking south and west. The ground was damp from prior rains, the
out looking for mates in their usual manner during the fall.
I reached the main by 11a, after which the slopes relent
and the going . The fire appears to have burned right
up to in most places, leaving the northside intact, but
not limiting travel along the ridge. About half an hour from the summit, I found
along the ridge that had not burned, but I didn't have to
drop more than about 100ft on the sunny south side to get around it. I reached
at noon, finding the very top had not burned, but a
convenient path through the short distance obviated the need for any
bushwhacking. I enjoyed , noting a dozen summits I had climbed
recently. I could just make out the tower atop Junipero Serra to
a summit I haven't been to since 2009. Maybe time for a return visit?
under a small cairn I built before leaving the summit. I
thought the ascent route had worked so well that I planned to
down as well. Curiosity and adventure got the best of me, however, and I
ended up deviating in the lower half by taking
to the east.
I liked this even better, as it avoided the steepest slopes I had ascended, and
took me down to
that had some water in it, a fun little scramble
with no bushwhacking. It
onto Indian Rd a short distance below
where I had parked the bike. After , I
to , by 2p.
After loading the bike in the back, I drove to the
campground where I took a quick shower, changed, and then headed for home.
This was one of the easier days I spent in the area, and quite enjoyable.