Peak 989ft P500

Jul 1, 2020
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Being a self-identifying, socially distant creature without a job, I've had little trouble continuing in my natural habitat these past three months while COVID-19 scourges over the land. My wife, by comparison, is far more social and this has been a bigger issue for her. I suggested we visit Pismo Beach for a few days to help her get out of the house and she eagerly jumped at the idea. In doing a little research, I was happy to see that the Pismo Preserve, an 880-acre preserve overlooking nearby Shell Beach, was finally open to the public. For years it has been off-limits due to lack of funding for trail development or other reasons. The hills that form the preserve now boast 11mi of trails, many of them developed for biking with low-angle gradients that meandering across a number steep drainages. COVID-19 has restricted access to weekdays only, 4p-9:30p, designed, one presumes, for sunset viewing conditions. My interest was Peak 989ft that lies above and just outside the preserve, a modest summit with more than 700ft of prominence. As part of the COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the trails are all temporarily designated as one-way, marked at the various trail junctions, and more than a little confusing. I had a map I printed out before we left home that I could consult when trying to figure out which way to go.

I arrived soon after 4p at the TH on Mattie Rd, finding it quite popular and nearly full. Having ridden my bike from the Kon Tiki Inn where we were staying, I locked it up at the TH and set out on foot on the Lower Road, the most direct route up towards the peak. The road is well-maintained but really dusty. It travels up a seasonally dry gully with some fine oaks draped in spanish moss, poison oak covering much of the ground. Looking upslope, grass mixed with brush and oaks seemed to dominate, giving me some hope of avoiding poison oak in the cross-country effort at the top. At the end of the road I reached the upper edge of the preserve boundary. Signs here clearly indicate private property on the north side. A road on that side leads up to Pt. 980ft, about a quarter mile east of Peak 989ft. An unsigned, unmaintained trail follows up the right side of a fence that marks the boundary. I followed this up to Pt. 980ft, just inside the preserve boundary. A set of three plastic chairs are found under an oak at an overlook site with views south to Pismo Beach. Just on the other side of the barbed-wire fence is a small telcom installation (and the reason for the road on private property). This is the end of the easy stuff. the last 1/4mi to the highpoint has no old, forgotten or secret trail, much as I would have liked. I did find evidence that someone had cut through some of the manzanita on the north side of the telecom tower, as though they were trying to make a trail, but it didn't get me very far. To be fair, there was no impenetrable brush that could have had me giving up. The real problem was that the oak forest understory was completely carpeted in poison oak. There was absolutely no way to avoid the stuff. Any right-minded individual would laugh and just turn around. I had been wondering about this peak for more than 10yrs now. Why? It has no name, no views and at less than 1,000ft, it would be difficult to classify it as anything more than a coastal bump. I have a disease, it would seem. I'm highly sensitive to poison oak but I gave little thought to turning around, instead I turned to the most trusted of thought processes - rationalization. Maybe I could just step on the stuff. Any PO on the bottom of my shoes would wipe off when I get back to the trail, right? Oh, this stuff is 2ft high! Well, maybe we'll just have to wash our pants when we get back. Oh, damn, was that branch I tried to duck under PO? It went like this for a quarter mile until I finally reached the highpoint. Oddly, there was just oaks and grass and very little PO at the actual summit. I was going to leave a register at the summit but completely forgot while I was up there - probably distracted by the stress so much bio-contamination causes. It was probably a good thing - no reason to give the next peakbagger an incentive to repeat stupid.

I reversed course after satisfying that I had crossed over the highpoint, returned to the trail system and enjoyed a nice hike down the Upper Road, past a nice picnic viewspot and back to the TH by 5:30p. The park was even more popular now, the lot completely full. Few of them heading up to Peak 989ft, I suspect...


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