Pettits Peak P750

Sat, Jul 14, 2012
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My son was at camp in the Santa Lucia Range for the week and it was my job to pick him up Saturday afternoon. I looked around for peaks I might climb in the area while I was out there, but they seemed mostly to be brushy affairs on private property that would be more work than I wanted to expend. Pettits Peak, rising just south of the Arroyo Seco (Dry Creek in Spanish) and west of Reliz Canyon near their confluence, was the most interesting possibility. It has over 800ft of prominence though rising to barely 2,000ft. Much of the peak appears surrounded by active orchards, vineyards and ranches and I didn't think I'd find a good way to approach it. So I had tossed my bike in the back of the van and planned to do a ride along some of the Monterey County roads instead when I headed out Saturday morning.

I spotted Pettits Peak easily as I drove along Arroyo Seco Rd out of Soledad. When I neared it, I noticed a bridge across the creek that looked to offer a closer approach than I had thought possible. Hmmm, maybe there was something doable here after all. I ended up driving a mile or so down Reliz Canyon where I spotted the SE Ridge of Pettits rising up from Reliz Creek. My GPS showed the summit to be less than a mile from where I pulled off the road across from a newer home situated on the east side of the road. Wearing a pair of badly worn tennis shoes, no pack and no water, I set out on what I expected to be a short hike.

After hopping a fence, I quickly moved out of the open and down to the dry Reliz Creek. The only difficulty was avoiding the poison oak that grew abundantly along the creek, but luckily cattle had trampled enough trails throughout the area that it was not long before I found my way around the noxious plants. In fact the whole of Pettits Peak has been thoroughly ranched. Cattle trails are evident on almost all sides as well as the surrounding areas. Once on the other side of the creek I crossed a dry, grassy meadow, another property boundary, then followed a cow trail leading to the SE Ridge that I used for the ascent. It took about 40 minutes to make the 1,600-foot climb to the summit. There are excellent views of Reliz Canyon during the ascent with the greener farmlands of the Salinas Valley visible to the north once higher up. Some oaks along the ridge provided a modicum of shade, but for the most part the hike is exposed to the sun. Luckily it was still early enough in the day before the summer heat began to make itself more strongly felt.

Another property boundary ran directly over the summit where I arrived at 10:20a. There was no obvious highpoint at the rounded summit, half-covered in brushy oaks. The trees blocked views to the Salinas Valley, but there are good views west to the Arroyo Seco and northwest to Paloma Ridge, part of the Sierra de Salinas, a small grass and chaparral-covered range between the Santa Lucia Range and the Salinas Valley. To the southwest rise the highest peaks of the Santa Lucia, including Pinyon Peak and Junipero Serra. To the south is Reliz Canyon and a myriad of smaller hills and valleys on the east side of the Santa Lucia crest.

I descended to the west via a series of roads that lead from Reliz Canyon to the summit in a more roundabout route than that of the SE Ridge. Most of these roads look to be traveled very infrequently, some not for at least a few years. Cattle seem to be given free reign to wander about within the property boundaries and have kept the roads still quite serviceable. Jogging much of the way, I was back at the creek by 11a and to the car shortly thereafter. A very nice way to spend a couple of hours. And no snake bites, poison oak rashes, or ticks to boot.

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