Poly Mountain P300
Nipomo Hill

Jul 7, 2015

With: Jackie Burd

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


On our second day in Pismo Beach my daughter decided to go hiking with me, provided it wasn't too hard or too long. We headed to the Cal Poly campus at San Luis Obispo with plans to hike the local hill, unofficially named Poly Mountain. The school here was founded in 1901 originally as a vocational high school. Students here erected a giant "H" on a hillside overlooking the campus to the northeast. In 1919 students changed this to a "P", a less generic designation than the simple "H" for High school. Since then, the campus changed to a college in 1947 and then became part of the CSU system in 1972. The "P" has been maintained since 1919, with various pranks over the year changing the letter or color for various meanings. There is actually a committee in charge of maintaining the "P" within the campus community.

We entered the campus through one of the main gates on Grand Ave, inquiring at the entrance kiosk about parking. $5 for an all-day pass or selective metered parking at $0.25 for ten minutes. Some quick math told us that metered parking would be cheaper. We found such parking at the large parking lot on the east side of campus at the base of the mountain. Later we noticed closer metered parking at the residence buildings we walked past on our way to the start, but then we would have missed the goats munching the brown grass at the base of the hill. What we hadn't been told was that metered parking was limited to 45min, which is a bit short for daughter and me to get up and back. A campus patrol officer was parked at the other end of the lot, apparently watching us. As we left, he cruised by our van, probably to check if we'd put money in the meter. Sad that this was the most important campus duty he had this morning.

There are several informal trails that climb the hill. I had pre-selected the one at the north end that starts adjacent to the residence buildings. The southern trail(s?) goes past the "P" which we were oblivious to (and didn't see) until later that evening when I was looking online. Our dirt trail goes through a gap in a fence before starting steeply up the hillside, climbing 700ft in less than half a mile. Jackie wasn't too thrilled with this choice but put in a good effort and we reached the summit ridgeline in 15min. A couple of folding chairs overlooking the campus were found there. Jackie took a seat to rest while I visited the highpoint to the north a few hundred yards distance. At just over 1,000ft of elevation it doesn't have much in the way of sweeping views, but one does have a nice view below to the campus and the Sisters stretching west to the fog-enshrouded coast. We got back (with some slipping and sliding down the gravelly trail) in just over our 45min time limit. Our meter was blinking EXPIRED, but luckily the campus cop hadn't come back around to ticket us.

Later that afternoon I went off on a bike ride south from Pismo along Hwy 1 to Nipomo, in search of a couple of named summits, Nipomo Hill and Nipomo Mesa. The route makes for a very pleasant ride, past Pismo Creek, the Pismo campgrounds and the adjacent communities of Grover Beach and Oceano. After crossing over the coastal RR tracks the route moves inland and becomes lined with vegetable fields on either side. I followed Halcyon Rd up onto the broad Nipomo Mesa where one finds a mix of farms, vineyards and ranches, old and new homes, some quite expensive-looking. Two of these are found atop Nipomo Hill at the end of a short private road that leads to a cul-de-sac at the very top. Finding Nipomo Hill is no easy feat, however, as some of the roads depicted on the maps are dirt (not so great for a road bike) or dead-end in private gates. It's not terribly difficult either, and is left as an exercise for the peakbagger since it's really the only challenge to this one. The view from the top to the west is quite stunning. One of the homeowners has a set of adirondack chairs on a deck in the stretch of grass between two homes overlooking the vista. I don't recommend taking a seat, however. I simply paused to take a photo before heading back down, not wanting to draw the attention nor ire of the homeowners.

Getting to the Nipomo Mesa highpoint proved more difficult. Located at the southeast end of the mesa 4mi from Nipomo Hill, I had more riding across rolling hills to reach it. My quest ended at the end of a gravelly side road and a gate to an avocado orchard 1/3mi from the highpoint. It looks like the highpoint is inside the orchard and none too accessible. I gave up without further effort. Later I found there might be a better way to access it from the Blacklake Golf Course to the south. I'll have to look into this sometime in the future...

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