Wed, Feb 23, 2011
Separating the small community of Avila Beach from US101 is a small, unnamed mountain just over 700ft in height. With more than 600ft of prominence, it lands in the California Mountain Atlas, and possibly one of the easiest of its 4,000+ summits. Staying in Pismo Beach with the family, Jackie and I were going to head to San Luis Obispo for a try at Chumash Peak, one of the Nine Sisters, while Ryan and Mom went shopping in Arroyo Grande. The shops were closed when we stopped by to drop them off, so Mom suggested we all go on a hike - I quickly thumbed through the Rolodex in my brain to see what I could remember about this unnamed summit. I had remembered from the satellite view that there was a use trail running up from the west side which seemed good enough to go one. We drove to Avila Beach, Dad trying to figure out how to get up there, not very successfully at first. It dawned on me that the road we passed on the way was probably the access road I was looking for, so backtracking we found our way to Cave Landing Rd. This road leads to a large dirt clearing on a cliff above the beach, southwest of the summit. There is also access to the beach via a network of use trails and it appears this TH is quite popular judging by the number of vehicles we saw coming and going.
Disappointed in being forced to come along, Ryan announced he would rather stay with the van than join us. To avoid having him mope his way to the top, I let him stay behind but locked him out of the vehicle for punitive reasons. He seemed to be content to explore the rocks and cliffs around the parking area while we were off hiking.
The area around the TH that faces the hill is fenced, though it seems unclear if it is private property. Just back along the road is a gate of sorts, really just a low point in the fence over which one can step to access the use trail that leads to the summit. Duct tape has been wrapped around the barbs to make it more people-friendly. The use trail climbs steeply up the west side of the ridge. Mom had some trouble on this slope, pausing often to rest and take in the views to Avila Beach behind us. Jackie grew impatient and forged her way to the top in no time at all. The highpoint is located a few hundred yards east of where the slope levels off and is occupied by a number of communication antennae and their accompanying buildings enclosed in fencing. Trees block much of the view from the highpoint, but by walking around to various points one can get good views looking east, south, and west. There is another use trail coming up from the east side, starting from a gate along Hwy 1. This alternate route is very steep initially, but soon becomes a far more pleasant use trail cut through the chaparral that covers much of that side of the mountain. Before heading back down, Jackie and I stopped at Pt. 704ft at the northwest end of the ridgeline for a better view to Avila Beach and the Irish Hills behind it to the north. The service road to the communication facilities goes past this point and down the north side of the mountain to Sycamore Springs, a private resort along Avila Beach Dr. We saw one summit visitor return via that route.
We returned to the van by 10:30a, collected Ryan and drove back to Arroyo Grande. After dropping off the other two, Jackie and I drove back north to San Luis Obispo and the Bishop Peak TH at the end of Highland Dr. I was still interested in Chumash Peak, but by this time Jackie had lost her motivation. I had to pull the parent trump card and force her to come along. She resisted and sulked for the first ten minutes, but soon began to enjoy herself, ultimately having a grand time. We hiked up the network of trails on the north side of Bishop Peak, through an old oak grove, past a small pond, and out onto open grass slopes with a fine view to Bishop Peak. We found our way to the Felsman Loop Trail as described on the SummitPost page for Chumash Peak, then looked for the use trail described there to get us over to Chumash. This turned out to be somewhat of a bust. We found the trail, nice at first, leading to a small spring where the trail fades out. There is an abundance of poison oak around here and it seemed foolish to continue forging a route through. Mostly it seems this path is used by cows looking for a drink of water. We returned to the Felsman Loop Trail and followed if further west to where it turns north. A fence here marks the boundary between the Open Space of Bishop Peak and the private property of Chumash Peak.
This was Jackie's first excursion over a barbed-wire fence, met by a small measure of apprehension. After scaling it, we continued west, traversing grassy slopes until we met up with an old road on the west side of Bishop Peak. There was much poison oak here as well, but it was easy to identify and avoid as we hiked along the road. I pointed out the noxious plants to Jackie as we walked by to help her avoid it, but the constant "here", "here's some more", "more here" wore on her. She was concerned what might happen if we were caught and the possibility of landing in jail. My assurances that no serious consequences were likely weren't all that convincing to her. We got far enough along to see where our road dropped down towards the saddle between the two peaks, which gave me confidence that a route was indeed feasible from this direction. I asked Jackie if she'd rather turn back to which she nodded affirmatively. We turned back. Jackie apologized, but I let her know I wasn't bothered in the least. I could always come back another time and didn't want her feeling apprehensive.
Back on the north side of Bishop Peak, inside the Open Space area, we stopped by the bouldering area and played around on some of the large rocks found there. We also paused in the old oak forest so she could take a crack at tree climbing, but it wasn't as easy as it had looked from ground level. We got back to Pismo Beach shortly after 12:30p. I had planned a number of other hikes, none of which came to fruition for various reasons. I would simply keep these on the back burner for a future visit with the family or on my own.
Later the same day I rode out to Los Osos along Hwy 1 and Los Osos Valley Road. Though the latter road is rather busy with vehicle traffic, it offers a nice ride through the countryside with good views of the Sisters from the south. The next day Ryan and I made two bike rides. The first went from Pismo to San Luis Obispo and then south to Arroyo Grande along SR227. This route has a climb of 600ft to a pass before dropping down to the Five Cities area, one Ryan found particularly tough. In the afternoon we rode south on Hwy 1 to Cienega Valley where we found large fields of broccoli and other leafy vegetables under cultivation. A portion of Hwy 1 climbing up towards Nipomo Hill is currently closed for construction. We were able to cycle up this road with only minor impediments. I was actually looking to see if we could find our way to the summit of Nipomo Hill, but without having researched it sufficiently beforehand, we got lost in the maze of suburuban roads on the summit plateau and never got close to the highpoint. It was windy and chilly on the ride back, but as reward we were treated to a picturesque Pismo Beach sunset. Nice!
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