CONE PEAK (5,155') 2X, OATS PEAK (1,373'), VALENCIA PEAK (1,347') 2X December 1-2, 2004

Anxious to "up" my year's peak count, I took off Wednesday on the forecast of plenty of sun. These are hardly worthy peaks, but since they all have names, and offer splendid views with only shorter hikes necessary, I keep records of my ascents.

I was also checking on my car, getting some 38 mpg average. Passing through the towns of Monterey, and Carmel, CA, I was able to obtain drink and rest. Taking a leisurely drive south on CA 1, along the Big Sur coast, I stopped at the classic viewpoints for quick pictures. Stopping at a ranger station, I was to discern that there was no big problem to do my first hike.

The paved Nacimiento Road climbs steeply, and then comes to the dirt Cone Peak road. I motored slowly, with rough parts and two small puddles to go through. I missed the trailhead, which was unsigned, and motored a mile further to then realize my lapse, and then turn around.

The USFS Adventure Pass requirement no longer applies here. Great! Starting up the trail at a bit after 2 p.m., I found there was damp ground, but no mud. I recall there had been a fire here since my last visit, but vegetation was coming back. I shot many pictures of the trail, and I like the geology.

It took me about an hour and seven minutes to reach the summit. I carried up my big climbing pack, about 20 pounds, with plenty of bivy gear. What you should do while traveling solo in winter!

The lookout building on top is shuttered closed. I had a better view back in 1986, with spotty, low fog over the ocean to provide scale. Here, you are almost a vertical mile above sea level. When the light is right, the ocean view below is spectacular!

Staying on top for a little while, I knew I had to hike back and drive out. I soon had my fill of photos, so left the summit without any great pictures of the rare Santa Lucia Fir, which grows up here. I noticed the wet ground was getting crunchy and thus freezing on my hike down. Ice was forming in some areas.

The sun was setting, and I made it back to my car by about 4:30 p.m. I set out speedily, to pass a lone camper, and then made it back to the paved section. The sunset wasn't that good, and I caught the sight of the tail end of the afterglow over the ocean.

Motoring south on Highway 1, I regretted not snapping a night photo of Gorda, merrily lighted up in the night. I got a drink at Ragged Point, then came to the sight of major lodging in San Simeon, CA. Getting a great rate on a room, I had a nice meal at the Mexican restaurant, with good chips and salsa, chicken tortilla soup, a fish taco, and rice.

Thursday, I had some motel coffee, and then continued south along Highway 1. Coming to Morro Bay, I snapped a good view of Morro Rock and the big waves crashing on the shoreline. Stopping, I had some fast food, and then took the signed turnoff to Montana de Oro State Park.

The way is signed well. Passing through a big grove of eucalyptus trees, I came to the park, where there is no entry or parking fee. Using facilities and determining where to park, I started my hike to Oats Peak by about 9 a.m. The trail here, too, was damp, but not muddy, this day. The hills had not turned green, but I found it nice. The trail climbs and goes over two bumps, and then I reached the "oats" benchmark after some 1.5 hours of hiking.

Not staying long, I headed back to climb Valencia Peak. The trail cuts off without losing too much gain, and I was atop my second peak for the day, by about 11:20 a.m. I snapped more photos, and drank more water. A trail runner came up and reported his time as 25 minutes. I thought to stay longer, but I simply snapped a few attempts at panorama shots, then headed down.

More hikers were coming up. Many seemed to be trying for fast hike times, without any packs or gear. For this area, this is about "it" for any hills to climb. It would be a long way to the Sierra!

Back to my car by about 12:47 p.m., I sought drink and food. North along U.S. 101, I got a soda, and then continued to Paso Robles, CA. Over then to Interstate 5, I was home at a good, early hour.

I had hiked, roughly, some 12 miles with 3,200' gain, total. I shot about 450 images and movie clips. Spending about 50 dollars for gas, food, and drink, I charged up some $45 for the lodging and dinner meal.

There were a few gnats, but no ticks. No mosquitoes, either. I wore only three layers at most, with a light cap. The air was calm on all summits, and I drank only three liters on all the hikes. Despite my offers for company, no one was to come forward to hike with me on any peak. My total drive was almost 700 miles, and I enjoyed every bit of it!