Tuesday, January 09, 2007

From Los Padres to Big Sur. January 3, 2007

On the 3rd, I decide it is time to make my way out of here. Weather forcast has rain in the bay area Thursday afternoon, and I'd like to be on hwy 1 if we get rain this far south. On the way out of camp, I stop to take a few pics, and in the process spot a golden eagle perched on a nearby cliff. It had its back to me, and is in the shade of a rock outcropping, except for its head, and was such a longs way off, I had to use all the camera's zoom to get a shot. All of the above make for some lousy shots, but the size of the bird certainly comes through. It never moved from its perch in the 30 minutes I watched it. I explored some of the hunting roads as I made my way out. This is just beautiful country. Del Venturi road runs through a valley that is prevalent with old growth oak. It is rimmed on either side with rolling hills and rock formations, canyons and ultimately the higher peaks of the Santa Lucia range. I would certainly encourage those reading this that are in the bay area to make a weekend trip down here. Between the military base, the mission, the forest and the wilderness area, you cannot run out of thngs to explore. I think that I have just skimmed the surface.
I found a shortcut to Nacimiento- Fergusson road, via Vasquez road. Vasquez, the Mexican bandit (?) evidently had a rich history in this region. There were references to him at the mission museum, including old pistols found in area caves that would be like...the ones he favored. Just a little cultural note for you.
Anyways, as I made my way off base, I passed through the bombing range. Nothing happening today, but I would certainly heed the warning signs. I wondered if those tanks near the road were occupied? They were certainly aimed. The guard at the gate did not have a current weather forecast, and neither did the ranger at Nacimiento station. No one seemed concerned, so what the hey.
It was an awesome climb out of the base, and into the heart of the mountain range via Nac-Ferg road. Climbing and weaving up the side of canyons, wanting to stop and take in what little views exposed themselves, but never a pullout nearby.
Shortly after Nac. station, I was at summit. Two FS roads forked off the main road. Both ridge roads. The one I wanted was closed to traffic, and so it would require fourteen or more miles to attempt the coned peak cache. Sorry, but not today... Coned peak is the second highest peak in the range, at 5,500 (?) feet. I originally thought I'd be able to drive the FS road out, boondock at the trailhead, and hike the few remaining miles in the morning. Good thing it did not work out that way, I would learn later.
I took the road to the left, Plaskett Ridge road. Less than a mile in, there was a nice side spur the led above and to the east, and I pulled in thinking this would be a good place for lunch. There was a, get this, a school bus, parked at the end, so I pulled into a turnout a hundred feet short and wandered down taking in the views. The bus was owned by Steve, from the San Juan islands, Washington state. It was one of those shorty style buses, and he had just picked it up last month. Anyways, he was on winter break, he and his two pups, and we conversed for a good hour and a half. I finally broke away, wanting to find a place in the sun (chilly in a tee under the tree cover) and really needed to eat. Funny thing was a few hundred yards further down the road was the pullout facing oceanside I had been looking for! The ridge road promised to go some dozen miles south, and so, after lunch I proceeded along it.
It is funny how I explore...I know that I need to just turn around, this direction is not on the agenda, and boy, this dirt road sure is gnarly, and...but, I just cannot help it, seek I must (and thank goodness for that!).
Up and down, around and back, navigating through the ruts and washouts, I made my way south. By now, I am scouting out pullouts for a place to sleep tonight.I have found a number of nice places, but who knows what lies further up the road? I finally get to road that is defintely 4 wheel drive only, and decide I have put the poor van through enough so far this trip, so, get this, I TURNED AROUND :). I backtracked a mile to a turnoff that promised it led to two camps on a ridge. I had not turned here initially, because it went straight up and was gullied pretty badly. Coming back, I realized the total climb could not be that much higher, and I was rapidly running out of daylight. The drive in was whoopy doos on steroids :')! Half ways down a 80' dip, I would let off of the brake, to get a running start for the next 80', 20 degree or so, climb. And so it went. "Camp" consisted of side roads out to hilltops. This was awesome! 3000 + ' above sea level, 360 panoramas of the mountain range, guaranteed privacy...I went out to the highest and furthest spot. This one is MINE! Incredible!! 3,300' above sea level, and nary more than a mile inland from the ocean! I don't know how many other spots there are in this world with a view like this, but I am blessed for finding this one. WHAT A VIEW! To the north I had the sawtoothed contour of the canyon that Nac-Fur follows down to the ocean, with Coned peak as its backdrop. To the east was the ridge I had just traveled. To the south was the contours of Big Sur's coastline and to the west was the drop down to the ocean. The ocean was draped in a coastal cloud layer, and I towered above it. There were windows through the clouds in places, revealing the ocean beneath. Sunset tonight was a once in a lifetime event! I will let the pics do the talking from here...

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