Grass Mountain

After a good night’s sleep in Lompoc, I was ready to climb my final peak of the inaugural Central Coast Six Pack of Peaks challenge—Grass Mountain. It was a bit odd staying in Lompoc and not going to see a rocket launch, but the two models in the lobby helped.

I had planned to have breakfast at my usual cafe, but they didn’t open until 7, so McDonald’s again. It was about a 40-minute drive to the trailhead, so I had time to enjoy my coffee. One car was at the trailhead when I pulled in. It was a bit nippy and I debated if I was going to start out in my light fleece. I filled out my day permit and finished getting ready. There is an old hiking rule—it is better to start off too cold than too warm. I left the fleece behind, in part because I also knew most of the hike was fully exposed. The trail follows Birabent Creek for just under a mile, crossing it three times before leaving it behind.

Now the “fun” would begin, as the trail would range between 20-50% grade! This was going to be a slow and steady type of climb. The mountain, which is accurately named, loomed before me. I focused on the trail ahead of me, looking for good footing, as this trail was steep!

I would take a short break from time to time, have some fluids, then continue on. The views behind me were stunning, so I knew the summit view should be worth it.

I carefully made my way up, trying not to think about descending this later. Soon, I knew the summit was almost there, as the grasses ended and the gravel took over. A large peace symbol, made of rocks served as the summit marker, as I did not locate a summit sign. I enjoyed a snack and soaked in the views. Off in the distance, I could spy the Neverland Ranch. Yesterday’s two summits were visible off in the distance. I still needed to descend and then make the long drive home. I took each step with care, hoping not to slip. Thankfully, I made it down with my pride intact. Once back near the creek, I started to pass other hikers out for probably an easier hike along some of the other trails nearby. Once back at the car, I cleaned up before heading to Los Olivos Grocery to reward my effort with a nice tri-tip sandwich and a large Coke. With that, my challenge was complete! This final hike was a mere 4.6 miles but with a whopping 2,330 feet of gain, and I did manage to do it in 4:06 (with my breaks and time at the summit)! Now to finish up my San Diego Challenge.


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Gaviota Peak

I previously had hiked Gaviota Peak after watching a SpaceX launch from nearby Vandenberg SFB. I found a spot in the parking lot, filled out my day pass, dropped my $2 into the slot, and slipped the stub on my dashboard. After gathering my gear, I set off up the trail. Since there were several cars in the lot, I knew I would be seeing other folks on the trail.

I opted to take the same route up as last time, as I was planning on using the Trespass Trail for my return from the summit. Since I was not racing to meet some friends for dinner, I also had time to take a short detour to see the hot springs. The spur trail was well marked, so off I went. The trail was a bit muddy, so a little care needed to be taken. A smell of sulfur hung slightly in the air from the creek as it flowed past. I came to the hot springs. The couple that had headed out as I pulled in were enjoying the waters. We chatted a bit before I let them enjoy their soak. The spur trail connected back to the road and I continued making my way up towards the summit.

A few runners passed me returning back from their summit, while I continued my journey upward. The ocean came into view and I knew the summit was just a short push more. As I reached it, another hiker was just about to head back down. She had come up the Trespass Trail, and I mentioned that I planned to use it for my route down. She asked about the other route as she always uses the Trespass Trail. I gave her the basic info about the route, and she headed down. 

I snapped a few photos, had a snack, mixed up my electrolytes, and set off. Unlike the wide road that I took up, I was now on a traditional trail. While I did have some nice views of the ocean and the Channel Islands, the poor condition of the trail had me paying attention to my footing.

After a bit, the hiker from the summit decided to stick to her tried and true route and caught up with me. Oh, to have young knees…

As I reached the junction with the Tunnel View Trail, I opted to take it. I figured it would provide a nice view of the Gaviota Tunnel. Turns out I was right. I was starting to get hungry, so I did not linger. I soon rejoined the Trespass Trail, then shortly thereafter the main trail. I tossed my gear into the car, changed shirts, and headed to Figueroa Mountain Brewery for lunch and my free beer, courtesy of taking the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge. The stats for the hike were 6.4 miles, with a moving time of 3:12 and 2,138 feet of gain. Just one more peak to summit and this challenge will be complete!


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Broadcast Peak

As the end of the year was drawing near, I knew I needed to focus on finishing my various Six Pack of Peaks challenges. I wrapped up the SoCal challenge a few weeks ago and was down to one more peak to complete the San Diego challenge (I am looking at you Hot Springs Mountain…). I still had three left for the inaugural Central Coast challenge. So I hatched up a plan to knock them out in one trip. I drove up and stayed in Carpinteria to help reduce the impact of the driving on my back. I would have camped somewhere, but could not locate an available campsite. I stayed at the same hotel I had back when I recorded courses for LinkedIn Learning (née Lynda.com). Woke up before sunrise and headed to grab my traditional pre-hike breakfast at McDonald’s. This McD’s no longer has a drive-thru, so it was either go inside and order or use their mobile app. With my biscuit, hash browns, and coffee, I set off to Broadcast Peak. 

I exited the 101 at Refugio and headed up the canyon, passing a few farms before the road began climbing. Thanks to discovering the YouTube channel “Subietrails”, I knew that I would have a paved road almost all the way. As I wound my way up, a few quail would scamper across the road. Then I spotted a bobcat darting along the road before diving into the brush. That was a first for me! Once I reached the crest, I turned onto West Camino Cielo and worked my way eastward. Due to some poor planning on my part, I found myself staring straight into the sun at times. I would have to stop and put my head out the window to creep along until I could see properly again. You’d think after attending UCSB I’d remember those mountains run east-west!

Finally, the paved road ended not too far from Santa Ynez Peak. Broadcast Peak was about a mile away, so if I did encounter an issue, it was now easily hikeable. Thankfully, the road was in fine shape. Once at the turnoff to the summit of Broadcast, I debated whether should I park here and hike the last bit, or just use my nifty new tires and drive up. The latter option won. I navigated the first real rut of the trip, then parked at the summit. 

The views were incredible. To the south, I could see 4 of the Channel Islands. Off to the north was Lake Cachuma and the rest of the Santa Ynez valley. I was fairly certain I could spot Gaviota Peak off to the west. I tried to see if there was a summit sign tucked away somewhere but did not discover one. I snapped my photos and headed back down. Along the way, I spotted 3 mule deer off to the side of the road. Once back at the 101, it was a short 15-minute drive to the Gaviota Peak trailhead.


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Sitton Peak

The morning was a tad chilly when we pulled into the parking lot across from the trailhead for Sitton Peak. This was to be my 6th peak for my 2023 SoCal Six Pack of Peak Challenge. Ted had never hiked this peak with me, so he was up for a new adventure. I also invited one of my co-workers along for the almost 10-mile round-trip journey through the San Mateo Wilderness. Once Maegan arrived, I introduced her to Ted, and we quickly gathered our gear. Ted and Maegan opted for an extra layer, while I stuck with just my base layer. The forecast was for a high of about 77°F, so I knew it would soon be warming up as the sun rose. Plus, I am using a waist pack until my back is up to having the weight of a pack on it. We scurried across the newly paved highway and began our adventure. I explained the hike could be broken into sections, one for each trail junction, and the final climb. This was my fourth time up the summit, so I felt very comfortable leading them. Near the trailhead, I signed us in and we set off.

After a bit, both Ted and Maegan shed their initial layers as the day indeed was starting to warm up. We also stopped from time to time as a plant would catch Maegan’s attention. She had taken a course on the local plants and was trying to put those skills to use.

The miles passed, and we paused at each junction for a short break. We chatted about various things as we drew nearer to the summit. After we passed Four Corners, I was keeping an eye out for a possible campsite. I originally had planned to do this peak as an overnight, but I certainly wasn’t going to attempt any backpacking anytime soon. We spied the use trail to the campsite and it looked to be a good one (ignoring the illegal fire ring). We were getting a bit hungry, so once we reached the old crash site, we took our snack break. With a bit of food in our stomachs, we began the steep, but thankfully relatively short,  climb to the summit. Ted and I crested the climb and kept an eye down the trail for Maegan to make her way up. Once we had regrouped and had a moment to recover, we hiked the last bit to the summit. 

Two sets of hikers were there enjoying some really clear views. We took a few photos and then found a spot to enjoy some well-earned snacks and a rest. Since we knew that we had 5 miles back to the car and the day was warming, we began our descent. We carefully picked our way down the steep section, hoping not to slip (narrator: someone did slip). Back on the more gentle portion of the trail, we began working our way back to the car. Ted and I discussed our lunch options. Maegan had to get back home so she let us hash out our post-hike plan. I tossed out the question, “What is an urban hike in San Diego?” This provided a good debate on the topic. Feel free to offer your opinion in the comments. Unfortunately, I made a couple of missteps and rolled my right foot. Enough to feel it, but nothing to create an issue. I figured it would be tender later (narrator: he was right).

Soon the din of traffic from the highway started to fill our ears, signaling that we were almost done. My back had done pretty well, so that in itself was a victory for me. Ted and Meagan got to cross off a new peak and I finished my 2023 Six Pack of Peaks Challenge. After tossing our gear in our cars and putting on a clean shirt and comfy shoes, we drove over to the Candy Store to pick up a few treats and a cold drink. Maegan said her goodbyes and headed back to San Diego. We followed soon after. I convinced Ted we should stop in Pala Mesa, and we both got lunch from the Rib Shack. There was a mix-up with my order, and I accidentally got someone else’s (right sides, they got tri-tip and brisket). I didn’t notice that until I dug in. Oops! But damn, both of the meats were outstanding! Still, this was a slightly later-than-planned lunch. It actually worked in my favor as I was attending an event in the evening and that dinner was not scheduled until 8 pm. My tracker did not restart once we left the summit, so Ted’s tracker logged us in at 9.8 at the car. Being so close to 10, we did a few laps in the parking lot. Our moving time was 4:49 with 2,150 feet of gain. I am hoping the next time I climb this peak it will be an overnight.


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Strawberry Peak

With my lingering back issue, Ted graciously offered to take over the driving duties. We pulled in the Red Box parking area just a touch before 8 a.m. I put my America the Beautiful pass on the dashboard and we set about getting ready. The reason a pass is needed is this area does have bathrooms available. Another group of hikers was getting ready to hit the trail as well. I then realized I had forgotten the strawberries I brought to eat at the summit, so we headed back to the car. We crossed the highway and stopped for photos in front of the trail marker.  We caught up with the group from the parking lot and they let us pass. The first couple of miles or so were pretty gentle, so we cruised along nicely, stopping to snap a photo or two along the way.

Once we reached Lawlor Saddle, the real effort would begin. So far my back was causing no issues. I was also using my Osprey waist pack instead of my usual daypack to keep any weight off my upper back. We started the climb up toward one of several false summits.

At the top of one of those false summits, we took a short break. One big change for me in using a waist pack is I have to either stop for some hydration or have a manageable section of trail to grab a drink from my bottle. With my day pack I use a water bladder and a hose, so it is easy to grab a quick sip of water. Soon the true summit came into view and we found ourselves amongst several others enjoying their achievements. We learned that the group we had been leapfrogging was a group of Russian Jews. If we had found three more Jews, we could have had a minyan on the summit! I broke out the strawberries and they were really flavorful! After our snacks and soaking in the views, we said goodbye to the group and began our descent.

I was starting to feel a little discomfort in my back, but nothing to raise any concerns. We took it carefully, but I still wound up slipping once. The worst part was I mentally told myself to be careful just before I slipped. I brushed off the dirt and continued on. We encountered quite a few folks (some with their furry hiking partners) making their way up. As we neared the end of the hike, volunteers were doing some trail maintenance. We stopped and thanked them for their efforts. The parking lot came into view. Ted’s tracker had us at over 7 miles, while mine logged us at 6.8 miles. I clocked our moving time at 3:48, so we made decent time on the hike.

Now onto the next part of the adventure, exploring Mt. Wilson. We headed up to the Cosmic Café and grabbed some lunch. Other hikers milled about the various tables. After enjoying our well-earned sandwiches, we set off to explore the various telescopes and exhibits. My back was hurting a bit more, and I was hoping the pain relievers would kick in soon.

We took our time, as we had to pick up Ted’s youngest from an event at Tustin at 8 p.m. So after viewing the 100” inch telescope, we made the short walk down the trail to Echo Rock. The views were sweeping and as a bonus, some summit signs! We sat and relaxed on the chairs watching small clouds form, drift upward, and then evaporate. We returned to the main parking lot and headed over to see if we could find one of the markers. Off in the southeast corner, we finally located it. We grabbed a few more photos and then headed down the mountain. After exploring some offerings at Divine Science Brewery and dinner at Lucille’s BBQ, we picked up Ted’s son and headed home. My back had stopped aching, so that was a good sign for me.


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

San Jacinto Overnight

I pulled into the overnight parking lot at the Palm Springs tram station and got myself ready for another overnight on San Jacinto. This was going to be my first overnight and major peak since my foot surgery in April. Having done this trip 15 months earlier, I knew what lay ahead for me. I pulled on my hiking boots, slung my pack onto my back, and headed up to the tram station. I was also trying out my new smaller bear canister (Bear Vault 425) for this trip. It is just the right size for a quick one- or two-day overnight trip. The tram car was only partially full as we made our ascent up from the desert. Once at the station, I walked down the concrete switchbacks and over to the ranger station. I checked in with the ranger and got some last-minute information about being mindful of camping under trees. Tropical Storm Hillary has done some damage to the mountain, and recently a tree limb fell and injured a camper. I certainly was going to be inspecting my possible campsite a bit closer before pitching my tent.

Long Valley Creek was flowing nicely as I made my way up to Round Valley. I passed a few hikers along the way, including one who had attempted Cactus to Clouds (C2C) that day. We chatted about his attempt, and he told me he had some trouble just before the tram station (a section known to be difficult), and once he reached Round Valley, he knew he was done. C2C is one of the hardest hikes in the US, so just doing Cactus to Tram is a major accomplishment. He headed back down the trail and continued upward toward the campground. I decided to stay at the same site I stayed at last time—Buckthorn. The forecast called for some wind, so I was looking for one of the more sheltered sites. I surveyed the various tent spots and opted for a different one from the last time, in part not to be under a tree. I set up my site, grabbed my water bags, and returned to the water spigot at the trail junction. The water was flowing well and I quickly filtered my water needs for tonight and tomorrow. I relaxed for a while and enjoyed my dinner and the beer I hauled up (for 2 miles I’ll carry a can of beer). Soon after the sun dropped behind the mountain, I turned in. The general plan was to be at Wellman Divide around sunrise.

The winds weren’t too bad. Once in a while the tent got a good shake, but it was nothing like the winds I had when I camped at Parson’s Landing on Catalina. The bigger issue was I pulled a muscle in my shoulder and could not get comfortable to really fall asleep. Ugh! It finally relaxed enough for me to get some sleep before my alarm went off. I had a nice warm breakfast. I am guessing it was about 40°F as I finished loading my slack pack. I began my climb up toward the Wellman Divide. From Round Valley, it is just about 1 mile, but you are going to gain about 800 feet of elevation. I briefly lost the trail a couple of times in the dark, but just for a minute or two. I would stop, turn about, and take in the beautiful colors that were appearing to the east.

At the Wellman Divide, I took a well-earned break. I am trying to be better about taking rest breaks and eating snacks along the way. I mentally broke the hike into three parts; Round Valley to Wellman Divide, Wellman Divide to Miller Peak, and then Miller Peak to the Summit. Each section was about a mile in length, so a perfect way to balance the effort out.

The trail up Miller Peak went well. This section is more exposed, so I got some nice views of the sun as it rose up through the bands of clouds. While the air was getting thinner, the grade wasn’t as bad as that first mile. Soon Miller Peak came into view. I was considering adding it in, but was going to wait and see how I felt after the summit. I took another break when the trail turns back southward, knowing I had about 8/10 of a mile to the summit. I continued my steady pace and at the junction with the trail from Little Round Valley, I took another quick rest break before the final push. I was feeling the poor sleep affect me some and I was at over 10,400 feet. I continued climbing, scanning the trail ahead for that first glimpse of the rescue hut. That was the sign that the maintained trail would end, and then the final rock scramble to the summit would begin. I picked my way up the rocks, following a path that I remembered, and soon the summit came into view.

I scrambled up the rocks to the benchmark and took my photo with my challenge badge next to it as my summit proof. I surveyed the views for a short while, then ducked down to find a spot out of the wind and take a VERY well-earned break. I looked around to see if any of the summit signs were around, but I suspect the high winds yesterday and last night might have blown them away. After a nice break, I knew it was time to head down the mountain. I still had to pack up camp and hike back to the tram station. At the Wellman Divide, I met two hikers who had come up via Devil’s Slide. We chatted briefly. One was heading back, while the other was going for the summit. We said our goodbyes and took off down our respective trails. As I made my way down toward Round Valley, I wondered if I might encounter someone attempting C2C today. It was still too early for any hikers to have come from the tram station. Alas, my descent was one of solitude.

After packing up camp, which is much easier in the daylight, I sauntered back toward the tram station. I passed a lot more folks this time, including 10 or so backpackers heading to Round Valley. As I neared the Ranger station, my eye spotted something moving on the trail. I looked down and it was a Western Mountain Toad. I grabbed a photo or two before continuing on. There had been a sign to be aware of them at the Ranger station and I was happy to actually see one. I checked back in with the same ranger as the day before. I also let him know they were down to one roll in the pit toilets near the Gooseberry campsite. I then made that long climb up the concrete switchbacks to the tram station. It certainly was busier than the day before. I got a nice cold soda and waited for the next tram. I always feel bad for folks riding down and having to stand next to stinky hikers and backpackers. 

Once back at the car, I let Anita know I was skipping going on to Baden-Powell, as I was a bit wiped from the hike, and I would be home in time for dinner. While certainly not my fastest time up the mountain, it was a solid hike for me. 

Ranger Station to Round Valley Campsite: 2.27 miles, 1:19, and 800 feet of gain

Summit: 5.81 miles, 4:30 (moving time), and 1,648 feet of gain.

Round Valley Junction to Ranger Station: 1.94 miles, 1:09, and almost all downhill :).


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Alan Peak

I woke to discover that a trash panda had gotten into my cooler and enjoyed the Snickers bar I had wanted to take on the hike. After cleaning up the minor mess, I had breakfast and prepared to head out. Between the overcast skies and being in a canyon, I had actually slept in rather than waking at dawn’s first light. That actually was fine, as most of the hike is due east, so not staring directly into the sun was fine by me. There are several different trailheads to choose from; one is very close to my actual campsite, but that would have added about 2 miles to an already long hike. There is another trailhead near the Spooner Ranch house, but I did not want to park the car there or make the walk down to it. In the end, I parked at the Valencia Peak trailhead. This peak is on the Sierra Club Lower Peaks Committee list, so I was interested in possibly climbing it, but only if I felt up to it upon my return from Alan Peak. As I gathered my gear, a nice three-point buck strolled down the road. The sun was high enough that my hat shaded my eyes, and I set off. The trail starts out mellow for the first mile until it reaches the junction with the Badger Trail and the New Oats Peak Trail. Since I wanted some recon on Valencia Peak, I started working my way up toward it. After a couple of switchbacks, the trail stuck to following the ridgeline. Evidence of geological tilt was very apparent. I reached the turn-off to the summit and continued on. Unfortunately, the trail lost 200+ feet of elevation, and I was not happy. I knew this hike had a lot of ups and downs, so extra gain/loss was something I did not want. This was something I was going to need to factor in for my return.

The trail now linked back up with the Oats Peak Trail and pushed eastward and upward. I stared off along the ridgeline ahead of me, trying to identify which bump was actually Oats Peak and my first planned rest stop. A trail sign said ½ mile to the summit, but of course, there was a minor bump along the way to cross first. Thankfully, this one did have a side route, so I saved about 100 feet of climbing. Once on Oats, a nice double-sided bench called to me to come sit and take a rest. The benchmark was clearly visible atop a metal pole. While I enjoyed a snack and some fluids, three other hikers joined me. They were from Cal Poly SLO’s hiking club, and doing a loop to Oats Peak. We chatted some, and they offered some beta on the trail to Alan Peak, as well as an alternate return route via the Coon Creek Trail. They said it was rather shaded and nice, but it would be about a mile south of my car, so I would have some road walking to do if I opted to take it. We departed the summit together, then they quickly made their turn onto Coon Creek Trail and I continued following the ridgeline. I could spot Alan Peak off in the distance, and also see all the bumps I had to traverse.

The day was warm, but the occasional breeze helped. Overall, I felt okay, I needed just keep my pace in check. I avoided looking at my actual pace and just let my body and the trail tell me what to do. I took a few short breaks, usually under the shade of some trees. Each descent I had enjoyed so far, would become an ascent on my return, so there was no need to push myself for no good reason. I reached a nice shady section, which gave me some relief from the sun. Unfortunately, there was a lot more poison oak to be aware of. This is why I opted for long pants for this hike over the shorts I wore the day before. The trail soon made its turn to the north and I knew the summit was very close. I was running out of gas, but knew it was just one more bump away. I pushed on, and soon the summit sign greeted me, all under the lovely shade of a large oak tree. I shed my pack and relaxed. Since I did have cell service, I checked in with my wife (the campground does not have a signal). I then stretched out and had a lovely and well-earned summit nap. About 30 minutes later, and feeling so much better, I enjoyed my lunch, took my photos, and began thinking about my route back. I knew I was skipping Valencia Peak at this point, but did I want to try the route that the SLO hikers took? Maybe the New Oats Trail might make more sense. I had about 2 miles or so until I crossed back over Oat Peak before I needed to make a decision. 

Cruised back along the trail, still being mindful of my pace, as I still had quite a few miles left to cover and those annoying bumps to traverse. As I neared Oats Peak, I made the choice to use the New Oats Trail as my return route. Another factor in all this was that the clouds had started to roll in again, and Valencia Peak was just high enough to be in them. The New Oats Trail gently worked its way down. If I hadn’t been thinking about trying for Valencia Peak, this is the trail I should have used on the way out.

I soon found myself back at the car, and my feet and legs were starting to feel the effects of the long hike, but I had done it! All told, my route logged in at 11.5 miles with an elevation gain of 2,729 feet (remember the summit is at 1,649 feet!). My moving time was 6:17. I collectively took about 1:30 worth of breaks along the entire journey. While I was tired from the effort, this was a major milestone for me. It was just about four months ago I had my surgery, and here I was finishing this hike, as well as doing the two the day before. 

Epilogue

Once back at camp, I relaxed some before enjoying dinner. Sadly, my campfire would not stay lit, so I threw in the towel and went to bed. I relocated the containers I left out last night into the car with me, so as not to have a repeat of the previous visit from the local trash panda. I woke up a little earlier the next day. I opted for a quick snack and a coffee at camp and a ‘real’ breakfast instead in town. My legs and feet were feeling the two days of hiking, so my optional 4th peak seemed unlikely. As I drew near Gavoita Peak, I saw that it would be completely socked in. That peak also has some great views, so I decided to drive on by and head home. I knew I still had another trip up here for the rest of the challenge, so why not wait until then?


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Hazard Peak

After climbing Bishop Peak in the morning, I drove over to Montaña de Oro and set up camp at the Islay Campground. The general plan for the afternoon was to relax at the campsite for a while, then head over to the trailhead to hike up Hazard Peak. I hoped that the marine layer would stay away long enough so I could enjoy the view of Morro Bay directly to the north of the peak. As I woke up from a short nap, I could see that the clouds were starting to roll in, so I gathered my gear and made the short drive to the trailhead. The route I wanted to take starts next to Camp KEEP (Kern Environmental Education Program) which is a residential outdoor science program. The camp was quiet, I am guessing due to it being Labor Day. I did not see any signs prohibiting me from hiking along the service road to the camp, so I continued on. I reached the Heidra Trail and left the service road behind. The trail was a bit sandy until it reached the junction with the Hazard Peak Trail. There another surprise greeted me, a lovely swing hanging from an eucalyptus tree. I snapped a few photos for my friend Amber who is obsessed with hidden swings, then continued on.

I got a few views of Morro Bay and its famous rock before the cloud cover obscured the view. The trail was pleasant and I cruised along toward the summit. I reached the junction with the Canyon View trail. If I had wanted to come directly from the campground, this is the trail I would have used, but it is a bit longer. From this intersection, the summit was just about a mile away.

As I looked up toward it, I wondered if I would be fully in the clouds or not. I soon drew near and spotted the two benches and picnic table that reside at the summit. I was not in the clouds but had no view to speak of. I took a short break, snapped my photos, and headed down. Some mountain bikers had joined me, and I let them pass before starting my descent. A couple of trail runners raced upwards as I made my way back. Soon, I was back down, and as I neared my car, I spotted several deer nearby. That was a nice surprise. I snapped a few photos, then made the short drive back to my campsite. I finished getting ready for the evening, made some dinner, enjoyed a fire, and went to sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a big day with an attempt at Alan Peak, over 11 miles of hiking, and the largest elevation gain to date for my foot. Hazard Peak was 5.25 miles round-trip and a mere 970 feet of gain.


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Bishop Peak

4 a.m. came very early, but if I wanted to get past Los Angeles on Labor Day, this was the price I had to pay. The goal for the next few days was to camp at Montaña de Oro State Park and climb several of the peaks that are on the inaugural Central Coast Six Pack of Peaks Challenge. The freeways were fairly empty as I made my way northward, taking a short break along the way for some more coffee. As I neared Santa Barbara, my navigation app had me take Hwy. 154 over the mountains and past Lake Cachuma. Initially, this was a little surprising, but it had been years since I had driven through here, so why not? One of the peaks on the challenge has its trailhead off this highway, so refreshing my memory of the road would be another benefit. I cruised past the very full lake until I rejoined Hwy. 101 and continued on toward San Luis Obispo. The first peak that I was attempting was Bishop Peak. This peak is a 1,546-foot volcanic plug that is right in town. It is the tallest of the Morros or “Nine Sisters”, a chain of similar peaks stretching to toward Morro Bay. I opted to start my hike from the Highland trailhead, as it was the shortest. There is no parking lot, so I had to find some street parking a bit down the road. This was starting to remind me of Cowles Mountain. After grabbing my gear, and electing to use my new smaller pack for this hike, I trodded up the road. Several nice homes lined the east side of the street. The trailhead had the basic safety information and leashes you could borrow for your dog. That was a nice touch. Sadly, all the dogs I did encounter were unleashed. The trail works its way around the back of a couple of the homes, and under some lovely oaks before beginning to climb toward the summit.

The area around the peak was turned into a preserve by some of the early residents of the area, and their efforts were memorialized on two plaques alongside the trail. The trail worked its way southward, still mostly under the shade from the oaks. Some poison oak did line the side of the trail, and I made sure to mention that to an SLO student hiking with her parents. Bishop Peak offers some rock climbing opportunities, so there were a few spur trails to climbing areas that were marked by signposts, but I continued along the summit trail.

The trail arcs around and heads northward. It is here that you start to get some great views of the town, Cerro San Luis Obispo to the south (another one of the plugs), and Laguna Lake. This is also where you start to actually gain some elevation. As I climbed, the hikers that I passed reminded me more and more of the ones I encountered on Cowles. Thankfully, no one was sharing their “killer” tunes as I made my way up the switchbacks. I wasn’t racing toward the summit, knowing I had another longer hike planned in the afternoon, and my longest hike to date planned for the next day. But, soon, the pair of benches that serve as the informal summit came into view. The true summit actually requires climbing gear, so for most, this is our summit. I took a moment or two to take some photos and enjoy some shade next to some rocks. A memorial plaque was affixed nearby for a hiker who had fallen to his death. I was starting to get a little hungry, so I started back down the trail. Back at the car, I headed into town for my planned lunch of some delicious BBQ tri-tip. For those who don’t know, tri-tip is to SLO as fish tacos are to San Diego. With my belly now full, I made the 30-minute drive to Islay Campground, with a quick stop at the Ralphs for some last-minute provisions. The hike was 3.1 miles round-trip and had an elevation gain of 956 feet. 


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Sawmill Mountain (via West Tumamait)

After a decent night’s sleep in my tent, we made a lovely breakfast of real scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee before heading out. The plan today was to drive over to the West Tumamait trailhead and approach Sawmill from the west. When we arrived at the trailhead, three other cars were parked alongside the road. We found a spot, grabbed our gear, and began our trek.

Our route started with a steep 1/2 mile descent along a ridge. I think we would lose about 500 feet of elevation, which would taint us on our return. Off to the east stood Grouse Mountain. We reached Puerta del Suelo and now it was time to start regaining the elevation we lost and more. I could feel the altitude and where my recovery was and I was feeling all of it as I plodded upward. I told Dave and two of his sons to go on ahead and met them at the junction with the trail to Grouse. While they were fine having me set the pace, I felt too guilty about my slow pace. 

We regrouped at the junction, and I took a short break. For the most part, I kept plodding along, never stopping for more than a breath or two. We continued climbing, passing the turn-off to Sheep Camp. I gave them the directions to look for the turnoff to Sawmill. As I approached it, they were not there. Another hiker was just coming from the other direction and I asked if he saw three hikers, he replied that he just saw them. So with a strong shout, I yelled and got Dave and the boys to return. Where there had usually been an X made of tree limbs to mark the trail, it wasn’t there and they walked past it. Now back together, we strolled up to the monument. After snapping some photos, we enjoyed a well-earned lunch. However, the final climb back to the trailhead weighed heavily on my mind.

Dave, unfortunately, developed a blister that we had first addressed back at the Grouse junction stop. It was still bothering him, so he applied some duct tape to the area. Once that was (hopefully) resolved, we set off and began to retrace our route. Along the way, I crossed paths with a pair of hikers I met while making the climb to the Grouse Junction. They were doing the whole traverse from Mt. Pinos to Cerro Noroeste. Turns out one of them was also doing the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge, so we chatted some before parting ways. We again regrouped at Grouse Junction. Neither of the boys felt adventurous enough to make the climb to it, so we continued on. I ate an energy chew just to give me a little more juice before the big climb. At the saddle, a hiker who had been with us on Sawmill was enjoying a snack after hitting Grouse and then going cross-country to his usual turn-around point. I said goodbye and began to climb.

My goal was to try to be mindful of my heart rate and pace myself. Some afternoon clouds had formed and gave me some shade which I welcomed, as a modest portion was exposed. Soon I spotted the trailhead and pushed on. That route was certainly a harder option than the traditional route from the east. All told the hike covered 5.8 miles with 1,485 feet of gain. 


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest.