A second pass through Montaña de Oro - Winterlude 2020 - CycleBlaze

December 5, 2020

A second pass through Montaña de Oro

We awoke to the grim news that southern California’s ICU bed capacity has fallen below the 15% threshold for the new stay-at-home order to kick in.  On Thursday it was at 20.6%, but in just one day it had fallen to 13.1%.  By the end of today it will have fallen even further, and the neighboring region, San Juaquin Valley, will be down to only 8% of its ICU beds available and network news will be announcing that the majority of the state will soon be under a stay at home order.

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This is really horrifying.  We still don’t worry so much for ourselves personally, but it feels catastrophic for society.  It looks like a horrible month lies ahead.  Restaurants will be closed except for take-out of course, which is fine with us.  We’ve been enjoying outside dining while we still can, but we won’t starve when it’s no longer available.  Of more concern is the guidance on lodging:

No hotel or lodging entity shall accept or honor out of state reservations for non-essential travel, unless the reservation is for at least the minimum time period required for quarantine and the persons identified in the reservation will quarantine in the hotel or lodging entity until after that time period has expired.

So this doesn’t bode well for our stay in California.  We’re booked at our motel here in Morro Bay for another three days, and it’s not clear yet whether we’ll be permitted to stay until then, or if we’d be able to move to a different hotel in California next.  We have cancellable reservations ahead at different spots in and out of the state for the next five weeks, but suddenly it’s uncertain whether we’ll be able to keep any of them.

An interesting puzzle to start the day with.  We spend a few hours doing further research and reaching out for more information, and come up with a new plan for the days and weeks ahead.

And then, uncertain about how soon we’ll need to leave town, we prioritize what we’d like to do with our remaining day or days here.  Top of the. List: a return to Montaña de Oro State Park for another hike.

Stepping out, Montaña de Oro State Park.
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We made the right choice, and are rewarded with a fantastic hike.  Armed (well, footed) with new shoes, I feel emboldened to take on something more challenging so we decide to climb Valencia Peak.  This is a very popular hike: a roughly two mile climb to the 1,350’ summit.  It’s all open country, and of course the views just keep getting better the higher we climb.  At the top there’s a 360 degree view, stunning in all directions.  

The view to the coast, from a low saddle early in the hike.
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We’re a thousand feet up but Valencia Peak is still a ways up there.
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Looking back on our route, the trail along the backbone of the ridge below. It’s so open and exposed, and in a modest way reminds me of the unnerving hike up Striding Edge in England’s Lake District years ago.
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A nice view upcoast to Morro Bay.
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Showing off the new shoes. They’re great!
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These look like the same tipped beds we saw at the shoreline on our first hike here. There’s been some heavy lifting going on.
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Dwarfed.
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Fantastic 360 degree view at the top.
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Dirty old man.
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From the summit, looking deeper into the interior. This shot makes me think we should get a pair of mountain bikes. Those two down there look like they’re having a blast.
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We snack at the top, reflecting on the phenomenal views and appreciating what a fine day we’ve been blessed with today: great visibility, a nearly cloudless sky, comfortably warm.  It’s such an exposed climb, and I imagine it gets insufferably warm at a different time of year.  We have a small bit of company at the summit, but we’re well spaced.  When others arrive though we feel like we’ve had our turn and head back down.

About half way down, we branch off onto a different trail, the Badger Trail, taking a different route back to the coast.  We’re more or less executing a triangle today, with the plan to walk back to the car along the Bluff Trail.  The Badger Trail is very nice, and much less trafficked than the Valencia Peak Trail we climbed up on.  Once we’ve branched off, we don’t see another person until we reach the coast. It’s odd, because they’re equivalent hikes to the top; but nearly everyone starts on the Valencia Peak Trail.

On the Badger Trail.
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Looking back at Valencia Peak from the Badger Trail. This is a good shot for getting perspective on the route. It climbs up the steepish western snout of that long shoulder on the left, follows the ridge, and then switchbacks up the peak to the summit.
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We knew the Bluff Trail would be stunning, because we hiked it the first time here after returning from the dunes.  Today though it’s stunning in a second way - by the weather.  As we approach the coastline we note the  dramatic, dense cloud formation offshore.  What isn’t obvious at first though is how rapidly it is approaching us.  It’s quite amazing - one minute we’re admiring these fantastic cliffs and inlets in the sun; five minutes later fog is creeping in around us; and in another five the land behind us has vanished behind a heavy blanket of fog.  It’s suddenly windy and chilly, and I’m regretting having left my outer layer in the car.  We’re glad we aren’t up on Valencia Peak.  It’s sobering to be reminded of how quickly weather conditions can change.

And, in another five, it starts clearing again.  Amazing.

On the Bluff Trail. One striking view follows another as you meander along the shoreline following the line of small points and inlets. Note the fast-approaching cloud formation still offshore.
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On the Bluff Trail.
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On the Bluff Trail.
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We don’t see black oystercatchers often, but we don’t forget how to recognize them. Unmistakeable.
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On the Bluff Trail.
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On the Bluff Trail. Here it comes!
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On the Bluff Trail.
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Blackout.
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Looking back inland toward now invisible Valencia Peak. We’re glad we aren’t still up there.
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This narrow channel is completely frothbound.
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Bruce LellmanGreat term - frothbound.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanThanks! A neologism, I think. I’m sure it can describe many situations. Might be a good descriptor for a Giuliani press conference, for example.
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1 month ago
Whipped cream.
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By the time we make it back to the car it’s clearing up again.
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One final delight in an already rich day: a clutch of coyotes.
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Frothy Spooner’s Cove, at the end of the hike.
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Back in town, we quickly bundle up and head down to the waterfront for perhaps our last outdoor dining experience for awhile.  On the the way we’re briefly held up by a Trump pickup caravan tying up traffic, maybe here protesting the coming stay at home order or the fact that their champion’s victory was stolen from them.  It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world we’re living in today.

The day ends with a disruption of a different sort, when Rachael hears dripping and thinks maybe it’s from the shower she just finished taking. Nope - it’s from the room upstairs, and water is dripping through the ceiling.  We call the front desk, they immediately rebook us into a different room upstairs, and we spend the next half hour packing up and making the short trip to our new quarters.  Too much fun.

On the harbor. Celebrating the holiday season, Morro Bay style.
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Jen GrumbyOh, that is fantastic!!

This shot makes my day.

Thank you.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyMine too. I couldn’t believe it when I looked out in the bay and saw this. Those Californians!
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1 month ago
A hasty evacuation.
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Jen GrumbyGlad your evacuation was a short trip upstairs!

Will be interesting to see what happens next with the Covid developments.

Glad you got out for this spectacular hike!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyIt will be interesting to see what we do next, alright. I can’t wait!
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1 month ago
Kelly IniguezCome to Tucson early?

Kelly
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Kelly IniguezHold that thought. All will be revealed in time.
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1 month ago