Montana de Oro State Park
January 15-17, 2005
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I planned this trip with MaximusII (aka Brett), a nice guy I have hiked with from
Backpacker.com,  but with the copious amounts of rain that have been dropping on
southern California he didn't know if he'd be able to make the drive up Hwy 101.  We
thought about changing our destination to go snow camping in Yosemite, instead, but in
the end 101 opened up and we kept our original plans and headed to the beach.

Montana de Oro State Park is one of the largest state parks in California and it lies
just south of Morro Bay on the beautiful California Coast.  There are many trails to
hike, a few peaks to climb, beaches to comb, horse camps, a car campground and four
walk-in campsites.  I reserved one of the walk-in campsites, Deer Flat, for $11/night
and that was where we stayed Saturday and Sunday nights.  You can park within 1/2
mile of Deer Flat, so it wasn't much of a backpacking trip, but we parked further
away so as to make it a wee bit more difficult ;)

On Saturday we met at the park visitor center around 10:30, got a map, packed up
our stuff, and hiked in to Deer Flat.  We hid our packs in the bushes there then took
off on a day hike down along the ocean's edge on the Bluff Trail.  A nice young seagull
posed to have his picture taken and I also stopped to take pictures of the golden
poppies just starting to bloom out there.  We also saw a sea otter floating just
beyond shore in the kelp beds.
Brett admiring the view from our campsite
As the afternoon waned we hiked back up the bluff to our campsite.  The trails of
Montana de Oro could use some erosion-control work.  The trail to our campsite was
basically a running stream.  I went ahead and got my boots muddy because along the
trails grows an awful lot of poison oak.

Right around nightfall a couple showed up at our campsite and began to put up their
tent.  I asked them if they knew that the campsite was a one-party site and that
they had to reserve it.  But I let them stay, they were nice folks and were quiet
that night and the site was big enough for many tents.

I made a quick dinner of cranberry stuffing with chicken washed down with some
Tang.  Then I got out my Thermarest chair and sat back to watch the sun set.  We
stayed up late that night gazing at the stars and listening to coyotes and a mournful
fog horn.
Spooner's Cove
Grotto Rock
I got up pretty early the next morning hoping to catch a glimpse of some wildlife.  
Nope, nothing but the wind stirred the grass.  After MaximusII got up we decided to
take down our tents and stow them in our packs and again hid them in the bushes just
in case as we weren't all that far in.  Then we took off with the goal of climbing
Valencia Peak.

MaximusII started scoping a direct route while I was looking for the Rattlesnakes
Flat Trailhead.  We ended up taking his route which he thought would be easier.  Well,
guess what, I don't think it was!  I think, however, that we were the first two to
summit Valencia Peak via the treacherous west route!  We battled steep inclines,
loose rock, poison oak, thick shrubs, and wild wind but finally made it to the top.  I
marked the route on my map for prosperity.

We spent a little time on the top of Valencia Peak, elevation 1,347', admiring the
view of the ocean and Morro Bay.  Then we headed down via the Valencia Peak Trail.  
Then MaximusII pointed out we could take a "short-cut" back to our campsite.  His
short-cut ended up being a brutal steep rocky portion of trail that went straight
down.  It about killed my knees and my left knee actually became quite wobbly.  I was
about to sit down and feel sorry for myself for a little while when I saw a monarch
butterfly making its way down the hill.  My spirit was refreshed a bit and I slowly
and surely made my way down.
Sunset
Sunrise
My REI Quarterdome Tent with the
Big Sur Coastline in the background
By the time we got back to our campsite it was about 1:00 pm and it was hot...  
Turkey vultures began circling us, lol, so we both decided we'd had enough sun for the
day so we set up our tents and napped until 4:00 or so.  I got up and took a short walk
to photograph some flowers and got buzzed by several hummingbirds.  In a month or
so the flowers will be covering the hills out there but right now there are just
pockets of them here and there.  Montana de Oro means Mountains of Gold referring
to the poppies that blanket the hills in spring.
Brett leads the way up Valencia Peak
Me, "Are we there yet?"
Yeah, we're at the top! 1,347'
View looking north to Morro Bay and Morro Rock
Going back down via the trail
That night I had a not-so-exciting meal of chicken and broccoli noodles.  I wouldn't
recommend this particular flavor of Lipton's, it was very bland tasting.  But I washed
it down with some Hershey's hot cocoa.  Then I watched the golden sun set into the
deep blue Pacific.

MaximusII decided to take an evening walk and to also take some of his gear back to
his truck.  While he was gone I kept watch for wildlife.  We saw plenty of deer
tracks and mountain lion scat that I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the big cat...  
But it was not to be.

I waited for him to come back and we chatted a little bit but then I headed for bed,
quite tired from the day's adventures.
Indian Paintbrush
Don't touch!  Poison Oak
I waited until sunrise the next day to peek my head out of the tent.  It was a
beautiful orangey sunrise and I took a few pictures then made myself some
cinnamon-roll oatmeal and Earl Grey Tea for breakfast.  We then started to pack up
and decided to hike a loop back to our trucks in order to stop and walk on the beach
along the way.

There were lots of joggers along the beach that morning.  We stopped at Quarry
Cove and I combed the beach looking for treasures.  There are lines of rock that
have been uplifted and eroded that jutted out into the ocean.  Between their parallel
lines were tide pools full of anenomes and snails.  I found one starfish but it had been
washed up on the sand.  I took a picture of a Snowy Egret whose feathers were being
ruffed by the breeze.

Then I put my pack back on and about 1/2 hour later we were back at our trucks.  It
was about lunch time so we decided to go into town to eat some Mexican Food.  I had
a yummy enchilada and taco which made up for the bland meal I had the night before.

It was a nice weekend.  Relaxing...  Well, except for blazing a trail up the west face
of Valencia :p  Altogether it was a good weekend.  I'll look forward to seeing
MaximusII again next month as we plan on snowshoeing around Giant Forest in
Sequoia National Park with a few other folks.
Sunset
And another sunrise...
A couple pictures of me and my tent
A Snowy Egret