Saturday, May 26, 2018

Climbing Bishop Peak

The Nine Sisters
Central California

I'm not done with California yet.  Far from it.  There are still many places to explore in this diverse and beautiful state.  Because I have family there, I will be making an annual pilgrimage to see them AND to visit all those places I didn't quite get to.  Climbing all Nine Sisters in San Luis Obispo County was one goal I started, but didn't finish.  In 2014, my travel buddy and I climbed Cerro San Luis.  Last week we climbed another one--Bishop Peak.

Bishop Peak is the highest of the Nine Sisters at 1,559 feet.  It is a challenging hike, but a popular one.  Even though it was a weekday, there were several hikers on the trail.  Most of them were millennials and I was happy to hear one young man call this hike "intense."  Why?  Because part of the trail is a scramble over boulders and it takes strength.  It begins with an easy trail through a scrub oak forest but then a series of rocky switchbacks take you to the summit with alot of huffing and puffing to get there.  I thought I was in good shape after all the hiking I do in the Pacific Northwest, but this hike took me a full three hours to complete.  Guess I'm not in that great of shape!

"Don't be so hard on yourself," my travel buddy reminded me.  "We stayed at the top for nearly an hour!"

Oh . . . right.  (And I stopped often to take pictures!!!)

There are a couple of places to pick up the trail.  We started at Patricia Drive.  To get to the trailhead, take exit 203B in San Luis Obispo, from Highway 101.  Drive north for one mile toward Morro Bay and then turn left on Highland Drive.  Drive half a mile, then turn right on Patricia Drive.  Go another mile where you will spot the trailhead sign, opposite several houses.  Park on the street.  It is a 4.2 mile round trip hike from here.

Compared to the Cascades, these mountains (hills?) are puny, but in geology-speak, they are far from it.  The Cascades are less than 2 million years old and the highest peaks are young--a mere 100,000 years old.  But the Nine Sisters?  These babies were created 20 million years ago!  What I am climbing are all that's left of these ancient giants--their volcanic plugs.  I am walking on the congealed lava that once filled the vent inside the mountain.  I swear it gives me the shivers thinking about it.
 These volcanic plugs range in height from Morro Rock at 576 feet to Bishop Peak at 1,559 feet.  They stretch from the city of San Luis Obispo to the ocean.  Not all of them can be climbed, however, so my goal may not be attainable.  The five that have public access are Black Hill at 665 feet, Cerro Cabrillo at 9ll feet, Bishop Peak, Cerro San Luis at 1,292 feet and Islay Hill at 775 feet. 

Climbing Morro Rock is forbidden because it is sacred to the Chumash.  Hollister Peak, Cerro Romauldo and Chumash Peak are all privately owned.  I will keep checking, however, hoping . . . hoping. . . hoping . . . that one day there will be access.
At the summit is a bench marking the end of the trail.  The views of San Luis Obispo and the other Sisters are amazing from up here. 

It was a glorious day.  A glorious hike.  Can't wait to return.

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