Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ventana Wilderness - 14 Mile Out and Back to Junipero Serra Peak

Date: 5/15/2009 - 5/16/2009
Distance: 14 miles out and back
Elevation: 3,500' + gain/loss
Weather: High 90s, sunny and hot hot hot!

I got a chance to pack in one more spring trip to Ventana Wilderness once again thanks to the keen organization of Jim M., this time through the San Jose Hiking Meetup. This time we would climb to the top of Junipero Serra Peak. At 5,853' Junipero Serra is the highest point in the Santa Lucia Mountains -- California's central coast range.

A small group of us went down the night before the hike to enjoy some camping and mountain biking in Los Padres National forest. On our way to the campsite we stopped and checked out Fort Hunter Liggett -- the Army base adjacent to the forest.

Here we go with the pictures...

The Hacienda on Fort Hunter Liggett. This was designed by the same architect that designed the (William Randolph) Hearst Castle near San Simeon. Jim, Bill and I had a pitcher of beer here on our way through the base.

Rabbit hanging outside the Hacienda.

Driving through Fort Hunter Liggett on the way to Los Padres National Forest. Jim and Bill in the jeep up ahead. We had a couple of these water crossings along the way.

Looking up towards Junipero Serra Peak the evening before the hike. The meadows around the trailhead have tons of cool boulders to climb on.

On my mountain bike ride the morning before the hike.

Morning in Ventana.

A waterfall flowing into a swimming hole along Arroyo Seco Road.

The swimming hole.

The register at the trail head for Junipero Serra Peak.

Charred pine cones along the trail.

Jim riding an old broken down tractor we found along the way.

Elena takes a turn on the tractor.

Eric and Adam blazing a path for us to follow.

Eric in a sea of ferns.

Once upon a time a sign.

Late spring wildflowers were abundant.

The bloom of a Yucca plant.

Ascending out of the valley on the way to the peak.

A rough hand-stiched panorama taken about 2/3 of the way up the mountain. This shot is looking west to Cone Peak on the far western border of Ventana Wilderness. The Pacific Ocean lies directly on the other side of that ridge.

This was a fantastic late spring trip in what could easily become my favorite California wilderness area. However the blazing heat and incessant bugs in our faces told me it was time to lay off any more seriously strenuous Ventana adventures until next spring. Ventana in summer is an unforgiving place indeed!

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