3,200 elevation gain
Hiking Time: 6 ½ hours
Jane and Julie
This hike was a challenge hike and Jane and I met the challenge! 3,200 elevation gain over 5 miles. I have wanted to do this hike for several years. One of the
When I was backpacking to Sykes Host springs two years ago – I had seen a trail cutting across the mountain and first thought – “My God, that’s not our trail, is it?” But then I realized it must be the
We have been trying to schedule this hike since May, but just haven’t found the time. If we hadn’t done it this weekend, I would have put it off until fall. My new Big Sur Hiking Book say summer months are foggy and the best months for hiking peaks is mid-November to April. Now, we find out!
I picked Jane up at 6:30 a.m. We were determined to get an early start on the hike. As was the case four days ago for the Garrapata hike – it was foggy and I had to have the windshield wipers on all the way to
Jane had brought plenty of water. I had brought three nalgene bottles full and that would not have been enough without Jane’s additional bottles. The trailhead starts on a paved road which climbs to John Pfeiffer’s Homestead Cabin. We climbed up a dirt trail and got our first peek of an ocean view. By this time it was starting to clear.
Part of the trail went through a little tunnel of undergrowth, including plenty of poison oak. I’m not sure why they didn’t clear this part of the trail since it was right at the beginning. The next part of the trail went past a giant fallen oak tree. Unfortunately, many of the oaks in
Further up the path we came to the junction of
Mt Manuel is named for Manuel Innocenti an Esselen Indian who had a cabin near the peak in 1886. The first part of the trail clings to the edge of the mountain, with steep drop-offs. The trail is wide enough, but you want to watch your footing. It wouldn’t be hard to go plunging off the side of the trail. I was thankful for my walking stick which was extremely useful for balance on this hike.
You could definitely see the trail traveling the contours of the mountain. The question was what was beyond that farthest point? I could look across the valley and see the trail to Sykes Hot Springs. Now I was seeing it from the other side. It’s amazing when you are hiking how quickly you can cover territory. You turn around and are amazed how far and how high you have come.
There were plenty of flowers for Jane to study. She had brought several guides. There were many lizards and two snakes slithered quickly off the trail. The air was filled with the buzzing of honeybees busy among the flowers. The sun had come out. This trail lived up to my expectations of being hot and exposed. We were looking for a good place to stop. Jane was starting to get a blister which needed treating and I wanted to put on more sunscreen. There were two shaded gullies full of trees. The rest of the trail was exposed chaparral and the morning sun was getting hot. The second gully had a nice stopping point with rocks to sit on. It’s so easy when hiking to stop just short of the perfect stopping place – five minutes before the giant waterfall or grand vista – but sometimes you just gotta take a break.
Jane treated her blister, we had water, trail mix and put on sunscreen. Onward. We finally reached that furthest point and turned the corner to see the
We thought we were pretty close to the top. Jane pulled her left groin muscle which was painful but not debilitating. Being a trooper she did not complain. She was ready to reach the top, however. As we climbed, the Santa Lucia mountains became more impressive. Jane was busy noting the wildflowers. We stopped to take this picture. Jane had to climb up the hillside and lay on her back. You can see her legs and water bottle at the bottom of the picture. I am demonstrating proper sarong bug protection. We kept thinking we were close to the top, but then there would be another curve.
Finally our destination came into view. It was definitely the top and there was a tree there for shade! We crossed a saddle and the ocean came into view. You could see all the way north to Pt. Sur Lighthouse – with the fog hanging off the coast. To the south you could see the whole coast, but shrouded in fog.
We stopped to take a picture next to an Our Lord’s Candle that was in bloom. These Yucca plants dot the mountains in Big
We ate our lunch in the shade and enjoyed our hard earned view. I took a water inventory and thanks to Jane’s extra bottles we had enough. Jane had brought a protein drink which we shared and is a great idea for future hikes. There was a black “reflector” thing that we never discovered the purpose of.
In addition to the ever present bugs – there were many butterflies. As we ate lunch they circled around us; Swallowtails, little white and blue ones. I tried to use mind control to make one land on me, they came close, but they didn’t land. Jane and I must have looked like two giant flowers in our purple and pink sarongs. On the trail down Jane had a Swallowtail land on her briefly and take a taste of her sarong. He didn’t like it so he didn’t stay long.
After lunch we headed down the trail. The trail seemed a bit different and Jane kept saying – I don’t remember this. Sure enough we ended up at the Reflector. Still don’t know what it is. Retracing our steps – Jane spotted a Horned Toad (Horny Toads we used to called them as kids) in the bushes. It was only the second one I have seen in the wild. It wasn’t listed in the book as being native to Big
We had not seen a soul all day and figured we were the only two fools brave enough to hike it in June.
We were wrong. The first person we met on the trail was a young woman with a full size pack. Turns out she was training for the John Muir Trail. We had her take our picture while we had the chance. Next we met a pair of older hikers. Jane was looking more closely at the flower leaves after spending time with her identification book on the summit. She was noting the shape of the leaves and how they came off the stem. I though I’d be lucky to remember the color of the flowers.
We kept winding our way down. We met two more pairs of hikers. It was 3:00 p.m. and they had a far ways to go and hadn’t hit the bugs yet. We knew they were going to be eaten alive, but wished them luck.
Coming back was a breeze. Of course, it took longer than we remembered. We saw a giant blue nosed honey bees amongst the flowers. We couldn’t tell if his nose was naturally blue or if it was from the pollen of the flowers. It took us three hours to hike down. When we stopped for a pee break, Jane got bit on the butt by one of the biting flies. The Noive!
When we finally got to the Homestead Cabin we started down the paved road. Jane remembered the road being dirt, so we went back and circled around several times before pulling out the map and realizing we were right in the first place. Nothing like a little detour at the end of the trail. My dogs were barking (an expression Jane and had never heard) and we were both anxious to change out of our hiking boots.
We drove to Nepenthe and stopped at the
Instead, we decided to go to my favorite – the River Inn. We got our Bloody Marys and took them down to the river. They have
We had expected to be challenged and we were, but in spite of the fog and the sun, the blisters and pulled muscle, the biting flies and bugs, the poison oak and 11% grade – we had accomplished our goal! There is something so empowering and fulfilling in being out in nature. I feel it on every hike. This hike made me thankful as well – for a hiking partner like Jane and for a strong, healthy body.
Lessons Learned: A sarong is effective bug protection.