April 9, 2010

Montana de Oro State Park near Morro Bay

Today we did a nice trip over to Montana de Oro State Park near Morro Bay. It is one of the largest state parks in California, consisting mostly of steep coastal bluffs, coastal sage scrub, grassland, and several large stands of invasive eucalyptus trees amongst a series of ridges and mountains. The day started out foggy, so we waited until 10am to head out. By the time we got there, the sun was out for a beautiful, if not somewhat hazy day.

Valencia Peak (1350 feet) from the shore

The main thing we did today was the 4 mile round trip up to the summit of 1350 foot Valencia Peak. It is a steep, if not long hike, with towering views across the coastline and sea. I will discuss this hike in more detail in a Hikemasters' Trail Description post in the coming days. But, it was a great way to get a workout.

Afterward returning from the summit, we simply crossed the street from the parking area and hiked out to the coastal bluffs that stand 50 feet or so above the surf. The wave action was strong due to an impending storm arriving Sunday. But, it was low tide, so alot of the steeply tilted sedimentary layers were visible.

We hiked about a mile out to a place called Corralina Cove, where some nice tidepools were there to explore. I wouldn't call them Washington coast quality pools, but Hilina was jumping around the rocks catching hermit crabs, touching sea stars and sea anemonies, and just having a wonderful time overall.

All along the beach were these gooey clumps of natural asphalt that originate as tar seeps in the Santa Barbara Channel and float around on the ocean and wash up on shore. This is the same material as in the La Brea Tar Pits. Basically, it is crude oil where all the volatile chemicals like methane and kerosene have evaporated out of it. It is generally harmless, but sticky to get off your hands.

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