Chalk Mountain on the Nifty Ninety

Chalk Mountain on the Nifty Ninety Peak Challenge!

Chalk Mountain was the last stop of an exciting and rewarding weekend on the San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz counties’ coastlines. Saturday was an 8-hour cruise out and around the Farallones Islands beyond the Golden Gate on the ‘Salty Lady’ for whale watching.
Sunday was the climb to number 74 — Montara Mountain’s North Peak — and Monday took us to Chalk Mountain. For Ralph and me, this was peak #75 on the Nifty Ninety Peaks challenge.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel

So that we didn’t have to make the long drive down the coast twice, we had stayed overnight Sunday night at Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel near Pescadero. Our friend Tom had made the reservations, which is highly advisable. (Click here to reach them). Although there is a functioning lighthouse, the building has long been in need of restoration and is not open to the public.

The hostel is composed of several small buildings with various kinds of accommodations — dorms, family, and private rooms. There’s a hot tub (which you should reserve as early as possible) and, because this is a dark sky preserve, it’s a perfect place to stargaze. After preparing breakfast the next morning in the hostels’ adequately equipped kitchen, we continued our journey south along the coast and into Santa Cruz County.

Choosing a trail head

I was quite happy to learn that my ‘always prepared’ husband Ralph and our friend Patricia had conferred and found that we could reach a trail head closer than those along Hwy. 1 (the Coast Highway) that are usually suggested. We drove 3 miles in on Whitehorse Canyon Road off of highway 1. This was an unmarked, but wide, not too awful, dirt road. We parked in a pullout just before the public road became marked with signs indicating it was turning into a private one.
 

The hike

We started with a steep ascent, about 1,300 feet in a mile with 25-35% grades, on dirt trail through redwood forest. No problem with the climb, we could adjust our pace accordingly, but I did wonder how difficult our descent would go. There were two short turnoffs to reach viewpoint with outstanding views of Año Nuevo State Park and other beaches along the coastline.
 
As we progressed, the trail became somewhat less steep; vegetation became scrubbier. I enjoyed the thick mosses hanging from the host pine trees. When we neared the top, we came to Chalk Truck Trail, a dirt/gravel road that made for much easier going. We turned left and continued on to the summit.
 
Looking for the survey marker

The summit itself wasn’t terribly exciting — but the views were wonderful and the old abandoned fire lookout had some graffiti that had been scratched with the chunks of chalk rock liberally surrounding us — no ‘Kilroy was here!’ but some artsy ones.

Coming back down the hill was not nearly as difficult as I had feared. We didn’t find much in the way of loose rock or slippery vegetation, so footing was good. I was glad I had hiking poles because of the incline.

 
Although the high point was only 1,609′ and the out-and-back hike totaled only about 5 miles, I’d say, as Ralph claimed, that this was “a real butt-kicker.” However, his comment skipped over the fact that he was carrying a 20-25 lb. backpack as part of his always trail-ready conditioning plan. Various reports rate the hike as difficult, others as moderate — subjective as usual!

Although the high point was only 1,609′ and the hike an out-and-back totaling only about 5 miles, I’d say, as Ralph claimed, that this was “a real butt-kicker.” However, his comment doesn’t include the fact that he was carrying a 20-25 lb. backpack as part of his continual trail-ready conditioning plan. Various reports rate the hike as difficult, others as moderate — subjective of course!

On the way back home, we stopped at the San Gregorio General Store and Post Office, which is just off Hwy. 84 (and a few miles off Highway 1.) This funky old store has been around since 1889 with all kinds of practical and quirky things for sale. They have a bar, bookstore, and variety store — as well as live music on weekends. A great way to end a fun-filled weekend!

More info? Click here for an account from Summit Post that gives alternate routes.

hike: July 29, 2019.

 

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