Hiking on Easter: Cerro Alto and Morro Rock

I spent last Christmas hiking Valencia Peak and Bishop Peak–I decided to continue the holiday hike theme today on Easter Sunday. I went to the early service at GraceSLO, then hit the road bound for the Los Padres National Forest. I stopped at the Cerro Alto Campground.

The Los Padres National Forest.

The Los Padres National Forest.

I decided to combine the Cerro Alto Loop Trail and the Cerro Alto Peak Trail. The lowland part of the hike through the forest almost felt like Pennsylvania at times. Tree canopies provided cover, and herbaceous plants were plentiful thanks to the rain we’ve had recently.

The Cerro Alto Peak trail.

The Cerro Alto trail.

Parking at the campground cost me $5, which I viewed as a payment for trail maintenance. The trails were all very well constructed. In some places they were steep and rugged, but they were not washed out or overgrown. All the cutbacks added suspense. It was common for the trail to disappear ahead due to sharp curves.

The trail winds along one of the ridges.

The trail winds along one of the ridges before cutting back.

At the highest point of the loop trail there was a bench overlooking the valley. It looks like a good place to have a conversation. I stopped briefly, but since I had no one to talk to I pushed on to the peak trail (the vigorous portion of the hike).

A bench at the peak of the loop trail.

A bench on the loop trail.

Plants were in bloom all around me. I took many pictures, now I just need to identify them. (That might be a later blog post.)

Plants and views.

Plants and views.

The view from the Cerro Alto Peak is tremendous. It has an elevation of 2,624 feet. You can stand on the very tip of the mountain and see a glorious 360° view that is breathtaking. Pictures completely fail to do it justice.

Looking toward Morro Bay.

Looking toward Morro Bay and Morro Rock.

Morro Rock viewed through my long lens.

Morro Rock viewed through my long lens.

During the hike it had been very hot. I was soaked with sweat. At the top of the mountain is was cold. Despite the chill I stood there, the scene was too impressive to walk away from quickly.

Surveying the majesty of the coastline.

Surveying the majesty of the coastline.

Posing with the coastline.

Posing with the coastline; Morro Rock is by my left upper arm.

After I had descended back to my car I decided to head to Morro Bay and hike along the beach to Morro Rock. I parked at Cloisters Park, then walked down the boardwalk through the dunes to reach the beach. As I strolled along the beach (the first time I’ve walked on sand in hiking boots) I watched the many surfers and paddle boarders. Ahead of me Morro Rock loomed in the mist. it looked like a scene from a movie–all it was lacking was some eerie organ music.

Morro Rock looms in the fog.

Morro Rock looms in the fog.

Morro Rock hosts a large number of birds. In fact, the Morro Bay area is very popular with bird watchers because of the avian diversity. The rock looks like it has been whitewashed in many places. This is not the work of Tom Sawyer; this is the work of birds and salt deposits.

The birds have left their mark on Morro Rock.

The birds have left their mark on Morro Rock.

I saw a seagull standing in a basin of water watching the bay. This really amused me for some reason.

A seagull watches the bay.

A seagull watches the bay.

A romp of sea otters was frolicking in the bay. I stayed and watched them for awhile. They floated around with their feet in the air. Most of them struck a prayer-like pose with their paws frequently.

Sea otters!

Sea otters!

And more sea otters!

And more sea otters!

I walked along the bay before heading back to my car. It was chilly by the water. There was a mist in the air, with a slight breeze blowing. It still fascinates me how the Central Coast has such a large number of microclimates.

Happy Easter!

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