Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Peace in the Mountains

    The frame above is the perspective of a portion of the Santa Lucia Mountain range as seen from our back hill. The Santa Lucias are a mostly uninhabited coastal range that runs for 105 miles, starting south of here in San Luis Obispo County extending north into Monterey County. The Santa Lucias are the eastern boundary of Big Sur.
   Thor Liland Larsen captured this image in August 2009.
The Santa Lucia Mountains are granitic and essentially the same composition of the Sierra Nevada range.
  The highest peak in our area is Rocky Butte at 3,432. Here's a peak through trees. We have a clear view from the front of the house, but I wanted to maintain the same camera angle for a tour of our local peaks.
  Above and below are frames of Red Mountain at 2,047 feet.
Red was once mined for Cinnabar, a Mercury ore.

      The photo above, by Chris Ralph, shows the sometimes crystal like composition of Cinnabar. There are times when the light on Red Mountain allows it to reveal its name.
     Cinnabar was taken from long narrow tunnel mines. A product of volcanic activity, it is a source of Mercury. When crushed and roasted in furnaces it produces quick silver. 
     Chinese, some of whom worked on building railroads, were especially good at mining Cinnabar from Red Mountain.
  Above is the 2,849 foot Vulture Mountain.  The valleys and slopes of the Santa Lucia range are perfect thermal glide zones for Vultures, Hawks, Eagles and other birds.
   The frame above is, to my best guess and attempt to read the topo maps and data files, Triple Slough at about 2,500. The three crowns or summits are obvious.
   The Salinan and Chumash people inhabited or hunted and gathered in the Santa Lucia Mountains. 
    The first European to document the range was Spanish explorer Juan Cabrillo in 1542.  
  Arguably the most famous, certainly the most expensive, building in the Santa Lucia Range is the Hearst Castle, just a few miles north of our ridge. This excellent photo by Mike Peel shows the William Randolph Hearst "hill top cabin" on Cuesta Ridge. 

   The Santa Lucia's meeting the Pacific creates the always stunning Big Sur coast line.  
     The range elevation runs from about 1,500 and increases  as it extends up into Monterey County. 
   This is the 5,857 Junipero Serra Peak as documented in 2015 by Thomson200.
      Lana says one of the joys of this area is seeing cattle free range grazing on some of the gentle slopes of the Santa Lucias.
     This is looking south and east into what is called the Green Valley. I have yet to learn the names of these peaks which spine our distant horizon.
     We frequently drive over the rolling range when enroute to Paso Robles. It is a scenic drive, though we've made the trip in thick fog or driving rain as the highway crests the top of the range. Inclement weather is more robust on the summit road.
     The highway is at about 1,700 feet at its highest elevation and it offers magnificent and expansive views of the Pacific.
     In the distance you can see the iconic Morro Rock.
    Technically it is not in the Santa Lucia Range as it stands alone in the Pacific, though it is also a product of volcanic and plate tectonic dynamics. It is part of the so called "7 Sisters," peaks that were created by uplift.
      Morro Rock is ringed by the Santa Lucia range.

     Another of the 7 Sisters is Hollister Peak, a massive and textured beauty that also solos against the range.

   As you have guessed, I spend a lot of time enjoying the beauty of our central coast mountain views. I want to share a kind of anomaly.
   At certain times of the year one of our distant neighbors lights up. I apologize for the poor frame quality, but I'm on an extended zoom. As the sun drops behind me, it casts itself over the grazing slopes to our east and a ranch house sparkles.
    This is called a Mediterranean climate so the scenes below are rare, but snow can fall on the Santa Lucias.

   When snow gets down to the 2,500 to 3,000 foot elevation, it is cold by central coast standards. 
    Both rugged and gentle with undulating and rolling slopes, high cliffs, sandy beaches and ragged walls at the ocean, wide valleys and thick forests and all with limited human encroachment and a rich wild life population. It is a good balance and a beautiful range.
        The Santa Lucia range memorializes Lucia of Syracuse, a 4th Century Christian martyr.  
       As the insanity of the world can often be vexing,
 looking to the mountains is a help. They've been here a long time and they will remain, despite human shenanigans. 

    See you down the trail.


  1. Great job, Tom. I especially treasure that view of the rolling green hills that we have seen from the road to San Luis Obispo.

  2. One of our favorite drives. I remember the first time we drove to Hearst Castke via that road when Chandler was in middle school. When we pulled off at a lookout point he said, “this looks like how I imagine Ireland in my mind.” Such breathtaking beauty.