Saturday, May 7, 2011

beyond the moutain of gold

Buchon Trail, 2/3/2011

We made this hike way back in February, but I never found the time to write a little about it. Pacific Gas & Electric owns a large patch of coast on either side of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant but there are two trails along the bluffs that PG&E will let you hike if you follow the rules. Buchon Trail begins where Montaña de Oro State Park ends and makes its way about three miles along the bluffs.

The trail has little change in elevation and is not very strenuous but there are slippery bits if you're not sure of foot. The California Poppies and other wild flowers like this patch of coast so you may get a colorful show if you go in the spring. The craggy coast is spectacular and you may see some marine mammals foraging in the kelp. Coast birds of all sorts are a sure bet and maybe a pirate or two hiding in the little coves. Beware of the ground squirrels... cute little disease vectors. There are several places along the hike that provide a bench to rest your heels and be still for a while so plan on some extra time to dawdle.

The trail end takes you within sight of the Nuclear plant so the PG&E folks are not kidding about the rules and reservations for this hike. Trust me you are being watched the whole way. The folks at the entrance station know who is on the trail and what they are up to. Stay on the trail, don't even think of climbing the bluffs, there are porta-potties about two miles in so don't pee on the trail, and don't drop any litter. Behave yourself and PG&E will be very friendly... goof around out there and they will either come get you and escort you out or they will take you aside as you leave and kindly ask you not to come back for at least six months.

To get to the trail head take Los Osos Valley Road West from highway 101 just south of San Luis Obispo. This will turn into Pecho Valley Road when you get to the little town of Los Osos. Take Pecho Valley Road all the way to its dead end in Montaño de Oro State Park (no entrance fee). The road ends at a locked gate with a sign posting the trail hours and if it is open that day (rain? don't bother, they won't let you in). Park in the gravel lot and walk through the small pedestrian gate and down the paved road. This will take you to the entrance station where they will check you in and review the rules with you. There are more porta-potties here. Make use of them, it's a good walk to the next ones. The hike is free too but if you are going on a weekend or a nice summer day I do suggest using the reservation form for the trail and start out early. Depending on the season the trail closes at 4 or 5pm. If you arrive too late and the PG&E folks don't think you can make it out and back by closing they won't let you in.

We all get to hike this bit of coast as long as we stay in PG&E's good graces so be courteous. Plan ahead and this is a great hike on the far side of the mountain of gold.

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