Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bagging the Summit

Reaching the top of Cerro San Luis (or Madonna Mountain in local jargon), there is a single boulder that reaches higher than any of the others, and leans back comfortably resembling a chair.  Standing on this raised precipice on a glorified hill, legs burning and eyes wide open, San Luis Obispo stretches out in front of me on a Sunday morning.  Looking north-west from this platform, Los Osos Valley reaches until it meets the hazy coast line, home to the red, green and yellow cliffs of Montana De Oro and the curving estuary of Morro Bay.  Gazing south-west lends views of the black highway meandering through the green slopes, a deep thoroughfare up and over the hills to sleepy Avila or on into Pismo.  Panning east from here, San Luis Obispo city proper speckles the green open land with white houses, red tiled roofs and Cal Poly.  Continuing to scan, Bishops rises to a rocky peak and beyond that, a few more of the Morros rise up to preside over San Luis Valley.  But the man who “bagged the peak” just after me didn’t see any of this.

Taking in the landscape from this rock, where the winds blew cold but slow, I finish the still-steamy coffee I had brewed at home with the sole purpose of drinking it at the top.  With about two sips to go, a young guy who looked in his early twenties with sun-bleached hair and board shorts hops up on the rock closest to me and instructs an older gentleman just behind him- there is a “ledge about a foot in front of you where you can put your foot.”  With dark glasses and white teeth, a hiking stick and a sombrero hat, he places his hand on the rock and asked “Is this a man-made structure or a rock?”  If it weren’t for his younger friend (son, nephew, brother?) he wouldn’t have known. 
“You guys are welcome to take my spot.  This little thing here says it’s the actual summit,” I said while pointing down to the round metal placard I had been resting my coffee thermos on.  “Oh, don’t leave the spot with the view for a blind man,” was the reply I got from the man with dark glasses.
I laughed as he flashed his white smile, and said I had taken it in and will see what other vantage points I could find.  As I scrambled down the rocky slope to the flatter part of the summit, I heard the younger man say “Well, what’s your next peak now that you just bagged Madonna?”  I glanced up and saw the two men standing side by side on my rock.   I couldn’t hear the response, but I could clearly see that smile.

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About Me

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I grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, ventured south along the California coast for a while, sailed through San Francisco Bay, and have landed back on the Central Coast.  This time I'm a little closer to our rivers and our summits, and a little farther from where I started.