The Highway 1 drive to the trailhead boasts famed views of Monterrey Bay and its surrounding small towns. A spectacle of ocean borders one side and green pastures the other. After driving 11 miles South from Carmel, we turned onto Palo Colorado Road, which runs through a quaint, remote, and sometime ramshackle, residential community literally nestled on top of a canyon creek running through giant redwoods. This nine-mile windy road (this author got mildly car sick) ended at the Pico Blanco Boy Scout Camp where Botchers Gap, our trailhead, begins.
Our group (which included Tom Driscoll, Carmen Garcia, Nancy Fitzsimmons (co-leader), Richard Gigax, Natalie Guishar, Liz Harvey, Stan Huncilman, Wild Bill Kirkpatrick (leader), Cathy Luchetti, Chris Prendergast, Bob Suzuki, and Dan Tischler) departed in the late morning of April 15 from the trailhead. Our goal was to leisurely reach camp at Pat Springs, approximately 8 miles ahead and 3000' in elevation gain.
The hike began with Wild Bill's rousing call for the team to boogiamanos! (As Bill explains, the command comes from the root verb boogiar, meaning to boogey. Proper conjugation of the verb adds the reflexive plural amanos.)
During our breaks, we entertained ourselves by speculating about the sometimes conflicting trail signage sometimes two signs right next to each other offer conflicting mileage to the next camp or destination. For example, one sign showed an approximate distance of two miles to the next camp site, while the other listed the same distance as only one mile. (We reached the consensus that there must have been an invisible, one-mile gap between the signs.)
We reached Pat Springs around 5 PM, in time to set-up camp on a hilly but green meadow, cook some grub, and catch one last hike before bedtime -- up a grassy knoll where we marveled at the sunset, the ocean, and the hills beneath our feet. Two members of the group ventured further ahead to a secluded camp, where they saw two pheasants running across the trail. We then returned to camp after sunset and retired early that evening to the gentle hoots of owls.
On Saturday morning, we departed camp at 8:30 AM and began the 15-mile round-trip hike to the Double Cone summit. Much like the previous day, the hilly hike gains and loses 4000' in elevation. The hike immediately begins with a hike up Uncle Sam Peak and winds through spectacular displays of blooming purple and blue lupin, owl's clover, and California poppy, just to name a very few.
Though a clear trail leads to the summit, and the registry leads one to believe that the trail was regularly climbed, we were engaged in constant bushwacking through live oak, manzanitas, ceanothus, and poison oak for the last mile to the summit. Some of us were lucky enough to be able to rely on Carmen Garcia's Tecnu after full-body tangles with poison oak. Upon emerging from the last bit of bushwacking, we rounded the bend onto South Double Cone and saw the stone foundations of an old fire lookout.
The summit views were outstanding, with full visibility of the Ventana Wilderness and a fog-blanketed Monterrey Bay. Looking Northwest, one could see Pine Ridge, Uncle Sam peak, and to the Southeast, the largest of them, Junipero Serra Peak. From the summit, we noted that the hillsides in this wilderness are covered in the thickest chaparral imaginable, making cross-country travel all but impossible. Nevertheless, some of us decided to catch the trail back down to the saddle and scramble up to North Double Cone, where we witnessed Bob Suzuki's famed mountain-goat-like abilities in rock hopping.
On the way back to our Pat Springs camp, we identified several more living species, some indigenous to the wilderness, such as a peculiar mushroom, and others less indigenous, such as another group of Sierra Club hikers planning the next morning's summit bid. We made it back to camp without incident, took creek baths, and shared stories about past hikes around our supper stoves.
The next day, the group departed camp around 9:30 AM and decided to tag Carmel Peak on the way out to Botchers Gap.