September 07, 2011

Photo Essay: Low Visibility Hiking at Bishop's Peak

I woke up Saturday morning in San Luis Obispo kind of dying for a hike. I'd abandoned my plans to hike Black Hill in Morro Bay State Park the previous afternoon because it was so dark, damp, and foggy at only 5 p.m. I'd tried to hike along the ocean with Jesse at Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur earlier the previous afternoon, but our group hit high tide and a flooded beach, and some of our hiking companions were not as willing to walk through the water as we were.

So although I'm normally inclined to try to sleep in, I set my alarm for 7 a.m., grabbed a quick breakfast of Portuguese French toast at the Madonna Inn's cafe, and drove to one of the Nine Sisters of San Luis Obispo: Bishop's Peak.

It was foggy enough down below, at the bottom, as it had been the day before and pretty much my entire trip up and down the coast.

But the peak itself was completely obscured by clouds. I couldn't even see the top. If I was going to hike, I was going to have to hike into the clouds.

Quite frankly, I was a bit worried about getting lost in the woods, disoriented by the swirling mist.

I also worried about hypothermia, though I'd dressed in layers. I knew that I'd break a sweat with a 1200 foot elevation change, and it was already so damp out...and cold.

Not only could I not see where I was headed...

But I also had no clue where I'd been with no view of the landscape down below.

In the thickest part of the cloud line, I passed an older couple of hikers on their way down. "Not much of a view today, huh?" I commiserated.

"Oh, there will be at the top," the woman assured me.

I looked up there and saw pure white. Really?

And then I began to break through...

...Until I actually saw beams of sunlight, and blue sky ahead, through the thick atmosphere.

I looked out and saw a snowy sea, vast mountain peaks peeking out over the top of it like islands spotted in the distance.

By the time I began my descent, the morning's mist - more than the kind of marine layer we get in the beachside communities in LA - had burned off enough to reveal the land below.

I did not get lost. I did not catch cold, slip and fall, or shiver to my death. I was not abducted by a forest-dwelling kidnapper.

I did, however, get to see what it was like below, amidst, and above the clouds, seeing the same rocks before and after the sunshine hit.



Related reading:
Under the Milky Way Tonight, and Every Night
Above the Clouds

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