On our way south, we stopped at the beach at Rio del Mar (36°58'05.44"N, 121°54'23.15"W) to kill some time and enjoy the water and sunshine. Like nature's engineers, we couldn't help gathering some enormous hunks of driftwood and damming up the creek flowing to the ocean.
We loaded up our packs at the Bottcher's Gap trailhead (36°21'14.92" N, 121°48'49.67" W) late that afternoon and headed for our first campsite 3 miles up the trail.
Tevis had planned on coming too, but an excessively slow car repair shop delayed his arrival at the trailhead until later that evening. He spent the night there and, having spoken to the ranger, caught us at our camp early the next morning as we woke up. Over a breakfast of pancakes, bagels, and apples, he related that the ranger had warned of heavily overgrown trails along a portion of the loop that we had planned to take. Tevis then headed out and south to great adventures.
As we hiked in that day, we had our first good view across the Little Sur River valley of Ventana Double Cone Peak (36°17'49.04" N, 121°42'53.77" W), our ultimate goal (circled in red at right).
Upon arrival at Pat Springs Camp (36°21'44.21" N, 121°44'47.47" W), we found the location so ideal that we decided to use it as a base camp. The site felt like it was floating in the clouds with nearly 270 degrees of vista. We were shielded from the prevailing wind by a knoll and there was plenty of water nearby. We climbed up a hill behind our camp that evening to watch the sunset over the ocean.
The next day, we did a ~15 mile day hike to the top of the Double Cone. We started an hour or so past dawn and made it to the peak around 10:40am. The chaparral was uncomfortably dense at only a couple points, and the walk was generally pleasant (though had we attempted our original loop, we would have been in for a tough time. Thanks, Tevis!) The monkey flowers, lupines, and Indian paintbrush were all in bloom. The view down to the big blue Pacific from our 4853ft summit was breathtaking.
The following day, we day-hiked in the other direction, leaving the trail to top a smaller peak with views north towards Carmel Valley.
We brought lots of food and ate in style (for backpackers): quesadillas, dark chocolate, smoked salmon, chai, loads of fruity granola, couscous, carrots, hard-boiled eggs, milk, and dried mango.
We packed out on the 24th (with a detour to Mt. Carmel) and spent our last night at the trailhead. In celebration of completing our trip and summiting the Double Cone, we stopped at Carmel on the way back up to the Bay Area to have double scoop ice cream cones.