Author Topic: Observing from the South Coast Ridge trail - 6/24  (Read 355 times)

Stephen Winston

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Observing from the South Coast Ridge trail - 6/24
« on: June 27, 2017, 01:53:16 PM »
Just a quick report on a new (to me) observing location I ended up at this Saturday night in the Ventana wilderness. 

I had originally planned to head to Chew’s Ridge, but as most of Los Padres is closed off due to extreme fire risk I switched to the Prewitt Ridge area instead.  I had never been in this area before but had read several previous observing reports from this location so wanted to give it a try. 

With Hwy1 being inaccessible, the only way to get there is via Nacimiento-Ferguson road from the East.  Drive to Jolon as if you we’re heading for Lake San Antonio, turn right into Fort Hunter Liggett and then turn left across the bridge onto Nacimiento-Ferguson road.  The road is twisty but paved all the way up to the ridge.  When you reach the top, the South Coat Ridge trail is off to the left.  It’s mostly single track graded dirt, with many wider places to pass other vehicles.  A bit bumpy but nothing too crazy.  It’s about 7 miles in to the Prewitt Ridge area.  Prewitt Ridge has some spectacular sites to set up, including one large area that could easily accommodate 10+ people, but unfortunately everything was already taken.  Instead I headed a couple more miles further down the South Coast trail and luckily came across a large open are just off the trail to the left.  There’s easily enough space for 4 of 5 vehicles to set-up, with pretty much unobstructed 360 degree views.   Obviously the unobstructed views means there are no trees providing shade, and of course there are no other facilities (water, lavatory etc).  GPS coordinates for the exact location I ended up at are: 35.945563, -121.404892

Conditions Saturday we’re pretty good – 4/5 for both transparency and seeing, and it was shorts temperature throughout the night.  With clear views out to the Pacific and an elevation of 3100ft, this site has the potential for some great seeing.  It’s also dark! SQM reading close to midnight was 21.99 straight up (repeated over 3 readings), so not bad :).  I had gotten 21.22 at LSA the previous weekend and as a reference, the darkest I had ever gotten with this reader was 22.13 at Grandview in the White Mountains the previous summer.  The location isn’t completely light free – you can see clear across to the East into the Lockwood valley and there are some lights there, with a low overall light dome – could have been Fort Hunter Liggett but not really sure.  However, South, West and North are dark, dark, dark.

From an observations point of view, nothing too exciting or exotic.  I mostly just revisited a long list of my Summer favorites. I had nice views of Omega Centauri early in the night, although transparency close to the horizon wasn’t the best.  I had a couple of incredible moments on Jupiter and Saturn when the seeing steadied for brief moments.

On Sunday morning I took Nacimiento-Ferguson the rest of the way down to Hwy 1.  Started off in bright sunshine and then descended through the fog to the coast.  There was a lot of activity at the Kirk Creek campground – definitely a cold spot to spend the night.  Due to the landslide and the bridge being out, you can only drive 3 miles North or 8 miles south before the road is closed.  Made for a very quiet drive – no other cars along the road.

For a location about 3 hours total from San Jose, it’s pretty darn dark.  It’s about 30 minutes further than LSA and with the added elevation, darkness and potential for superb seeing, it will be somewhere I go back to.

Some images from the trip can be seen here:

All the best,


John Pierce

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Re: Observing from the South Coast Ridge trail - 6/24
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2017, 02:51:35 PM »
minor nit.... 'single track' refers to hiking/motorcycle trails, too narrow for a car/truck/jeep..    south coast ridge and prewitt ridge road are 'double track' roads, one lane with pullouts for passing.

the condition of these roads varies wildly with the season and weather...   at times they can be serious 4x4 only, at other times, you could take a subcompact car over them.   they are considered completely impassable when wet (even if the weather has cleared, the roads can stay muddy for weeks)


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Re: Observing from the South Coast Ridge trail - 6/24
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2017, 08:35:53 PM »
Jeff Blanchard discovered Prewitt Ridge for observing, over 18 years ago. He's an old surfer and swore anyone he showed the place to secrecy. I've been there twice, once with just Jeff and me, once with Jeff, Jon Ruyle, Albert Highe and James Turley. It's pretty much the hell and gone into the Santa Lucias, in terms of the road - hafta to be in coastal California for the Ridge to be filled up!

Pierce is right about the road, it's yes 8 miles from the pavement, narrow basic dirt with cliff on one side and precipice on the other, and often a shitty road surface. Bring your own water, dig a hole. Not a place I'd send city boys. And I absolutely would not go there without a buddy (can you tell I was a longtime Scout leader?). Twist an ankle when no one else is up there and be found much later.

That said, Steve's got it about the skies. Spring and fall are best to miss the winds there.
TAC - astro anarchy at work <*>