At the northern edge of the Santa Lucia Mountains in Monterey County the rugged peaks of Ventana Wilderness suddenly give way to the lush Carmel Valley and beyond to the Salinas River Basin. A large swath of the adjacent foothills has been protected as part of the Garland Ranch Regional Park.
It was early morning and foggy when I left the parking lot near some baseball fields and headed steeply up Saddle Trail towards one of the high points, Vasquez Knob. The trail switchbacked languidly up the side of the hill, with few views due to the dense fog. At about 2000′ elevation the track leveled out and left the park boundary, crossing into ranchland, an overgrown path with scattered old oaks silent in the fog. The actual summit was nondescript, just another grassy bump in the quiet and damp mist. The atmosphere was relaxing, just the right thing for the start of an all-day hike. And as I headed back down the sun appeared!