Higher education in San Luis Obispo

College in the Midwest meant many things: the pageantry of Big Ten football, a majestic campus quadrangle, cornfields, cows, and Budweiser. It did not, however, mean topographical variation. The county’s altitude ranged just 230 feet ― and it was less than 1,250 feet in the entire state. The world may not be flat, but Illinois certainly is.

We definitely didn’t have anything like Bishop Peak, the 1,559-foot summit that presides over San Luis Obispo. Public access was established on the peak in the late 1990s, and I’ve wanted to hike here ever since.

I recently hit the trail on a stunningly perfect Central Coast day. Green pastures and gnarled oaks that seemed ready to spring into motion gave the mountain a Lord of the Rings majesty. And with throngs of Cal Poly students trail running and rock climbing, there was also an REI-comes-to-the-shire vibe. Except that the hobbits had grown lean and tall and developed the cardiovascular capacities of Everest Sherpas.

Taking in the views from the 2.2-mile route that climbs 1,200 feet to the summit, I had an old-school moment of sorts as I longed for the freedom of college. Only this time, college here in San Luis Obispo, where my recreation could be hitched to carabiners, not the king of beers. For information contact www.ci.san-luis-obispo.ca.us/naturalresources/bishop.asp or 805/781-7300.

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