Story by CPT Jason Sweeney on 04/06/2019CAMP SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. Hikers and environmentalists got the rare opportunity to hike Camp San Luis Obispo's Cerro Romauldo on March 30-31.
Cerro Romauldo is one of the Nine Sistersa series of volcanic mountains that runs from Morro Bay to San Luis Obispo. The 1,300-foot peak is off-limits to the public but access was granted to 100 hikers from San Luis Obispo County as part of the California Warrior Experience, a community outreach program run by the California National Guard. The program aims to establish new relationships with influencers in California on the common ground of shared values, volunteer spirit and service to the state.
"This was a unique community event that allowed us to showcase the fact that we're good stewards of the environment on our installations," said Cal Guard Deputy Director of External Affairs Lt. Col. Fritz Roggow.
The hikes were led by docents from the California Native Plant Society, the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo (ECOSLO), California Polytechnic State University's botany program, the Chumash Yak Titu Titu Yak Tihini tribe, and Ethan Bertrando, Camp SLO's senior environmental scientist and cultural resource coordinator.
Guests who participated on the hike signed up first-come, first-served. Most of the hikers had participated in the California Warrior Experience at Camp SLO last year and signed up after receiving an email from event organizer Staff Sgt. Carl Trujillo. Others found out through word of mouth. The 100 spaces filled up in less than a week. The event was free with a suggested donation of $19.28. (The year 1928 was when Camp San Luis Obispo opened.)
"By listening to the public, we know that the hike was the most important thing from the bigger event we had last year," Trujillo said. "This year the event was smaller and more intimate. The hike is a way to share these lands that the community has entrusted to the California National Guard since 1928."
The 100 hikers were divided into four groups of 25. A morning group and an afternoon group hiked up the peak on Saturday and Sunday, led by the docents. The groups were met at the Camp SLO front gate by Trujillo who then led them onto the camp. Before heading up the mountain, each group attended a presentation about Camp SLO's Grizzly Youth Academy, a military-style academy run by the Cal Guard with a mission of turning around the grades and lives of youths between the ages 16 and 18. Four Grizzly Youth Academy cadets participated in the hikes.
Following the presentation, Kelsey Shaffer, a member of the Chumash Yak Titu Titu Yak Tihini tribe, shared some of her tribe's culture, history and language. "This is a place that is very special to our Yak Titu Titu Yak Tihini Chumash community," Shaffer said. "The Morros are very special to our people."
Seth Souza from ECOSLO has been leading hikes in the area for seven years. He volunteered to lead a group of 25 up Cerro Romauldo the morning of March 31, pointing out wildflowers and other native plants along the way. "We hiked 1.1 miles up, over a thousand feet in about a mile, so 2.2 miles the whole thing," he said.
Souza works full-time for Voler Apparel, which makes clothing for endurance athletes. Voler has outfitted and sponsored California National Guard athletes in other events. For the Cerro Romauldo hike, the company provided the hikers with event-branded neck gaiters.
"The hike was very informative about plants in the area and we learned about the Grizzly Youth Academy," said Martha Kellerman Curti, an avid hiker who grew up in San Luis Obispo and has hiked all the accessible Morros. "I have lived here pretty much my whole life, pretty much hiking as many peaks and hiking trails as possible. This was my first time up Cerro Romauldo. It was a spectacular view because of the rains and the wildflowers."
Roggow said he'd like the event to continue and become an annual experience involving community stakeholders. "It's a great hike here on Camp SLO," he said.