Above the clouds

Fremont Peak is a summit in the Gabilan Range, one of the mountain ranges paralleling California’s central coast. The peak affords clear views of the Salinas Valley, Monterey Bay, the southern part of the Santa Clara Valley, and surrounding mountain ranges. It is located on Rocky Ridge, 11 miles northeast of Salinas, California.

The peak is the site of Fremont Peak State Park which was established with 188 acres in 1936. Today the park has camping and picnic facilities, and is favored by astronomers for its clear views unsullied by artificial light. The Fremont Peak Observatory Association maintains a 30-inch diameter f/4.8 Newtonian “Challenger” telescope which was built by telescope maker Kevin Medlock in the early 1980s. The peak is also the site of the transmitters for television stations such as KSBW and KCBA and for radio stations such as KDON-FM.

Path to the peak.
Path to the peak.

Previously called Gavilan Peak, it is now named for John C. Frémont, an American explorer and a Captain in the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers at the time. In 1846, he and a crew of 60 armed surveyors mounted the peak to assess its military value. The peak commands the inland approach from Monterey. As a response to the threat, local Mexican authority General José Castro ordered Frémont and his men to leave California. In defiance, Frémont built a crude stockade and raised a modified American flag above the peak (or, according to some sources, on a lower peak nearby). The U.S. Consul in Monterey, Thomas O. Larkin supported Castro’s decision to evict Frémont, and his men were duly ordered out of the area. Frémont took providence from a windy night which blew down the makeshift flagpole to hasten himself and his men from the peak. The peak is now registered as California Historical Landmark #181.

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