13 January 2018

Fox Mountain


Los Padres National Forest

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After the ordeal finishing off Thursday, I tried to sleep in as long as I could and generally recover on Friday. I had a message the sawyer project would be postponed, so that plan was out. My secondary plan was to climb Fox Mountain, but I was not in the mood for a bushwhack, somehow. I lazed, I read, I checked out the soggy roads that were preventing us working. Finally, I decided to do the mountain after all and I packed up to walk into the campsite noted in the Fox Mountain Peak guide. It is just a half mile in, so I figured it did not matter much that I had my car camping gear, not backpacking. I would even go ahead and bring my day pack instead of making due with the bigger one. Then I got to lining up the peak guide with the map and noticed that the gate that might be closed was actually the edge of a marked inholding where there is a broken up cattle guard full of mud, remnants of fence, and no gate at all and the hike was 2.5 miles from the actual locked gate, noted as "pavement ends". I shrugged and walked in all 2.5 nearly flat miles instead and never quite got my brain to think about it as backpacking rather than car camping. Just far enough away I did not want to go back for a second trip to get all my gear to the site. The GPS clocked 2.57 miles from car to site, so the guide is very close. The trail up the ridge line next to it was easy to spot even in the dying light, so I was very sure I was in the right starting place.

line of dirt up a ridge line
There is one site at 2.5 miles from the gate and one ridge next to it with one line of dirt up the edge.

The track looks reasonably open. My already well bruised legs with a hundred yucca stabs and many long scrapes and even some rash developing between stomach and socks (seems I probably ignored some nude twigs of poison oak that did not ignore me) are quite thankful for that. I want today to be another rather lazy day. I want to go ahead and take basically all day for what really is just a half day hike. Late start, and slow on the way up. Maybe even 3 or 4 hours for the 2.5 mile climb. Yeah, take the whole time the guide suggests is required for this hike just on the uphill. Now that is a goal! But maybe not too late a start. Maybe more like 9 than 10. It might get warm, after all. But without looking at the time at any point in the morning, my start is when it is and that is a quarter to 10.

Santa Barbara Canyon
Leaving the canyon below where there is a little bit of water shining in the sunlight.

The trail is initially steep, but not so steep that it feels like the dirt will slide out under my feet. I am a little disconcerted that although heading northwest, my shadow is already pointing more northerly than my direction of travel. Still, the "occasionally obscure" trail seems quite clear enough, at least for going up. As I climb, there are a few places that are steep enough to worry about, but most of the ridge line is a gentle slope. The only protest from my legs come when a low, deep bruise gets two quick whacks with stubby scrub oak branches, not from the climb.

false peak on the way up the ridge line
Up ahead, a step along the way. The peak is behind this and will be unseen for a while.

downstream
The canyon in the downstream direction. This is what I walked yesterday evening.

11 January 2018

Peak Mountain and McPherson Peak

Los Padres National Forest


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With the aim of doing some sawyer work in the north end of the county starting Friday and being able to get away for Thursday, I looked for something to hike in the area. The options do not seem to be plentiful. There are a couple of peaks on the Hundred Peaks Section list out there. One is practically a drive up and the other actually is a drive up the way they are usually done, but it turns out the drive up has not just one but two trails up it. A loop hike sounds great. I might even go after the near drive up, but it does add a little over 6 miles to the trip which might make things a little long for these short days. The plan is to hike from Aliso Park up the canyon and check out Hog Pen Spring on the way, then head over to a nearby benchmark called SIGN on the map. From there, I can trot over and go up Peak Mountain, or skip that and go directly up McPherson Peak before following the ridge route down. After the long drive, I get a 9 AM start, so a couple hours of light have already been lost.

canyon road
Aliso Park is a campground at the end of the pavement. A jeep road continues from the far side of the campground.

The road is rough as it crosses a creek, then smooths out. Another road splits to the right and curves back the way I came almost immediately. This is the bottom of the ridge route, which I was a little concerned would be hard to find. Although there is no sign, it is easy enough at the start. I am headed for the spring, so I ignore it and keep to the longer road. Travel is easy and when I notice myself relaxing a little too much into the walk, I push myself a tiny bit. If I keep up a reasonable pace, there should still be time to get that other peak.

generally smooth road
Easy road walk through the canyon.

31 December 2017

Munch Canyon to Figueroa Mountain returning via Willow Spring

Los Padres National Forest

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I seem to be out to "clean up" my climbed peaks on the Hundred Peaks List by making sure any drive ups actually have a climb. To that end, I plotted a climb up Figueroa Mountain. Sure, I will notice a curious lack of climbers on Peakbagger for the peak as I log it because it is not, in fact, on the list, but let us not get confused by the facts. (This seems to be a lesson I am constantly relearning for nearby Zaca Peak, too. These two peaks that sit so prominently in my mind as a Santa Barbara based person just are not that important to those based in Los Angeles. Besides, they are both too short.) Since I just did Davy Brown Trail, I looked to nearby Munch Canyon. Just have to find it. I know there is an old gate at the start and probably nothing else to mark it.

first gate on the trail, the old road
One side of a double gate for an old road and a couple stickers to indicate this is a trail. This is the start of Munch Canyon Trail.

Everything starts off wide and flat, not a canyon at all. Grasses scattered with oak trees and one has dropped a large branch on the trail soon along the way. Some walk around it tightly and some wander all the way to the Sunset Valley Trail as it continues on its gentle path to the left. Another gate, marked with a few trail stickers, blocks the old road. A trail wanders off to the right going who knows where while the one I want heads off along the road some more. It comes to yet another gate set just behind an older gate and now strengthened by a fallen tree. I have never seen so many gates in such a short length. Another unmarked trail heads off to the right through the thick chaparral.

third gate along the way
How many gates are needed? There does seem to be another old road coming in just before this from somewhere.

Past the gate, it starts to look a lot more like a canyon. The tree behind the gate is not the only one along the trail. There is a nice, big one shortly after it right along the trail and decaying quite a bit. I would say it has been there a while, but the walk around trail in the soft dirt does not seem all that well established. The recent trail work has me thinking about what the state of the trail is, and so noting the huge, decaying tree trunk instead of just walking along the side of it. Past it, I cross a dry stream bed, but soon after, I can hear the music of water in the canyon below. Water is getting to be an elusive critter even in the winter. One bit flowing, the next bit dry and not even showing underground water by the plants that grow.

clear water pooling in the canyon
Small pools as the water flows through the canyon.

After a little listening to the music, the trail turns and starts to climb. Withing the canyon, it has very little memory of once being a road, but as it climbs, it becomes obvious again. Although a road, it is still quite steep. Erosion cuts across it at one spot leaving only the smallest dirt bridge to cross. It turns back and there is a bit of a view.

peaks to the north of the canyon
View is not the expected thing for a canyon trail.

30 December 2017

Lower Manzana trail work

Los Padres National Forest


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The Los Padres Forest Association has a double header of trail work with camping at NIRA in between and I decided to join in on the fun. There is even tree felling promised for today, but I am in a group that will hike down a few more miles and clean up some tread. Better luck next time. We get to see a lot of the trail, but might miss big trees coming down. We collect some tools and head off for it.

line on the side of the wide canyon
Getting on down the trail. There are five workers across the way on the trail.

dead trees around a picnic table
A little over a mile down is Potrero Camp, which is currently made dangerous by standing dead pine trees. Some gather to make it safe.