02 May 2018

Caliente Mountain

Carrizo Plain National Monument

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I have been thinking I might return to Caliente Mountain for a climb of it rather than a walk over from the side of it. I am not too keen on the traditional really hot day for it, though. I signed up for another Hundred Peaks Section hike, this time lead by the Doggetts and Jin Oak. At least one Simpson did it the week before, but I did not get signed up to that one. The weather promises to be stunning: a little cloudy and cool although with just a touch of a possibility of a chance of rain. Well, maybe a little more than that. It might rain. The early morning drive started into a stunning sunrise full of clouds and the spaces needed to let the light hit those clouds. We parked a little further from the mountain than expected at a new locked gate that sprang up a few years back, not quite using the parking area designated by some pipes on the opposite side of the dirt road.

gate across a fading road
The gate across the fading road at our start. Caliente Mountain is the high point toward the left.

With our boots on and our gear set for hiking and the sign in complete, we walk around the gate and fencing blocking our vehicular progress and set out across the grasses on a shortcut of the fading road that loops a bit to the north. The drying grasses have just enough moisture left in them to leave our socks alone with their sharp seeds. There are only a few flowers mixed in, generally in clumps.

chia and sunflower
A bi-colored composite and a very puffy chia variety among the not-quite-dry grass.

A gully gives us a bit of trouble in the crossing. Higher up, it is a step across as long as one can find stable footing on the sides. Further down, it requires a bit of climbing. Maybe down by the road it is fairly smooth. We get back on the road as we come to what was once the end of a drive for this hike. The gate here looks more official, having signs like "administrative use only" and a handy hiker gate to the side. Now we follow the faint road upward until if stops, having gotten... where? There is a decaying piece of machined wood, wider than a typical fence post, to the side and otherwise nothing. Our stop is high above, so we climb the hill ahead past another old fence to the ridge line.

burned fence posts and the plain
Looking across the plain. The old fence line below is a bit burned.

30 April 2018


A pair while backpacking, one before getting snowed on and one before getting snowed on again.

Water pours from a pipe from the dry hillside. A sketch in the gathering gloom camping at Mission Pine Spring
The rocks for miles of White Ledge have quite interesting texture.

29 April 2018

Western Plateau, Elliott Peak, and Hawk Canyon

Conejo Canyons Open Space

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After missing one, I am out for another round of trails for the Conejo Open Space Challenge with geocahers. Today, our required trails are a pair of short pieces in the Conejo Canyons Open Space: Elliott Peak and Hawk Canyon. They are joined together with a long and elaborate loop that goes for an estimated 8 miles. I arrive a bit confused about where to start. We are only five strong today and Matt says I am in charge because I was the one doing the little bit of pushing to make sure everyone remembered there was a hike scheduled for the day, what it was, and determined a meeting time. (I did all that for the last one, too, and was not even going.) This is unfortunate because, as I say, I seem to be a bit confused about where the start is. I promptly compound it all and get somehow more confused and we go ahead and start down a different trail which will get us to our loop and does mean we have a nice parking lot to leave the cars. It has "do not leave valuables in cars" signs and everything. But it is definitely the wrong start. Oh, and I seem to only have the telephoto lens for the camera even though the normal, wider angle, one should be quite dry by now.

utility road in the hills
This route is a mixture of utility road and trails. This entry makes it a little more road than the other entry would have been.

We start off downhill, but that is the way of it from this area. We will just have to finish the day climbing. As we hit the bottom, we hit one end of Hawk Canyon, one of the required trails for the day. And after way too much discussion decide to leave it for later in the day since it is a nice, shady area. If the weatherman predicted well, we will not really be too worried about that, but it is so sunny that it is hard to believe it will remain cool all day.

trail sign
Many of the trails have no signs, but this one does. This goal for the day is put off to later.

Elliott Peak
The other goal for the day, Elliott Peak, waits for later by necessity.

We turn up a trail to find it is part of our planned winding romp through the western plateau. Oh, and the mutiny starts (or would if we had a leader) as Matt takes the shorter route along the road saying it will all meet up again soon. Which is true. We relish getting off the road. Also, I had already had found the geocaches along the road, so it is nice to finally get to claim a find.

more plateaus in the distance
The adjacent Wildwood Regional Park across the canyon.

19 April 2018

San Rafael: Big Cone Spruce and Cachuma Mountain

Los Padres National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

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I awoke in the dark to mist on my face. The night had been clear with bright stars shining where I could see through the leaves, but had turned dark. My light showed more mist coming down. It was raining. I could see quite a bit of water on my quilt already. It had been raining for a while. I looked around for some rocks to hold down the emergency blanket again and saw a blanket of white developing. It was actually snowing. The breezes of the evening had died to nothing and it was the most peaceful moment looking out on that fluff dropping down. And then I had to get up and deal with it. The emergency blanket is a lot easier to deploy a second time, so I got it open, got some rocks to hold it down, and tucked in underneath my rain coat to sleep the rest of the night away and get up to a blanket of white.

snow on bay leavs and fire side benches
It is an all new camp in the snow and early morning light.

There is not quite an inch to what has stuck of the snow. Not so bad. The thing is, today I get a little over a mile of trail that is new to me just like yesterday, only it climbs 1400 feet from this camp to the road above in 1.2 miles and it is rumored to be bushy and hard to navigate. Now it is bushy, hard to navigate, and covered in what is likely to be an increasingly deep layer of snow. I set about breakfast, packing my wet gear, and admiring how the area that was all deep browns yesterday such that the iron sign was hard to see against the background of dirt, tree litter, and tree, is now a high contrast two color world. My feet are not yet wet, so I can appreciate that the snow is quite pretty. I head out on the trail where bay branches are hanging low with snow. A little encouragement with a stick gets them to pop up from chest height to overhead. There is soon a marker for the second site and I pause to check it out too. The table is a bit more solid, having never been hit by a tree and repaired.

obscured bit of trail
Just one of the many bay branches that drop down into the way when weighted down by snow.

upper Big Cone Spruce Camp
The upper camp at Big Cone Spruce with its better table.

Soon I feel a time pressure from the sun as it creeps down the side of the canyon and into the upper reaches of the trees. I really better get going. This place is about to start to rain. I head back to the trail and up as it leaves the creek and climbs past the trees.

sunlight on red bark trees
Here comes the sun.