18 March 2018

Whitehorse Canyon and Conejo Ridge

South Ranch Open Space

Conejo Ridge Open Space

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The Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency has offered up the 2018 Open Space Challenge, asking the public to "experience" a selection of 10 of "our best trails" with a prize drawing at the end for those who do so and report it. The local geocacher community contains a few avid maintainers of COSCA trails, so they set out to complete the challenge by including each listed trail in a series of approximately 7 mile hikes and inviting geocachers at large to join them every other Sunday. The challenge runs from March 1 to May 31, so there is plenty of time. Each route was put together by the fellow who built the Ventura County Trails web site, so there is practically professional trip planning. (He is also a local geocacher. There are clues scattered around the site.) Still, looking at the suggested route superimposed on satellite imagery, it looked like we might want to have it in at least one GPS just in case some of it was hard to find. He is not coming along to point the way. This particular hike was planned as a car bridge, but once we met up at the end point, it was decided that there was no reason for it to be a car bridge instead of a lollipop (except that sending a group of geocachers down a trail with no geocaches is a good way to gain a few) and we all proceeded to the start point leaving no cars at the end. As the start is not the most straightforward place to find parking, comedy ensued while all but one went somewhere else, that one looked around and assumed he must be in the wrong place since everyone else was not there, and finally all managed to to sort it out in another 10 minutes or so. We head out across the bridge to the trailhead nine strong plus one extra. (I refuse to call anyone a "muggle" just because they do not feel like signing logs in a "global treasure hunt".)

start of a utility road beside a gated community
There is no parking next to the gate where the trail starts to wind its way up beside a gated community.

There is a sidewalk to get across from the parking to the bridge, but we miss it. The bridge crosses a wide wash with a couple of puddles in the concrete below it, but otherwise dry. The trail is really a utility road behind a car gate. It drops almost as deep as the wash and there is finally a sign identifying it as it starts to climb again on the other side. Birds are singing enthusiastically as we take the gentle climb. It seems odd, but most of them are on the side of the gated community, but I suppose there are more and bigger trees there. We at the front are getting up some good momentum when suddenly there is discord from the middle because we walked right past the first cache on the trail. We double back the few feet, but the middle is perfectly capable of finding it without us. The next one is a little way up a spur trail, and most the group heads that way, then further up the spur on to some more that enjoy some nice views of the local lake and Boney Mountain.

houses in the valley and chaparral on the hills
Getting above the gated community we were walking behind before. My eye is drawn to the peaks that look mildly isolated from here.

Boney Mountain
A distant Boney Mountain across Lake Sherwood.

We head off on another little spur on our spur to find that, after going over a nice rock outcrop, it reconnects with the main road. The recent storms have dropped snow on a few things that would not normally see it and way out north is a mountain I should probably know covered in the stuff. It is a bit distracting trying to figure it out. It certainly does not look like Pinos. Pine Mountain? What should be north from here?

15 March 2018

The Playground and little excursions on West Camino Cielo

Los Padres National Forest

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Next up is poking around some rocks! There are quite a few rock outcrops up on Camino Cielo, but the Playground might be the largest of them. Others are closer or offer more solitude. A random scattering are popular with climbers. The usual parking is empty as I come up. This is surprising for such a sunny day even if it is a weekday. From the parking, use trail rolls down the hill with little ups and steep downs to a cluster of oak and bay beside tall rocks full of small caves. From there, the trail splits and splits and splits again to roam over, around, and through the rocks as people have seen fit. It is quickly clear why this is the Playground.

tops of sandstone popping up above the vegetation
Looking down to the rocks below.

path beside the sandstone
One trail as it curves around the base of the rocks.

short and wide, double decker caves above
A couple caves in the rocks above.

I follow a track around to the right. It is large, but still seems to drift into nothing as options present themselves to climb up into this set of rocks. Working downward, there is more trail again. Crossing below the rocks, there is quite a lot of view to view.

rocks poking out everywhere
An arm of rocks extends down what I can see as the east side of the playground, but there are probably more rocks beyond.

Goddard Campground and Picnic Area, ruins on Camino Cielo

Los Padres National Forest

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Something about the air on Wednesday just seemed to scream out to me, "You must come to the mountains!" Yet, as I looked to the Santa Ynez Mountains themselves, they were entirely crowned in clouds. The stunning air over everything else did not quite extend high enough. After another evening of rain, the morning air again seemed to shout of what a grand time it would be at the top of that ridge, but this time the ridge line supported it. Outside of my plans, but inside of what was possible, it took a little time to convince me, but I finally relented to the arguments and took to the mountains for some small explorations I have meant to do. The first is a pair of barricades across long decayed road, both of which have "no motor vehicles" signs and a break in the middle for walkers to pass. There is no indication of where walkers may pass to as I pull into the turn out next to the barricade, but there is a narrow and distinct path through the thick vegetation. Walkers certainly get somewhere.

entry to Goddard Picnic Area
What was once the road into the Goddard Picnic Area.

The hole through the brush is a narrow rectangle and seems to be a doorway into a new place. On the other side, the old road is obvious for a bit, but has been buried under a large amount of cut brush. A clear path continues on the very edge. There are glimpses of a snow covered cliffy mountain partly obscured by a grassy bump to the north. Big Pine and West Big Pine behind Little Pine. I try to get a better view of them, but it seems like this whole section of the mountain just wants to look at the ocean.

tiny view of snowy mountains
Just enough view to the north to know that there is some amazing beauty going on over there, but not enough to really witness the snowy Big Pine Mountain and the rest.

Ahead, the old road plunges back into thick vegetation. It is difficult to discern as it reaches the top of the hill and whatever it was that was here before. Most recently, that was the Goddard Picnic Area. Before that, it was some sort of Buddhist retreat built by Dwight Goddard, who seems to have gone off as a missionary to China but found something he liked better there. The first and most obvious indication of anything is a water tank, but look a little harder and there is more. The path comes to a low concrete wall that is vanishing into the forest litter. It traces out a rectangle the size of a large room. Behind the tank is a larger wall, and scattered about are more small concrete foundations. A row of lilies still grow where the gardens were and there are rock walls that must also have been part of the gardens. Other flowers that commonly mark old cabin sites sprawl across here and there is even a thing that looks like an old well, although probably decorative.

concrete wall
The rectangle of low concrete wall has a cut off corner. A doorway position perhaps?

06 March 2018

Bald Mountain and Hurricane Deck

Los Padres National Forest

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I have been meaning to get to Bald Mountain next to Hurricane Deck for no other reason than that the USGS 7.5' quad is named for it. Of course, I checked it out for access after I camped at the top of Hurricane Deck three years ago. I sort of remember there being a spot along the way, toward the top of the deep cleft of Bald Mountain Canyon, where the brush between the grassy bald across the front of Bald Mountain and the Hurricane Deck Trail was only 20 feet thick. Or maybe 30. Or 40. But really, not all that thick. The difficulty looked like the top, which is not bald. With that in mind, I arrive at the parking for the Lower Manzana Trailhead, just short of NIRA on the road, a little after sunrise and sign into the register in the new register box at the trailhead and start on the 5 or so miles of trail before the mile or so of figuring it out.

high trail down to Potrero Camp
Up on Manzana Trail as it winds high above the creek to Potrero Camp with a bit of Hurricane Deck in view.

light reflecting through pine needles
Up the Manzana and into the morning sun. The light reflecting through the pine needles is quite something.

The creek is noisy below. I cannot tell if it is a bit higher after the rain on the weekend. It might be. Potrero Camp looks about the same as we left it after the hazard trees came down. There is practically a road bed of rocks to cross over the creek to get to the junction on the far side. This is my turn, so up I head.

dirt rut among grass and brush
Potrero Canyon Trail and Hurricane Deck peeking through the gap.