31 December 2012


Found the waterfall up Potrero John, and easy hike except at the very end.

Looking toward Reyes Peak from Haddock Peak.

Looking out to sea from Reyes Peak.

The sea grass topped rocks at low tide.

A moment of canyon views, and creek views, in the upper north fork of Matilija.

Even more views of canyon and a little ocean from the upper north fork of Matilija.

A moment's rest at Knapp's Castle.

A glance across the meadow named for the tin can cabin that once occupied it in Rattlesnake Canyon.

30 December 2012

Rattlesnake and Mission Canyons loop

Santa Barbara Front Country

Locate the trail head.

The quest to see Mission Falls flowing continued today, with success in the strictest sense that water was spilling over the rocks. I made another lazy start for the trail, which I really should stop doing. I found the road in is covered in steel plates, but the machinery that was parked near the trail before is now gone. There was plenty of parking even though this was a weekend day. Even so, I followed another car into the parking.

Skofield Park sign for Rattlesnake Canyon Wilderness Area
Arriving at Skofield Park to hike through the Rattlesnake Canyon Wilderness Area and Los Padres National Forest behind it.

I tried to figure out if there was more water flowing now than before. Maybe a little. It was at least flowing under the bridge last time which it wasn't the time before, and that wasn't enough to have flow over Mission Falls. I passed the sign pointing out that, for my safety, various things including bikes were prohibited. I crossed the creek and passed many people out walking their dogs. The trail was muddy with a few puddles, but still offered a path of steady footing throughout. Dropping back down into the cold of the creek, I crossed again and quickly climbed to views of St. Mary's and the ocean with islands. It isn't one of those really crisp days when you can pick out rocks and trees on the distant islands, but they still do a good job of looming out of the water.

view over St. Mary's Seminary
Looking out at Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa through the canyon gap.

24 December 2012

La Cumbre Peak

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trail head.

After Knapp's Castle, we continued down Camino Cielo to the east. Besides hiking up on Tunnel Trail, I think I've managed to miss this section between Knapp's Castle and Gibraltar Road. I realized that La Cumbre Peak and its fire lookout is along here. This is another place with a little extra history. I had to stop and since I was operating the wheel and pedals, so did everyone else. This is another very brief hike and while Knapp set himself in a spot with primarily back country views, the vegetation on the peak tends to make it good for primarily front country views, making a nice complement. We parked below the paved road that loops up to the lookout and started up past the locked gate and a foolishly parked SUV blocking it. Arrows on the pavement indicate we should keep left, so we did, walking up under the young pines along the north side of the peak.

La Cumbre Peak fire lookout
The La Cumbre Peak lookout seems to be missing a bit of the roof, but still has a storm shutter.

Knapp's Castle

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trail head.

The family wanted a little walk and with bright blue, freshly washed skies and the last of the lingering grey clouds puffing out of existence in the sun, it didn't seem like the time to wander some ocean bluffs, but to head to some high place. Knapp's Castle was among the suggestions, so we went there. George Knapp was a driving force in first laying down the roads we still use to access the backcountry, so it is no wonder that he knew a good spot to build his house. Somewhere below, there is a waterfall, but it is not along the maintained route and the tales of getting there describe a fair bit of work, especially considering that the route was once a road. I couldn't get anyone interested and hadn't dug out the bit of map that would be necessary, so we stuck to the very short stroll to the ruins.

the gate at the fire road and driveway
Every road that isn't open to driving by the public has to have a gate, and this is the one at Knapp's Castle.

20 December 2012

Matilija, Upper North Fork, day 2

Los Padres National Forest

This is the second day, the first day is here.

Locate the trail head.

DAY 1 | DAY 2

The morning was chilly and the sun wouldn't come soon enough. A bit of noodles and a packet free of MSG but also too free of dried veggies with a handful of TVP does make for a yummy breakfast, but didn't seem especially energizing over the early part of the hike. I packed up everything useful for day hiking and started up the last bit of trail. This part of trail wiggles a bit excessively like the growing vegetation has pushed it around a bit. I expect it is the least traveled section, but except for sections of a few feet, the trail is distinct. The fall leaves do try to shroud it a bit. The campsite was ice free, but I quickly found a lot of ice along the trail.

fine feathers of ice in the sunlight
Some fine, feathery ice sparkling in the sunlight.

With lots of creek crossings, often without any apparent landscape derived reason, the trail makes its way up the canyon.

leaf ringed pool along the creek
The new leaves in the creek stack up against the old leaves that are themselves stacked up against the rotting leaves that make up a soil like barrier at the edges of pools, making an illusionary extension of the bank for unwary hikers to step on.

19 December 2012

Matilija, Upper North Fork, day 1

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trail head.

DAY 1 | DAY 2

I decided to head out on a simple little overnight and a revisit of Matilija's upper north fork looked like it would fit the bill quite handily. At just 9 miles for the whole trail, it can be done as a long day hike, especially considering that much of it is a gentle upward slope. Anyway, I'm feeling iffy about some of my equipment, specifically the decade old thinsulate sleeping bag. I also have a breakfast plan that doesn't involve choking down instant oatmeal and some new little neoprene gloves to try. It seemed like a solid test of what the backcountry is likely to send at me in winter, at least if I can pick a day without much weather. I stopped by the Ojai Vons for one last requirement (powdered cider) and found it to be surprisingly cold in the city, then made my way to the end of the road marked "Matilija". A forest service vehicle and a number of other cars were occupying all the obvious non-slushy spots and one more was ahead of me looking for one. It might be a little crowded. I got some off street parking around the rim of the puddle with minimal splashing and got started down the road. Traveling through the first ranch doesn't seem as weird after doing it a couple times.

the mouth of the upper north fork canyon
A look up the canyon to be walked.

Crossing the creek and then the much larger creek, I got to the sign marking the trail and took a right to start up the canyon. Promptly crossing the creek again, except this time quite dry, I found some of the folks parked at the end of the road having lunch in the middle of the dry creek. A shiny wooden sign gives the mileage to various campsites (1/2 mile to the lower camp, 3 miles to middle, and 4.5 miles to upper, but Maple not mentioned) and the highway (12 miles). Crossing the creek again, the trail seems well used and there are a few rocks that look constructed into benches and have been well used as such. The wide track crosses the stream again and splits into two well used trails, the right hand side delivering all comers into Matilija camp (designated "lower" on the sign), which is a large and well used area with quite a few grills and not enough fire rings for them all.

ribbons of mushroom along the length of a log
The first of quite a few mushrooms found along the trail are a bit old and slightly mossy.

10 December 2012

Haddock and Reyes Peaks

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trail head.

I awoke in Reyes Peak Campground to a morning that was not nearly as cold as I feared. I checked another rock with a shallower bit of water and found it wasn't frozen over from the night. The Whisperlite decided to conk out just before boiling water for breakfast and didn't respond to threats of being replaced with the Simmerlite, but did respond to a second match. I got everything packed up and drove the last few miles to the start of Reyes Peak Trail finding that the mud puddles in the road were frozen from the night before. A difference of opinion, I suppose. For some reason, the main sign at the end of the road had been removed. The information sign has been repaired and even shows the route up the peak now. My plan was to take the proper trail over to Haddock Peak and poke around until satisfied, then return coming up the east side of Reyes Peak by the fairly complete use trail for a glorious sunset, then down the more familiar trail in the dark. Marking where the trail first meets the ridge after going around the back side of Reyes Peak with the GPS would make it harder to miss on the way back. It turns out the GPS can be used for non-emergency navigation, too.

I read somewhere that the trail to Haddock is 7 miles one way and allotted the water for this length, although maybe a little on the skimpy side. I added in most of my warm stuff for peak sitting, still wearing the light fleece over long sleeved hiking shirt. The long sleeved shirts have been very pleasant as things are starting to freeze, not at all like when I first got them as things were thawing and they were too warm. I packed in the art supplies and food and got started. The section of old road with requisite bits of old pavement to the junction seems shorter each time. Turning down the trail, I found it to be hard in many places and to crunch in others. More signs the mountain is starting to freeze.

north side of Reyes Peak with rocks sticking out in fins
The north sides of Reyes Peak look plenty steep unless compared to the south slopes of the ridge.

looking northeast
Ridges out to the northeast where Reyes Creek flows.

Cuyama badlands
The Cuyama River stretches out below.

09 December 2012

Chorro Grande

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trail head.

With the remains of the day, I decided to do a quick jaunt up Chorro Grande to the waterfall to see if it had a bit of water, too. It isn't very far or much climbing. It can probably be seen from the road somewhere, but that would be cheating.

Chorro Grande
Chorro Grande has its sign back!

Potrero John

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trail head.

When headed along the 33 headed north, there's a big sign next to a little parking spot that is usually occupied. This sign points at a little break in the rocks and, although it looks nothing like a potrero, claims that Potrero John is that way. I've been told that behind this unassuming hole in the wall is a nice little waterfall. Actually, multiple waterfalls for the enthusiastic, but most only go to the first. An information sign at the start had a lot of out of date details about nearby areas and the important detail that this trail is only maintained to the camp almost two miles up.

Potrero John
The start of the trail, as indicated by road signs.

hole in the wall
One steep walled entry into the backcountry.

Starting up the trail, it quickly deposited me into the creek. On the other side, the wilderness starts with its special rules. The trail crosses over the creek a few more times as it makes its way. The canyon at first seems like a box with a flat bottom and vertical sides reaching up about as high as it is wide. It wasn't early in the morning, but the sun still hadn't found its way into the various turns and the air was noticeably chill. There are a few signs the mountain is starting to freeze. There are a number of illegal campsites along the narrow canyon and I passed a few items in one, then a utility shower in use.

canyon wall encrusted with pines
Even on steep canyon walls, pine trees can find a foothold. They stick strongly to the northern slopes here.

The canyon opens up into what is presumably the potrero, although I'm not sure it meets the definition. It was pleasantly warm once the rock wasn't hanging close by. A sunny campsite right as the canyon opens looked like the first one that looked attractive. The trail crosses the creek again and finally gets above the high water mark of numerous log jams.

04 December 2012

ode to REI's UL45 of 2006

Once, when I was poking around the Arcadia REI's backpack selection, one clerk came over and showed off what was the pride and joy of her own collection of gear, the UL45.  "And it collapses down to nearly nothing by just pulling the cord, then you can just use the pocket for a day hike" she said, demonstrating what continues to be a very unique compression system.  I thought this might actually be a compression system that works for me, but what really caught my eye was that this neatly removes what I see as a design flaw that is repeated across the industry: the compression strap that crosses over the top of the bottom pocket.  I don't even use these pockets except for picking up trash along the trail and once for a water bottle when I found I'd left the drinking tube at home, but this detail deeply irks me.

A few months later, I decided I wanted a pack devoted to day hikes rather than dumping out my books and pens and using that one.  I looked at a lot of day packs that were over 3 lbs.  Why would you need over 3 lbs for a day pack?  They didn't have anything except tough fabric and lots of padding on the back and more pockets than I had things to put in them.  Tough fabric is nice, makes things last.  Padding in a day pack, which tend to be frameless, is generally a thick slab of heat that covers the whole back.  Pockets are just more fabric.  I also noticed the UL45 tucked away in the overstock and discontinued section.  A real pack with an actual frame that comes in at slightly over 2.5 lbs.  It also comes in a 30L size for day hikes and a 60L size for extended trips, unless you have the poor sense to be a woman.  I wasn't completely sold on the notion that I need different shoulder straps, but I decided it would be nice to try for overnights instead of my rather bulky bag that could probably swallow up a fully loaded UL60.  Also, the details are green instead of orange, and I don't like orange.  The sale price was somewhere south of $50, so it wasn't even more expensive to go for the real pack.  It took a while, but that clerk made a sale.

Women's UL45 somehow still with all the bits.

 This is what I got.  Except for the straps, the back, the bottom, and a tab at the top of tough nylon, it is all sil-nylon.  The scrunched fabric in a big X across the bag show where the cord for the very odd compression system sit.  It turns out this is just one of few oddities of this bag.  It has a couple mesh pockets on each side, the bottom ones quite deep.  It has a pocket on the front with a vertical waterproof zipper.  It has a top pocket with another waterproof zipper that is surprisingly large.  It has handy small pockets on the belt.  All quite nice.

Suspension system for the UL45.

Flip it over, and there's something strange about the suspension.  It has load lifter straps as one might expect, but it all sits on a single stay.  There is a bar and a U at the top to help the pack keep its shape, a bar at the bottom to hold out a couple plastic loops for the strap system, and another U at the bottom to help spread out the weight sitting on that single stay.  The hip belt has a massive bit of padding under the stay and it needs it.  Everything is sitting on the bone, but with a light enough load, this seems more comfortable and balanced to me.  The shoulder straps and hip belt has minimal padding, but it really is intended for lighter loads so this is fine.  The sternum strap hits at my neck even at the lowest position, but I never like those anyway.  The padding on the back has been left off in a lot of places, but this oddity takes no time at all to get used to if your crew, say, decides it would be a good idea to head for Condor Peak in 90°F.  That space is pure airflow.

Suspension system details.

One thing that doesn't stop being odd and not quite right is the way the straps are attached.  This system has some name and can be found in other packs.  The bottom of the straps are attached to each other and run through loops to hold them out to where they would usually be attached.  The bottom can slide to either side a little, allowing the pack to move a bit more with you, and does have its positive aspects.  The loops on the side are on somewhat too long leashes and don't pull the base of the straps out as far as I would like.  This sometimes gets annoying as the straps slide against my sides.

Hip belt of the UL45.

The hip belt has a couple of small pockets.  On my left, a great spot to stash chapstick.  On my right, the perfect pocket for the right camera.  It held my old Pentax and my new Canon SX230 but not the old SX110.  The zipper has held up to the thousands of picture taking moments.  The cloth is failing from wear by swinging arms.  The few elastic spots aren't holding anything tight anymore.  The fit is the usual for REI packs.  If I place the stay along my back where it belongs, the hip belt hits at my waist.  There are a few people who like it like this, I'm not one.  I maneuvered the belt downward with some velcro adjustment and the rest of the funny fit is just more airflow.  The torso isn't quite long enough, only going to 17" max, but it didn't come in a large.  Apparently, not only do women not need a smaller or larger bag, they also don't have very long torsos.  This actually should be long enough for me, but there must be something else funny with the fit.

Inside, there is a sleeve for a water bladder.  I can even squeeze in two of the Platypus 2.4L bags for those particularly long or hot trips.  With the single stay system, the way the pack sits on my back doesn't change any with stuffing in water, something I've found in packs I've had since.  Typically, the compression system is cinched down to the water, jackets stuffed into the bottom, food and art supplies in the top, and first aid and bandannas and bug repellent in the top pocket.  Sometimes maps and my flattened cup for watercolor in the front pocket.  It easily expands out to hold whatever I feel I need to be safe and happy, and has done so for over 1000 miles, quite probably.

Pocket for stay detaching from hip belt.

So it's no wonder that it is about to have a major failure.  I noticed a couple hikes ago that half the stitches were out of the plastic piece that holds the stay at the bottom to the hip belt.  I knew when I got it that the lighter weight materials don't last as long.  It is a trade-off.  This can be fixed, so I'll do that, but as I look over the rest, I see a lot of thin spots.  It may be about to disintegrate.

Top pocket, holed a few places and still marked by sooty branches.

Considering how I've treated it, it should be shredded by now.  I have really grown to love this strange pack.  At first, I was careful because the fabric is so delicate.  Once in a while, I threw it into something I knew I shouldn't and had it come out with no damage.  Now I take it for granted as I squeeze through the willows or under tree branches.  It is still wearing the marks from Whitaker Peak.  A few holes have been punched through the top, a lot of snags are showing.  It hasn't been waterproof for a few years, I bet it can be treated with silicon grease or whatever makes sil-nylon again to help that out, even with the holes.

So that's REI's UL45.  Perfect in summer with the airflow, perfect in winter with the space, overkill for spring and fall because spring and fall are so perfect on their own.  When it breaks for good, I don't know what to replace it with.  They only made it in 2006.  The next year bag returned to traditional design and is heavier.  They decided it needs to be made out of tougher fabric and the compression system vanished again.  Everyone seems to be going to a single loop stay, which doesn't allow for quite the same real airflow and leaves the water bulging into the wearer's back.  And they still generally have a strap across the top of the bottom pocket.

30 November 2012


This month, I've been challenging myself to paint or sketch a tree a day, so the hiking sketches tend to feature a tree.  I think manzanita qualifies as tree, anyway.

Some distant trees along the coast from near the Arroyo Hondo bridge.

An oak next to the closed road down the north side of the ridge while driving a 4x4 road with inappropriate wheels.

Some fall color along Piru Creek.

A dry tributary with a waterfall that spills into Piru Creek.
The tail end of fall color while exploring some more of Piru Creek.
Mission Falls, nearly as dry as usual, hiked to by way of Rattlesnake Canyon.

27 November 2012

Whitaker Peak

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trail head.

Failing to get a group to come out for the moon on Sunday, I decided to take a hike up Whitaker Peak on Tuesday when the moon would be fullest. The mountain is tucked away in the Los Padres administered section of Angeles National Forest. I found rumors of a lookout at the end of the road, for instance it is labeled on the 1988 revision of the Whitaker Peak quad, but that has been completely removed now. The peak itself is off the road and does not have a good use trail. There was rain planned for Wednesday, so it would already be clouding up. I found a prediction that it would be 38% cloudy and deeply suspected it would be the wrong 38%, so was a bit slow to start off. The dithering cost an hour of hoped for hiking time, but there turned out to be plenty of time. I found a faded sign along the old Golden State Highway pointing to Whitaker Peak and turned up it to park by the gate. Starting up it, I found it to be paved and smooth, which would be easy for coming back by moonlight, but a little hard on the feet.

the old and new road
Climbing to the ridge gives a view of the old road and new road while the mountains also come into view.

For the first part, the hike is an easy climb up to the ridge. This gives great views of the string of trucks climbing the grade and another set coming down the other way. Also visibile is the break check area for those coming down. It isn't much of a view, but gradually the mountains beyond start to pop up behind the hills by the road. Redrock Mountain is particularly prominant showing off how unimaginative the namers were. The area over there, full of disappearing trails, doesn't look so inaccessible from the ridge and the closer hills have prominant roads crossing them.

well folded land
The view from the top of the ridge shows a well folded land to the southwest.

19 November 2012

Rattlesnake Canyon

Santa Barbara Front Country

Locate the trail head.

Every year after the first big rain, I seem to go out to some local waterfall hoping that it is somewhat more impressive than it was a few weeks ago. Invariably, it isn't. The first rain barely wets the soil, even if it is long and soaking eventually dropping about 1.5 inches as fell on the front side of the mountains on Saturday. I decided to hike up to Mission Fall by the nicer, or at least cozier with easier parking and fewer mountain bikes, Rattlesnake Canyon. The mountains did not drink up every drop that fell on them, the creek is a bit louder than it was in recent months, but it doesn't really look like more flow and there isn't any flow in the little tributaries. The mountains did manage to take in a lot of it.

The day was fairly cloudy with a layer out on the water as well. It was a really good temperature for hiking, but the patchy sunlight sure makes photography difficult. There is construction in the area at the moment, so I kept getting warned that the road was closed ahead. I parked on a paved bit just before the bridge at Skofield Park next to some huge machinery and a pile of metal plates and started up the trail at the same time as two cars worth of twenties and their dog. They were only loaded down with a pint of liquid and I'm a bit of a slow hiker even without a bit more water, nibbles, warm stuff, emergency kit, and even art supplies, so they outpaced me pretty quickly. Well, until the first stream crossing when they settled down for a smoke, at which point I passed them and didn't see them again.

looking out over St. Mary's to Santa Cruz Island
The trail quickly climbs up to give views of the city and island out over St. Mary's.

With a little climb to a bit of view, the trail wiggles a little through trees and past a cairn marked route down, then drops down again to cross the creek. Passing the climbing wall, the rope strung from high on the rock was dangling down to the main trail along the steep use trail. Bright equipment still hangs from the stays in the rock. The trail crosses again, by a little pool and over a rock that shows a bit of flattening performed long ago. Climbing again, there is a little use trail down to the water to follow the creek up, but the main trail turns to leave it. The water can be heard below a few turns, but eventually it is lost. I got to the meadow just before the junction which I have just learned is Tin Can. I had read about a Tin Can Cabin and wondered if this was where it was, so found a nice little write up of Rattlesnake Canyon history in the LA Times archives, which mentions a few things I'd forgotten as well as describing the old cabin the meadow is named for.

Tin Can Meadow
Tin Can Meadow from above on the connector trail.

14 November 2012

Piru Creek from Hardluck

Hungry Valley State Park and Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trail head.

I headed again to Hungry Valley, this time with multiple plans. The road is marked as open 1 May to 1 Nov, but was open for hunting season, but now that the deer are safe again, the road can't be expected to be open. At the entrance station to Hungry Valley, I found out that the forest doesn't keep the state informed about the local area or even supply them with the free OHV maps, so all I found out was that there was a bit of a rough spot at the start of the Piru Creek ford going up Alamo. I set off to try to get to the upper end of Snowy Creek trail, listed as closed but doesn't say if that's just to bikes or all or if that's the whole trail or just part. I found that the ford was easy enough to cross, but the road is looking a bit more like when I first drove it. I came to a ditch that I couldn't cross without plowing a lot of dirt with my front bumper and had to turn around. It looks like I have to wait until they grade the road again before going up. I drove up to Kings Camp, noticing that fire crews were out picking up garbage at Gold Hill as I forded Piru again. King's Camp is the other end of Snowy Creek, which was really my plan C, but proximity to plan A made it the next to try. I must have been more uninterested in going on that end of the trail than I knew, because I could not find the trail head when I drove up into the campground loop, then over to another large dirt area. I should have found an open gate and a truck parked near it, but somehow missed that. I left as some youngsters settled in just past the "no target shooting" sign for their own purposes and proceeded to Hardluck.

Back in summer 1995 when I was a counselor at Camp Tecuya and would get 24 hours off between the strings of 6 22 hour days in charge of campers, I sometimes wanted to be far away from people. One weekend, the little tent that said "Hardluck" on the map looked like the place to do so. It had no water, so was free. It had very solid pits that had been shot at a bit much, but there were still a few good ones. Too many people hadn't found the good ones, and decided a better choice was to squat by a bush. It had toilet paper tucked under every bush. Except for being disgusting with waste paper, it was a very nice spot. I had the place to myself when I went to bed, but had gained a neighbor two spots down by morning. My neighbor commuted from LA to Bakersfield every day and sometimes decided it was a long drive and set himself down in Hardluck. In the morning, I packed up and headed off with a few hours yet before noon and duties, so I took a left at a road into Hungry Valley, headed to Gold Hill and up and around Alamo Mountain, which was spectacular. I returned a few times to Alamo Mountain that summer and in the years since, but have never been back to Hardluck. Now I've decided that maybe Hardluck has a little more to offer.

Unfortunately, that offering doesn't include an open road into it in spite of the Forest Service website saying it is. I joined another car parked off the road at the gate just 100 feet from a sign saying it was still 3.1 miles to Hardluck. With a lot of daylight wasted and no good idea for another hike, I pocketed the bit of map for the trail extending downstream from Hardluck, shouldered my pack, and decided it was fitting. I could easily return on the road in the dark, so could still get a few miles of trail in. Perhaps this was my first bit of foolishness for the day. I'm not sure why hiking a dark but smooth road should be much more dangerous than camping, but that does presuppose that I actually return by the road.

dried stuff and trees along a creek and Hungry Valley
Looking north to Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area where there are some impressive bluffs, while nearby there are fenced off flats.

07 November 2012

Piru Creek from Gold Hill

Los Padres National Forest

Location map link for when Google eats the embedded map again.

There are threats that the various back country roads will generally be closed up on November 1 from now on, but for now they are open to allow access for deer hunters. I decided to take advantage of the open gates and cooler temperatures due to a coming storm to head up Gold Hill Road and stop just before the ford at Piru Creek where a trail follows the path of the creek upward. My map shows this route going out the back of a few dirt roads around Gold Hill Campground. I found it to be resplendent in autumn colors. I took a peek at the ford to be sure there was water in the creek since other reliable ribbons of wet seem to be drying out this year, then turned in and drove up the creek stopping near a bit of fence to discourage further motor vehicle traffic. I grabbed water and food and art supplies and headed out along the trail that snakes around the side of the fence to see what I could see.

fall colors of poplars in the creek bed
The poplar trees lining Piru Creek are turning gold with the changing seasons.

A small trail overgrown with reeds goes to another area that can be reached by car, which was demonstrated by a car parked there. I found a larger path and continued down it for a bit, but the smaller paths that go out near the cliff edge to look down on the creek looked more interesting, so I kept going that way. The whole area is a choose your own adventure. My large path crosses through a fence to a road and I decided I liked the footpath better and turned back to the cliff side again. This brought me past what is presumably something left of the mine marked on the map. After the mine workings, it becomes quite faint and dumped me down into the creek itself at a dry tributary. I tried a route that climbs back up the other side of the tributary, but this just delayed being in the bottom for a few more feet.

wide trail and the mountains beyond
The initial portion of trail that heads away from the creek across the dry flat.

04 November 2012

Wildwood Canyon Park

Burbank, Verdugo Mountains

Locate the trail head.

I headed down to hike with the geeks who planned on another attack up the steep trail that climbs from Harvard up to the communications site toward the top of the mountain. It is a short, steep, trail with a bit of a crowd in the morning until the heat gets to be a bit much. We start climbing when it is quite warm enough up the first of three trails that leave the road and head up, quickly catching a bit of view out over Burbank.

The golf course below and city beyond.
The trail quickly gains a view of the nearby golf course and city beyond.

03 November 2012

West Camino Cielo

After failing plan A and plan B and finished poking around the old bit of highway bridge, I returned to Refugio to put plan C into motion.  I would head up to Camino Cielo along Refugio Road and then see what it was like on the way to San Marcos Pass.  As I start to climb, I come to a sign saying there is a bridge out 10 miles ahead and the road is closed to through traffic in 7 miles.  It doesn't look so good for plan C, and I was thinking that the plan would most likely fail because the road isn't good enough to travel in a little car with six inches of clearance.  I continue up the road anyway.

Refugio is a tight, shady canyon.  In the lower section, it crosses back and forth over the stream.  It makes one crossing warning of a narrow bridge, widens back up for about 10 feet, then narrows down even further and pretty much stays that way.  I have a fair amount of traffic coming down the hill at me including a small FedEx truck, but there were plenty of wider spots to allow passing.  The road starts to climb out of the canyon and widens to something very comfortable for driving and dodging people leaving their cars with the doors wide open while they pick up their mail.  Once the road is really climbing, it makes a few tight turns and the hillsides are much brighter but much browner as well.  I should note that the road is full of pot holes and patches.  In spots, it gets quite lumpy.

A road appears to my right, and without a road sign, I'm not sure it is the one I want.  Refugio says the bridge is out in 2 more miles.  I'm not sure what was supposed to happen a mile ago, but I didn't notice it whatever it was.  The road to the right says it is unmaintained and the county takes no responsibility for anything you may do to yourself or your property while traveling on it.  I decide it must be Camino Cielo, and turn down it.  Soon after, I realize that Refugio was headed down again, so this really has to be the sky road I am looking for.

Initially, the road is beautiful and smooth.  It does not seem like it should have such a dire warning on it, but I know the pavement won't last.  In the distance, a number of peaks are decorated with antennas and this road is only paved to the spur up to the first one.  Who can worry about that as views open up to left and right?

Solvang from West Camino Cielo.

At first, the northern views are of Solvang and the surrounding area.  Southern views show islands and canyons and the odd ridge.  The hard layers of rocks seem to stick out more along here, having had the soft layers around them eroded on both sides.  Perhaps it is just that they are light layers among the greening land.  I come to the first spur road to the towers and the pavement ends as expected.  The road beyond is rough, but passable and still wide giving many options for travel.  It is also designate with a vertical number which is code for 4WD road.

Lake Cachuma looks a little low, displaying a bright white stripe around the edge.

Looking back somewhat along the ridge.

 Immediately after the last spur road, a forest gate stands open, but could be used to bar the rest of the road from me for travel.  After this gate, the road is often narrow for long stretches.  I meet a motor bike coming the other way along one narrow bit.  He seems not to know what to think of me as he gives my wheels a good looking over but seems to settle on amused.  I give him a smile and a thumbs up as I navigate a patch not quite rough enough to shift down from second.  A few patches do need first gear, but nothing really worries me throughout the whole road.  What most gets to me are the sections where the sandstone has been carved away into a narrow roadway with high walls.  I pass someone in blue enjoying the wind up on a point, but don't see what means he got there by so might be a hiker.  I don't spot the trail I was looking for near where he was sitting.

One of the valleys stretching toward the ocean.

And the sea of mountains on the other side.

After stopping a few times for the view, I stop one more time at a locked gate.  I was looking for the top of a couple trails, but not closely enough.  To be honest, the road has taken a bit more of my attention than hoped and I haven't been able to enjoy the view as well as I would like so it would be easy to have missed the trails even if they are fairly easy to find.  A bare foot path is easily seen in the dead grasses covering the road, so at least I did find one trail.  While I'm parked, a truck with plenty of clearance passes going the other way.

Where there was once a road, there is now a trail heading down from this gate.

I can hear many gun shots while I'm stopped, but could hear them the last couple of stops too.  The sounds seem to travel well.  This time, though, it is just a quick climb up to the gun club and smooth, wide pavement.  Just before reaching the pavement, I find two more people walking down the road.  They seemed particularly worried about my wheels.  They had parked an SUV at the end of the pavement, so I guess they were worried about their own that should have been more capable.  Once on the pavement, there seems to be quite a crowd.  Many cars are parked at the gun club, and two more are at the other side of the road for the view.  I pass many cars on the road and many more parked in bunches on the side.  The road drops in tight turns through trees and in very little time I find myself at the pass with a fairly strait shot home.

All in all, a very fun little drive with exquisite views, although it would get downright scary if I was meeting people as much on the dirt as I was on the pavement.

bridge over Arroyo Hondo

I set out today to hike Dos Pueblos Canyon or Arroyo Hondo, but didn't end up at either.  There is an exit for Dos Pueblos, but turning down the actual road means coming to a sign saying, "Private Road, no thru traffic".  I have no idea what anyone would to "thru" or through on this road to.  It is supposed to go up the canyon a ways and stop.  A couple trucks passed me as I glared at the sign and my map, but neither felt much like helping.  The road did not look in particularly good shape and since I had a plan B, I thought I'd go with it.

Somewhere further is Arroyo Hondo.  I found Arroyo Hondo Preserve very soon after, sooner than expected in fact.  They do not want people coming in unannounced, though.  I was expecting a friendly parking lot with a trail opened about a year ago, this isn't it.  I continued along failing to find something promising or a sign to designate it.  I turned around and did something I've kind of been wanting to do for a while instead.

When traveling near Gaviota along the decidedly east-west section of highways 101 and 1, one often catches a glimpse of a huge bridge.  It is lower than the level of the freeway, so you can see the black top stretching across it.  This long narrow expanse once carried the traffic of the main route from Los Angeles to San Francisco and it is easy to visit, if you are traveling southbound, by getting off at a "vista point" that is directly east of it.  Park along the side and walk west to the bridge.

Old highway bridge over Arroyo Hondo.

The bridge has been left with no barriers of any kind and is still quite solid.  My childhood memories claim there was a sign here explaining its purpose for being, but that has been replaced with a sign about the fish ladder that has been built to allow the trout to come back to Arroyo Hondo.  (Ah ha!  A clue for finding the place next time, this is the canyon.)  A quick search confirms that there was a sign and adds that the bridge was built in 1918 and carried state route 2, a moniker for a very different road now.  I walked across the bridge and examined the ends for a date, but could not find one.  Although it was the whole highway once, the reflectors that remain hint that it became just southbound at some point.

Fish ladder.

I could look down directly to the fish ladder that is now the talk of the local signage.  The current highway rattles over a lot of fill and the stream went through a culvert previously.  In low water, there is not enough for the fish to swim through and in high water, the surge of water is too great to allow the trout to swim upstream.  Now that has been replaced with this series of pools so that the steelhead can return to this stream.

Gulls on the beach through the trestle bridge.

Of course, there is a vista at this vista as well.  The coast is quite spectacular.  Three islands can be seen: Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel.  Today visibility is not as good as it could be, but the islands still peek out over the lower haze.  A small plane flew by eastward very, very low over the water, then returned westward.

The coastal view looking west.

Crossing the train tracks and looking down, there is a remnant of sea wall.  The high tide waves were crashing against it.  In one spot, they produced a geyser.  The splashes and the reflecting waves were fun to watch.  The foam makes different patterns where the water turns back.

A wave hitting the sea wall.  It forms, hits, splashes, and reflects into the next wave.