11 October 2012

Gaviota Peak

Gaviota State Park and Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trail head.

I decided to go up to the top of Gaviota Peak, partly since there'd been some rain to help clear up the haze of the air and partly because I'd been thinking about going up but not gotten there. Since I failed to find the path under the highway and the rest of the trail on the other side, I decided to try from the fire road off the southbound side. After the "end freeway" sign, there is quickly a bridge and a few feet later, the bit of paving marking the road. I park to the side of the gravel just after the pavement ends and before the gate, then go looking for the pedestrian underpass. The hint from looking at the satellite photos suggest it's a bit to the north where apparent paths seem to come from the highway. I cross over Gaviota Creek and up the concrete hill northward and around some vegetation to find it a bit south again. The creek is well shielded from it, just as it was well shielded from the creek by this vegetation.

Gaviota Creek beneath the highway
Gaviota Creek, which is somewhat decorated below the highway.

pedestrian underpass below the northbound
The southbound side of the highway can be crossed with the creek, but the northbound needs a tunnel.

The underpass is actually quite clean, but the far side has a lot of poison oak coming up quite close to it. It also looks as though the trail is still here, except that it also seems to go through the thickest of the poison oak. I try to follow it without getting too much poison oak on me. At first it seems clear, just overgrown, and there are bits of cut branches on the bushes, but I must have pushed through the wrong soft spot between bushes, because I stop seeing the cut branches and the trail starts seeming a little short for the average human. Then I even lose those routes. I make my way toward the grassy hill to the north which seemed to be where the trail is supposed to go from photos and maps pushing through the easier spots of the bushes, a bit up into the branches of the bushes shedding cotton when the soil is a little muddy from a seep of water. Past the wet stuff, the bushes dry out and then end as I find myself at the bottom of the grassy hillside.

view of the rest of the State Park
Looking back over the stretch of bushes to the hills on the other side of the highway. The left peak has the antenna I hiked to on my last Gaviota visit and the cut of the fire road I came down is also visible.

Hopefully the going is easy from here on. I take a nicely sloped deer trail heading to the right, then switch back left as I cross over what has to be a trail cut that never got much use. The grasses on the trail don't seem any shorter than those off it and there aren't bald patches. I follow it to the top of the hill and promptly lose it on the easier terrain that required no cutting to put in a two foot or more tread. I walk up along the ridge line, which is an nice, easy slope for the time, approaching an oak forest.

big yellow and black spider, probably Argiope aurantia, with a single stabilimenta in its web and a bit of prey
A spider, probably Argiope aurantia, along my planned route, but I rerouted.

Below the stand of beautiful big oak trees is a stand of not so nice poison oak. As I get closer, I decide to head along the nice open grass toward the more traditional starting point for this hike instead of finding a way through that, probably missing the trail by about twenty feet. I spot someone's wind break of rocks built up next to a tree, and manage to miss the trail by about ten feet near it. A little further, and I finally stumble upon an unmistakable hard packed line of dirt that is Tunnel View Trail, a slightly longer alternative to Trespass Trail. I look back the way I came to see a sign post marking a trail junction. It has no names and the arrows indicate a trail going up the hill, but the only intersection that should be here is with my "trail" from below. No intersection is apparent by the sign. With the choice of continuing the way I came or following the trail back to the lovely oaks with their feet decorated with reddening poison oak as tall as I am, I decide to continue.

small wooden bridge along the packed trail
A pair of bridges over small ditches put to rest any worry that this is actually some sort of animal highway.

As I go, the predicted rain starts to fall. I cross over a couple bridges, and looking at the road I can see it is wet to the north but not to the south. I am walking into the rain. Getting to a fire road, I turn right up Trespass Trail. A sign with faded writing marks the trail I came from. It just says "trail" with a more faded arrow that was painted on later by hand. The rain sounds wonderful hitting the leaves as I climb along in it, especially when the foliage is thick. As I round the mountain, the rain drops off.

hills on the other side of the freeway
The other side of the State Park, the fire road I climbed a few weeks ago is visible against the grasses.

fire road twisting toward a saddle
The road forward, heading over a mixture of public and private lands.

Another sign saying just "trail", but the word almost gone, signals the Tunnel View Trail rejoining Trespass Trail as I walk along the fire road. An old metal gate with no supports, but curved in a great semi-circle so it stands on its own, probably marks the end of the State Park and the start of the National Forest as the road collapses down to a single track. With the rain just then coming through, this means getting water dumped on me from a multitude of leaves that were determined to catch it. Another day when I get wetter after the rain has gone than when it was falling. I pass through two more gates on my way along the trail.

looking across the wide canyon
It seems to have gotten nice and green through here.

another gate
The second of the gates, which just looks like an invitingly open garden gate from the other side.

tiny flower up very close
Only a very few flowers can be found out on the trail at the moment.

Somewhere, possibly near the second gate but certainly before the trail, following the old road, crosses to the other side of the drainage, I pass out of the National Forest again. I climb the last bit of the canyon to a saddle and find that routes go down the other side and continue along an old road cut up and to the right while I want to go up and to the left. I ignore the well trod routes and cross a few feet to a line in the hillside that should be a trail too. It is in much better shape than the parts I found of the first trail I was on, but still hardly used. It ends a little sooner than it ought to where rounding a very minor ridge drops me onto the well pounded trail again. Looking down, I can see the track wander down the canyon and a bit turn up this way while another bit of trail is greeted by a "no trespassing" sign. Maps old and new show a bit of trail going down that way a short distance to nothing, but the new one also shows road going all the way down. Neither shows the road cut going up the other side.

the far side of the saddle
Rocks and things on over the other side of the saddle as I climb higher for the peak.

I pass the remains of an old forest service gate, which one might expect that this signals I am back in the forest again, but the suspicion is premature, as I climb toward the top. The sky is clouding up again and rain shadows can be seen in the distance. From here, I can see Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel all as separate islands.

out over the hills to the west
The greens and browns of the hills in the direction of the point.

decorated sandstone alon g the side of the trail
One of a few sculpted sandstone rocks along the route.

The trail skirts a drainage, then drops into it as it climbs. I'm checking out some rocks to the side when I find the backside of another "no trespassing" sign ahead. It is hard to worry when exiting anyway, but what? Checking coordinates shows this sign is very much misplaced if it is meant for a property the trail passes through. It needs to back up halfway to the saddle if that is the case. Either someone thinks it's a funny joke or someone is trying to claim a lot of public land for himself. This spot of the forest doesn't have an inholding. Continuing on, the clouds get darker.

another look down the coast eastward
A few more greens and browns and reds in the direction my clear weather is going.

old flowers now matured
One bush with intriguing growth patterns that is very good at catching water and dumping it on passers by.

As I climb, there is a flickering of the light level and then a funny sort of crackling thunder I tend to associate with cloud to cloud lightning. The rain mostly holds off as the trail follows an old barbed wire fence. I found a few escaped papers, one noting that this dinky little peak not high enough to be a mountain and with mostly fire road approaches is nice, but hasn't got anything on the trails they have in Oregon to which I can only think that it would be pretty sad if Oregon could not boast a few trails better than this one. Another writer was a woman whose fellow had brought her up here as a first hike and had carried her some of the way to the top. It makes me smile. I recapture the escapees and drop them back into the trash can looking trail register, but since there is light rain, I don't want to leave it open to shuffle through the other loose leaves of thoughts. As it is getting harder, I don't even get a chance to record my own. Instead I find a flat rock to sit on under a bush and attend to some hunger.

register in the image of a trash can
Someone has put in a lot of loose sheets for use as a register, which isn't always good in an area known for high winds.

specially designed register
This was produced and brought here by a group of people who loved the place and wanted it to have something special.

fire road along the ridge line
More fire road extends along the ridge line and looks well maintained.

It rains harder as I eat, but it doesn't rain for very long and my big sun hat turns effortlessly into a big rain hat. It seems to be finishing up as I ready to leave, but since it might be a long wait for it to actually finish and clear up for better views, I head down anyway. I continue in the direction I was going when I came up to follow a large trail down to fire road and then toward the hot spring somewhere near the bottom. A rather heavy duty mower was through here a while ago and was strong enough to take out trees over 8 inches in diameter. A few bushes are growing back for the next round. I come down what seems like twice as many feet as I climbed in the first place to reenter the state park. I pass two hikers coming up, one that seems dressed for the spring and one dressed for the hike, at a gate. A prominent trail pops up on the left, so figuring it goes to the hot spring, I take it. It passes by a spring house, then to the tubs. I stopped at the first spring to poke around, and found the water coming from it to be cold. Then, while I watched, the water stopped flowing.

spring house
Below this roof, a lot of bubbling noises could be heard, but there's no place to look in and see the source of the noises.

water flowing from holed pipe
The gathered spring water flows into a pipe only to be distributed over the ground through holes drilled in it regularly.

water stops flowing
Just after I took the first photo, the holes stopped squirting from the top to the bottom.

The hot spring can be spotted by the palm trees growing up in it. Below these palms, I find the tubs. There are two, both with water bubbling into them. A bit of sulphur is in the air. The top tub flows into the bottom tub. I feel the water of both and find it cooler than I recall the runoff being down at the fire road. The stream also has water welling up and shows what hot springs are like when no one builds a tub, just a mud puddle. The tubs don't feel quite warm enough for sitting in to me for today. I draw a bit, but then continue on.

tubs built for soaking in the hot spring water
Two tubs and a palm tree in the middle. Water flows out of the top tub to cascade over a rock wall into the bottom tub. Neither is very warm.

gas coming up with the water
A bit of stinky gas bubbling up from somewhere below to go with the warm water. This is a spot below the pools.

I follow the main trail down from the spring along the creek that flows from it. Feeling the water at the bottom, it has lost all of its heat and doesn't give away the presence of a hot spring above quite so obviously as before. Turning left, I quickly come to a signed intersection, the first intersection for people coming from the usual parking area for this trail. Turning left again, I find the trail I came in on just around the corner. I follow it past where I joined it before and look again for the intersection at the sign. It just isn't there. Further on, next to a pipe, there is an intersection with one route going up. I don't really want to hike all the way back to Trespass Trail again, so after a short way up it, I turn back to my route. It becomes indistinguishable from the various animal trails in the grasses.

bit of pipe along the ground
A discarded pipe along the ground that seems useful for marking a bit of the trail now and nothing else.

I decide to head down the grassy hill again, but try to get to the highway along its easy walking through vegetation. This works very well until I come to an old barbed wire fence. Not interested yet in pushing through it, I follow it down in the direction of the tunnel. Down the hill, the bushes start up again, but people have been through here and it isn't hard to continue. I come to a gate that won't open, but the wires to the side of it have been pulled out to make slipping between them safe, so I drop my pack on the other side and do so. An easy push through 10 more feet of brush gets me to the litter strewn highway side and a short walk south gets me to the tunnel. I slide past the poison oak and cross under the highway again.

The east side of the pedestrian underpass.
The north edge of the entrance offers a poison oak free entry.

At the far side of the tunnel, I look again for the direct route down to and across the creek, but find large trees in the way. A loop up the hill slightly then back down serves well again, and I am soon back to the fire road and ready to reenter the highway and go home.

©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 17 Oct 2012

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