30 April 2012

sketches

My "in situ" sketches for the month.

The rocks along San Ysidro.

One from the park.



Then a few from the short backpack.

Dove pointing into the wind on day one.

At the spring for camping.

The view over the valley from Reyes Peak.

21 April 2012

Haddock: Piedra Blanca

Los Padres National Forest

day 1 | day 2 | day 3


Locate the trailhead.

I was slow to get up in the morning at Haddock Campsite. I was happy in my dry socks, but didn't want to soak them by sticking them into my wet boots. The top of the tent seemed to have caught condensation like crazy, which is a neat trick without the rain fly on. Eventually I pulled on my warm things as needed and took down the wet socks hanging out to dry on the side of the tent. They were even wetter than when I put them up. I wrung them out and pulled them and my wet boots on. I looked around the camp with the clarity of light. I still liked my spot. There are a number of grills installed around the meadow, but most don't even have fire rings. One to the north got some use, but mostly it was the one by the tents. Everything outside was wet, there had been a very heavy dew in the night.

an unused grill with no fire ring
A little bit of the edge of the huge campsite through a filter of moisture that was on the lens. There is a ring by the tree that gets used.

the trail to the north
The trail continues northward here somewhere, maybe just there at the far side of the turn.

20 April 2012

Haddock: Reyes Peak

Los Padres National Forest

day 1 | day 2 | day 3


Locate the trailhead.

As the sky brightened at Chorro Spring, it was still very quiet. The wind started up again with the slightest light, but slowly. A few birds sang for a some minutes here and there. I boiled water for breakfast and packed up. The snow patches seemed smaller than they were when I went to sleep, hinting the night had not dropped to freezing. I headed up the trail toward the road. From the spring, it is a more gentle climb that parallels the road a bit to skip some rocks, then comes up at a lower spot.

anchient yellow trail marker
Someone long ago felt this trail needed a metal marker to point which way to go up the mountain.

19 April 2012

Haddock: Chorro Grande

Los Padres National Forest

day 1 | day 2 | day 3

Locate the trailhead.

I decided to give up hoping to find someone to go backpacking with and strike out on my own. Again. I got a new backpack a while ago and still had not been able to try it out. This one is larger than the ultralight (that I got for and use as a wonderful day pack) that seemed to fill halfway with the sleeping bag and wasn't comfortable over 20 lbs. It is smaller than the cavernous bag I have that is comfortable even when far too heavy and I can't pack because there is too much room and the sleeping bag at the bottom seems to keep the compression system from working properly. Also, that old pack has no place for my Platypus. I filled up my new pack's 65 liter interior and things didn't seem to quite fit with the tent inside, so I repacked and let the tent get tucked under the top. I still go with a close cell foam pad, a cheapie in basic blue, so that gets tied onto the outside, too. They're warmer and lighter and, I find, plenty comfortable for backcountry spots.

The plan was to go up to Pine Mountain Ridge by Chorro Grande, over to Reyes Peak and then back to follow Reyes Peak Trail down to Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail, then go down to Pine Mountain Lodge before turning around and returning by the ridge. I have previously hiked down from the road to the spring and then up to the peak by the use trail. Longer ago, I have hiked up Piedra Blanca with the goal of getting to somewhere past Pine Mountain Lodge for the second day, but turning back because the heat was too much and the water vanishing too quickly while we didn't know if there was any above. Instead we played in the pools of the lovely Twin Forks Campsite and hiked out. Other than that, I don't really know the area. Snow had fallen about four days before I started, so I got some Yaktrax and packed my as yet unused gaiters and made really sure to have in my hands plenty of map.

I drove up highway 33 looking for the trailhead by looking for a sign. I thought there would be one for the simple reason that I had seen it before, well placed along the road to mark the trail for those driving by. I got all the way up to Pine Mountain Ridge Road without seeing it. I looked down the road to make sure it was indeed closed, and it was, then turned around for a more careful examination of the side of the road. I spotted two posts and a little brown vinyl stick sign with "trail" on it that I think should be called a slapstick if it isn't already. Someone had torn down my sign. Carefully. I checked my maps to be sure I was in the right place, got the water set up and did the repacking to make everything fit better, then started up the trail. The destination for the first night was Chorro Spring.

a couple of posts and a slapstick mark the start of Chorro Grande's climb up the mountainside
Someone has removed the sign and left a dinky little slapstick that marks the presence of a trail and who is allowed on it while a clear trail starts up the hill.

rock formation along the way
The trail is up the south slope, so the vegetation isn't up to hiding the rock structures poking out.

12 April 2012

San Ysidro Trail

Santa Barbara front country


Locate the trailhead.

There are a number of route to reach high Camino Cielo from the city below. They tend to be 4 to 4.5 miles and climb somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000 feet and have insufficient parking along a neighborhood street where the people are sometimes a little wary of all the public. The climb gives ever increasing views of the front country mountains and ocean and islands. The top gives a whole new kind of view in the form of a rolling sea of mountains. I've gone up San Ysidro to the falls, but never taken in its upper reaches. With 1.5 inches of rain falling the night before last, I thought it was probably a good time to visit that waterfall again and see if it could gush, then check out the further heights along the trail. Even with the storms rolling in one after the other, the previous day had held lots of sun, so I had lots of hope for maybe having a good look around at the top, if I was early enough. Rain seemed likely a bit after 5:30 in the evening, but that should be plenty of time.

I got up and realized the camera battery was quite dead, so had to wait far too long for it to charge. It was still sunny and bright in places as I left, though, so hope was still there if ever so slightly worried. Some folks were preparing for some climbing as I got there. The sign at the bottom says it is 4 miles to the top, which seems reasonable. After less than a quarter mile while winding through the private road of Park Lane lined with no parking signs, a second sign claims it is 3 miles to the top, which seems a bit short. Keeping to the dirt path beside the paved road, I pass two gates and am delivered onto a dirt road adorned with a couple of brightly bagged bits of dog poop. Ugh.

Meanwhile, the sun is coming out a little more and brightening up the place. The road was muddy from the recent rain and here and there there were deep footprints. I kept to the hard packed routes where footprints where harder to see.

mossy dirt patches draining of extra water
Clumps of dirt on the rock with moss along the bottom ooze a bit of water down the rock face.

possible climbing rocks
Perhaps these rocks were the destination for the rock climbers.

02 April 2012

Inyo by Piute Pass

map of loop route from Piute Pass near Bishop, CA, including camping locations

It has been too long since I've gone on a proper backpacking trip, meaning something lasting on the order of a week.  The last time was in September 2003 when I went on the Y-hike with my fellow Techers.  This hike is open to everyone from the pre-frosh just about to start to the graduates about to finish who are collected into four groups of different levels and limited to 6-8 people per group.  There's a 12 miles a day, 8 miles a day, 6 miles every other day, and few miles hiking around so I signed up for 8 miles since that's what I've generally considered a good day.  We had a plan to go out from North Lake over Piute Pass and then turn north over Pine Creek Pass and take a loop, as shown on the maps above.  These are from the USGS 15' series, from the bottom right counterclockwise: Mount Goddard 1957, Mount Tom 1954, Mount Abbot 1953, and Blackcap Mountain 1962.  Red dots mark the path and numbered purple dots mark the campsites used.

Day 1:
We've done all our checks the day before and everything is packed and ready to go.  We all pile into a bus for the long trip north.  It is a long ride made longer by the fact that the bus breaks down somewhere in the middle of Owen's Valley.  The driver kindly parked it by a couple of rare trees and went to the back to fiddle with the cooling system, managing to make it worse.  A few hours later, a mechanic has managed to put things right and get us on our way, but there's very little daylight left by the time we get to the trail and we end up camping by one of the lakes all too close to the start.

Day 2:
We take off up the pass on our still too fresh legs.  We stop in the afternoon at the trail junction for our loop. From there, the trail climbs to a pass and drops again and maybe we were being a little too concerned with where there are campsites and water, but we make camp there and spend a very pleasant late afternoon poking around the area.  I managed to get a pretty good scrape when I was boulder hopping around somewhere streamward and missed a step because a rather pointy rock had some bobcat scat at the top and I foolishly decided not to step on it at the last minute.  There are worse things than stepping on dried scat, but it was an easily ignored injury.

Day 3:
We start climbing up the pass.  As we go, we are a fair distance from the water.  We passed a guy with two pack llamas taking them on a route about halfway between trail and water unsure why he wasn't using the trail.  For lunch, we broke out the dried hummus and found it to be a most heavenly food when rehydrated.  By mid afternoon, we were starting to feel a bit of pain from walking around with our houses on our backs.  Mummers of sore feet were echoing about the group.  We camped at the bottom of Honeymoon Lake and discussed our pace.  The big pass would come tomorrow and our fearless leader Pat felt we should get over it by noon or turn back, not completing the loop.  There wasn't a lot of support for turning back, but we agreed to this.

I bumped into a patch of onions near our campsite and tried to convince folks this would be a lovely addition to our meal, but others were worried they might be something else as yet unknown to us that could be poisonous.  I guess one experiment a night is enough and for desert we were experimenting with brownies.  Someone had been told that you could make them on the stove with a bit of constant stirring, so we were giving it a try.  They did turn out and we were happy for the night.

As the light started to fail, a wind started up coming over the lake to us.  I had my normal assortment of a fleece, wool sweater, and light jacket.  That all got pulled on with some gloves and hat, but I was still a little cold.  They had always served me well before in the high Sierras, but it occurred to me that those other times were in August and September is a little colder.  In the morning, I went to wash my face and noticed that bandannas are not all colorfast and mine apparently hadn't been washed yet as my hands turned pink.  I also learned that the mouthpiece on the Platypus system is removable as I managed to knock mine off and had to stop the flow with a gloved hand.

Day 4:
We start up Italy Pass.  At first the trail is fine.  We pass along a stream and a couple lakes and the trail starts to vanish.  We would find a little more and go after it, but then it would vanish too.  We kept trying to find more and follow it but sometimes there were multiple trails.  We had to admit that they were really use trails and just sat back from time to time to see what a reasonable route up looked like.  We got to the pass around 2 PM, after our deadline.  We got out lunch and looked around from our vantage point over 12,000 feet.  A few decided that it was the highest they'd ever been.  We discussed the trail ahead and behind and that we would really have to shift gears if we were going to go on.  We knew we weren't coming back over this pass, so we either would complete the loop or go back now.  We went on.

But first, I had to nurse my first blister.  I was wearing fairly new hiking boots, my second attempt to replace some favorite boots that had too many miles on them.  Those were the only boots I'd had that were big enough for feet stuffed in big socks, headed downhill, and that seem to grow a bit while hiking.  They were a size 9, which seemed reasonable as a little more than my usual size, but I hadn't realized yet that they were a men's size 9.  The shoes I had were alright, but not the best and were a little too new.  I decided to try duct tape on the blister as one person was gushing about it for that purpose.  I don't gush about my preferred solution of fabric athletic tape, so I was willing to give it a go.

We headed down the back side of the pass.  There was even less trail there than on the other side.  The boulders around us seemed to be in groups.  I could pick out the edges of various slides that had occurred through the years.  Some seemed older, some newer.  They removed our trail and left us boulder hopping for over two miles to get back down off the pass.  What was fun for a few minutes around camp became extremely hard work with backpacks for a few miles.  Meanwhile, that duct tape on my foot kept moving just a little bit and sticking back down.  It was excruciating pain with every left footed boulder hop.

Down off the boulders and the light thinking of draining away, we met a fellow who was following the John Muir trail but one ridge to the east, presumably for an experience more like John Muir's if he had had all the trappings of the modern backpacker willing to pay for the current ultralight.  He took off along the west side of the lake making good with his trekking poles.  Staying there at the end of Lake Italy was suggested.  We would have light to cook by.  I was in excruciating pain, except I hadn't actually had a complaint since getting to the trail.  It was so soft and wonderful after the boulder hopping and my feet were not being aggravated.  In actual fact, my foot was feeling really good with the sudden drop in pain level.  Meanwhile, the wind was kicking up again and was colder than the night before.  Rock walls had been built up everywhere as wind breaks.  It didn't really look that pleasant.  We headed downhill along a creek and soon had vegetation around.  We found a camp in the last of the light and cooked.  I ate the last of my loaf of sweet bread (King's Hawaiian all scrunched up).  We slept practically on the creek on one of many small islands.

Day 5:
We found that we had many neighbors around the place, although well spaced out.  It was actually a very popular area for camping.  We got started down and met up with the Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail then started a slow and easy climb over a low pass.  This section of PCT may be the most beautiful I have been on.  The lakes and their islands and the light was all quite perfect.  Over the pass and dropping down again, we eventually stopped to have our dinner, which happens to be the one I'm carrying.  Yeah, lighter pack.  The trail ahead just drops among trees.  Stopping now leaves too much for the next day.

My other foot was developing a matching blister to the first, so I gave it some nursing.  These were difficult blisters because they were in the middle so close to the toes.  I gave them a knuckle band-aid and wrapped it all with my fabric tape not too tight so my foot wasn't constricted and it all seemed to work.  Pull on the sock and shoe and forget about them since, sure they hurt, but we've got miles to go.

We continued into the night.  Far down in the valley, we could see lights from camps and hear voices enjoying the night.  We didn't happen to see many people on the section of trail some like to refer to as a highway, but there were plenty around at the edges of our day.  We eventually spotted a clearing to set up camp and all dropped into our bags asleep.

At some point I found out that the Platypus system had become very popular with the water pumping crews.  They were filling up my water bags which can be attached, then filling the rest of the bottles from them, giving my personal pump quite the workout as they went.

Day 6:
Up early and trying to be quick about it, but we didn't really succeed.  We dropped down the last little bit of trail to rejoin the Piute Canyon trail.  The other side of a bridge gave opportunity to see Kings Canyon, but we were headed up.  It's a nice, steady, long uphill.  The faster of us were allowed to take off, and managed to even make the appointed time of arrival at the end of the trail, so there was little worry we'd get there eventually.  Our fearless leader made sure no one was left behind.  She was once a Marine, after all, graduate school was her second choice.  We finished off all that was left of our food on the way up, so maybe were a little underpacked.

Getting to the end, we headed off to a campground where all the groups were gathering again.  We learned that the 12 miles a day group who had planned on going down Piute Canyon until halfway then coming back up, hadn't gone as far as planned and we'd probably traveled further.  That gave us a little pride.  Sure we were late and our feet hurt but the hike was brilliant.  The views, the rocks, the lakes, the year round snow hiding on north slopes... all spectacular.

We eventually dropped into bed no longer hungry.  The next morning had a little more time for stories and chiding about being late and handing out shirts before climbing back into the bus and heading home.  It kindly didn't break down on the way back.