Los Padres National Forest
Locate the trail head.
I have put together a backpacking quilt to replace my sleeping bag that refuses to be warm enough when the water starts to freeze and so need a place to test it. Where that can be now that it's properly spring, I'm not sure. Of nearby places, Forbush occurs to me simply because I've crossed a bit of frost on the trail close above it in the late morning. I believe the water there is reliable and maybe the fruit trees are blooming. It did occur to me that going to a place hoping for freezing nighttime temperatures and blooming fruit trees may be mutually exclusive goals. As a testament to which I thought would probably lose, I couldn't actually bring myself to throw in anything other than my jacket and gloves to ward off the evening cool. I didn't even really notice as I sorted the long johns and fleece into the unneeded pile. A minute chance of rain did get me to throw in the rain gear, but that was probably extreme hope that I have to use it rather than any expectation. Packed up, I made the short trip up Gibraltar, which has happily been repaved at the top, and over to the first water tank east along Camino Cielo. I found quite a few cars were already there. Whatever their reasons, it was unlikely to be the south view which was poor due to light fog. The view to the north, though, was crisp and stunning.
|Up on Cold Spring Saddle, the view the the south was a visible but grey. To the north it is bounded by the higher mountains and curve of the earth. The trail is cut into the side on the left.|
Spring is continuing to display an ample number of flowers. Maybe not so dense as some years, but certainly varied. Big, showy bush poppies and large patches of nightshade are the first flowers I notice. I quickly come to a bench set a half mile down this trail long ago in a cool drainage. The trough next to it is dry, but thick stalks nearby hint at the later coming of Humboldt lilies. Peas and clematis and paintbrush make a showing when the trail climbs from the drainage. In among the larger flowers, there are also quite a few tiny little things.
|Sticking out on big green stalks that divide a few times into a burst, there are these tiny yellow flowers.|
|A bench and small trough in the dry drainage.|
|Small white flowers on tall stalks stand up to be seen.|
The trail pops out onto little ridges giving views of the local area canyons. Blue Canyon can be seen stretching out to the east. The smaller Forbush Canyon which starts at the flat and be seen joining it at Cottam Camp. The last bit of Blue is hidden by the hills, but a little of the Santa Ynez River valley can be seen just past them from the first vantage point. On the other side, I can sort of see down into the flat and a little way down the continuation of this current canyon which seems to be nameless.
|Cold Spring Trail drops along the side of the canyon, occasionally popping out to the edge of the ridge with Forbush Canyon.|
|Looking down over Forbush Flat.|
|Some vine tendrils taking hold of a larkspur.|
|Only a few hardy poppies were around.|
Reaching the flat, I turned down the unsigned trail to the left and into the campground. The fruit trees were indeed flowering. I've seen these identified as both apples and pears. Maybe they can be tasted in a few months. For now, the trees are a varying display of flowers. One is tall and full of them. Most of the other trees look like they've had a harder time and are sprouting form the roots. At first they look like they have a lot of dead wood on them, but a closer inspection shows budding on the ends of most the branches so they just haven't burst yet.
|The first look at Forbush Flat shows flowering fruit trees. A few conifers stick out of the lower oaks and bay laurel and alder. Even a few cedar are standing tall although the youngest of their number seem to have all been topped. There is quite a variety of trees in this patch.|
|Forbush's orchard may be the longest standing leftover from the abandoned homesteads of the area. They still flower today.|
I sat down for some lunch, then went down to check the creek. Dry as a bone. That was disappointing. I thought this was a spring fed creek. I've seen others claim it was too, but maybe they were just picking up on the same geological clues I was. I ate some more lunch and decided Mono would be a nice place to be. Not much further along, reasonable water, in spitting distance of a hot spring for the full moon. Actually, that might be why all those cars were parked up at the top. The road is open to Mono, but it is rough and some people feel it's almost as fast to hike this trail as drive the much longer road. The car repair bill is cheaper, too. Still, there was way too much bird song for the area to be completely dry. Then I poked around downstream to find a quite usable trickle of water next to the second campsite and stopped thinking about where to go instead.
|A dry creek bed contains no reliable water after all. After the initial disappointment, a look along the path that heads upstream will find a few puddles. A look below the second campsite will find some more puddles.|
|The first campsite at Forbush Flat. A trail out the back of it leads to a no sided biffy with plenty of poison oak offering itself as natural toilet paper.|
|The second campsite is missing one bench on the picnic table and has an old ice can stove.|
|It may not be the prettiest, but it is certainly water with a bit of flow coming in from the bottom left.|
I set my pack down at the second site and decided on a spot to set up, then poked around a little more deciding on some spots to paint. I found peonies and blue dicks and some tiny little purple flowers in the meadows. I heard voices and found a family of four setting up at the first site, the kids much younger than I was when I first got to go backpacking. I hadn't expected to have to share the flat on a Tuesday. They came to poke at the ice can stove as I was taking off with my watercolors. I painted until it was getting a bit dim and decided it was probably time for dinner.
|The California peony looking like it is already going to seed.|
|Keep wandering around and there's a bit more meadow.|
|One of the blue dicks in the meadow.|
|I found a spot along the use trail that seems to continue down the canyon to the west for the first watercolor.|
|I sat in the meadow and painted the oak tree at the other side with some of the rocks behind.|
Dinner was cooked on a new cat can stove, which seems pretty foolproof for the boiling, but the simmer ring has to be tight to simmer. I used isopropyl alcohol since there's an extra bottle of 91% under the sink and the 70% is quite painful enough. This is sooty and stinky, but black pot bottoms are better. I finally have a titanium pot, which is both less than half the weight of the old one and easier to clean. The moon started to come up and I walked across the flat to take a look as it first rose. The family was already in bed by then. Then it was into bed, under the new quilt and on top of a new inflatable mat. Both nice and warm, but it wasn't cold enough to really test either.
|The full moon rises.|
(The second day is here.)
©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 28 Mar 2013