Los Padres National Forest
Locate the trailhead.
While wandering up Romero Canyon in the dark as part of the Wednesday conditioning hike held by the local Sierra Club, I got an offer for a hike down to the Manzana Schoolhouse, something I've wanted to do but never quite got around to planning for myself. That could partly be because it is a little bit more than eight miles down to the schoolhouse and partly because this area can become quite blistering in the summer when the hours to do a long hike are easier to come by. The hike on offer didn't just go down the creek and back up, but would make a loop taking in the western section of Hurricane Deck, so is exactly the hike I would have planned. This does bring the total distance to a bit more than eighteen miles and adds some actual climbing to the otherwise very flat route. We start downstream from NIRA shortly after the 8AM meeting time, following the Manzana Creek to Potrero Camp. The trail along this section stays up on the side of the canyon and is in excellent shape.
|Starting down Manzana Creek on the canyon side trail, which can be seen ahead along the left side.|
|Hurricane Deck peeks out through Potrero Canyon.|
The trail drops down into the canyon flat near the bottom and Potrero Camp. It's a nice spot with plenty of room and at least one table. We cross the dry creek to start our climb up to Hurricane Deck along Potrero Canyon Trail. The trail climbing up out of the Manzana again is also excellent. Each long curve brings a little more of the deck into view. We pass a striking outcrop of rocks up on a hill and then drop into a lovely flat full of oaks and more rock outcrops. Worryingly, few of the oaks have any leaves.
|A little climbing reveals a bit more of Hurricane Deck.|
|Far down the Manzana, the stark Castle Rock marks the far western end of the ridge of Hurricane Deck.|
|Climbing higher, there's a bit more of the striped Deck to look at.|
|The potrero, probably quite pleasant when the oaks are leafy.|
We hike along the potrero a bit, then start to climb again. A couple of switch backs at the very end brings us to the thin line of trail along Hurricane Deck where one sign points out where we've come from and an empty sign post fails to mention where we might go.
|Following the trail through the potrero.|
|Almost there! The western section of Hurricane Deck stretches out with huge bands toward Castle Rock.|
We are at the highest point in the hike when we hit Hurricane Deck, but we haven't finished climbing. There is a prominence up ahead and while the map may show the trail climbing a little and then passing along the north side of it, we follow the trail that exists today right up to the top and back down. After this, we are generally hiking down, often along a cliff edge. Across the canyon to the south, there's an island of leaved oaks that must be west of where we hit the potrero and leave me wondering about the possibility of an art retreat. The trail along here is not as nice as the one we climbed up to it on.
|Hiking along a track of some sort on the ridge of Hurricane Deck.|
|Far in the northwest, fog is creeping over the mountains.|
|Looking back the way we've come along the deck, Bald Mountain rises as a grassy expanse.|
|Taking a peek over the edge.|
We stop for a while out on the deck in a spot where the wind doesn't seem to blow quite so hard and have lunch, then continue one down to the schoolhouse. The ridge splits, and so does the trail although one is not official. We hang a right and start to see flagging as the trail works its way down into grass and oaks along the Sisquoc River. Wheat Peak to the north appears to have a beautiful trail complete with (numerous) switchbacks heading up its south face.
|Looking downstream along the very dry Sisquoc River.|
|Looking upstream along the Sisquoc River.|
Once down on the flat, the trail is distinct again as it follows an old road. It is a short hike to the schoolhouse and the old car campground next to it. Use trail goes directly up from the campground to the schoolhouse, but the road around to the north side of the rise it sits on is a better route. We get up there the foolish way.
|Down in the flat of the Sisquoc River surrounded by old oaks.|
|The Manzana Schoolhouse with curious rows of holes along every board making up the wall. This was built in 1895 and the school year was ruled by the river which can make it impossible to arrive here safely.|
|Inside the Manzana Schoolhouse. The flint for the blackboard has gone, but a black board is there now.|
After checking out the schoolhouse, we start up the canyon to Dabney Cabin. The route feels flat as we proceed along the road past the current residents of the area who no longer use the school. We can spot pools in the creek bed from time to time as we walk up it. The pools are clear, so there must be some water running underground even if it is parched where we can see.
|Starting up Manzana Creek and there's a pool of water here below this cliff.|
|Three donkeys in their thick winter coats came up to greet us.|
|Looking up at the far west end of Hurricane Deck, Castle Rock.|
|Dabney Cabin, which has been chosen as an administrative site and we cannot go in.|
After the cabin, we continue up the road past more private land and pools. There are generally no signs to indicate which way to go when there is a split, but keeping to the creek side keeps us to our gentle climb. Finally, the road ends and we enter public lands again as the light begins to fail. The trail crosses the creek many times, usually marked with cairns. It is easy to follow, even in the evening dark under a fat moon. It is so gentle we can only notice the climb when the trail takes to the canyon walls.
|Hiking along the road upstream.|
|Lots of trees and grass in flat areas along the route.|
Spotting a table of to the right some ways after Cold Water, we know we're back to Potrero Camp and the rest of the route is familiar from the morning. We wind the last mile and a bit along the canyon wall back to the cars.
©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 14 January 2014