25 January 2014

White Ledge

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

There seems to be an effort to check off the area trails, for this week I join the group from the Sierra club evening hikes as they return to NIRA, but this time head upstream along the Manzana. Nine year old me remembers that this area can have difficult to follow trails when it gets into the creek, so why not hit it with a guide? Also, I'll get to try to compare the slightly further areas with those memories. With twenty-seven years and a fire to change things and fade memories, I'm unlikely to sort things out. Still, the game must be played. As we start, the old paved ford over a wide creek is gone in favor of narrower, rocky channels. It is completely dry and the white rocks seem like bleached bones in the sun even though it is cool and cloudy. The clouds don't look like they'll yield the much needed rain and I haven't even thought about bringing rain gear. We sign into the register and start down the trail passing by an owl that seems to have simply fallen out of a tree. That was never there before. We stay to the low route on the way to Lost Valley, and even the character of the slide area along that route seems to have changed. It moved around, but there was always a very sketchy bit where the trail was all slide. Coming to Lost Valley, the sign for the junction is far above our route although it used to be perfectly placed. Of course, these are all changes I knew from hiking here in 2009.

sign removed from junction
There is a route now that will come to this sign, but we stay to the straightforward route and miss it.

We pass through Lost Valley Camp, which is marked by a flame cut sign and table and seems to get some use. Following the well established trail, we cross dry tributaries and get extensive looks at the dry river. The trail doesn't seem like something that could be easily lost, but as we follow along up on the side of the canyon, more trail can be seen below. The trail below looks good at first glance, but more careful study shows that it disperses and collects producing a disjointed trail commonly found in creek beds. I'm sure at least some of my route as a child was along paths like these so that we would be following good trail then suddenly find it had vanished below our feet. Such travel is discouraging, so I'm happy to be up on the side this time even though it means extra climbs and drops.

tributary coming down the side
One tributary that forced us into a little bit of extra up and down. It looks like Lost Valley Trail curves around the hill in the distance.

high trail over a wind in the creek
We hike high on the north side of the creek while more trail can be found in the flats near the dry bed. The fellow trail user and extremely well behaved pup went up to Manzana Narrows and didn't seem the least bit tired when passing on the way down again.

We drop down into the creek and cross to Fish Creek with its table and biffy. This place fits some memories. Specifically that when we came back this way the next morning, there was a large group here who enthusiastically offered us food and we ate some eggs. If this is the same place, then it was far off to the side of the trail then. Now the trail travels so deeply into the camp that I have to take a detour to read the camp's flame cut sign from the front. Past the camp, the trail follows a slow crossing of the creek flat and climbs up on the side again. Somewhere along here I suspect we took our campsite based on the mileage and character of the area. It was a chaparral covered hillside with a site cut out on the "north" side of the creek, actually the east side along this section. Another cut spot a little further down was also occupied. There do not seem to be any sites here now and the bushes seem thinner. The water was much closer down the hill in my memory. In the morning, we walked a little further up, passing an official camp and then some rocks that were just so before getting delivered into the creek and more difficult route finding and deciding to turn around. Today, as we start down the hill, we are greeted with the wonderful sound of flowing water. We stop for a snack in a widening (marked "a site" on the map) that may be used for camping, but is not official. From here, the trail passes rocks that actually seem to match my memory and drops into the creek. This time, we just follow the well established trail across rather than frustrated wandering up in the creek.

view upstream, to the south
It is warming up as the clouds burn off on our upstream journey. A bit of the trail ahead after the creek crossing can be seen.

brushy hillsides
Downstream is a very different view.

water in the bottom of the creek
Plenty of water is flowing in the creek and making a very happy noise.

The fairly certain knowledge that everything to come is new to me gives a little extra excitement somehow. The bored mules and horses in the supported group coming the other way can't dampen the feeling either. Once we have water in the creek to force rock hopping, the trail seems to make a point of crossing it over and over. The canyon is much tighter as we pass above Manzana Camp with another table and flame cut sign. It is tighter still as we pass through Manzana Narrows Camp, which gives the impression of a car camping site with all its tables.

a taste of the narrows
Perhaps not very narrow as "narrows" go, the Manzana Narrows.

three of the tables at Manzana Narrows Camp
A few of the tables at the many small sites of Manzana Narrows Camp.

Shortly after the camp site, the trail splits. To the right, it continues along the Manzana to Big Cone Spruce Camp. We go straight and start the climb to White Ledge at the top. A clump of trees high up the side of the canyon mark near where we will be passing. The rocks get quite interesting as we climb.

Manzana Creek continuing up
Looking up the rest of the Manzana Creek canyon as we climb out of it to White Ledge.

a taste of the weathered rocks
The rocks at the top of the Manzana canyon are quite weathered.

Once we've climbed out of the canyon, we still haven't reached the top. We are in a wide and shallow valley. A spring at the side feeds a series of reflective pools, then the water drains back into the rocks. We continue to climb slowly for a while winding through this valley until we finally reach the top. There, the length of White Ledge Canyon stretches to the Sisquoc and we find ourselves looking far up the Sisquoc as well.

reflective pools
A series of wide, shallow pools that provide water for the local wildlife, indicated by distinct animal trails nearby.

hiking through the valley above
Hiking through the wide and shallow valley, approaching White Ledge above the Manzana.

White Ledge
A little bit of White Ledge.

White Ledge Canyon
Looking down over White Ledge Canyon and up the Sisquoc River beyond.

At the top, there's nothing more left to do except relax, explore, relax again, explore again, and then take off down the trail about as quickly as we can.

making the way back down
Making our way back along the trail to the Manzana.

watching the clouds go by
Relaxing and watching the clouds roll by.

cliffs below people
Exploring along the cliffs.

There's a small group finishing tent setup as we pass through Manzana Camp on the way down, but no one else seems to be camping today. Once it gets dark, it is a rather continuous rush downward with a bit of chaos at Fish, but we do find a moment to stop and take in the moonless sky with the Milky Way stretched across it.

©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 27 January 2014

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