01 February 2014

Cottam Camp

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.


The night before, I packed up the backpack and started up Cold Spring Trail in the dark to meet people at Cottam Camp. I thought I was going to Forbush Flat, but that got sorted out eventually. There are a few spots along the trail that are a little sketchy for night hiking. Arrival meant pasta, berries, chatter, and wine with a lot of stars overhead, then setting up and shuffling into bed out on the meadow. Waking up in the predawn light, I can see a group of stones on the hillside between the trees that looks a bit like adults holding the hands of children. Frost sitting on everything near me shows the accuracy of the National Weather Service's prediction of a low of 49°F, made using a point in Montecito where the relatively warm ocean helps keep things warm. The predicted wind is also missing, which is nice. As we start to move about, we notice that our water is busy freezing as well. I manage to light my single hand operable flint on fire trying to cook breakfast. Better than trying to explode a lighter but I've got to find the usual flint so I can light the cat-can safely. The others filter back up the mountain to their Saturday plans. It takes the sun an hour or so, but it eventually manages to start thawing things. I sketch a little with watercolor then get myself headed up the mountain too.

random sandstone on the hill
The random outcrop of sandstone up the hill looks a bit more like elephants in the brighter light.

Cottam Camp table
A table, a ruined BBQ grill, a few ruined ice cans, and a fire ring we must not use beside a meadow make up Cottam Camp. There is no water in the creek today.


Cottam Meadow
The meadow is dry and brittle grass and star thistle.

The hike back to Forbush Flat is an easy one that first crosses the dry creek, then stays along the north side of the canyon with a few ups and downs in the generally upward climb. There are a couple tight little switchbacks right at the end.

looking down Forbush Cnayon
A glance down Forbush Canyon and into Blue Canyon.

the switchbacks
The few switchbacks right at the end.

Back at Cold Spring Trail, there seems to be a trail into Forbush from what I tend to think of as the back side. I try it to see if it goes through and check for water. It does, with a duck under a low oak limb, and I come around the meadow to the second camp site. There is often water below this site in the creek, but today there isn't even mud. There is toilet paper from people who don't think about what they are doing in many ways. There's usually more water up the creek, from the first camp site, so I check that. That also shows nothing, not even mud. I'm not sure how far up it is to the spring, but it looks like Forbush Flat is dry.

more meadow grasses
The meadow at Forbush Flat, which is generally just dried grasses.

main campe site
Main camp site at Forbush Flat.

buds on the apple trees
The orchard stands dormant for the winter.

Leaving Forbush Flat, the climb starts on an easy, but constant grade. Eventually it levels out to cross through the upper canyon and past a long dry trough and little bench. One last burst of climbing gets to Camino Cielo, which can be an ending point.

looking up the canyon above Forbush Flat
Cliffs up the canyon above Forbush Flat. The trail travels through it again above the cliffs.

Forbush and Blue Canyons
Overlooking Forbush Canyon on the left and Blue Canyon on the right.

toward Little Pine
The view over Forbush Flat toward Little Pine Mountain.

back of the sign at the top of Cold Spring Trail
A different look at the sign on the north side of the road at the top of Cold Spring Saddle. Sure looks clear below.

Camino Cielo could have been the end, but I'm actually parked in town. I've got to hike down a little more than four miles with beautiful ocean views. I actually just go down a little way to find a lunch spot out of the wind with a view, then head down the rest of the way, brushing off a tick from my pants leg. The sketchy bits of the trail seem less worrisome in the light.

looking down from Cold Spring on the other side
Starting down Cold Spring Trail from Camino Cielo.

eucalyptus tree
A stunted gum tree gives shade in a particularly open section around halfway.

southeasterly coast line
Always a nice view down the coast, when it can be seen.

sign at junction
The Montecito Trails Foundation has embellished the old, now utterly inaccurate, sign at the top of the trail down to the hot springs. The rest of Cold Spring is also an option, of course.

Cold Spring has water in it
There's water down here in Cold Spring Creek still.




©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 3 February 2014

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