Los Padres National ForestLocate the trailhead.
Who could ignore an offer to keep one from having to watch some big football game with some trail work? Well, I couldn't, especially if on a trail I've never hiked. The plan: go in at the Deal Connector to trim a couple bad spots full of willows and one spot of a particularly stabby ceanothus in the Dick Smith Wilderness, then out Rancho Nuevo. This is a generally downhill route. Along the way, we can do a little walk and lop, but the main goal is these three spots cleared. The area is the far eastern reach of the Zaca Fire in 2007 and that seems to have kept quite a bit of the area cleared so far. It is just a bit crisp on arrival, and my legs feel it instantly, so I yank on the long johns. We start down the trail toward Deal Trail proper and the short uphill climb to the Dick Smith, and we start to see snow flakes before we are out ten minutes. The flakes are rare, but when they hit the ground they are staying in their extreme isolation.
|Heading out toward the Dick Smith Wilderness on the Deal Connector in very scattered snow.|
|Looking back, there's a few unburned spots in some folds of land.|
|Having a snack at the wilderness boundary, the high point in the hike, and checking it out while waiting for the group to recollect.|
It is sunny, but windy enough that I end up chasing down my hard hat at one point, by the time we get to the top. The temperature hasn't come up much. We head down the side of the canyon and start making our way along the bottom. The trail is usually obvious, but can become indistinct where small tributaries cut through it. Currently, it is all dry. We find the first of the willow sections crossing the main channel of drainage and get to work getting it cleared nice and wide. The next spot of willows aren't much further down the trail. We start work there, but then most the group gets attracted to head on down to the ceanothus section partway through it. I'm part of the last few who stick around to finish the job before heading down the canyon further.
|A couple of pink hard hats bob along above the sages in the valley.|
The canyon narrows down quite a bit and we can see the reflective surface of a little water down in the bottom from up high. The trail drops into the bottom while the canyon is still narrow and is on both sides of the creek with indistinct connections for a short bit. The poorer, shorter route is flagged. After the narrows, when we get to the ceanothus, variously called white thorn or thorny ceanothus by the crew, it has almost been finished. I haul off some cut pieces and hack away half a bush that sticks out from the developing line of brush beside the trail and am quickly glad to have stuck with the soft willows. This stuff requires some careful handling.
|We first spot water far down the canyon in this narrow cut.|
|Stopping for a moment to cut a little brush beside the trail in the narrow section of the canyon. Here the trail travels crossing the creek bed often.|
After finishing with the ceanothus, we head for a sunny spot to eat our lunch, then hike back out. The canyon narrows down again after our lunch spot and the trail crosses often. The creek has more water, and at one point a little ice, as we continue down the canyon.
|Hiking along one section of indistinct trail in the bottom of the canyon as we hike out.|
|Looking back across one stream crossing from beside an old fence crossing a bit of the wilderness.|
Once the trail meets with Rancho Nuevo, it is well defined again. There is a campsite at the junction. We get into much bigger canyon as we head down Rancho Nuevo. It has clouded up again and we get a few snowflakes again as we finish.
|On our way out of Dick Smith Wilderness again, by way of Rancho Nuevo.|
|The canyon grows as we go downstream.|
|Looking back up Rancho Nuevo. The trail traces a line on the right side of the canyon.|
There are snacks in the waiting cars at the trailhead and we watch as the canyon behind us gets visibly whiter with falling snow as we eat. With energy returned via cookies and salt returned via chips, we pile in and head back to the Deal Connector trailhead. The snow coming down makes me a bit antsy and I head out quickly, but there turns out to be no need. The top of the mountain only has little flurries of snow blowing around in the air and nothing on the road. It isn't actually wet enough to stick to anything when it falls. The long johns were a good choice, though. I never regretted them throughout the day.
©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 4 February 2014