21 February 2014

NIRA area: Fall Canyon

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5

(Day 3 of 5.) The morning sees a little difficulty getting the stove to light again, but the problem is temperature instead of wind and placing an hand under it quickly fixes it. The key to lighting an alcohol stove with sparks (in still air) seems to be it has to be warm enough to smell the fuel. That makes sense, it is the fumes that burn. It does not take much with the 50% each methanol and ethanol mix sold as denatured alcohol. With a warm breakfast in my tummy and everything packed up, it is time to see what today holds. The junction with Santa Cruz Trail is just a few feet past the spur to the camp. Not much further, there is a sign that says simply "trail" and points back the way I came. Many cairns extend ahead marking the continuation of Mission Pine Trail in defiance of the sign. Another set extend north, showing the way for Fall Canyon. Looking more closely at the sign, additions have been made to it in pencil, but it still does not indicate Fall Canyon. Following it on faith that there is not much else for it to be, I climb a short way out of Mission Pine Basin and start down the north side of the ridge.

a particularly uninformative sign of a type usually not found at junctions
I see this sort of sign at switchbacks people tend to miss, not at junctions of maintained trails.

Mission Pine Basin
Looking back over Mission Pine Basin.

grassy tree topped hill
Dried grass under the trees at the top of the hill.

Some areas are sparse with vegetation and the trail could go anywhere, some are thick with thorns. The trail is marked extensively through this, once with another old gas can. At the top, there are unburned trees in dead grass. Down the back, the trail splits with the left heading down into the canyon. (The 1940s era maps show a route that switchbacks steeply to the creek below and stops.) Ribbons from multiple years of trail markings beacon from a tree on the right branch. After this, the trail takes a turn for the worse. It looks like it has had a massive reroute without anyone around to work the tread. It is generally traveling in a gentle downward route, but suddenly climbs up steeply and down steeply to get around rocks and thickets. The route is obvious, but the brush has moved in in some sections. Small bits of brushing have happened and people do seem to pay particular attention to the roses, but I manage to get stuck in the neck twice by the things. One section is a soft swim through brush higher than my head. It seems like it will be a miserable fight half the time getting down this trail when it breaks out to show off the view.

ribbons old and new waving from a tree to the side
A variety of ribbons wave from the branches of a tree off to the side to indicate where the trail goes.

Sierra Madre on the far side of Sisquoc
Just a piece of the wide view looking over the Sisquoc to where the ribbon of Sierra Madre marks the other side of the wilderness.

After the view, the trail hides away again as it crosses through a steep ravine. Here the trail is clear, but the narrow tread along the soft hillside is worrisome. A few spots are sliding. The trail tames again as it wanders back out of the bottom of the ravine and past a small campsite labeled Fall Canyon Spring "Camp". I can find no sign of the spring from the camp. After that, it is mostly a gentle climb down sage covered hillsides occasionally battling a bit of brush.

narrow tread on a steep dirt hill
The narrow tread crossing along a soft dirt hillside so steep the trees grow out a bit as they go up.

trail through the sages
A glimpse down the trail among the sages with Bald Mountain in the background.

looking back up and over Fall Canyon
Giant cliffs in Fall Canyon look likely to be the reason for its name.

The trail leaves Fall Canyon for neighboring Mansfield. For a moment, a couple of helicopters break my wilderness experience. They bank in the air above me against changing winds, then proceed north. Below me, I've just heard the sound of water flowing for the first time this day. Crossing the creek and dropping down some very solid switchbacks, I have arrived at the Sisquoc River.

looking up the Sisquoc River
The view up the Sisquoc River from the switchback above Mansfield Camp.

Fall Canyon Trail ends at Mansfield camp, which has plenty of grills and no tables. After poking around the camp a little, I decide to take the little bit of extra trail to Rattlesnake Falls upriver on a tributary. There is a sign for it and the trail looks well used. The waterfall turns out to be a cute little growing thing. Large boulders of hard composite show what is making all the waterfalls along the side of the river.

waterfall coming down the north side of the river
Other waterfalls are available. This one is coming down on the north side of the river.

Rattlesnake Falls
The waterfall that can be found by climbing a little way up Rattlesnake Canyon along the trail.

Turning back, I make my way down the river past more waterfalls and the small camp of Skunk to South Fork. Along the way, another canyon is signed, but this one does not seem to have a trail climbing up it.

Mansfield Falls
The little bit of water coming over Mansfield Falls is hard to find.

Sisquoc Falls
The wet lip of Sisquoc Falls in Fall Canyon.

rocks to hop across the river
Large stepping stones are placed to aid in crossing the river, when it is required.

dry waterfall on the other side of the river
A dry waterfall along the way that really shows the composite rock layer these waterfalls drop from.

looking up the Sisquoc to Samon Peak
Another look up the Sisquoc River.

South Fork Station has a cabin and a few ice can stoves and a biffy, but also a collection of fences with gates of a sort that take a minor feat of strength to get open and are even harder to get closed again. Slicing my hand on the cut ends of the wire while closing the first one does not make me any happier to have to deal with them. I get near to slicing it some more three times on the second one, but manage to keep from bloodying myself further. The rest of the gates have been left open and I am happy to let them be as I decide it will be much nicer at Lonnie Davis instead, whatever it looks like there.

South Fork Station
The cabin at South Fork Station as well as the fire ring with a few old ice can stoves.

The sign at the junction of Manzana Trail (or White Ledge Trail on this section) and Sisquoc Trail has been heavily corrected in pencil. As I climb up the south fork of the Sisquoc, it seems to be dry, but this turns out to be because I am hiking a flood plane slightly separated from the main water. A spur leads up to Lonnie Davis and crosses over the water just before ending at the camp. It is a rather nice camp after all, with at least four sites with grills. One is tucked away from the river for a quieter stay. There are still no tables, but plenty of benches. I get to enjoy my dinner under a good selection of stars and even get to watch the space station making its bright backward stroll across half the sky before vanishing into the Earth's shadow.

Continue reading: day 4

©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 27 February 2014


danhall said...

The spur to the spring was about a 100 feet down the trail from the camping area: https://picasaweb.google.com/sharingtrippics/LosPadresFallCanyonSpring114#5966976391300988754 It seems that you had a real good loop backpack; thanks for the good pics and descriptions.

Valerie Norton said...

Now that boulder as huge cairn in the middle of well established trail doesn't look so silly. Thanks for the info!