22 February 2014

NIRA area: Hurricane Deck

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.


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

(Day 4 of 5.) The nights are warmer down in the canyon and I left my hat off to keep a little cooler sleeping. The stove still needs a little hand warming to get going in the morning. A couple of times, I think I hear voices, maybe, further down the camp. From Lonnie Davis Camp, the trail leaves the south fork of the Sisquoc to climb along, then out of and above, dry White Ledge Canyon. Yesterday, the trail had a few dog prints, but today it is full of cats. Most of them are small, but there is one set of large mountain lion prints going my way. His claws come out a little when he walks down the few spots of short downhill. There seem to be many fresh people prints, but none partly obscure the cat prints.

Sisquoc South Fork
The shallow and wide flow of the South Fork Sisquoc as it flows by Lonnie Davis Camp in the still shadowed morning.

down in the bottom of White Ledge Canyon
Traveling along the bottom of White Ledge Canyon.

rolling hills above the edge of White Ledge Canyon
Once climbed out of White Ledge Canyon, the landscape rolling hills of sage.


cliffs of White Ledge Canyon
Looking down over the top of White Ledge Canyon.

higher cliffs of White Ledge Canyon
The cliff walls of White Ledge Canyon are taller beside me, where they are full of caves.

White Ledge Camp appears to be dry when I first get there, but going a little way up the creek finds some water. I had clearly misunderstood the enthusiasm that people had in saying there is water here. It is a sad puddle of desperation. I should have filled everything from the beautiful flow at Lonnie Davis just 2 miles and 500 feet before. That is not so much extra to climb over what I already am planning. I try to talk myself out of going over a little more of Hurricane Deck while drinking the last of my good water from below, where water may be flowing from Vulture Spring and might be found somewhere in Lost Valley, but otherwise is dry, as far as I know, all the way to the car. I expect I will have to walk 3 miles out of my way up the Manzana for water to have enough for tomorrow. On the other hand, water was flowing very near the top along Manzana Trail and wherever I camp will not be dry, provided I stop before the water goes underground. The down side is that the route is familiar from a few weeks ago while the route I am planning is new to me until the last mile before NIRA. I cannot silence the call of the new, though, and the water filter pump protests a little more with each stroke. Annoyingly, one of my good bags seems to be oozing out the bottom. I decide to drink from to keep it from doing too much harm.

sign for Hurricane Deck
A tilting sign off in the weeds marks the eastern terminus of the Hurricane Deck Trail. Lost Valley, 5; Manzana Schoolhouse 23.

A surprising number of jackrabbits are hopping around the trail as I start up the east Deck. It climbs reasonably and steadily for some nice views before plunging into a section of high chaparral along a north slope. There is no flat tread, only a long tilt that drops more than it is wide. It is generally very clear of brush although none of the cuts seem to be newer than a couple years, most many years old.

white rocks shaped by water
Starting up the east Deck and starting to get a bit of view of the north side of White Ledge.

more of White Ledge
Today, the graceful swoop of the rocks is echoed by the clouds.

The trail drops off one hill and climbs another for a bit of travel along a south slope, then drops again and climbs into more tall chaparral. It seems like nothing more than a steady way to travel along until it finally breaks out onto the ridge line after 1.5 miles or so. This is what I had signed up for. I get a half a mile of it before again plunging into tall chaparral.

trail along the edge of the east Deck
Traveling along the edge of the ridge on the east section of Hurricane Deck.

This section of hidden views does not last as long. I climb higher, starting to get views to the north as well as the south. Up ahead, I can see a large cut along the south edge of the deck and no other trails when I am starting to expect to see two trails. The valley to the south looks especially impressive when I spot the sign for Lost Valley Trail up ahead, resting on a large rock somewhat above the level of the trail passing behind the rock.

Sierra Madre Mountains
Big Bend Canyon and the Sisquoc with a backdrop of the Sierra Madre Mountains.

some carved rocks among greenery
Sulphur Spring Canyon has a few carved rocks in among the greenery.

road cut in the front edge of the deck
The cut of trail up ahead along the south face of Hurricane Deck.

looking down on a sign lying on a rock
The sign for Lost Valley lies upon a rock up above the trail.

more Sierra Madre Mountains
One last look over Big Bend Canyon and the Sisquoc with background Sierra Madre Mountains.

Lost Valley trail is a nice tread down for about twenty feet, then drops down a boulder where the tread has fallen away a little. It is just a sample of things to come. The very upper section of Lost Valley is not for the faint of heart. Particularly memorable is a section of trail along a slope of over 80° from the horizontal with some nice rocks over 30 feet down to land on and a 3 foot section missing. A sandstone boulder echoing the slope is there instead. At the bottom of the boulder, the route most people are taking looks like it will slip lower while it is used creating a step that is almost too high to get back up on the other side. A few people have gone up, which looks prone to slipping as well, except there isn't more dirt below to catch on if a foot goes wrong. I go down and it does turn out exactly as it looked like it would.

Sulphur Spring Canyon
Looking down into Sulphur Spring Canyon from the junction.

rocks along the south side of Sulphur Spring Canyon
The rock layers that line the south edge of Sulphur Spring Canyon.

Then, after climbing up a creative route through a washout, it is all better. There is a bit of fence, a little guerrilla camp, and the unmistakable signs of a road. Once, the road came down Davy Brown, through NIRA, up Lost Valley, and stopped right here overlooking Sulphur Spring Canyon. Around the corner, there is even a metal culvert no longer doing its job and a post for a reflector. There are still occasional questions about which way to go. One spot seems to split, but looking down at the prints shows that even the cats go to the left. The mountain lion on this part of the trail was a bit smaller than the one in the morning. Mostly it is a matter of following the old road bed to keep going in the right direction. A few common roadside flowers are actually blooming along the way.

Lost Valley Trail is mostly an old road
The cut of the old road winding slowly downward toward Lost Valley.

you are nowhere
Looking down over Lost Valley and Hurricane Deck. The sign, whose purpose I cannot determine, has been given the message "you are nowhere".

Lost Valley looks a little less interesting than Sulphur Spring Canyon. It also looks extremely dry. Vulture Spring turns out to be numerous dribbles coming down a mossy rock to turn into a steady trickle across the trail. It looks much better than the water I have. I think about getting more, but since there is a hole in the only bag not in use and a second bag is questionable, leave it for now.

rock with layers
Well, maybe Lost Valley is not totally uninteresting in the upper sections.

road cut dropping into Lost Valley
Looking down the old road bed as it drops into Lost Valley.

dry dry valley
This looks like a dry place.

Arriving at the bottom of Lost Valley, there is another guerrilla camp which looks like an excellent place to stop for the night. Checking my water, I've actually got a bit less than I want. Happily, it has not leaked all over my pack. I have at least an hour of light and it is an easy mile back up to the spring, so I dump most my stuff and head back up the hill to fetch a "pail" of water. An attempt at field cleaning the filter gives little improvement. On the other hand, patching my holed Platypus with some waterproof first aid tape I was using to keep extra batteries together is wildly successful. Then to prove that it is when you are feeling good that you get hurt, I come down the trail a bit too fast, kick a rock, and plow face first into the dirt with my water doing its best to whack me in the back of the head once I am down. Somehow the faster one is going along when that rock gets kicked, the faster one rotates around the axis defined by that rock. Spit out the dirt, check that it is just dirt, check teeth, check for strange tastes. Does it hurt if I do this? Am I confused? Would I be aware of it if I was? Everything seems fine, if a bit painful, and I am thankful that my nose does not usually spurt for getting a good whack when giant droops of blood start flowing from it. Hiking along trying to stop it with my fingers does not work, even for the short way back to camp, but then I remember a couple individually wrapped antibiotic wipes I got in India that have dried out and are not with the TP in the pile of stuff at the camp site. It stops the blood nearly instantly. Worth every penny of the 2.5 rupees it cost. The rest of the evening is uneventful as I continue to search for any signs of confusion. The only sign is that I would usually also check for any feelings of shock. There is none as I finish dinner, anyway.

Continue reading: day 5




©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 28 February 2014

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