23 February 2014

NIRA area: Lost Valley

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

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

(Day 5 of 5.) The night in Lost Valley is almost too warm. There are many small trails around camp and I poke my way up a few before packing up and heading down the old road. While it is down in the bottom of the valley, it is less obvious this was a road. There are still culverts sticking out in various places, but there are also spots where the road bed has washed away and the trail takes a new route. There are a quite a few trees down on the trail. Along the way, there is one mucky puddle of desperation water and a tiny seep stinking of sulfur. Lost Valley is certainly dry.

dirt path down the old road bed
Following the trail down Lost Valley as it follows a good section of old road bed.

details of Lost Valley
Some of the rock structures in Lost Valley.

a (very small) tree removed from the trail
Practicing a little tree removal as I go. The tiny one in front that is more like a branch.

sulfur seep with signs of acid
If you can find enough and get past the smell, you probably still want to leave this sulfur seep alone. The water feels slimy, a sensation which can be caused by it eating your skin because of acidity. The grass does seem to be surviving.

To some extent it looks like only explorers come up Lost Valley. Trails wandering off up tributaries tend to look just as well worn as the main trail. Eventually, the road starts to climb high up on the side of the valley with the trail climbing up to catch it at the end of the crumbing bed. While it is high, it is generally in good repair, but there are a few ravines that are eating away at it significantly.

road climbing high on the side of the canyon
Looking down the valley, the old road cut can be seen high on the right.

lower Lost Valley
The lower section of Lost Valley.

mouth of Lost Valley
The dry Lost Valley emptying into the dry Manzana.

looking up the Manzana Creek
The Manzana is not much to look at from up here either.

Lost Valley Camp is a nice spot for lunch on the way out. I decide to try to follow the old high route out from the camp. A narrow track can be seen going up the hill with plenty of foot prints on it. Most of them seem to be going to a rocky spot and as I follow the old trail around the back of the rock, the footprints vanish. The brush is still open, but could use a little lopping. The route seems to have been abandoned. It comes within feet of the main trail and I join that for the rest of the way out.

San Rafael Wilderness sign
Leaving the San Rafael Wilderness.

At the register at the NIRA trailhead, I can hear people in the camp. Two cars are nearby, so there must have been someone down the trail somewhere. Two more are getting packed up and they are the first people I have seen since Thursday morning. I still have to hike back up along the road to the car at Cachuma Saddle. They give a nod as they go by, maybe an opening to ask for a ride, but I have enough water and am out to finish the hike. Just as I am cresting the hill, I can see two more cars leaving from the lower trailhead.

Davy Brown Creek
Davy Brown Creek coming down beside the road.

Surprisingly, there is plenty of water in Davy Brown Creek. I did not see it while driving down before and it is not crossing the road at the ford nor is there water obvious below here in Manzana, but it is there. There is also a "trail" sign marking the start of a trail next to the creek, but I cannot see where it might go and suspect it does not get there.

road to ranches by Manzana Schoolhouse
A road climbs the mountains heading to the properties by the Manzana Schoolhouse.

There are a few people at Davy Brown who are having an afternoon hike down from somewhere. After Davy Brown, there is opportunity to use some trail instead of the road. It is simply signed "trail", but I manage to find Sunset Valley Trail and follow it up. In the end, it feels like entirely too much (paved) road walking.

McKinley Fire Road on the hills above
Almost there: McKinley Fire Road is curving around the ridge above.

©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 28 February 2014

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