Los Padres National ForestLocate the trailhead.
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(Day 1 of 3) It seems to be the season for trail work. The original plan for this one was to head up Lost Valley and cut out a few of the baker's dozen (plus whatever the rain brought down) trees and make the tread somewhat less scary at the top. Having just come down the trail, I figured the need was great and I was in. Unfortunately, rumor is the post-rain water situation is very much like the pre-rain water situation, and the only water near the unofficial "Twin Oaks" camp is a mile up at the spring or a mile down and stagnant. This can be fine for a bunch of hard working humans who will have one or two in their number who will be willing to bring down water, but this is a Mike Smith trip and is supported by a collection of pack goats which complicates the situation. The people would rather have water closer at hand, too. We have been diverted to the Manzana instead, where the water is now flowing all the way to NIRA and added a couple signs to plant. It all needs doing.
|One of the goats (Rufus?) packed up and ready to go. He is carrying the new Big Cone Spruce sign.|
Hard hats and tools are passed out to the volunteers with the usual signatures and talk to go with it. Some of the group will be heading up to Happy Hunting Ground for the night, then will get all the way to South Fork and start working back. The bulk of the group will head up to Manzana Narrows where everyone will gather for the second night. The morning is misty as we head up the creek.
|The goats and the volunteers are loaded up and headed out. Nitro, at the back, is feeling his years, so isn't carrying anything. He might have had to stay home, but you cannot leave a herd animal used to a herd home alone. Mike has the other sign.|
|The goats switch order when Mike gets ahead of them. They do not like to be away from him when out on the trail and getting between them can lead to getting bowled over by a pack.|
|Looking into the sun in the misty Manzana with water flowing. This part of the creek has already turned green with algae and the canyon is getting a bit more green all over.|
Arriving at that unnamed camp where the first water could be found in late January means starting work. This is where one of the signs will go so that everyone can know that this is Ray's Camp. A few bottles are dug up while the hole is made and rocks prevent it going as deep as we want. Mike is welding his signs to the posts now to prevent them becoming souvenirs. I somehow end up with the Big Cone Spruce sign after this. I left my long johns and anything to do with rain at home and the sign does not make my pack as heavy as having that and the extra food and water from the previous trek, so it is easy to handle. The weight distribution is a little off, though.
|One volunteer resting on the table, brought in as an Eagle Scout project in 2013, at Ray's Camp. No, Ray ain't dead yet, but he has managed to get on the map.|
|There are a few flowers out now, including some very lush looking miner's lettuce, much of which got harvested.|
|The water rushes through a narrow section of the canyon.|
Our next piece of work is just after Manzana where the trail crosses to the south side of the creek briefly. The hopping rocks are blocked on the south side of the first crossing and the trail is blocked on the north side of the second crossing. Additionally, the second crossing has turned from a single step rock hop to a knee high wade due to a log jam. We go around in an elaborate bid not to wade through, but it is not a goat friendly path. The goats will try to go wherever Mike goes, so he has to make his way along the correct trail. A bit of extraordinary balance might have made it work, but Mike lands in the drink while trying a long hop onto a steeply tilted log. The goats decide to settle in rather than cross the somewhat deep water. This was going to be part of tomorrow's work, but it is becoming very tempting to do it today. The log jam looks pretty solid and like it has been there for a while, but I did not cross something like this in January. There is talk of water cooled cuts until we really start poking at it. Leaves and mud come away easily allowing holes to open up in that is actually a mass of smaller pieces weighted down by the log blocking the path. About 1.5 hours later, there are no logs blocking the trail or log jams making the crossing difficult.
|The goats have settled in. The water has already dropped a foot. The wet rock and trail shows where it was before.|
|Single bucking the saw for the last bit of the cut on the first tree along the trail.|
Getting to camp, there is only one couple that isn't worried about sharing the place with a bunch of goats and some rowdy volunteers. We fill out the camp fairly well once we have all claimed a spot. At this point, the work is not done for the day. We still have one sign to put up and there is scouting to be done up the trail.
|The goats are not needed, but just try to get them to stop following Mike. They will usually try to rock hop, but this particular crossing proves difficult for them. One of them managed.|
|There is still nothing downhill, according to the sign, but at least there is now an indication as to what is up that trail to the side with the slapstick that just says "trail" on it. The large sign also shows the mileage before the destination.|
I head up Big Cone Spruce Trail with James Wapotich, who is really doing the scouting along this trail. Being the professional news man, he actually has notebook in hand to record each downed tree we find. There are at least a half dozen, and another half dozen that have been cut more closely to the trail than we want. We aim at at least 6 feet of clearance on either side so that loaded stock may pass without hindrance. Most impressive is a sycamore that is along maybe 40 feet of trail. It makes a fun balance beam, but is not appropriate for trail. (Unfortunately, no photo as I was having too much fun crossing it.) We only go up as far as the camp, but then check out the spring and the second site at the camp.
|The sign is at the lower campsite at Big Cone Spruce.|
|Follow a trail southeast from the site to find the spring, which is a minor gusher.|
|Bears have been at the table in the upper site, giving it distinctive character, such as this fur and only 3.5 legs.|
There is water in the Manzana all the way up to camp, with one dry spot near the junction. After the look around camp, we head back down to Manzana Narrows, finding three more small downed trees along the trail between the camps.
|The Manzana as it flows past Big Cone Spruce Camp.|
|Quite a lot of work, like these water bar steps, has been put into this trail for something that people feel needs flagging.|
|The cliffs above the Manzana Creek. Look closely and there is the zig-zag of the Manzana Trail climbing away from the creek in the green portion of the canyon wall.|
Continue reading: day 2
©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 25 March 2014