30 April 2014


The outdoor sketches for the month:

The water seeping from the bank into Tule Creek.

Sunset from Forbush Flat down Gidney Canyon.

Looking at the potreros from the top of Hildreth Peak.

The water curtain at the bottom of West Falls hides a few plants.

One more waterfall in Matilija.

One from along the beach-side park.

28 April 2014

Matilija Middle Fork

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

Matilija sucked in a lion's share of the rain from the one storm of the year and that was probably the time to see it, except that high water and rock slides can be dangerous. The danger subsides over the next few days. It is now weeks later and well past time to go and see it as the flow will just keep dwindling until next year. There are a few cars along the side at the end of the road, guys on bikes with a dog headed in, and a woman getting let through the gate by a truck marked Rocky Mountain as I arrive. She asks why they would have the key, and I am wondering the same thing. The kid in the truck seems to think he can go in whenever he wants, but I expect there would be consequences if he did. Once the activity quiets, a pair of quail rush along the road. There seems to be lots of traffic today. Through the first ranch, most of the activity is in the aviary. There is a truck with government plates parked at Murietta which says "Fish and Game" on a placard in the windshield.

Cara Blanca
Cara Blanca haunting the view while hiking in.

The absurd not no trails sign is still there to confuse hikers, but as always there are many footsteps headed through the second ranch. They have some less confusing signs about what to do if their dog gets too friendly and wants to come along. Further up, there are a couple of guys down in the creek apparently measuring the wash, which is 24.6 feet where they are. The road passes one last gate and gets a bit overgrown before crossing into the Matilija Wilderness. There is an old sign post on the right and the road finally collapses into a trail as it crosses the wash of Old Man Canyon. Concrete pipes to extend the road sit on the far side. I loaded the GPS with geocache coordinates before heading out and suspect there will be one here. Sure enough, there is. The bikes from before are abandoned in a campsite along the way. The large flat stones found in the area seem to be good materials for some very elaborate campsite building.

rock face and creek behind a camp, with a rope swing
A swimming hole with a rope swing that sits behind a campsite, and the cliffs that sit behind it all.

22 April 2014

Hildreth Peak

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

It is surprising how few people have heard of Hildreth Peak considering its name graces the 7.5' quad directly north of the Carpinteria quad. It is also one of the shorter peaks on the Hundred Peaks List that the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club maintains. I decided to try to do it in a big loop, or really a dropped lollipop of a route using the Sierra Club's route 1 and the old jeepway. When the road was closed to Big Caliente last month, doing this loop did not add many miles to the climb, but I was feeling suspicious that I would meet a mountain lion on the route then. It can be easy to yield to unfounded suspicions when there are so many other hikes to try. With the suspicion fading and the temperatures threatening to go high soon, I decided it was time. I am not really feeling it is the day for a very long hike, but having gotten fixated on trying the old road, that is what I will try. The valley is a lake of cloud that is blowing over the lower passes in the stiff wind of a fizzling storm as I make my way along Camino Cielo. The drop when the pavement ends is getting a bit steep and the road down has some worrisome patches for the small car. Getting out next to the old Pendola Guard Station, I can hear a turkey making its funny noises and see a couple deer grazing. The turkey is strutting his stuff out by the parked trucks as I make my way along the last bit of road to Big Caliente.

deer in the field by Pendola
Deer at the Pendola Ranger Station.

The stroll is pleasant enough as the clouds burn off. There is a sign for the Pendola Debris Dam to the left when the dam itself is not visible, then the debris dam itself. The sign says this is one of three constructed after the Coyote Fire to keep Gibraltar Reservoir from filling with debris, but the other two I know about predate that substantially. This particular dam is just a very wide version of the check dams I have found so often in the Angeles National Forest, but done in a nice tan. The road fords the creek three times. The first two are a thin sheet of water, but the last, after Rock Camp (marked as Lower Caliente picnic area on the map), requires finding a path to the side to avoid wet feet. A passing hot spring user seems to take my thumb for "everything is great" rather than "how about a ride for the last mile?" He is, of course, nude and hosing off by the time I get to Big Caliente. Agua Caliente Hot Spring also has its own nudist sitting on the side and reading a book. It does not help to be a prude at the hot spring. From here, the road turns to trail although its history as a road is evident as it climbs toward the second debris dam. The trail is well established here, although can be hard to follow as it crosses at a turn in the creek.

Pendola Debris Dam sign
The clouds burning off already while passing the first debris dam.

Agua Caliente Dam
The depression era Agua Caliente debris dam is a much grander monstrosity. The third dam is at Mono and is a different design from the era of WWII, if I recall correctly.

15 April 2014

lunar eclipse (at Forbush Flat)

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

There is a chance of a lunar eclipse every six months, and many of them are total, so it is not all that special an occurrence. It is not like a solar eclipse where only a thin segment will be able to see it since anyone who can see the moon can see the shadow of the earth moving across it. This one seemed well enough timed and I am not sure I have ever watched a total lunar eclipse. I know I watched a partial one once, but not total. The partial was not so interesting as it really just puts a new line across the old moon that usually has a line across it. The local area has had too much marine layer building up to trust the night sky to be clear, but just the other side of the mountains should be fine. Forbush Flat is always a nice spot with a wide open space and should have water on the ground rather than in the air.

The early evening drive up Gibraltar is nice, so long as I discount the two vehicles attempting head on collisions by going down the wrong side of the road. The bicycle did this in a spot with plenty of visibility and just had to turn back to his side of the road without any action taken on my part. The car, on the other hand, thought it would be fun to head into a blind corner giving opposing traffic just under three feet to get through next to a rock wall. I could feel the anti lock breaks kick on before the driver realized it would be efficacious to his continued travel to turn back into his own lane. It required a complete stop to avoid hitting the poorly driven vehicle in the broadside. Oh, and I hit a few potholes in the remaining patchwork section. Other than that, a very pleasant drive. There is no one on the short section of Camino Cielo to the water tank at Cold Spring Saddle and one car parked there. It is possible that someone will have already taken the meadow for themselves, but probably the meadow will be mine. It is a short hike down while taking in the few flowers and the views. It is much greener now, including over the meadow at Cottam.

looking north from near Cold Spring Saddle
The view north when just starting off.

Blue Delphinium
It is reliable to find a bit of blue delphinium along the path to Forbush.

05 April 2014

Tule Creek

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

I think Tule Creek first came to my attention while perusing my father's 1967 Los Padres visitor map, which may be falling apart at the seams, but is still bright and clear between the folds. I knew of it and had even checked the area for parking by the time I noticed it was included in Craig Carey's guidebook. I had not actually hiked it since it appears on very few other maps. The state of the trail is given as "passable to difficult". Still, inclusion in the guide is more than can be said for Gato Trail, which should run south from Camino Cielo near Broadcast Peak and currently does so for no more than 40 feet, from what I can ascertain from internet searches having not even seen it while walking past. The plan is to take Tule Creek up to Dry Lakes Ridge, then finish that trail to the west, and maybe even climb north on Ortega a little way before turning around and retracing my steps. Clouds appear to be overflowing from north of Pine Mountain, but otherwise the sky is blue. A cold wind blows off it, too, so I pull on my sleeves for brush protection earlier than planned. The guidebook says the trailhead is at the southwest end of the bridge and far too many details to remember to help keep on the trail, so gets stuffed in for later consultation. I also have the relevant portion of the Wheeler Springs quad with a hand drawn line which can only be thought of as "very approximate". Packed up, I cross the Tule Creek bridge over a lovely little flow of water to what looks like it could have, once, been a marked trailhead.

looking up the stretch of Tule Creek
Tule Creek from near the bridge at the mouth of the canyon. Dry Lakes Ridge is to the left.

A track follows a gentle slope downward to beside the creek among some rose. On the other side of a pool of knee high water, it clearly climbs back up the creek bank. There are no rocks for crossing in sight. A couple depressions in the muck might bear witness to the passage of a previous trail user. As I stand pondering if I will get my shoes wet or take the time to remove them or just look for a way in from the other side of the bridge, a couple of birds start grabbing quick drinks as they flutter around. Having not actually tested these shoes in water, the plunge becomes the answer. They are slow to take on water and the shower curtain gaiters actually do a good job of keeping it from flowing in the top, but they are a little heavier after four steps through the pool. Just a little way into the brush, a track leads off to the right toward the other side of the bridge.

bird in flight over the creek pool
One of the little birds dancing in the air over the pool in Tule Creek.

03 April 2014

Mission Ridge

Santa Barbara front country

Locate the trailhead.

Robert Bernstein invited me on a hike up Mission Ridge, which is a crest of rock along a strike canyon between Mission Canyon and Rattlesnake. I have done this hike in the dark with the Wednesday conditioning hike the local Sierra Club hosts (but open to all), and thought it would be nice to see it in the day. The Wednesday group hikes it from Rattlesnake using the use trail up to the Edison catway, then loops around the back of the ridge to the junction and back down. Robert prefers to take Tunnel Trail to get more views out toward the ocean. It is probably a little shorter hike this way and there is less travel on use trails although the main event of the hike is still crazy use trail. First, we have to find a parking spot at the Tunnel Trailhead. This is particularly difficult a little after 11AM, even on a weekday. The day is beautiful and there is one paraglider off over Gibraltar Road as we start. We see many people on the trail until we make the last turn to go up Tunnel where Jesusita starts. After that, there is just a pair going to the top.

looking out of Mission Canyon from Tunnel Trail
The view out of Mission Canyon from Tunnel Trail. The Edison catway winds through the canyon lower down.

Mission Canyon to La Cumbre Peak
Arlington Peak, or at least the ridge line to it, dominate the other side of Mission Canyon. One can just make out the fire lookout at the top of La Cumbre behind it.

Ecological Staircase to the Pygmy Forest

Jug Handle State Natural Preserve Click for map. I noticed an Earthcache that looked interesting as it asks for study of an area wi...