Los Padres National ForestLocate the trailhead.
I headed up to Wheeler Gorge for a seminar on light backpacking put on by Los Padres Forest Association, which helped me get a handle on what I need to do with my pathetic first aid kit and gave me some ideas on topics I have not thought about yet, but which also left me with an open afternoon in a stone's throw of some trails I would not have come out for on their own. The first is a stretch of dirt next to a sign behind Firehouse #55. The driveway splits and the trail leaves from the left side split while the actual firehouse is on the right side.
|Fire hoses drying out behind the fire station where the trail starts.|
The trail curves around the side of the hill at a gentle slope and then joins what looks like a ridge line fuel break. To the left, an apparent old trail tread proceeds back toward the road, but it may just be the edge of their defensible space. All the feet go up the edge of the ridge. As I start up the steep slope, there is quickly a sign to assure me that this is the correct way and to help bring any expectations of the trail into line with reality. This sign is on a burned post and a small piece of the previous sign remains on the trail, but not enough to read.
|A well used dirt track marked with a promise.|
It is not too bad at first, but then it starts to get really steep. The dried dirt is loose on the slopes and climbing it is almost as bad as climbing a cinder cone. My feet slide back with every step upward. There are a surprising number of wildflowers along the way. There is also the remains of a clothes line.
|Little tufts of buckwheat. This is a very reliable flower.|
|Some honeysuckle penstemon.|
|Woolly blue curl, a wonderfully odd flower.|
Happily, the steep does not last long and there follows a long section of fairly flat trail, sometimes with views and sometimes through a canyon of chaparral. Then it drops slightly and starts another steep climb with the dirt not quite holding each footstep. There are a couple ribbons on the brush, one marked with names and a time. It starts to gain some okay views of the surrounding area and then abruptly stops just as the skeleton of the Nordhoff fire lookout vanishes behind a hill.
|Probably the time to get fully loaded firefighters up this hill, which at this point is about a mile and quite a few feet.|
|Looking up at Dry Lakes Ridge from the south.|
|A brief visitor while nearing the end of this trail. The Nordhoff tower is behind it.|
Coming to the end, there is nothing left but to turn around and head down again, wishing maybe that the hiking poles were not left in the car.
|Looking out over Wheeler Gorge to the coastal range and the air is a little misty. On the right, the ribbon of highway climbs up the mountains toward Sespe and a fuel break points toward Ortega Trail.|
|Flat is nice on the knees, but it can be hard to see out from.|
|A burst of wildflowers by the trail. Honeysuckle penstemon, bush monkey flower, and coyote bush all with a profusion of petals.|
|The trail in a flat section along the ridge edge.|
|A closer view of Wheeler Campground. This is surprisingly close to the trailhead.|
Getting back to the possible trail, I give it a try. It drops in a couple places, but may continue along toward the nature trail where a similar mysterious trail leads off beside a blank sign. It is overgrown and uninviting now, so I just follow the edge of the cut grass back to the car instead of fully trying it out.
|This poppy seems to be having a nice time on the sparse hillside.|
©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 8 June 2014