17 August 2014

Gaviota wind caves loop

Gaviota State Park

Locate the trailhead.

It seems like time to go after the benchmark on the top of the grassy hill on the southwest side of Gaviota. Of course, not simply by climbing the hill northward from the road as described by the reach. I will have another look at the wind caves, look out over the tunnel, and then push through the brush and what trail there is along the ridge to drop down onto the hill from the north. Also, bring plenty of water because it is going to be a hot one. The paved road to start is easy enough to travel, but the first, small outcrop of caves brings welcome shade after the first part of the climb.

looking between a rock and a tree
Looking past the edge of the first wind cave and its helpful oak to the trail up.

pillars along the opening
This particular cave has two pillars and some nice seating, but is also heavily carved by recent visitors.

upper outcrop of caves
The upper outcrop of caves looms above. Note the blue through the top hole.

I manage to get on the wrong trail for the rest of the climb up to the main collection of caves, which means I have a steeper, softer, and bushier climb up along the bottom edge of the rock. Climbing to the top and poking around shows some spots I do not think I have seen before just around the very top where there is a hole all the way through. There are holes in all exposed sides of the rock.

one of the caves on the south side of the rock
Looking up into the mouth of one of the large caves on the south side of the rock.

wind carved interior
While much of the caves are thought to actually be formed by salt collecting in the stone, this looks to be wind erosion as implied by the name.

another wind cave or big tafoni
Inside another cave with a variety of textures.

The hike up the rest of the way over the ridge to the service road on the other side is hot, but shorter than I remember. The trail remains very clear.

highway and service road
The hills the highway streams through are very brown, but the local oaks look good.

The viewpoint is east on the road. There is another outcrop of small tafoni along the way a bit south of the road.

imprint of a shell
Imprint of a fossil shell in the sandstone.

small holes in the rock
A collection of small tafoni lattice work.

It takes a little bit of climbing out onto the ridge after the road to get a really good view down into the valley. Far enough out and on the ridge and one can almost see right down into the creek.

Gaviota tunnel
The tunnel for northbound traffic on the highway.

the mountains on the other side of the highway
The mountains on the far side of the highway.

The access to the ridge is down the road to the west of the trail. There are bear prints on the road. It drops and climbs again into some oaks that are larger as I climb. The highest oak is huge and spreading with many branches coming all the way down to the ground. Oddly, there is also a small pepper tree growing in the area. After the oak, there is a spur climbing steeply even further along the petroleum pipe that runs near the edge of the park. There has been some recent bulldozer work on it which took down the signs that warn about the pipeline. It does reduce the amount of brush to push through by a couple feet, but the hillside was rather clear before.

spreading oak
A lot of shade under the spreading oak.

Gaviota Peak
Gaviota Peak from a high point in Gaviota State Park. Find the bit of blue that is not sky to locate the viewpoint from before.

north view
The ridge is much easier to travel to the north where the road comes from.

The bulldozer track stops before the top and the trail gets quite small at the top. It seems a little clearer than when I tried a little of it before, but that is probably due to the constant dry and heat in between. There is a trail, and often a second, along the top. There is little ducking even when the brush is high suggesting there is some human traffic as well as animals. As the ridge splits, it tries to send me off to the west. I want to go south and a small bit of determination gets me back to the correct direction.

ridge to the south
Looking down the ridge to the south with its small trail along the edge.

wind caves from the back
Looking down on the back side of the wind cave rock outcrop with the trestle bridge and campground behind it.

Pushing through the brush takes a bit more energy than I am expecting and although there are a few trees at the top, those are easier areas to move through, so I am spending a lot of time in the sun. A am most of the way through when I start to feel sick from it. There is no shade but the thigh high bushes and my hat, but there is a nice rock for sitting along a particularly steep section. It helps to have stopped moving, but the rock itself is dreadfully hot. With the feeling of sickness subsiding a little, I try to move down using as little energy as possible. Twisting and leaning is slower, but it will get through the brush just as direct pushing. Gentle movement keeps it from getting worse and then there is a wonderful oak with plenty of room beneath its abnormally large coastal live oak leaves. Gradually, the last of my sick feeling subsides. The breeze from the valley visits a little and combined with my sweat soaked shirt even makes me shiver.

Gaviota tunnel
Another view of the Gaviota tunnel.

There is only one small hill left of the brush before everything turns to grass. Gentle movements along it get me to within four feet of the grass and there is suddenly no trail. I have to push hard for those last feet, but it is not a particularly strong brush barrier. There are many trails in grass, and here the greatest danger are sharp seeds. The bulldozer has been at work here too and has crushed a section of sparse brush on the next hill. The bulldozer path stops before the hill with the benchmark, but some truck tracks continue.

wind caves
Back around to the front of the wind caves. I have circled the drainage west of them.

At the hill with the benchmark, there are small grasses and big grasses. The petroleum pipe goes to the west of the hill. The station is supposed to be in a drill hole in a boulder, but there are no boulders. There are no large rocks to speak of. Reference mark 1 is known to be destroyed, but it was placed ten meters in the direction of the buried pipe. The station ORFORD was found 30 years ago and the other reference mark 55 years ago. A lot of walking around the small grasses and a few experimental stabs into the long grasses with my hiking sticks turns up nothing.

hill with grass on it
The hill top where there should be a benchmark and one reference mark from 1933.

Satisfied I cannot find it, it is just a matter of walking toward the campground and bridge until I can see the parking lot, then turning more south toward it. There is enough use of the shoulder below the hill that there is recycling to pick up. I was worried at the start about the last push through brush just before the road, but there are wide spaces between these bushes if the path is picked well. It was a good walk along the ridge, except for the flirtation with heat stroke.

©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 18 August 2014

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