09 September 2014

Gaviota Peak

Gaviota State Park

Locate the trailhead.


In looking at the benchmarks in Gaviota in the NGS database, I noticed quite a few of them are referenced to "weather vane". Curiously, this point is up high on the ridge south of Gaviota Peak. There is no information on this point except the name, location, and identification number. It seems likely that this was not a monument, but an actual weather vane, an item that usually sits on top of something else. What might it have been sitting on, if it was? Is there anything left of it? One way to find out would be to go and look. It also gives me an excuse to explore east along the ridge a bit further. It might be tempting to do it via a much lesser known route just on the ridge, but I go for Trespass Trail. There is some construction in the lot and along the road, but there is still parking for state park users. The trek up to the saddle is the usual hot and exposed route with a single reprieve.

under oak trees along the road
Along the one reprieve from the sun on the way up. While in the state park, Trespass Trail is really a road.

coming around the south face and looking at the ridge
Out in the sun and circling around to the south face of the mountain for the first real view of the ridge.


sort of a tunnel view
The closest the trail comes to a tunnel view without going on Tunnel View Trail.

last of the trail up to the saddle
Approaching the saddle where the trail splits.

The trail along the old road up to the ridge is just as clear as Trespass Trail leading north to the peak, now. It is an easy walk up to the top.

strike canyon on the other side of the saddle
Looking down the continuation of this strike canyon on the other side of the saddle.

At the top, I have to wander a little way in the wrong direction for the pleasant little bowl and the view beyond it. There is some small bit of trail following the road on the obvious cut, but it is hard to follow for all the bushes. An easier path cuts to the west a little bit later and climbs more steeply onto the road further up. What was a slide before now has a nearly solid footpath. On the far side of the bowl, paths start to braid. Some follow sensible routes and some climb every rock and drop along every steep slope along the edge of the ridge. There is still a little poison oak up here in spite of the extremely dry year.

oaks in a bowl of rock
A look down into the bowl while entering it.

the other side of the state park
The view east to the part of the state park on the other side of the highway and Hollister Ranch.

A point with a wide cut leading down beside it looks like a good spot to turn around and then climb back up, this time keeping more to the reasonable route and off anything steep. Trail in the other direction, such as it is, only goes a few feet past where I turned around the last time I was on this ridge. I remembered it looking like trail further on, but that must have been an illusion. The branches of the brush bend back enough to let a person through easily enough, but is very sharp. Pushing through the softest portions leads more up than across and eventually I am on the top. The north side would be much easier to travel along, but there is a high sandstone cliff down to the deer trail below. I can make my way along the edge of the cliff without too much difficulty, then down the steep, but much less so, and rocky edge to the north side trails.

looking down the strike canyon from above now
Pretty good trails flow through a small saddle below the rocky ridge with thick brush down the south side.

The going is a lot easier for a short way. There are a few spots to push through something, and they usually look like there is an easier way above or below that turns out to have something much harder just after it. As the GPS starts to say my target is south instead of east, the grassy section ends and there is a very lush bit of brush. It looks like I cannot get there, so it is time to turn back. Not too far back, the clear routes up to the west side of the cliff area are obvious, so I start working my way back to the top again, then around on the south side of the ridge. The south side brush is the same, hard, sharp, but possible to push through. A small valley crosses between me and an outcrop of rocks that seems to be my target. The brush in it is thicker and it inspires turning back again, then another climb. I climb all the way to the local peak, but this time, there seems to be no route I am ready to take. The weather vane and whatever else would have been on the other side of the rocks where I cannot see, but it seems like there could be nothing more from this vantage point. I seem to have used up all my determination to push through brush, so push back down to a nice sitting rock to enjoy my unique outlook for a bit. I should have brought gaiters and long sleeves.

cliff edge and a further outcrop
Coming around the edge of another section of north facing cliffs to catch a glimpse of "weather vane".

destination, so close but so far
Once the location of a weather vane, probably. It may be possible to edge along the rock tops in a wide circle to the east to get there, but there is brush all the way to the top.

rocks and things on the way back to the trail
Looking back along the ridge from down on the front a little way. The trail up is just visible in the low spot. The close rock outcrop may be a few feet higher than the peak I went up.

The way back is not so hard as feared. Back along the deer trail to a saddle below where I had seen from above was very simple. At the saddle, I was planning to continue along the edge of the same ridge I had come from, but notice the second trail from it also drops and appears to be passable all the way to a vernal pool just below the trail and just a little higher than the better known one. I head northwest along it. Trails drop down, but I can see the red of poison oak among the plants below and keep high until I am around it, then drop as easily to the pool as it looked. A path with a stick across it climbs from the pool to the trail. Back at the saddle, I turn up toward the peak.

long leaved yucca curled on itself because of dead brush
A yucca plant having a hard time stretching out because of the old vines.

two holes completely through a rock
The hills have eyes.

cliffs on the ridge to the south
Another viewpoint of the part of the ridge I hiked to.

Once up to the little cave, it is getting cool. After this, half the hike is shaded by the mountain. It is a nice time to be hiking up to the peak.

tofani in the sandstone
A different look at the little caves.

looking down on the ridge
Looking down on the ridge again. The point is not visible.

GAVIOTA reference mark
The reference mark for one of the benchmarks that references "weather vane". It is "APPROX. 1.5 KM 181 48 05.4" distance and bearing.

It is almost sunset as I get to the peak. A wind is finally finding the energy to blow the air around. Amazing how the time can zip by. From here, it is all fire road back down to the parking, except that I always brave the poison oak and take the cutoff to the hot spring on the way down. Today, the spring is like comfortable bathwater.

a last sliver of red on the horizon
Sunset over Gaviota.

lower pool at night
The Gaviota Hot Spring at night.




©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 11 September 2014