Ventura River Preserve
Los Padres National ForestLocate the trailhead.
(Day 1 of 2) It has been feeling like time to hit Camino Cielo again. There has been quite a bit more cut and two tables dragged up since I was last along it. It is getting to be quite a long day hike, especially with the short days and the parking lot getting locked at 5PM. I am told that parking can be had along the street when not blocking a gate or driveway, but decided on an overnight instead. The threat of rain, 20% in Ojai which will be a near certainty on the ridge, was giving me pause until I hit upon a simple idea for pitching my rain fly without my tent. The rain is not certain enough to use as a water source, so I need to bring everything I will use. With an email to the preserve manager so the people locking the gate will not be waiting around or calling Search and Rescue for the lone car left in the lot, I am ready to head out. First, the river crossing. There is not much hope that there might be a trickle of water flowing along it, and that small sliver is soon dashed.
|Crossing the Ventura River as it crosses the Ventura River Preserve. It is bone dry.|
The trails are not signed for Kennedy Ridge at first. One must follow the arrows for Rice Canyon and eventually there are arrows for the ridge as well. They diverge as the one for the ridge points along a track by a creek that cuts up to a road above, follow the road shortly, then start climbing again. A large information sign as it leaves the road tells about the current state of the trail and warns against bringing horses up it since there are steep spots. They are not kidding about the steep spots. Climbing at first gives a view of the sensible houses up on the cliffs above the flood plain of the river, then a view of the less sensible people down in it.
|Climbing up to the ridge gives views of the river.|
|The trail climbs in a narrow area and along some very steep slopes in between short sections along easy parts of the ridge.|
There is only one rather steep spot before hitting the ridge. One thing about this route is that there is usually a table in the places one might like to relax. The first of seven is off to the right and has now been moved into some limited shade. A trail continues past it and splits to go to some rocks or stay along the top of the ridge, dwindling as it goes. On the far side of Kennedy Canyon, I can easily make out the old cut of Camino Cielo and I can just make out the old gate at the edge of inholdings. The gate appears to be open. The climbing route goes to the left and is gentle for a while before a short drop to the second table.
|Camino Cielo is far below the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains here, but climbing steadily to get there.|
|The second table has an excellent view of Lake Casitas.|
The trail drops further to cross the very top of Kennedy Canyon before climbing some more. This is where the steepest sections can be found. The trail just seems to decide to jump up once in a while, especially right before the road. One might think no person would carry the pieces of a table up this extreme trail, but right at the top, there is table three. Just like the ridge trail, the road extends in both directions from here. I sort of want to go down it to the gate, a distance of probably two miles, and so start that way. Someone has cut out the hardest sections, but it is still little more than a bear tunnel and difficult with my large pack. I quickly decide I should try it some other time with a smaller pack and turn back up.
|Seeds offer a flower like beauty.|
|Better views of Lake Casitas await the adventurer who follows the road down instead of up. The lake is partly hidden at the table. (A road to road panorama is here.)|
|A look at the trail, and the road, clambering up the mountain.|
Back at the picnic table, travel is much easier going up. There is still a slight thought that the road might be going over the edge as it makes a turn at a benchmark where the old trail used to come up. The clouds are drifting over the trail as it climbs and it is starting to feel like time to get a shelter set. A pair of day hikers I bumped into down at the start report that there is a table way up there with tools and the trail just seems to go and go. They did not reach the end. Finally making it to the top of the mountains, the trail turns back again and there are some views into Matilija.
|The road is marked with a series of DF benchmarks. This is 20DF and at 2388 feet. The 19DF mark should be at a bend past the gate.|
|It looks like there could be some fog at this altitude.|
In quick order, there is a wide spot in the trail with table 4. This seems to be quite a popular camping spot, partly due to having a good view on both sides of the mountain. It is time to set up my rain fly. This sort of thing should always be done first in the backyard because there will be some detail that is forgotten. Luckily, my forgotten detail is nothing I cannot sort out with on hand items and it seems pretty solid once up.
|The road into Matilija Canyon and a little bit of Matilija Lake.|
With camp sorted, it is time for some supper. I finish that and tuck into my shelter with less than five minutes to spare before the rain starts falling. It is mostly light with one short burst of proper rain.
©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 23 November 2014