09 December 2014

Painted Cave fuel break

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

There are quite a few short hikes off of Camino Cielo. Explore it and there is likely a new one waiting somewhere. For me for this one, someone else actually did the exploring to find it. I just noticed there was a geocache in the middle of supposedly trail free area and in this cache is a "travel bug". These things get lost all the time, but it belongs to someone, it was given a goal, it builds up a history as it moves from place to place and hand to hand, and this one has been in one place for three years. Sure, it is illogical to care about them, but it is also a stunning day for a quick afternoon butt-kicker at the top of the ridge. Some minor reconnaissance shows a fuel break in satellite photos and a dotted line with no designation on the 1995 Goleta and San Marcos Pass quads between San Antonio Creek and Maria Ygnacio Creek. Arrival at a small turnout with cables to block motorcycle travel, but otherwise the same as any other turnout. Oh, and the day is stunning with fog stacking up on the west end of the islands.

panorama of ocean and mountains
The view from the top.

boulders in the chaparral
Nearby rocks may provide a closer bouldering experience than the ones my destination promises.

lower peaks in front of the range
A series of approximately 3000 foot peaks that lie in front of the main row of mountains. The top of Cathedral Peak looks like an awkward knob three back.

short grassy stuff over a somewhat flat area with trees
The area around the top of Arroyo Burro looks like a manicured park from here.

Starting down the fuel break, I can see a well established trail that roughly follows it. There are a few sets of footprints at first, but then, as the trail drops, all but one set vanish. Green flagging marks the way. The fuel break launches itself over piles of rocks while the trail makes a way to the side of each one skipping the sudden, short drop off.

a thin trail follows the ridge line
Looking down the ridge line, there seems to be a thin trail. Beyond, San Marcos Pass finishes its own drop and the clouds stack up against the side of the islands.

The trail takes off to the side of the fuel break and has clearly been cut seperately for a short piece, although still making a very steep descent. It looks like people use both routes although the single set of footprints since the recent rain followed the trail both down and up. The green flagging goes the other way. The trail circles around and climbs briefly to get back to the fuel break. As it comes to a flat area, there are numerous routes and no real trail. The fuel break also vanishes although the green flagging continues.

houses on the hillside
The community around Painted Cave hugs the hill sides to the west.

On the far side of the flat, trail again becomes very clear. It is the same on the next flat. The trail vanishes as those few travelers choose different paths, then comes back below. I finally see an outcrop of rocks below.

sandstone outcrop
Sandstone boulders pop up along the ridge line.

The trail arrives at the east end of the line of boulders and some lesser trail continues below them. My destination seems to be the west end of the boulders. The cache is found easily enough and eventually even obtained from the high rock ledge so I can save the travel bug. On this end, the noise from the pass is collected by the rocks, so I go back to the other end of the rocks where the highway noise is muted by the rocks instead to take in my prize view.

Looking down on 154 near the intersection with Painted Cave Road and the old pass road.

one large sandstone rock
One of the boulders in the line.

things named San Marcos
Sitting above the San Marcos Pass and the San Marcos Foothills Preserve. If you believe the line on the map, the trail will continue down to the dirt road above the pass.

Once ready, it is time for the real work in climbing back to the road. It is not so bad. I keep to the fuel break on the way up and some of it is very steep, but not too bad. All told, the route down is about 1.2 miles and the route up is only 1 mile for 1000 feet.

thin line of trail going up
The trail here is clear and easy to follow through short chaparral. It climbs up and to the left. The trees in the middle are the ones near the top of Arroyo Burro.

©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 18 December 2014

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