31 January 2015

Pothole Trail

Los Padres National Forest

Pothole Trail is the southern end of the proposed Condor Trail, which is a through hiking route for the whole Los Padres National Forest. Unfortunately, it is tucked away behind the fee area for Lake Piru, and since Blue Point Campground has been closed, the general public has to park miles from the trailhead. There are plan to change this, but what the time frame on that is, I do not know. For now, people are working to open up the trail again. I found out there would be trail work on Pothole and jumped at the opportunity. We meet at 8:30AM at the Temescal Fire Station, then head up the road through the pay gate, a locked gate above a picnic area that is the public terminus of the road in winter, and a second locked gate by a boat launch ramp that is the public terminus of the road in summer. We park near a wash just a few hundred feet from the start. Further up are the cars for a very large group (about 50) of Sheriff's deputies and others who are doing what was once a very popular loop up Potholes and down Agua Blanca.

trail crew starting the hike to work
Starting up from the signed trailhead to get to the work about three miles up.

Signs warn us to stay on the trail in a short section of private property, then we start climbing upward in the grass. After that, signs direct hikers along the built trail. This section of trail is planned to be rerouted to an entirely different spot, so we follow the stomped grass directly up to the ridge. We can see the last dozen of the big group climbing over the last of the ridge to drop down the other side. Circling above the ridge a little closer are one short of a dozen vultures I am assured are California Condors. They do not look very big in the sky, but there is nothing up there to help with scale. We cannot spot any tags, even when they seem close enough that we should, but they do have blocks of white on their wings rather than grey out to the tips.

Piru Creek shining in the sun
Piru Creek as it makes the last bit of journey to Lake Piru. If the lake were full, it would stretch up along this section.

Blue Point
A patch of blueish rock marks Blue Point. Whitaker Peak rises behind it.

We continue along, generally following the ridge, but sometimes taking the trail around the little peaks along the way. The condors disperse, but we can see where they roost in a craggy rock above Blue Point.

up along the ridge
Up on the ridge. There is a road down Canton Canyon, in line with the ridge.

hole filled rocks with white spots
White spots on the rocks show where birds like to roost.

across the canyon with interesting cuts in between
The trail is planned to move all the way to the other side of the canyon.

There is a glimpse of the impressive Whiteacre Peak between two minor peaks on the ridge. We stop for some early lunch at the top with a bit better view of the peak. Cobblestone dominates the north. I can pick out what few roads are around from up here. The cut around the side of Townsend Peak is easy to see. As I follow a ridge down from that peak to a nearer ridge, I can see the line of its abandoned extension that runs toward nearby Canson Canyon. A couple more condors pop over the ridge as we start to leave again.

Whiteacre and Cobblestone
Whiteacre Peak and Cobblestone Mountain.

Cobblestone Mountain
Cobblestone Mountain. The wilderness is marked with a slapstick.

two California Condors
Two blurry condors climbing on the thermals.

We enter the Sespe Wilderness as we start down the other side. The view of Whiteacre gets much better as we go and the white slab is impressive.

Whiteacre Peak
The white slabs of rock on Whiteacre Peak.

It is a short distance down to get to where we are working. The trail needs widened and the tread needs some work. We get to it, paying particular attention to those plants that will grow tall and wide, taking over the space, while being a little less enthusiastic about the plants that will not get very big. For the most part, this means trying to leave the purple curly whirls. There are no flower on them yet, but there are a lot for when they do burst out. We finish the expected work and a little bit more, although possibly not quite as wide as desired, to be in view of the Pothole. Along the way, we are surprised to notice a thin string of water coming down the mountain beside us. Alan tells us it is often there in winter.

thre is a pothole down there
Quite near the bottom is the Pothole.

a crest of stone
From here, the craggy rocks with white spots look like a crest of rock.

string of water on the mountain
A thin track of water shines in the sun as I look back over a piece of worked trail along the ridge.

We head back up again as we hit our turnaround time. It is not very far back up to the ridge and the wilderness edge. We stick closer to the ridge line as we make our way back down and it seems like it has gotten a lot steeper to me.

Piru Creek
Looking out over Piru Creek and the mountains to the cities beyond in the valley.

old bit of wire fence
An very short segment of old fence can be found on one of the minor peaks along the way.

We are back about 15 minute after we were aiming. There are treats waiting at the bottom. There are two more opportunities to work on the trail coming up on February 14th and March 14th, and it is a good chance there will be treats then too.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 5 February 2015

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