09 January 2015

Sweetwater Trail

Cachuma Lake Recreation Area

The Sweetwater Trail winds along the edge of Cachuma Lake between the main recreation area and the view point for the dam. It looks like it will be a good one to take mom on, so we head out to the view point where parking is much cheaper. This spot does indeed give an edge on view of the dam. There is also a dedication to the namesake of the dam.

dam and dedication
Dedication sign with Bradbury Dam in the background.

Cachuma Lake sitting well below the high water line
Looking out, the high water line is well above the current level of the lake.

The trail is unmarked on this side, but very clear as it leaves the south side of the parking lot beside the bathroom. We start down it, passing by some sage, then drop down a short hill under large oaks hanging with Spanish moss, A.K.A. French beard. The water is so far away that we are quickly distracted by a smaller path leading to it and take it. I am even further distracted from this new path by an iron post painted white that turns out to be a witness post for a benchmark labeled "L-C". A few steps further down the path, I am distracted again by a sighting post that is wired to stand above a benchmark labeled "L-A". On a hunch, I poke around between the two to find "L-B" as well. On the other side of the trail, more debris caches my eye, but it is just the items that tend to wash up into this inlet when it is covered in water.

dropping down below oaks
Dropping into a section of oaks hung with Spanish Moss.

dried reeds
Dried reeds mark where water would be expected to be.

sighting post and witness post next to a monument
Sighting post wired over a benchmark next to a witness post.

We follow the little trail down near the water and then around the edge along one of the many layers of rock that form little terraces around the edge. Sparse willows have started to grow among the rocks where the top soil has been stripped by the reservoir. Curious things can be found along the shore. I follow a chain that is staked into the ground where the water should be to find the other end is tied around a large oak.

sparse willows
A flat area usually covered in water is growing sparse willows.

panorama of the lake with low water
Trying to take in all of the lake from near the current shore. (Click to embiggen.)

terraced edges and a bit of old road
Looking along the edges with their little terraces. In the distance, an old road drops into the lake. A bit of the old highway can sometimes be found near this trail.

The path seems to vanish for a bit, and we look for a way back up to the proper trail. A small creek provides a good way that becomes an established path just before we find the trail. It is not long before we are distracted from the trail again, this time by the local wildlife as a bald eagle settles into a deciduous oak tree.

back on the trail among the oaks
Back on the trail admiring the oaks.

bald eagle in a tree
Bald eagles are a bit more common around the lake than in other areas of the county.

bald eagle in flight
The bald eagle takes off again across the lake.

After the stand of oaks, the trail starts heading south for quite some time to get around the arm of the lake that should be occupying Sweetwater Creek. We find ourselves more and more shaded and our surrounding more noisy as we near the highway. More feet below the highway than away from it, it turns to follow the road and crosses over a bridge before finally turning away again. It joins an old road as it leaves the area of the highway returning to the main body of the lake where the old road makes a loop and another bit heads down into the lake, vanishing at the high water line. I manage to spot another witness post wandering around this loop and a little digging near it turns up another benchmark.

looking throuhg the branches
Out on the extra loop of old road by old railings and random benchmarks.

Continuing on along the trail, we get a closer view of the bit of old road dropping into the lake and then start around one last empty inlet. Forlorn piers stretch along the slopes without even a mud puddle nearby. We get to a picnic area and then the parking area.

mom among the chamise
One last stretch of chamise and scrub oaks along the side of the lake.

dock on dry land with much more beyond
Just a few hundred feet is needed to bring this dock all the way to the water.

Mom is just about done when we get to the far end. The trail was too long and although it does not have large hills, the slopes it does have are often a little steeper than she likes and rocky which makes her uncertain of her footing. I leave her to wander over to a turn around point while I go to grab the car. On my way back, I can follow some lesser trails that cut off some of the dry inlets and bump into a few oddities. The first part of my trip back probably does not shorten it any, but does have most of the oddities.

round concrete coming to a grated top
The main oddity is this rounded bit of concrete. I am sure I have been told about this before but cannot remember. The grating is very close to the high water level. It is dated 1943 at the top.

reds and greens and blues in the right order along the shore
Some kind of foundation at the current water level below the round thing.

1949 benchmark by Bureau of Reclamation
All the benchmarks I found were by the Bureau of Reclamation, but this is the one that has the most information stamped on it.

Returning from that spot, I stumble over yet another benchmark left from when the reservoir was being built. I find more trail along the edge and cut off a bit of travel, but some spots are quite slow and so I probably save no time, especially as there is almost no trail getting back up to near the loop. I go ahead and follow the old road down to cut off the trail excursion at Sweetwater, and this is much better for both time and distance saving. From the far side of Sweetwater, it is just a short bit down the trail back to the view point parking long.

rusted anchor on the bottom of the lake
There are random bits of trash along the bottom of the lake.

current water level
Down by the current water level in Sweetwater Creek. This inlet is no longer very large at all.

I find mom again at the turn around and we are off.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 22 January 2015

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