Los Padres National Forest
DAY 1 | DAY 2
(Day 1 of 2) Mark and I made our way to Nira with a simple-minded goal: camp at the very top. We are starting a day late because a small storm came through yesterday and the cool day after the storm seemed better than the rain on our heads. The creek is dry too often lately, so we are already enjoying ourselves just to get out and hear it running. We will not be near the water long, so we are carrying all our water anyway. Lifting my pack with 7 liters, I am wondering what important thing I left out because it feels too light. We set off toward Lost Valley into a world that is so delightfully wet.
|Mist rising from the landscape as the sun hits it all.|
|The little drops in the sunlight give the leaves a halo.|
The first mile passes quickly and we turn to take the awkward path up to the sign that should say "Hurricane Deck 8" and point off to the left, but does not. This sign is too wide and in the wrong orientation. It looks quite old, maybe my memory is conflated. My memory is a more accurate mileage than the 10 on the sign. We quickly lose the sound of water, but mist keeps rising from various spots. A little further, we lose half the mist because the hill to our left has been in the sun since it came up and is already dry.
|There are all kinds of blue dicks blooming at the moment.|
|A fairly dry landscape to our left, although the soil is still moist.|
|A puff ball of a mushroom pops up at the edge of the trail.|
As we find ourselves down in the actual valley, there is no water flowing. The bottom of the creek is sandy and could easily be harboring water flow just under the surface, but there is nothing to hear. As I walk up the trail, there is something wrong here, too. I gradually realize that I have not had to clamber over or under any trees at all. They have all been cleared out. Travel up is much easier since the last trip down this valley.
|Making our way up the valley toward the huge rock outcrops at its top.|
|The other Castle Rock.|
At the campsite commonly called Twin Oaks, just before the trail makes a giant turn and starts to really climb, there is another surprise. Someone has brought a table up. There is at least a moment of lounging around in luxury before starting up to get those good views of the various rock outcrops that are scattered in the upper regions of the canyon.
|Climbing up out of Lost Valley.|
|Another view of the other Castle Rock.|
The tiny sulphur seep far below was flowing better than before, but Vulture Spring is only a tiny dribble as we pass by. There is enough to collect, but it would take a long time. Someone has left a small tub which helps. Over the top, there is a meadow and more rocks. San Rafael and McKinley are sporting something that looks suspiciously like snow.
|Passing by rocks as we get into view of Sulphur Spring Canyon.|
|The meadow at the top with a bright spot where the coreopsis are blooming.|
|A small part of a rock that looks like a planter a gardener would do to show off many different flowers. Each crack has its own type of blooming plant.|
There was one last tree, the most difficult to get around, way up here and I half expect it to still be there. Even this tree has been removed. It is almost enough to make me hope for the tread work I heard mentioned as being on the to-do list with all these trees. We make our way around the last of the old road enjoying the landscape in Sulphur Springs Canyon below us before finding that the last half mile to Hurricane Deck is still a minor roller coaster. The bit that made me scared coming down is less scary now, but it is down to the foot traffic establishing a new tread and not the work of a MacLeod.
|Trying to take in all of Sulphur Spring Canyon with its green and white stripes.|
|Looking down here, there seems to be a trail in the bottom, but it is probably the occasional stream. In the background, there is the tooth of Cachuma Peak.|
At the top, the sign has been placed in the ground again to better keep people from missing the junction. We actually have to drop a bit again before we get to climbing the tallest section of Hurricane Deck. This part is new to me, but not to Mark for a couple more miles. He points out where he came upon Search and Rescue picking up some kids in a helicopter. They asked if he was not, perhaps, lost as well and made the claim he was in the middle of nowhere.
|Sprigs of miner's lettuce spaced out more than usual.|
|Flowers in a saddle just before the trail nearly vanishes.|
|Destination in sight.|
The spot where Mark stopped before is a saddle where he could not find any more trail. I have to admit the trail today very nearly vanishes. A small peak rises steeply up before us and the sides drop off even more steeply. There is a track of crushed rock heading directly up the middle of it until a few foot cliff of rock where it takes a right around what is usually the less steep side. In this case, it may not be. We clamber up it and around the edge. The narrow track continues around, generally flat, while another track seems to climb back toward the edge of the ridge which can only lead to more difficult climbing. Walking around the edge on the loose shale somehow maintaining a slope that drops down a couple hundred feet while only going outward a few tens of feet is not fun. I fail to not look down a few times. Eventually a slow and careful walk, almost a crawl leaning on the upward slope, brings me around to safer feeling trail.
|Checking out the Sierra Madre and Sisquoc Valley side.|
It looked like there would be one or two more deep valleys on the way to the high point, but we do not find them as we go. It is not a steady upward climb, but there is no long down either. It is easy to pick out the trail climbing out of Lost Valley as we pass along it. There are random posts of metal and wood along the way and some iron works like a short fence in a small square. All the while, we just keep on looking far. The view to the north can be obscured, but the south is almost always there. Most stunning are the rock layers that change from horizontal to vertical in short distances.
|Lost Valley from the north.|
|Looking back over Hurricane Deck as the rock layers curl away.|
|Checking out the western section of Hurricane Deck.|
We get to the peak we think is the highest. The trail should go around to the back of this one and indeed, there is a cairn to mark it as it enters to chaparral that covers the north side of the deck. We ignore it and keep on climbing. It seems like we are just about to the top, but it just climbs a little less steeply over and over. Looking west, there is another peak that might be taller. Or maybe not. It is hard to tell and we decide to set up camp. The next peak will have to wait to tomorrow.
|Pink clouds over our camp as we have supper.|
©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 28 February 2015