18 April 2015

The Playground

Los Padres National Forest

I decided to join the local Sierra Club for one of their organized weekend hikes. They were planning to go along Rocky Pine Ridge, but the closure of Gibraltar meant a change to The Playground. I do not seem to have bothered with The Playground, but everyone talks about it, so it seemed like an excellent way to get an introduction to the area. This means meeting at the bank at Hope and State at 9 AM to carpool up to the trail on West Camino Cielo. The trail is only signed by the popularity that produces large turnouts that are often occupied. A very distinct track leads into the brush from the largest turnout. There is no jumble of rocks evident as we start into it, and even less so as we drop down into a fragrant, green corridor that closes overhead.

what appears to be a sage with very large, white flowers
One of the more fragrant plants is currently decorated with very large flowers.

greenery tunnel
A part of the brush tunnel that still allows some light in.

No tunnel is unending and the brush tunnel opens up as the area becomes drier. We wind through more brush to a dirt ledge and now rocks are evident. We clamber down steep dirt slope to a flat with trees and behind the trees, high sandstone cliffs with huge overhands and lots of lovely texture.

rocks below
So there are rocks around here.

These initial rock are imposing, but many trails show routes around and over them. We take one up into the rocks and over. The view opens up to the ocean from side to side and below us, there are many more rocks spread in a jumble down the hillside. We have found the Playground.

a carpet of rocks and green
Looking down over the Playground, it is difficult to quite grasp the scale. The trees sticking out between rocks just look like bushes.

A few landmark rocks are pointed out to us and we get to scrambling down the hill.

cubed rock and other shapes
Some landmark rocks. The cube far down the way needs the least amount of imagination.

more boulders
It sure is easy to think, well, the tree just much not be very big.

faces pointed in many directions among rocks
Just trying to take it all in.

We come to a hole in the ground and drop through. There is a little bit of cave above us and we check it out before continuing into more cave below. One spot is sufficiently closed off to make flashlights quite nice to have. It opens up again enough for a pair of trees to find root and then we dive down through a bit more dark.

glancing upward to find rock all around
We find ourselves surrounded by huge boulders.

twisted bay tree struggles for light and grip
Looking back into a spot of cave area past the twisted form of one of the bay trees that live here.

When we finish with the cave areas, we are still within the confines of tall sandstone. Well, it might not be quite so confining as that and there are trails leading in and out at various open spots. We do not take these and the sides start to close in. We are making our way down the Narrows.

not much room for shoulders
The walls are coming in, but still the bay trees find a way.

a row of heads forced into single file
A tight squeeze just ahead.

Within the narrow slot, the rocks seem to take on a very orange color rather than the pinks and reds they become in the full sunlight as they age and rust. Besides a sudden apparent sleeping chamber in the side of the wall, it just keeps getting narrower until the last few feet when we walk free into the sunlight.

rocks below with much texture and a bit of a face
There are still more rocks below, some nearer ones having quite a bit of texture.

It is decided that due to a unicycle injury, we should try a different route back up than would normally be taken past the various landmark rocks we had pointed out at the top. We will swing around to the other side instead.

head shaped boulder
Easter Island may be missing one of the heads.

row rocks like row houses
If rocks were row houses.

the rest of nine
The whole group climbing back up.

Off to one side, we see the source of voices behind one large rock. There are climbers taking advantage of the boulders in their own way.

a couple men with ropes on a boulder
Hanging out on ropes on a boulder.

We head up to our entry into this hillside strewn with sandstone monoliths, then climb back up to and through the green tunnel to the road.

caterpillar with tufts of fur to look like ears and thicken just the middle of the back
A caterpillar with a very uneven distribution of fur.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 18 April 2015

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