09 May 2015

Noon Peak

Los Padres National Forest

People have been singing the praise for the rerouted and reopened Franklin Trail since the first phase of it, about 2.2 miles carving between numerous pieces of private land, opened in mid 2013. I heard about all the fencing that had to go up at the edges to open it and was very reluctant to try it. Opening the second phase, another 3 miles or so along utility roads, seems to have been delayed by something but has now opened. Meanwhile, the third stage, the old trail through Forest Service land, has had the initial cut to the top. Maybe it is time to try it. A group of geocachers, most of whom I do not know except as a signature, were heading up to see how far they might get and I thought I might join. They even made an event out of it, so a few extras showed up at the Carpinteria High School parking lot. (This parking is for weekends and holidays only.) With doughnuts. Eight started up the trail at the southwest corner of the high school, surrounded by fencing.

geocachers along fencing
Starting up the fenced in trail. Geocachers look just like regular hikers except they stop randomly almost every 0.1 mile and glance a bit too often at their electronic devices.

Two of the group are lost quickly to the trail because they have no interest in the earlier geocaches, having already found those. One is lost to a prior time constraint. The fencing carves around the side of the school, then past industry and farms. Long trenches are dug in the dirt to try to keep the erosion down as the trail climbs directly up the hill. Suddenly, the fences stop. Chaparral spreads out above us and greenhouses below. Freedom!

zig-zag lizard
Lizard imitating the trail route below. Perhaps it thinks it looks less like a lizard with angles.

Carpinteria greenhouses and orchards
Greenhouses and avocado orchards sprawl below in Carpinteria.

The trail swishes back and forth up the hillside in short segments to the utility road above. A sign marks the top to help find the thin path on the brushy side of the wide road on the way down. We continue to climb, but now on the wide, smooth road. The low clouds keep us from seeing out over the foothills very well as we wind through a couple wide valleys, each with a drop and a climb. Spurs and longer roads head off to other areas of the hills, all but the smallest spurs are marked with signs to keep us on the correct road. It seems like we are making very little progress toward the ridge line along the circuitous and rolling path.

chaparral filled valley and power lines crossing
Foothills rolling away toward Ventura.

Finally, there is a trail climbing up from the road. This is the end of the line for the rest that I am traveling with. Only the two who took off ahead are aiming at the top. The chaparral quickly closes in around the trail as it climbs steadily with the occasional steep fit. Poison oak is prevalent at the bottom and reaches in. As things open up a little to be more sunny (on other days), phaselia reaches in instead. Eventually it opens up a little more to give a view. There are numerous trip hazards, soft tread, rock fall, and a variety of other obstacles. Even with all that, it vastly surpasses my expectations.

flowers across the trail
Phaselia is blooming eagerly.

minor ridge holds the trail well
Reaching a minor ridge means getting good views and a spectacular piece of trail. Most has more brush and stumps.

bee hugging a flower
Too cold to pollinate.

foothills rolling down to the ocean, in cloud
Getting up high, but hard to see with the low clouds.

The carved sandstone of the old trail may be uncertain evidence of the old trail to the untrained eye, but metal posts holding the trail in are unequivocal. The trail really is on the old tread. Eventually this trail too sets in with swishing back and forth in short segments to reach the top. Just before the top, I catch sight of a cleft cut in a small peak for the OHV.

sign post with bolts
A small sign post with bolts for a wooden sign, even if it is unclear what sign would ever be needed here. This is not a junction although there are some cuts looking for one.

from a giant slab of sandstone
Stop at a huge slab of sandstone beside the trail and take in the route so far. The far distance is a fuel break and not the route.

blue wooly curls on a rock
The blue woolly curls continue to bloom.

At the top, I do not see the rest of the trail as it heads back down the far side. It is about 2 miles down to Jameson Reservoir from here with Alder Creek Camp about halfway down. The rocks to the east look like the ones I remember at the top of the trail.

Santa Ynez River valley
Looking from the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains into the Santa Ynez River valley.

small peak with road curving around it
Obscured by the clouds a little, but these are definitely the same rocks and same road cut as I found in Dec. 2011 coming up the other side.

The Divide Peak OHV Route is not nearly so wide or so smooth as the road below. I heard the songs of a couple ATVs on it earlier, but now there are just tire tracks and random boot prints once in a while. It alternates between hard rock, hard dirt, and sand. In a few low places, the sand and dirt become mud puddles even though most of the recent rains have evaporated almost as quickly as they fell. Along the slopes, water is carving intricate patterns into the road bed. The climb toward the peak is gentle and undulating past rock gardens and power towers.

cloud shrouded boulder field
Coming into one of the many rock gardens along the ridge, although shrouded by cloud.

Jameson and surrounding countryside
Jameson Reservoir is looking very low.

road following the turns of the mountain range
Looking back over the ridge line road.

Noon Peak
The peak is just up ahead.

The road comes very near to the top of Noon Peak. It is only about a 50 foot climb further along a fuel break to reach the top. A much smaller trail heads out south to a slightly lower peak. It has cleared out a bit to the east so I can see Divide Peak and maybe a little bit of White Ledge behind it.

loose rock with a station marker
The NOON station benchmark is not in good shape.

east along the Santa Ynez Mountains
East to Divide Peak and the remnant of Ocean View Trail, which has a few of the same workers excavating it.

same look back
To the west, things are still quickly lost in murk. The trail comes up in the saddle just past the power towers.

southerly peak
The southerly peak and Carpinteria from a little way down off the real peak.

After some time enjoying being somewhere high up, it is well past time to start back. I head back, although still taking a bit of extra time along the way.

pond along the ridge
If there is a bit of extra bird song, one may be near one of the many pools along the top of the ridge. Some are natural, some are artificial.

bright yellow bush poppy flowers
The bush poppies are still in bloom, but much more restrained now.

I pass by the top of the trail, still looking for the trail down the other side. Things look all wrong over the next little hill. There I only find a very accurate GPS measuring the movement of the land under my feet and some bear paw prints. They go well with the nest of twigs under a rock along the trail that is clearly used by a bear to bed down. A little more pacing back and forth near the top of the trail I just came up, and I finally realize that it is right there, maybe 10 feet east of the current top. Step off the side of the road and there is a narrow flat area that heads off to the west through the trees. The grass is coming up in it, not even with a line of shorter grass down the middle. The branches of a tree are encroaching, but there is still a tall rectangle to pass through. It is very overgrown.

overgrown slot that does not look like a trail
The trail continues on the other side, but it is hard to see.

I expect that trail gets better as it goes down, but it may be time to hike it again and see. The blackberries at the bottom are probably a mess. I turn to head back the way I came, taking a little time to stop on the large slab of sandstone on the way down. Oh, and to check out two mysterious pinpoints of light which turn out to be an insect.

westerly coast
The hills toward Santa Barbara.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 14 May 2015

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