Los Padres National Forest
I keep meaning to go up Boulder Trail and see McGuire Spring. It looks like today is the day, although it does seem to be a poor time to go checking out springs as many of them have dried out. Parking is easy enough to find, just pull into the Ozena Fire Station and there is a little lot on the right, beside a kiosk. The trail is a little harder. The kiosk is for OHV activity, none of which is marked near here, and does not mark the trail for self powered travelers. There is no sign anywhere else to mark the trail, either. I head for the well manicured perimeter trail to the south across an empty field and hope that is it. Numerous trails come up to it from the area around the fire station, a road crosses it to get to the local weather station, and finally it vanishes into an area that looks like a removed campground. A people sized gate on the far side is the only indication of where the trail might go. It is not a very confident start as I unlatch the gate and pass through it, but it is a start.
|Starting to climb above the flat behind the fire station, gaining a little view into the badlands beyond.|
|A gentle climb among the sage brush at first.|
The well established trail keeps going and there are a few footsteps on it. Gradually, it finds a canyon to start climbing along without dwindling in the slightest. This looks rather likely to be the trail I am looking for. I was expecting more trees, but they are very sparse and most of the vegetation is sage brush. It is very like the northern few miles of the Piedra Blanca Trail, just a few miles east of here, but the hills are a little lower. Also, since it is just outside the wilderness, one might try riding a bicycle down it.
|The trail flirts with a few trees, but it is still mostly surrounded by sage brush and manzanita.|
|Mount Pinos rises to the north.|
|The dry Cuyama River bed stretches its way to the sea.|
The trail stays very high in the canyon, sometimes reaching short ridge lines. At other times, it edges along steep slopes. One section reminds me greatly of Fall Canyon as the trail narrows into a path as wide as my foot along a bit of dirt that seems too steep for dirt to remain in repose. Gradually, the trees thicken, both in number and in stature.
|The trees are thicker up ahead. It is worrying how many have died.|
|Looking back, there are fewer trees. The ridge to the west is lined with a fresh fuel break.|
Coming to a longer section of ridge line, I am finally in among the pine trees I had expected. A few large ones have fallen across the trail, one so recently that there are scattered green branches from its passage past its neighbors. Suddenly, there is a trail split lined with twigs to to accentuate the location. There is no sign, but I know there should be a spring off on the right branch of trail. There is older tree fall on this trail as it drops, sometimes steeply, into the canyon. As the trail seems to be coming to an end, I can see no water among some structures. It is disappointing until I remember that what I am really looking for is green, which is in abundance a little down the hill. The structures are only bits of a camp.
|Just a few sticks to help mark the fork in the trail.|
|The small camp with an old ice can stove as well as a heavier, more modern grill. The rocks behind and the wood panel behind them have nothing to do with the spring.|
|Green marks the spot.|
I make my way down a trail to the green below the camp. Indeed there is a spring there. Sticks have been used to develop a sort of spring box which is full of clear water. The trail does not stop there, however. Following it further, there is more spring just over a small rise but this one has a real box with a cover. The water here is clear, too. The trail fades as it continues, but does reach a second site with a grill half buried in leaf litter. It looks like there is plenty of water for the hiker coming to McGuire Spring.
|The first water hole at McGuire Spring.|
|The spring box at McGuire Spring.|
I climb up the rest of the way to the top, just across the road from Pine Mountain Campground. All six spots are already taken for the weekend. This end of the trail is marked with a sign. It is nice to definitively confirm I am where I think I am. There is not much to see at the top surrounded by trees and a low rising of land. I head down again, now with the afternoon light putting the badlands to the north in stark relief.
|Peeking through trees and over the next ridge to the badlands in the northeast.|
|Another view of Mount Pinos.|
|A pond below unequivocally marks a ranch beside the badlands.|
|Sunset across the valley.|
The few lights in the yard of the fire station and the squawk of the radio easily mark my finish. It was certainly nice to see that there is still some water flowing in this drying forest.
©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 17 Oct 2015