19 October 2015

Gridley and Pratt Trails

Los Padres National Forest

Valley View Preserve

For today's brief suggestion of the Fall season that should be upon us, I decided to do a big loop up to "The Tower" via Gridley and Pratt. I have done it in the opposite direction before, but you see different things when you turn around, so that is what I am doing. Parking is easier at Shelf Road, so I grab a spot there before hiking up the road to the trailhead for Gridley. The chill of night should still be on the air, but it is already very comfortable even when not moving. The two spots by it sit empty under the steadily brightening sky.

start here for Gridley
The sign at the bottom of Gridley Trail which is just before the end of public access on Gridley Road.

The trail climbs through chaparral at first, then along avocado trees. This section is through private property and sometimes there are people on ATVs traveling along the trees. Today there is one, but he is quickly gone again with the stink following more slowly. Eventually I break out into the National Forest and meet some of the first rays of the sun as it breaks from the mountains.

sun rays over mountains and through clouds
Here come the warming rays of the sun, although the morning is not that cool.

The climb is long, but easy on the old fire road. It swings deep into side canyons, then out to perched views both back over the Ojai Valley and up into the higher hills. There are places where the soft rock walls slump over the road reducing it to a single track, but it is kept open with the frequent hikers and frequent enough work by volunteers. The old rest stop by Gridley Spring is a forlorn place. It is still deep in shadow and the spring is only delivering enough water to the trough to wet a small area of the bottom. Here, the road is narrow due to falling away into the canyon below instead of sluff coming down on it.

Ojai Valley
Looking down over the Ojai Valley.

trail and mountains
Climbing higher into the mountains.

Gridley Spring area
The spring is up the small canyon and the hose only brings part of the water. The creek is only a little moist, too.

The spring is maybe about halfway up. There is still more to wander and wind and slowly climb up, up, up to the top.

Nordhoff Fire Lookout
First look at "The Tower", the metal skeleton of an old fire lookout on Nordhoff Peak.

eastward as we look
Starting to get some more distant peaks.

road along the canyon side
Looking back, way back.

A sign marks the top of the trail where it hits Nordhoff Road. The ridge road is actually on the ridge here, so there is plenty to see as the north comes into view. Miles and miles of National Forest full of mountains and shrub and a wild and scenic river and even a few trees. Off to the east, the Topatopa Bluffs are hiding behind clouds, but the rest of the peaks are making an appearance. I feel a brief sense of not knowing where I am with the distinctive bluffs missing. The sleeping Chief, although distinctive, just does not seem as central to the landscape, somehow. I turn west on the road and climb some more toward the old lookout.

Pine Mountain
The Dry Lakes Ridge and Pine Mountain to the north.

There is a fair bit more climb to getting to the lookout. Passing the stand of Matilija poppies, I remember them distinctly. One of a couple spots along the road way up here that bloom with the flowers. The new ones are just sprouting now, barely more than a foot high. The lookout itself is on a little spur up from the road, so I turn up it. The last campers were quite a mess and left obviously soiled toilet paper all down the hill. What do people think happens to their trash when they drop it up here? Under the tower is clean, but it might have been an effort by the wind.

Nordhoff Fire Lookout
The remains of the Nordhoff Fire Lookout with a camp site below.

Chief Peak
The trail up Gridley Canyon is laid out below and the various peaks, from Chief on are quite noticeable, but the bluffs are hiding.

Pine Mountain
Pine Mountain in the north from the top of the tower.

Santa Ynez
West over the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Oxnard Plain
Past Ojai is the Oxnard Plain.

Heading down again, I continue west to find Pratt Trail descending. It is also marked by a large sign.

Lake Casitas
Pratt Trail carving around the mountain side below above Lake Casitas and Santa Cruz Island beyond.

top of Pratt Trail
The top of Pratt Trail.

sign on Nordhoff Ridge
One last look at the lookout from next to the sign at the top of Pratt Trail.

It is, of course, a very different view going down Pratt rather than up Gridley. Quickly, there is a steep spur trail down to Valley View Camp. Coming up, it would likely have been a stop, but not today. It is usually much cooler down there than out on the exposed trail. There seems to be an even more expansive view of Ojai from here.

Valley View
Valley View Camp is below among the spring fed trees.

Fuelbreak Road Trail below
Fuelbreak Road traverses the hills below.

Ojai Valley
The Ojai Valley below.

The trail hits a fire road and I head south on it. The other direction goes through Cosy Dell to highway 33. Down I go as things close in again and the houses get closer and I start meeting a few dog walkers and joggers. At one spot, there is a slumping picnic table. At an unsigned junction by an oak, there is a trail bypass to the road. The bottom is signed. It is short and people seem to take both ways.

western mountains
Leaving the mountains behind.

Fuelbreak Road
Closing in on Fuelbreak Road.

gate along the road
Coming to private roads and private property. On the gate seems a little late to warn bikes there is a gate ahead.

Navigating down having only been there once before quite a while ago is not trivial. There are a couple unclear turns, but there are usually pretty good clues and eventually a sign to direct those coming up verifies the route. It is a short way along road, and then more trail.

sunset coming on
There is still a little bit of view from the trail below the road and the bluffs have come out of hiding.

The trail comes out at a pair of little lots then I am on roads again. I do not remember all the road walking on this side of the loop before and think that I might have gone between houses and roads at one point. The map displayed at the end of the private road does not show the route to Shelf Road, so I have to remember. I need to go up to find it, but I do not and am stuck taking Grand Ave back to Gridley instead.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 1 Nov 2015

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