21 November 2015

Alder Creek Trail

Los Padres National Forest

We meet in Fillmore and travel up to Dough Flat with a simple goal: to place signs along the trail marking the Sespe Condor Sanctuary that the trail travels through. It is a quarter mile wide corridor through an area that is otherwise closed to the public. We have a few tools to make sure the area around signs is clear, a tool to establish a pilot hole the signs will go into, and a second to drive the signs into the ground. The clearing tools are just loppers and a pick mattock, but the driver is some 26 pounds and the pilot is another 35 pounds. We also have to carry the signs, but only in one direction.

crew climbing with tools
The group sets off lugging the tools. The orange block is one of the drivers.

A little way into the sanctuary from the parking lot, we get a demonstration of how to use the tools. It is a simple procedure with a slight hiccup when an underground rock strikes the first placement attempt. We split into two groups, one that will drop signs as we go to the end, then start back driving them in, while the other sets to driving in the first ones. This way one set of tools should not need to be carried more than half the distance of the other. I grab five signs for my part of the load and we are off.

White Acre Peak
White Acre Peak still looms above, tempting.

climbing with tools
Hauling the pick mattock and a few more signs up the hill.

lookout skeleton at a distance
If it has the skeletal remains of a fire lookout at the top, then it must be Topatopa Peak.

We make it up the hill without incident and take a brief rest before continuing on at a slight downhill. The signs did not feel heavy at first, but it is surprising how much the load lightens with each drop. A junction marked by a signs so rusted it is hard to make out any markings. I can guess at the word "Ant" toward the bottom and pointing to the right. Ant Camp is down there a couple miles. We turn left toward Cow Spring Camp. It is not much further. As we get to the camp, I am struck by the interesting rock slabs.

rusted piece of metal
A sign marks the junction mostly by its presence. A couple bullets have helped it along, but time is the biggest eater.

pillows of rock
Rock slabs up ahead.

Cow Spring Camp
Arriving at Cow Spring Camp. It has a stove and little else.

We check for water in the spring and then stop for lunch before driving in our first sign. The spring is dismal, but there is obtainable water. I notice a waterfall marked on the map and have to check for what it might be. The sign is just across from it.

Cow Spring
A little reflection of light on the oily and leaf covered water betrays its presence.

big view
The view out over the waterfall.

short cliff
The ledge of the waterfall, but only for very high flow. Most water will travel through a lower, less impressive area.

The last sign along the trail today.

We head back, now stopping a little longer at each spot to drive in the signs. It is an easier process than expected with very few sneaky underground rocks blocking the way. My arms may never be quite the same after carrying the driver for just a quarter mile over the top between two of the signs.

driving a pilot hole
Mark drives a pilot hole while lifting with his knees. Our second crew has already caught up, but left their heavy tools just past the halfway point.

driving in the sign
Mark drives in a sign after Brian took on the initial pilot hole.

adjustments to the pilot
Getting the tool strait before driving one last pilot hole for one last sign.

We are done before expected and head back down, grabbing the second set of tools as we go. We have enjoyed perfect conditions except for some promised cookies that went misplaced.

White Acre Peak
But it still taunts me, and route finding is only half the battle to get there.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 30 Nov 2015

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