Los Padres National Forest
If the gate was open, it surely would not be closed until evening and I could surely get out before that, was my thinking as I popped over the hill to find it open. There is just that little bit of road from the lake to the top that I have not seen and I am aiming to put that to right now. It should be a very easy hike, just a bit long. I get moving over the first couple miles that are virtually flat and then the climb to get higher than the dam before leveling off again.
|Standing on the ford of the Santa Ynez River below Juncal Dam. The mistletoe gives a bright and cheery green to the sycamores otherwise nude for winter.|
|Looking down wide and flat canyon of the Santa Ynez River.|
|Jameson Lake seems even more empty, but might start filling at midnight.|
|Juncal Canyon stretches out ahead.|
|The Juncal Road sign marking my destinations to the left and things I did not actually pass to the right.|
The sign marking the northern end of Franklin Trail also marks the end of my familiarity with the route. The sluice below is still dry. Work on it must not be progressing very fast. Unsurprisingly, as I continue around the intended reservoir area, the road continues to be quite flat. Eventually, I am looking right across the lake to the wider section of dam. From here, it is very clear that this piece shores up a low section in the hills and that the river goes somewhere else. The river looks dry above the dam, too, but there is a corridor of leafless sycamore along it. The reservoir looks like a puddle.
|Looking up Juncal Canyon. Old Man Mountain does not exactly dominate the area, but its lower "Vulture Peak" on the far left is a bit striking.|
|Across Billiard Flats and the reservoir to the southern dam section.|
Once far away from the reservoir, the road drops back into the canyon bottom and hangs out on the other side for a while. This south facing section somehow has a baked feeling even today when the area is a bit chilly.
|Familiar shapes of the Murietta Divide coming up.|
|Looking back down the canyon. There has been some climbing.|
Somewhere up here is an old campground and as I am wondering if there is enough of it left to notice, a turn reveals a large open space under oaks with a table and grill. It is not much, but it is probably quite enough most of the time. It seems dry, but water is running across the road a few steps further along. Big pools above and below should stay full a while even if the stream stops. It is generally considered reliable, but has dried out the last couple of summers. For now, the crossing a a bit slick with moss.
|A table and grill at Upper Santa Ynez Camp.|
|Water pooling before the ford across the road by Upper Santa Ynez Camp.|
After the camp, the road seems to get serious about climbing, at least for a short way. It is not much further to the top and to peek over into Murietta and Matilija on the other side. The whole stretch is just under eight miles. From here, it is less than half a mile up Monte Arido Road to the left (north) to the Murietta Dam to see if it still has water behind it and to get the better views over the canyon, but I leave that. The canyon looks rather cloudy today.
|The rocky high point of the Santa Ynez Mountains up ahead.|
|Looking down Murietta Canyon, the first impression is of a lot of clouds. There is probably quite a bit more to see if going just a little further.|
Since I am not going up a little bit further, it is time to return instead.
|The dry bed of the Santa Ynez River above Jameson Lake.|
|The sluice bringing water from Alder Creek to the reservoir, but not today.|
|Just a peek at the main dam on the river north of the larger dam section.|
|One last look up the canyons.|
As I get back to my car, there is a note that the gate closed at noon. Guess I will not get out before that after all and now I probably have to disturb a ranger in the middle of dinner to leave.
©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 6 Jan 2016