24 January 2016

Thacher Canyon

Ojai front country

Hike along Horn Canyon and it is difficult not to notice the many trails that wander away from it, most of them with signs. They wander about a bit in loops, but where do they go? What do they see? My memory of how to get to the trail did not fail. It is easy enough, just through the gate and keep right onto some dirt, across the ford, and there are parking spots. It is Sunday and there are a few other cars. A sign at the start informs me that The Pines is closed and I should pass through with great care because so many of the trees have died but still stand. The canyon is still cool and there are a lot of people coming and going as I start up it. A short conversation with one hiker about where the trail goes has me confused as he asks, "And that's the end of the hike?" This trail connects with others and those connect with others. There is no "end" to this hike. As I am waxing poetic about the nature of trails and ends in my head, likely with puzzled expressions playing across my face, I realize I should probably give him a much simpler answer and tell him it ends exactly where he says it ends. He actually seems to find that very satisfactory.

observatory on a hill
There are a number of buildings for the school, but the only one I really notice is the observatory.

Burch Collins
Trail sign to start up the Burch Collins Trail.

I want to explore the trails to the east first, so start with the first one on the right. I turn up it and am immediately at a loss as to where it goes. A fat track goes directly up the hill. It looks like a lost switchback goes up to my left, but I am not sure enough to go that way so must simply climb the steep section. It joins trail from my right, suggesting I got it wrong below and it was a good thing I did not try to follow that way. It is easier to follow above, but the barriers to hold the trail in place are drastically pushed out of place and more are needed. It takes me up to a fuel break. The break is marked with ribbons and a few horse prints are on the trail up here. They came from below along the break, probably. There is a corral there. It seems to just climb to a rocky little peak and then probably around to one side. I do not think this is the trail I want and pick a careful way down again. It is a tight squeeze through the brush as I take the missed switchback on the way back.

out Thacher Canyon
But it does achieve a view to climb the decaying Burch Collins Trail.

There is a sign for L. Moore Trail to the left and then a couple creek crossings. It is good to see the water flowing along here. The sign for Morgan Barnes has fallen over, but it is the one I actually remember. Perhaps it stuck because it looks more like it goes somewhere. The trail is soft and marked almost entirely by deep hoof prints. It is funny to think that such heavy animals do not so much pound down the trail as churn it up.

water in the creek
Not too high, but not too low for the flow of water in the creek today.

I can see even more people coming up the canyon as I climb higher out of it. The trail turns around to a more southerly face. In spite of the cool air of the winter day, I start to feel a little bit baked. The busy trail below vanishes as I make it toward a saddle. At the saddle, there is a sign for N. K. Chase Trail hanging upside down. This looks like the other side of the fuel break I was on after climbing Burch Collins. I continue around the hillside instead.

into the canyon
One last look back down Thacher Canyon shows trails on the other side of the canyon, too.

Ojai Valley
Over the saddle, the Upper Ojai Valley spreads out below.

Ojai Valley
A little further and in another direction, there is the rest of the Ojai Valley.

The rev of engines climbing and crawling down the highway carries over as I hike. The trail makes a few odd choices, like traveling down in a creek bed for a few tens of feet before finishing the crossing. There has gotten to be quite a large step where it enters the dry creek. As it leaves the hillside for a sharp ridge, there is an old Forest Reserve boundary post. It might have shifted a little, but still a fun find.

boundary post #225
The corner of arbitrary lines on a map made manifest.

A little further down the ridge, there is another sign marking Morgan Barnes broken on the ground. As I notice this, I completely fail to noticed that I have just lost the horse prints. Checking on them, they turned at the sign down into a canyon and I decide I like the route along the ridge better for now. This route splits to go steeply down or switchback, so I take the switchbacks. It gets to the same place, a spot I had mistaken for a vernal pond already dry. It is another creek bed of sorts. The trail splits again, one following the bottom of the creek bed and one going upward. This time I choose wrong, going upward. There is a fuel break at the top that many have followed before me to an intersection not much further along.

Topatopa Bluff
The familiar mass of Topatopa Bluff put in a visit.

At the intersection, there are a couple choices for trail that will meet the one I left on the other side of the ridge. It was probably Huntington. Old road goes steeply downward and Huntington continues near the ridge. Below, Forest Cooke seems to parallel lower on the same ridge. I start on the road, but then decide to continue on Huntington after all.

metal sign and trail
There is a different character to the construction of this trail than usual.

Junctions come fast and furious along this section. I can only guess at where they came from and where the go, but I seem to keep to Huntington. Many of the signs have fallen, leaving only one and some posts to mark these frequent junctions. It does not matter, on a bright day, direction is never in doubt.

orchards of the Ojai Valley
Somewhere out there, past the ridge, is a line that is a highway.

Ilvento Preserve
Seems exiting the former preserve was entering a current preserve.

The various trails that had gone off rejoin again and the track grows quite a bit before dumping out on the road below. There are a few people in this section, but it was much more empty than the Horn Canyon Trail. Turning right, it is not far back to the parking area. With that, I seem to have come to the end of the hike.

Huntington Trailhead
Huntington is marked at the road by a rather solid looking sign, so it should be easy to start from this side, too.

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 26 Jan 2016

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