22 October 2016

Lizard Head

Los Padres National Forest

With the fall and the falling temperatures, the Hundred Peaks Section calendar is really filling up. I decided to go for a day climbing a spot on a map I had noticed once and then driving up to visit the collapsed fire lookout on Cuyama Peak. Since the expected temperature is not quite so low as we would hope, Bill decided we should all get a nice, early start. Our early start got lost a bit with some unforeseen traffic, but we still found our way to the upper end of Tinta Trail with the sun low in the sky and the air a little bit crisp.

Starting down the motorcycle trail while the shadows are still a little long.

It is a touch cool right at the trailhead, but as we turn the corner and start hiking into the sun in the wide canyon. The lookout base sits high on the peak to our left. There is hardly any slope to the trail. It is an easy stroll until we reach the old Upper Tinta Camp. We stop for a minute in the camp, which is marked only by a few trails and a fire ring full of the remains of a few generations of stoves, before moving on.

fire lookout on Cuyama Peak
The fire lookout skeleton is visible high on Cuyama Peak.

wide canyon
Hiking through the wide canyon.

From the camp, it is time for the off trail extravaganza portion of this hike. Two trails lead off the back of the camp up to ridges roughly to the west. We head up the slightly less obvious one to the left bobbing through a drainage and hopping a bit of fallen tree. It takes a short, steep climb to achieve the ridge and an old fuel break. The old, wide track has a clear use trail up it and we climb along it.

fuel break
Climbing along an old fuel break.

distant potreros
There are potreros in the distance, but I do not have my map to help identify them.

As I look around, it looks as though every ridge along here shows signs of old 'dozer lines. We navigate a mild maze of the things as we go. Many of the junctions are still marked by rusting triangles that serve as sign posts for bulldozer operators. As usual, being up high just adds to the list of places it would be nice to get to and check out. At first it is a bunch of potreros to the southeast that gain my attention.

ridge lines
Ridge lines marching across Santa Barbara County. We will wander the closest.

The second thing to catch my eye is another peak in the area that is not very far from our route and seems to have pretty good fuel break up to it, too. In fact, the more I look, the more it looks more like an old road that joins our ridge from another, then quickly heads off again wrapping around the rocky minor peaks instead of over them. Up that way is the Tinta benchmark.

ridge route
We turn to hike down another ridge instead of grabbing a higher route to a higher peak.

There are a few interesting rocks along the way.

I keep trying to plot a nice loop that would come around to the higher peak behind us that I would take were I on my own for this hike. It is a bit of a climb down to grab the next ridge along to make a loop. After one last turn, my attention is turned away from this silliness and to the peak we are actually going for.

down another ridge
Following the ridge line downward to our peak.

As we get closer to our peak, it is nice to see some trees. The Lizard Head seems to have protected its north side trees from the Day Fire 10 years ago.

trees on the north cliffs
The last half mile or so of approach to Lizard Head with Cerro Noroeste in the background.

distant islands
Across Rancho Nuevo Creek, we can see right out to the islands today.

Lizard Head
Almost there.

As we hit the last climb up the rocks, I am distracted by some gall wasps attacking the scrub oaks in the area before climbing up too.

One last scramble to get to the top of the peak.

Galls under scrub oak leaves.

It is a good spot for lunch and to enjoy the view even though is is not the highest spot we hit for the day. There is plenty of room out on the rock for the group of 10 to spread out and relax.

looking back
Back the way we came.

Madulce Peak
Madulce Peak.

Soon enough, it is time to leave again. We drop off the summit and start the climb. It has gotten a little warmer than we might like for the climb back away from the peak, but it is not too bad. There are breezes blowing that still remember a little of the ocean they blew across some time ago. They help to make it nicer.

triangle on a post
Climbing back near our high point where a triangle marks the junction in the fuel breaks.

Cuyama Peak
Cuyama Peak from the fuel breaks.

I can not get any interest in tagging the obviously higher peak as we pass the apparent old road again. It only looks to be less than a mile off and we have time, but everyone is more interested in driving the rest of the way up to Cuyama Peak as soon as they can instead. Down we go again.

Upper Tinta
Back to Upper Tinta Camp.

Tinta Trail
Back to strolling along Tinta Trail.

And so we finish and jump in the cars for the next peak.

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 31 October 2016

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