31 October 2017

20 October 2017

Middle Sespe for fall color

Los Padres National Forest


Click for map.

I could not help noticing a bit of fall color as I drove up the 33 last week. I had sort of been wanting to do Middle Sespe once some water gets flowing, but decided bright yellow cottonwoods might be a good excuse to come see it too. It keeps escaping my notice because it seems to parallel the Sespe River Road, and what would be the point of hiking that? I find a turnout about 250 feet past the nearly unmarked trail, or at least 250 feet from the coordinate I have for it. It would have taken a lot of looking without the GPS, especially in the dark. I decided I should treat light like it is important to me and get to the trail as the dawn was breaking. It is a little earlier than planned, but that just gives me time to get my shoes and sunscreen on. There is just barely enough light to walk by once I am ready to hit the trail. I head back down the road to the waypoint. Dirt and rocks have been piled up on the old road down into Beaver, disguising it as just another bit of road edge. Between the piles, a slapstick marker has been placed with an arrow and the words "TRAIL MIDDLE SESPE". Behind it is pavement. There is even a curb on one side.

yellow trees below, clouds above
A long exposure fortuitously held steady shows a bit of the color I am coming for even if it is not quite light enough for my eyes to see it with certainty.

brightening sky
A more accurate representation of the light level as the sun chases a bright planet up into the sky.

Clouds are rolling over the mountains to the north. Much of the area well past them is expecting a storm today. I am hoping it will bring cooler air, but promises of low 70s for the high today made last week turned into low 80s as the day got closer. I was only slightly cold as I got out of the car and am quite comfortable now that I am moving. I threw two water bags, ten pounds of water, into the pack to try to be prepared for what the trail has in store for me. Presently, it is more piles of dirt and rocks on top of the pavement with a route around the side. On the far side, the road has turned to gravel. The trail does not rejoin it, but crosses and drops down a hill beside it. It looks like it skips the old campground that used to be its western terminus now.

15 October 2017

Three Pools behind Seven Falls

Santa Barbara front country


Click for map.

I was wanting to go up the canyon again but also thinking it is more of a social hike when I noticed it was also about the be lead by the local Sierra Club. Perfect! I can just show up and wander up with them. I was a little worried that it might still be a red flag day. It was Friday evening and those of us who noticed had an extra mile to hike up the road while those of us who did not came back to find the CHP had plastered warning stickers on everything a little after 7PM. The sign warns of towing, so it could have been worse. Today is not so bad except for the usual crowds. I get lucky because everyone is passing up the spot on the end because it looks too small. I go ahead and try it with the dinky car and it fits with a few feet to spare to let the Florida plates in front of me get out. Others are stuck walking a half mile up anyway, mostly because the turnout that is big enough to take cars head in is entirely parked parallel. Ah, life at the Tunnel Trailhead.

Of course, since Tunnel Trail is actually Tunnel Road, but behind a gate, we still have most of another mile on pavement before we get to some dirt. We turn left on the catway to get up to the start of Jesusita and finally a little bit of trail. We are only on it to the bottom of the creek when we turn off the official routes and start in on the heavily trafficked use trails.

dry rocks sitting white in the shade
Mission Creek is so dry. There has not even been a lasting mud puddle for a while.

We should have one more coming who said he would "catch up" after going to park. We wait a while (well, I wait a while) but eventually the leader says he has too many people to keep waiting. I am fairly sure that is not how hiking with a group works, but the mistake was probably made at the start when we let someone try to catch up. Now everyone else has gone on ahead and our missing hiker, who at least does know the local trail system, will not get to come up to the pools because that is the part he does not know. Looking back over the trail as we climb, I still do not see him.

big rocks overhead
The canyon is quite full of big rocks.

We keep to the spine of the ridge for a short way, then take the flatter trail at a junction near a lookout rock. The other trail can be taken to climb all the way up to the peak above. We have a much daintier destination. The level trail drops and climbs in short, steep spurts as it decides it should have more character. Much of it seems to be chipped from the rocks although there is not supposed to be a built trail here. There are some mildly precarious moments as we cross above the Seven Falls and then drop into the creek. I had sort of wanted to try coming directly up the falls, but that was not the plan for today.

Old Mission Stud. theol. & phil. 1903
Graffiti in the canyon. There are supposed to be three of these, one on La Cumbre Peak and one in the hills above Flores Flats. There is not much patina in the letters, but there is not much on the rock either and the letters are a different color than Tim's addition.

10 October 2017

Munson Spring from Chorro Grande

Los Padres National Forest

Click for map.

When I first hiked up Chorro Grande, I found myself crossing a road and as I climbed further I noticed it was quite obvious and fairly clear and generally not falling off the mountain. I checked my map and there it was. The far east side stops near a spot that simply says "spring". Ever since, I have been meaning to check it out. Years passed, a fire burned the lower section closing it shortly, another couple years passed. It is certainly about time that I actually did it. Not only that, it seems like a while since I have done something exploratory. I did get disheartened when I saw a geocache log saying it would be a long time before anyone followed that road again, but there is an easy plan B to be had: just stop by the Ortega benchmark and try to work up from there. So now, I am once again at the bottom of Chorro Grande, but only meaning to go up halfway.

the sign is here today, but has not been gone for a while
The bottom of Chorro Grande Trail. The road sign is not placed to be easily seen from the road.

The trail looks pretty good for something that got hit by fire. They do not seem to have closed it for very long, so it would have continued to have feet on it. That generally helps as long as the feet are good about staying on the trail. There is quickly a section with a bit too much slope, but then it settles back down again and stays nearly flat. Where there is brush, it creeps in from the sides, but nothing is difficult to pass. It is the same trail it always was minus the few things that were slightly taller than myself.

rocks upturned and leaving a drop
The band of upturned light rocks remains picturesque, though visible from more places, and the waterfall they create is still quite dry, though water will come.

burned scrub oaks
The black is falling away from the burned scrub oaks as they regrow from their roots.

08 October 2017

San Jacinto Peak

San Bernardino National Forest

Mount San Jacinto State Park

August 1992


camp patch
Camp Mountain Meadows, up near Isabella Lake, had a wonderful backpacking program, but I had already gone there for two of their backpacking units. Probably as a change of pace, I decided to try out a new camp. Camp Tautona should have a good program as it was one of the many organizational camps on the north side of San Gorgonio with access to the wilderness in a drive of approximately 5 minutes. There were only four of is at first and we were collected in with the CIT unit for general stuff since they were our age. There were an even dozen of them. They were given an option to join up with us and we got two or three more from that.

The camp was different from the others I had been to. We had concrete platforms with roofs that we could put the metal cots on in bad weather, but would usually had them out under the stars. At Mountain Meadows we only had our backpacking equipment and at Tecuya we were told to bring tarps to throw over ourselves if it rained, so that was fancy. We had bears in camp because the trash was not well kept. (They were working on it.) Dinning was outside and we were to be careful not to drop anything down through the deck because bears would come. (See, they really were working on it.) Dining was a bit more like the boys camp we stopped at at the end of the hike out of Forks of the Kern, except we had a leisurely hour. After eating, the dishes all got washed and slid into a drying bin that was dipped in rinse water and then in bleach and then set into a wooden bin along the back of the kitchen to dry. And then they got locked up because bears. At the other camps, we brought out clean dishes and sent back dirty ones, so that was less fancy.

We probably learned some map reading and compass work. We definitely hiked around a bit with our packs weighed down with kitchen supplies. I more remember learning a working rain song on the wide steps up to the deck where we would sit and sing camp songs until the kitchen was ready. That had real consequences whereas I had already learned my way around a map and compass. It definitely worked. At least the whole camp singing it with glee was answered by a bright blue sky collecting a few clouds right at the end. Consequences. Singing later was answered with a few puffy clouds turning dark and starting to look threatening and it kept building to rain. We moved our beds in under the roofs that night. I already knew that I could, once in a while, snore sufficiently to wake the dead, but that next morning when my throat felt rather like I should believe the accusations being leveled at me, I learned that it can be very difficult to wake me. With the close quarters, quite a nasty consequence for my neighbors.

The next night was the night before leaving. We slept in the smaller indoor dining space for some reason. We might have been getting up early to leave and did not want to disturb the CIT girls when we got up or we might have just wanted to make sure our gear stayed dry before heading out into the wilds. Oh, and I tried sleeping on my stomach to try to prevent my snotty nose from becoming a disturbance to all again because someone had said they had heard side sleeping and especially stomach sleeping prevents snoring. It worked, beginning a campaign to learn to sleep on anything but my back.

In the morning, we packed into a big van and headed out not to San Gorgonio next door but over to San Jacinto. Specifically, we headed for Fuller Ridge, the north side of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) as it passes by the mountain.

paths around San Jacinto
Area map and estimated route. The map is a piece of the San Jacinto Peak 1996 7.5' USGS topo. This old map is more recent than the trip.

Click for general location.

As best as I can recall, this was a four day trip. I figure that because I distinctly remember three camp sites although where exactly the second one was I am not certain. Unfortunately, the photographs are at least a little out of order and someone tossed out the film so I cannot use that to sort them. (The last one was in the middle of a bunch of big water from an entirely different trip after going to Monterey. I suspect those are from the following spring break when we had exchange students, so the film had plenty of time sitting exposed in the camera. There is no Instagram filter being used here, this is all the natural patina of abused film shot with a Vivitar point and shoot.)

Day 1


The plan was to hike Fuller Ridge to Little Round Valley. We arrived with no fuss at the trailhead to start down the PCT. While I had known the John Muir Trail (JMT) as a ~3 week extravaganza by this time, this may well have been the point when I noticed the PCT existed outside of the Sierra and was actually a rather long trail stretching from Mexico to Canada. It was some time in high school that I realized this and that there were a few people each year who hiked the entire length in one go. There were 33 people who completed it in 1992 and recorded their effort with the PCTA. I wanted to do all of the JMT at this time. Perhaps it was Fuller Ridge that helped snuff out any spark of desire to do the PCT from end to end.

view from Fuller Ridge
A view from Fuller Ridge. (Probably.) It was sunny again. I think the camp promised not to sing the rain song while we were out.