31 December 2017

Munch Canyon to Figueroa Mountain returning via Willow Spring

Los Padres National Forest

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I seem to be out to "clean up" my climbed peaks on the Hundred Peaks List by making sure any drive ups actually have a climb. To that end, I plotted a climb up Figueroa Mountain. Sure, I will notice a curious lack of climbers on Peakbagger for the peak as I log it because it is not, in fact, on the list, but let us not get confused by the facts. (This seems to be a lesson I am constantly relearning for nearby Zaca Peak, too. These two peaks that sit so prominently in my mind as a Santa Barbara based person just are not that important to those based in Los Angeles. Besides, they are both too short.) Since I just did Davy Brown Trail, I looked to nearby Munch Canyon. Just have to find it. I know there is an old gate at the start and probably nothing else to mark it.

first gate on the trail, the old road
One side of a double gate for an old road and a couple stickers to indicate this is a trail. This is the start of Munch Canyon Trail.

Everything starts off wide and flat, not a canyon at all. Grasses scattered with oak trees and one has dropped a large branch on the trail soon along the way. Some walk around it tightly and some wander all the way to the Sunset Valley Trail as it continues on its gentle path to the left. Another gate, marked with a few trail stickers, blocks the old road. A trail wanders off to the right going who knows where while the one I want heads off along the road some more. It comes to yet another gate set just behind an older gate and now strengthened by a fallen tree. I have never seen so many gates in such a short length. Another unmarked trail heads off to the right through the thick chaparral.

third gate along the way
How many gates are needed? There does seem to be another old road coming in just before this from somewhere.

Past the gate, it starts to look a lot more like a canyon. The tree behind the gate is not the only one along the trail. There is a nice, big one shortly after it right along the trail and decaying quite a bit. I would say it has been there a while, but the walk around trail in the soft dirt does not seem all that well established. The recent trail work has me thinking about what the state of the trail is, and so noting the huge, decaying tree trunk instead of just walking along the side of it. Past it, I cross a dry stream bed, but soon after, I can hear the music of water in the canyon below. Water is getting to be an elusive critter even in the winter. One bit flowing, the next bit dry and not even showing underground water by the plants that grow.

clear water pooling in the canyon
Small pools as the water flows through the canyon.

After a little listening to the music, the trail turns and starts to climb. Withing the canyon, it has very little memory of once being a road, but as it climbs, it becomes obvious again. Although a road, it is still quite steep. Erosion cuts across it at one spot leaving only the smallest dirt bridge to cross. It turns back and there is a bit of a view.

peaks to the north of the canyon
View is not the expected thing for a canyon trail.

30 December 2017

Lower Manzana trail work

Los Padres National Forest


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The Los Padres Forest Association has a double header of trail work with camping at NIRA in between and I decided to join in on the fun. There is even tree felling promised for today, but I am in a group that will hike down a few more miles and clean up some tread. Better luck next time. We get to see a lot of the trail, but might miss big trees coming down. We collect some tools and head off for it.

line on the side of the wide canyon
Getting on down the trail. There are five workers across the way on the trail.

dead trees around a picnic table
A little over a mile down is Potrero Camp, which is currently made dangerous by standing dead pine trees. Some gather to make it safe.

29 December 2017

Lost Valley trail work

Los Padres National Forest

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The Los Padres Forest Association has a double header of trail work with camping at NIRA in between and I decided to join in on the fun. There is even tree felling promised for the second day, which I have not yet witnessed. Today is just ordinary sawyer work on downed trees in Lost Valley. Safety gear, safety talk, a gathering of equipment and tools, and we set off up the Manzana to Lost Valley. Everyone here today has done this before and it does not take very long to start.

morning sun and trail
Heading up the Manzana in the morning sun.

along the Manzana
And up along the Manzana Creek, but high enough above to generally not see it.

The junction is still hidden up a hill and probably will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Still, someone did manage to accidentally find it once. I wonder how that happened. Maybe got into camp, which is practically on the trail, and decided that was the wrong way then looked around for where it did go. It seems a plausible scenario. I suppose paying close attention at the junctions and knowing what other clues besides a sign might exist to indicate one is at them is sometimes necessary. It is just hard to remember to do when it represents a turn one does not mean to take. We pause a moment until everyone is in sight of the junction and then meaningfully take the turn to climb a little more steeply, at least for a brief time. The old trail is noticeably old road (only ever partly built) through here.

trail along old road bed
The old road bed the trail follows is often quite obvious along Lost Valley Trail.

28 December 2017

Browns Canyon to Oat Mountain

Michael D. Antonovich Regional Park

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A group of geocachers were heading up Oat Mountain via the canyon just east of the one featured in my first, somewhat more elaborate attempt at the peak. This neatly sidesteps the requirement to poke through some private property wandering right past the ranch house. (Well, I could probably have done the cross country on cow paths up the canyon, which does appear to be park.) This is the more usual route. Getting to the parking requires ignoring a few signs that, as far as I know, were really supposed to be taken down when the park opened to the public. One sign demands that only residents are allowed to use a bridge. Beyond that is a ranch that boards horses and is mixed in how welcoming it is about the public using the road past it. At the end is public parking so the public is definitely expected to be allowed to arrive here. A $5 fee is required for parking, but today there is no envelope to use with the iron ranger. We park at the upper lot to continue up past the locked gate on road that continues to be paved.

shaped hills to the ocean
Views of the ocean over the artificially shaped hills come very quickly.

Rocky Peak and other bumps
Rocky Peak, which marks a corner on the border between Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.

18 December 2017

Liebre Mountain

Angeles National Forest


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I may have been spending too much time staring at Thomas Fire information and worrying. In those first few days, I looked at that footprint and thought this close bit coming at Carpinteria may look threatening to Santa Barbara at first glance, but it is really this bit almost at the furthest side of the fire creeping up Topatopa Bluff that is dangerous to us. That part raged across Nordhoff Ridge one night to breath its menacing breath over the entirety of Ojai and then kept on going. It jumped the highway and started in on devouring the Santa Ynez Range. It dropped into Matilija Canyon with a dreadful finality to many homes there. It raged to Romero in another jump sending those in Toro Canyon fleeing on the way, then crept over to San Ysidro. It followed the path I expected and feared it would.

silhouettes against the light
People watching Romero flare up a week ago from the west end of Shoreline Park. Flame could be seen above Summerland and Carpinteria as well.

It jumped again two days ago. It reached down into Montecito and raged all the way to Gibraltar Road and spotted into Rattlesnake Canyon and Parma Park. These are our city parks! Okay, so the part of Skofield Park that is Rattlesnake Canyon is an inholding in the forest and many do not realize it is city, not the feds. But Parma is an island. I walked down to Shoreline after dark to see where things stood that night. The air looked foggy, but without moisture, as I went. Even through the N95 mask kindly provided by the city, it smelled thick and dreadful. When I yielded to an itchy nose, I found out what I smelled with the mask on was just a tiny fraction of all the "amusing notes" in the concoction that passed for air that night. Nothing could be seen from the park through that gritty air. When I got home, my clothes smelled like I had been hours at the wrong side of a campfire. And then there was calm for a day and more calm promised, at least until Wednesday night. I really had to get away from it all, so I abandoned the cats, hopefully not to too much fate, and drove past a lot of recent burn on 101 and 126 and all the way to Angeles to an unsigned dirt road along Oakdale Canyon Road a few miles from the Old Ridge Route (both N2). The half of the Los Padres next to me is currently closed for the duration.

unsigned dirt road
A dirt road at the top of a hill connects to the Pacific Crest Trail.

It is time to climb Liebre Mountain. I sort of know the trail because I hiked it from where it crosses Oakdale Canyon Road a mile to the east to up past the camp when I was otherwise in the area and still had the whole afternoon. I noticed the road then (although there are clues on area maps). I could probably have rolled through the eroded bits to the parking next to the trail, but there is plenty of parking on the road and the Hundred Peaks Section guide finishes the driving directions with 0.1 miles on this road, so I did not see the point. After what probably is not even 0.1 miles, there is the trail just as I remember it, passing as a tangent to the oblong parking area. Taking a right, I pass a sign that is slightly more meaningful to me now. It is 10 miles to Sawmill Campground, where I camped last time I played around this mountain, and eight miles to the Atmore Meadows junction where the road at the top was closed. Yeah, this peak can be a drive up. Past the sign, the trail begins to climb.

across the rift
Looking across the rift zone of San Andres to Tehacapi on the left and random bumps in the flat on the right.

03 December 2017

Travertine Pools along Cold Spring Trail

Los Padres National Forest


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The blurb said a hike down to Forbush Flat and then 1.5 miles more to a natural spring. Cryptic. What could it mean? If they head down Gidney Creek, it would be somewhere I have not gone before. Maybe they would hike up the creek and it is that far to the spring that should be feeding Forbush Flat? That seems rather long, but I have not done it and with enough twists, maybe it is. It is rated strenuous for just six miles. That could mean off trail or just try to discourage those who might get in trouble with the "upside down" hike. Most likely, they mean the travertine pools. It would be easy to ask, but also easy enough to sign up and get to either see the pools again or something new.

starting with the view and heading down
Up toward the top and heading down. A beautiful day for it.

Little Pine in front of Big Pine and West Big Pine
The loose cliffs of Little Pine Mountain are looking especially stark today.

02 December 2017

Santa Paula Canyon, clean up to the punch bowl

Los Padres National Forest

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There seem to be certain trails that attract a class of thoughtless hiker that acts like the greatest value the place they are hiking through is as a land fill and tosses their trash off to the side as they go. Unfortunately for Santa Paula Canyon, it is one of these trails, so Los Padres ForestWatch organizes regular clean ups along it. And for the volunteers, Figueroa Mountain Brewing has provided free beer. This is not so cool because it comes in the form of a coupon that is only good on the same day. They have also provided bags. This is very cool because they are former grain bags and are tough enough to take on lots of broken glass tossed within and plenty of thrashing into bushes on the outside while being a reused item. We will have no trouble tackling whatever trash comes with these. After signing three forms and listening to a safety lecture, we are ready to head out to the trail. First, there is the paved hike through the college. Handy frequent signs direct us along the way.

starting out
Hiking up the road through the college with our grain bags tucked away.

The group is split into two at the start. One will head all the way to the campgrounds near the punch bowl, then pick up around there and on the way back. The other group will do the trail closer to the start. Almost everyone seems to head off in the first group going for the further hike. Together, we walk the paved roads, past the oil wells, around more oil well, and finally into something like nature down into the canyon and across the creek. It is quite full with water. The trail beyond is well traveled and easy to follow. The difficulty really comes from all the options. Still, it seems likely that all the options get there too.

wide bit of easy to cross water
The creek. With water.