03 February 2018

Agua Tibia: Dripping Springs

Cleveland National Forest

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DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

Morning is lovely. At least it is as I wander over to the first spot of a northerly view while getting breakfast ready. There is not much long view from the camp site. There is a mist playing in the valleys, especially around the tall mountains. Thomas Mountain is no longer producing a streak on the sky because they have put out the controlled burn for the weekend. I pack up and head out for some more expansive views as the mist slowly rises.

Dripping Springs Trail and view
A little piece of that view from Dripping Springs Trail.

The trail is still a little brushy, but not so imposing that it forces a stooped walk or anything like that. Everything from the southerly viewpoint, up past the junction sign, on down is clearly hiked a lot more than the trail above that. The few bits of brushy open up further as I go down, especially as things dry out.

lots more view from Dripping Springs Trail
Thin early morning mists everywhere.

02 February 2018

Agua Tibia: Eagle Crag

Cleveland National Forest

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DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

It was a mild night and with the sunrise, I can have breakfast in bed. Or actually, make breakfast in bed, but then pack up my gear while the pistachio pudding full of coconut and chia seeds "refrigerates" in the morning chill. My water looks so low. I used 4 of 2.5 liters for the hike up. There is still enough to go up Eagle Crag, and then I will be right back here and can evaluate it again. Perhaps if I can hike it with just the water left over from the second bag of water, then it will be fine, so I set that line and eat my breakfast.

green slopes heading down to sunrise colors
The new view I hiked to last night. The only city lights were in that blue distance.

shadowy Eagle Crag
Eagle Crag, the goal for the day, stands in shadow against the brightening sky.

I toss in another bag of water and what I need for day hiking. With my gear and extra water tucked away, I am ready to hike nearby Eagle Crag. I still see none of the poodledog that is supposed to be choking Crosley Saddle. Another write up for the loop seemed to imply the dominant vegetation up here would be manzanita and ribbonwood. I suspect ribbonwood is the one that reminds me of the redshank in the Santa Monica Mountains and it vanished as I climbed. (Ribbonwood is a less common name for redshank, so there you go.) It clearly does not grow this high. No, what is choking the saddle is white thorn ceanothus. A blue and white checked piece of flagging waves beside the gauntlet of its sharpened twigs marking what is obviously Cutca Trail. There is room for me between the points and it thins out as I climb out of the saddle. There were trees up here before the fire, but now they are a morning jungle-gym.

plenty of tree to climb through
A tree across the trail. This is what helps make the morning walk a full body workout.

San Jacento in the mist
Looking back the way I came, which tucks around the mountain on the far left on this side of the point, which is the Agua benchmark. San Jacinto Mountain is looking a little misty this morning.

01 February 2018

Agua Tibia: Wild Horse Peak

Cleveland National Forest

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DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

Researching the Agua Tibia Wilderness, I found it may be a rather tough backpack. Its namesake looks to be very difficult to obtain from anywhere. It looks like my most likely chance is a stream that I will come to while technically outside of the wilderness. There are a couple springs on the map, but they seem rather close to some black squares of buildings. Looking on satellite, there do seem to be a couple of homes next to these possible sources. As if to drive the point home, my permit specifically calls out for the respect of private property in the "special notes" section. That eliminates the best bet. I will have to carry all my water for three days. I have found and filled a total of five Platypus bags to take. One to hike, one to camp, one to hike, one to camp, and one to hike. Camping actually takes less than one and hiking down will not need so much either, but the other two hiking days may require more. The one to hike today goes in the sleeve and the rest fill in all the space around it making a single thick band of water in my pack. With my sleeping bag below, food and a few other camping and warming items above, I have a pack that is a little more than 40 pounds, but 3/4 of it is consumable.

The pack feels like a torrential weight upon my back as I lift it and start, but the slowly rising walk through the campground to the trailhead allows my legs to slowly accept the burden. With the obstacle of water solved (I sure hope), there is still the obstacle of the trails. The two trails up to the ridge above are supposed to be fine for travel, but the connecting route along an old road may be a bit of trouble. Some trail runners through just a couple weeks ago are certain that no one could get through there with a full backpack. Now, I have heard stories of backpackers tying their pack to their ankle with a bit of rope to crawl through a quarter mile of bear tunnel and worse. "Where there is a will, there is a way." I am not quite certain that I am that sort of backpacker. Still, trail runners probably have no real idea what a backpacker can do. (I sure hope.) Someone before them was claiming to have needed to "army crawl" to get through.

fences lining the first 100 feet of trail
The trail start has a register for day hikers, a bit of fencing to start, and signs about the endangered aquatic life.

wilderness sign along the trail
Entry into Agua Tibia Wilderness.

Sorting my gear took longer than I had hoped it would and it is later than I expected to start and already getting warm. There seem to be quite a lot of people also on the trail. As the trail splits and I take the left up Wild Horse Trail, most of them go the other way up Dripping Springs. I see switchbacks for it going up an east facing slope with very short vegetation and suspect it must already be baking up there. My climb seems to be among somewhat taller stuff and soon turns out onto some nice, shady, north facing slope. Whyever would they want the other trail? Well, eventually this one will turn around to the south, but I bet the guy alternately carrying or walking with a toddler is not going all that far. I pass rock gullies and the air coming down each is like air conditioning. Then there are some short exposed bits in the sun, but the trail mostly finds shade. Below is a rocky wash that should be Arroyo Seco Creek in this season. There just has not been enough rain this year although I do see a little wet in the dirt as I climb.

Arroyo Seco Creek from above
A wide canyon that should have Arroyo Seco Creek flowing along the bottom this time of year.

31 January 2018


After a while, a few sketches.

Badlands to the east viewed from the top of Fox Mountain.

Grassy fields to the west of Fox Mountain.

End of the trail on the edge of Lake Casitas.

Butterfly Peak and Rock Point

San Bernardino National Forest

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The day starts early with the blue moon in total eclipse, which is pretty cool even if it is only an accident of the calendar.

setting blue moon
The blue moon, still partly in eclipse, setting as the sun rises.

Today, the plan is to join a scheduled Hundred Peaks Section hike and climb a couple peaks on their list. Everyone is welcome to come on a hike if they are capable of completing it, you just have to email the hike leader. The trail we are starting at seems to be a little more exclusive. I expect someone asked permission at some point and this group is a rather good guest, not known for carving on or cutting fences and more likely to pick up trash than to drop it. They gather and we all sign the standard waiver and then we are off.

trailhead at a road junction
The trail start is marked at the start of a track between fence and road.

The trail follows paved road for a short way, then turns away from the Pathfinder Ranch entrance and onto a dirt road behind a locked Forest Service gate. The road is lined by fences until it starts to climb up into the hills. It is rocky and in poor repair as we go, but the passing walkers have kicked out a smooth trail among the rocks. A puddle along the otherwise dry expanse shows where a spring seeps. It is nice to see the water. This winter has just been so very dry. Things smooth out as they flatten out except for occasional deep ravines cut into one side of the road to make it impassible by a vehicle. Other roads wander off to the sides, but we keep ignoring them.

hikers on a disused and decaying road
The group hikes on along the disused and decaying road.

mining history sign
A sign explains some of the area mining history at the bottom of Gold Hill.

30 January 2018

Lookout and Table Mountains strolling the PCT

San Bernardino National Forest

30th of January, 2018

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I headed for Riverside with a list of plans, stopping by the Trabuco Ranger Station for a map and a couple backpacking permits to help pull them off, then off to the junction of SR-74 and the Pacific Crest Trail in time for the nice afternoon hike which was number one on my list. Just south of here is a peak identified as "Lookout Mountain #1" on the Hundred Peaks Section list and a few miles south of that is a bump just slightly off the PCT marked as "Table Mountain high point" on peakbagger, which are my excuse to hike a few miles along the PCT. Parking is well signed and north of the highway. I have a track in the GPS to show a couple routes to the top of Lookout but cannot seem to find them once it loads up. (This is due to it coming up as a route instead of a track and that both saved routes and tracks only show up when the device is told to navigate along them.) I will just have to make it on my own. It did not look so hard. Just go up high and look for a bit of trail. I cross the highway, pop through the gate, and start up the edges of the mountain.

gate and sign for PCT
Heading south on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Past the first bush are milk jugs strung out on a rope that appear to be full of fresh water. Someone is maintaining a water cache a bit early in the season. Then again, it might be a really good time to section hike this area as the desert will be much more comfortable and the high mountains have very little snow. The trail climbs at a very easy slope. This was certainly graded for stock. It is quite short until there is new view at the top of the saddle.

Thomas Mountain and more
The old view is of Thomas Mountain (on the left) and some others across the highway and wide valley.

valley and long mesas
The other side shows long Table Mountain and increasing views down into Anza Valley.

28 January 2018

Old Baldwin and Riverview

Ventura River Preserve

28th of January, 2018

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For afternoon, I headed off to the Ventura River Preserve to walk to the burn. Most of the preserve burned in the fire or was back burned in the fight. I started at the Old Baldwin Trailhead (the south route) simply because it is quick to get to from the highway. I recall something about the gate on the road in closing at a certain time, but cannot find anything about it on the trailhead signage. A sign glanced at while zooming past the gate might indicate 4:30 PM. I take off along the side of the ACA compliant trail past trees and shrubs untouched by recent fire.

still green live oaks beside the path
Follow the path past the green and bright live oaks.

dirt path winding past the grasses
The ACA compliant trail ends quickly, then it is just rough dirt.

The trail forks and I follow to the left. This trail takes me to a couple lookout points to view the Ventura River. It is running now, and even rather clean while it does so. I am surprised by the clarity considering the state of the watershed it comes down from. I remember plunging blindly into one creek coming down off the Station Fire scar. The difficulty was due to all the silt still coming down. Today, the river sparkles delightfully.

Ventura river running a few inches deep, quite wide, and clean
Looking out over the wide Ventura River flow.

Lake Shore Trail - Wedleigh Arm

Lake Casitas Recreation Area

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There are a number of trails close around Lake Casitas and I decided to poke along one before a nearby event in the middle of the day. Entry to the recreation area costs $10 per car in the off season, but you can walk or bike in through the main entrance for free. Follow the roads around to parking at the trailhead. The trail continues from the end and out around the lake. It is a rather wide and smooth dirt, apparently even suitable to hoverboards as a couple pass me on a pair that somehow look more like small Segways than a floating skateboard. They quickly turn down a smaller trail heading for the distant lake shore. Then it is just me and a lot of footprints and bicycle lines on the dirt.

sign to start the trail
Commence walking.

looking down the lake arm
Across the lake arm to the little bit of lake left.

At first, the trail is just along the road as it starts around the edge of the Wedleigh Arm of Lake Casitas. It slips through a gate that could be rolled closed and locked at sunset, according to the sign. A post next to the gate marks mile 0 of the 2 mile route. It turns away from the road and crosses an earth dam between the low lake and a winery before becoming a wide dirt ribbon between water and chaparral.

dam and winery beyond
The low dam that keeps the lake from flooding the winery beyond, when it fills again. Sulphur Mountain beyond is turning grey with ash in the air from the Thomas Fire.

fishing on the shore
Seems if you want to go fishing from the shore, you can drive right down to it as you see fit.

13 January 2018

Fox Mountain

Los Padres National Forest

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After the ordeal finishing off Thursday, I tried to sleep in as long as I could and generally recover on Friday. I had a message the sawyer project would be postponed, so that plan was out. My secondary plan was to climb Fox Mountain, but I was not in the mood for a bushwhack, somehow. I lazed, I read, I checked out the soggy roads that were preventing us working. Finally, I decided to do the mountain after all and I packed up to walk into the campsite noted in the Fox Mountain Peak guide. It is just a half mile in, so I figured it did not matter much that I had my car camping gear, not backpacking. I would even go ahead and bring my day pack instead of making due with the bigger one. Then I got to lining up the peak guide with the map and noticed that the gate that might be closed was actually the edge of a marked inholding where there is a broken up cattle guard full of mud, remnants of fence, and no gate at all and the hike was 2.5 miles from the actual locked gate, noted as "pavement ends". I shrugged and walked in all 2.5 nearly flat miles instead and never quite got my brain to think about it as backpacking rather than car camping. Just far enough away I did not want to go back for a second trip to get all my gear to the site. The GPS clocked 2.57 miles from car to site, so the guide is very close. The trail up the ridge line next to it was easy to spot even in the dying light, so I was very sure I was in the right starting place.

line of dirt up a ridge line
There is one site at 2.5 miles from the gate and one ridge next to it with one line of dirt up the edge.

The track looks reasonably open. My already well bruised legs with a hundred yucca stabs and many long scrapes and even some rash developing between stomach and socks (seems I probably ignored some nude twigs of poison oak that did not ignore me) are quite thankful for that. I want today to be another rather lazy day. I want to go ahead and take basically all day for what really is just a half day hike. Late start, and slow on the way up. Maybe even 3 or 4 hours for the 2.5 mile climb. Yeah, take the whole time the guide suggests is required for this hike just on the uphill. Now that is a goal! But maybe not too late a start. Maybe more like 9 than 10. It might get warm, after all. But without looking at the time at any point in the morning, my start is when it is and that is a quarter to 10.

Santa Barbara Canyon
Leaving the canyon below where there is a little bit of water shining in the sunlight.

The trail is initially steep, but not so steep that it feels like the dirt will slide out under my feet. I am a little disconcerted that although heading northwest, my shadow is already pointing more northerly than my direction of travel. Still, the "occasionally obscure" trail seems quite clear enough, at least for going up. As I climb, there are a few places that are steep enough to worry about, but most of the ridge line is a gentle slope. The only protest from my legs come when a low, deep bruise gets two quick whacks with stubby scrub oak branches, not from the climb.

false peak on the way up the ridge line
Up ahead, a step along the way. The peak is behind this and will be unseen for a while.

The canyon in the downstream direction. This is what I walked yesterday evening.

11 January 2018

Peak Mountain and McPherson Peak

Los Padres National Forest

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With the aim of doing some sawyer work in the north end of the county starting Friday and being able to get away for Thursday, I looked for something to hike in the area. The options do not seem to be plentiful. There are a couple of peaks on the Hundred Peaks Section list out there. One is practically a drive up and the other actually is a drive up the way they are usually done, but it turns out the drive up has not just one but two trails up it. A loop hike sounds great. I might even go after the near drive up, but it does add a little over 6 miles to the trip which might make things a little long for these short days. The plan is to hike from Aliso Park up the canyon and check out Hog Pen Spring on the way, then head over to a nearby benchmark called SIGN on the map. From there, I can trot over and go up Peak Mountain, or skip that and go directly up McPherson Peak before following the ridge route down. After the long drive, I get a 9 AM start, so a couple hours of light have already been lost.

canyon road
Aliso Park is a campground at the end of the pavement. A jeep road continues from the far side of the campground.

The road is rough as it crosses a creek, then smooths out. Another road splits to the right and curves back the way I came almost immediately. This is the bottom of the ridge route, which I was a little concerned would be hard to find. Although there is no sign, it is easy enough at the start. I am headed for the spring, so I ignore it and keep to the longer road. Travel is easy and when I notice myself relaxing a little too much into the walk, I push myself a tiny bit. If I keep up a reasonable pace, there should still be time to get that other peak.

generally smooth road
Easy road walk through the canyon.