30 June 2018


I found I have really been neglecting my colors. Also, Pentel water brushes cannot keep their lids on well, so are not a good choice. They have a less packable shape, so I do not have many of them anyway. Just enough to see if they do long term ink holding better than the Kuretake brushes that are most my collection. They do not.

The patchwork of burn and green north of Ortega Peak.

18 June 2018

Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz Trail

Los Padres National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

Click for map.

The map has reminders that when I have thought about being here at Santa Cruz Station in the past, I had wanted an extra day at least to explore. Down the creek, it claims there is a cabin to be found. Up the creek are waterfalls. The register box has a note pad and someone noted not just the waterfall (which they liked), but some rather large trout up there too (and they liked as well). I decide to note that someone should come down the fire trail with a chain saw. Or at least some flagging. Especially for the flatter areas. After a little more poking around, I am off. Had I not been planning to go out by the trail already, after coming down the road, I would have changed my mind. So that is via the trail.

sunlight on the nearby peak above metal trail sign and register
The trail junction. I went north yesterday, now west briefly before heading south.

small cabin guard station
The old Santa Cruz Guard Station is kept locked up tight when volunteers are not using it. I should have poked around earlier if I wanted to wander inside.

camp site
The nearby camp site. Plenty of tables to go around here and stoves from after the ice can era.

Down the creek, there is a sign pointing out trail as it turns a corner to cross the creek. There is no worry losing the trail where the sign is (possibly because the sign has been there long enough, the trail is overgrown to the creek anyway), but there is trail down the side of the creek and the trail on the far side splits. I am certain the one going downstream before crossing is wrong, but not so certain about the other side. I choose the one on the left which heads back upstream, but also up the hill. Passing through a hole left by a gate in the old fencing around the guard station, it does seem to be the correct one.

wideer creek with plenty of trees and a few cat tails
Plenty of water in Santa Cruz Creek right now.

17 June 2018

Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz Peak

Los Padres National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

Click for map.

The morning is thick and grey, but I expect that will be gone by 10AM. It is higher up this today, so I can see actually the land around me. I get to see the outside of the barn now. It is a simple building and not very barn-like. Poking around the rest of the camp areas is nice, but it sets off one volunteer's dog. I like a spot a couple down from the station where a big oak has fallen and now it is nice and open over the table and camping area. Even next to nice big creeks like this one, I am starting to get wary about large oak limbs. I weigh down my camp gear so it stays where I put it and pack up and take off as the others start to fix breakfast, joining the mowed trail by the register and starting to climb along a tributary out to those meadows I saw in the gathering gloom yesterday. On the other side of the canyon, I pick out the trail going the other way, climbing in easy switchbacks below the steeper road.

bush with berries
Lemonade berries and some flowers to make more.

grassy spots
Romo Potrero up Black Canyon from Santa Cruz Station.

There is a small tree across the trail. What are these volunteers out here for? (Digging the new latrine hole.) Further along, the trail skirts around some narrow gullies that get quite deep just below it, but the trail is holding. Past that, it all becomes meadow. The trail here has had enough travel to distinguish itself from animal trails, at least generally. The most obvious trail eventually puts me next to a trail sign and a metal wilderness sign at the south end of the "fire trail".

Romo Potrero all in dry grass and a little green of mustard
Romo Potrero from near the edges where the trail travels. The green spot turns out to be mustard.

grass and ridges and Old Man Mountain
Looking back over the meadow toward Santa Cruz Creek. Old Man Mountain in the distance looks like it might have little touches of light.

The signs indicate nothing about the direction I want to go. By them, this is just a wilderness entry that happens to also point out destinations in either direction. My trail is not particularly apparent except for a track of pressed grass leading off directly up the hill to reach the ridge line above. It is not a very pronounced ridge line. I follow it and just before the top, it swings to the left where the shape of an old bulldozer track is just visible in the slope. At the top, I quickly lose the trail among the brush. A little experimentation shows there is something a little more like a trail a few feet to my left where things are easier to push through. I was hoping thinking I might find something a little more clear. I thought I saw a fresh line of dirt up on Santa Cruz Peak from the north but whatever cut it had not come from the north. It clearly did not come from the south either. I do not even know how it would connect with the scraped road on this side. The brush releases me onto grass again and I can easily follow the trail until it runs into some more brush. I push through along what looks like it could be trail, find a stopping point, adjust to the side, and push through again. Rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat.

16 June 2018

Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz Station

Los Padres National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

Click for map.

I am not looking forward to the miles of this day, but I still want to go up Santa Cruz Peak and I do not particularly want another go at McKinley Fire Road so soon. Besides, there is still the old guard station south of it that I wanted to check out. It should be a fairly reasonable hike in, mostly on lovely Santa Cruz Trail, for about 10 miles. The Rey Fire burned out the crib wall at a particularly unstable shale area and later rains made it even worse so that now it is considered impassible. I might try it on the way down, I will see what it looks like from Alexander Saddle. I will not be trying to get up it. Instead, I have to take the road for about 15 miles. But wait, there is more, as the late night infomercials like to say. First Crossing is closed, so I have to park a bit more than 2 miles from the trailhead. The parking around there is day use, so I am not certain how my car might be treated by authorities. There are gates on the lot that might be locked when I finish. Besides, I am not particularly keen to spend $30 on parking, especially not to a concessionaire that was sprung on the public quite suddenly. So there is a little more to be in a nice, big, free dirt turnout by the side of the road. At this point, it is about the same to walk over and through Aliso Canyon, so I guess I will. It gets a little bit of the day on trail. I will probably come out on the road because it will be the end of a similarly long day (but downhill, sort of) in the dark and I probably will not want the extra hill. Total miles expected for the day: 18. Total I seem to be able to do while playing with my camera and listening to the birds: 12. Total until my feet get uncomfortably sore: 15. This should be "fun".

lots of room by Rancho Oso
Just past Rancho Oso is a small turnout on the right and this big one on the left for easy, free parking. Not much to see of the canyon in the heavy overcast of the early morning.

The heavily overcast is drooping so low that I could nearly call it fog. The wild turkeys are out on the road and they have lots of little turkeys in tow. I have never seen little turkeys, just big and bigger and on display. They run off reminding me of very oversized quail, but only a little. They are less jaunty in movement. It is a bit further than I remember to get around to the ford to the canyon. The ford is dry, but there is a big puddle with frogs behind it. Sage Hill Campground is nearly full with some huge groups in the sites. A bunch of people are up and looking industrious as I pass. The hiker parking at Aliso Canyon is $10 per day according to the forest service, but there is not a single fee area sign and the information at the campground entrance, a quarter mile back, is specific to the campground. It looks free to me.

dry ford and wet river bed
The ford, the puddle in the river, the campground, and the canyon behind it all.

I was walking in some camp/river shoes because I was not sure what the ford would be like. Now I pull on my boots. Usually it is trail runners, but I did something to my foot (in the home where most accidents happen) and so it is boots for this trip. It actually takes some tape to stop hurting, so that goes on first. The heavier footwear can only make the miles feel worse. It is possible I only need the tape, but, well, injured foot equals boots go on. A pair of day hikers park and head in while I am messing with my feet. I follow them in after a couple minutes. The canyon is dry. The grass is dry. Most the flowers have gone. Although I like the loop trail better, I stick to the canyon because it is a little shorter. The climb out of the canyon is not as bad as I remember it when last coming down.

sage and grass covered hills
Looking down into Oso Canyon from Aliso Canyon as a bit of blue becomes visible in the sky.

Although cool under the cloud cover, it is starting to feel downright muggy to me by the time I reach the top. The sky in the distance is already promising to replace this with simple hot. The new trail around the slides coming down into Oso Canyon seems to have settled in nicely. My trail finishes in a trail coming from the empty camp. I turn the other way, where the trail soon crosses the thin creek and ends again, this time at the dirt road that will be the route for most the day.

tiny purple flowers in a big bunch
Not all the flowers have fled. These tiny purple ones are looking good.

10 June 2018

Ortega Hill and Ortega Peak

Los Padres National Forest

Click for map.

While watching the progress of the Thomas Fire over the south side of Ortega Hill, leaving the north side alone, I decided I would hike Ortega Peak again once the closure was lifted. This time, I would give Ortega Hill a try too. After all, it is the actual named thing. I do wonder what historically conspired to give that lower hill a name while leaving the bigger peak with only a benchmark. Bonus, it is unlikely to still be the miserable, masochistic bushwhack without a single view that has been reported by both groups that visited it in the last 20 years. Okay, so that last might be why I would even think about doing it when there is a better peak right next to it. The Thomas Fire closure was lifted a lot earlier than expected, but I remembered my musings eventually and here I am. A slightly early start because the days are getting hot. This one only promises about 80°F instead of 85°F of the nearby days. I brought two bags of water (about 5L) since heat, length, and being in a burn scar could all lead to wanting a lot. Right now there is a very stiff wind coming down the canyon and it is a bit cold. Since the gate is closed, I have three miles of road walking to do. I expected that. They are easy miles with only the last quarter or so really feeling like a climb.

Cherry Creek Road gate, bruised and locked
Cherry Creek Road is gated most of the year opening for hunting season, or so I understand.

According to the Forest Service, everything on the right side of the road is burned. The fire itself did not get this far, but backfires were set to make everything certain, then it started to snow. It was December, after all. The burn is barely noticeable on the meadow, but on the far side I can see a dark line of singed plants. It certainly did not get far. Those hills look mostly untouched by fire to me. The road drops to cross the Sespe Creek, which is just a few puddles upstream right here, right now. Past it is a new warning sign about the hazards of walking into a burn area. Weakened trees that may fall are a particularly important one on windy days like today. The weakened hillsides are important any day. Somewhere up there, it all turns into extra dangerous. The road is long and flat and safe across to the canyon carved by Cherry Creek. As I enter the canyon, there is a small arm of burn up on one of the hills on the far side. Other than that, there is only the set fire along the side of the until the first high pressure gas line sign. They seem to have looked at that and decided against continuing. Someone probably should have mentioned it to them before they even started. It is on the map. The fire burned a little extra on the obvious cut left by the buried pipeline on the far hill. The creek is flowing, but must sink into gravel before it finishes at the Sespe.

flowers and buds and seeds
Many flowers are out. These are wonderful, yellow when closed and purple when open.

trumpets starting with a ladybug
This one with a friendly ladybug seems unusual to me.

enter the canyon
Lush green all around in the canyon. It does look like a little bit of fuel break was cut above, but that is probably the buried pipeline.

02 June 2018

Matilija, Upper North Fork trail work

Los Padres National Forest

Click for map.

Matilija has been a place that seems to suck in the rain. There have been a few times it has come down 15 or 18 inches in a single night and the creek surged for days, but the canyon took it. After the Thomas Fire, when the rains came heavy, Matilija got at least its share. This time the canyon itself flowed although just a third of the big dumps it had withstood before. We came up it for a day of trail work aiming to get up to Matilija Camp. That is a brief one mile from the trailhead. Since we are working, we got to park at the trailhead instead of behind the gate, which turns out to be at Murietta a little further down the road. The trail is obvious, but there is no evidence of the sign with a map in it. We gather up tools, mostly little saws and trail Smiths and Pulaskis, get a safety talk, and gather into three groups to see what we can accomplish.

about 30 volunteers twitching into their gear
Quite a big group: about 30 volunteers. Standing within the burn. There is a little bit of green coming into the hills like the bush poppies to the left.

burned flats, singed hills, and living trees by the creek
Off to work in the canyon. A lot of burn, but trees yet live along the creek!