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

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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!

31 May 2018


I got out the watercolors to play with this time. They really can be extremely fun to work with. They are my traditional kit to carry backpacking because they are a little bit lighter. Seems these days I keep trying to fill my days with the hiking while backpacking, but I had a few moments at the end of the first day of the last trip.

Singed, but still growing, cedars at Madulce Station.

27 May 2018

Woodridge and Rocky Incline

Woodridge Open Space

Lang Ranch Open Space

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Down into the Thousand Oaks area for one last set of trails that are part of the COSCA Open Space Challenge with whoever is in the group. Trouble is, with Geowoodstock on and it being Memorial Day weekend, it looks like all the social geocachers have wandered off somewhere (or caught a cold) and the "group" is me. Well, that is just sad for me. The required trails to be hit today are the Woodridge Loop and Rocky Incline (marked as Hidden Canyon on some maps). The first wraps around a gated community in the hills near it, the second touches into the loop I did while popping up to the top of Simi Peak. The loop has a small parking lot area that is mostly gravel, but paved on one end. The end heading south is obvious next to the paved portion of the lot and the end heading north has a gravel path leading to a spot across the street from it, so is not too hard to find. My plan was to start south, so south I go.

landscaping into the mustard edge
A bit of dried grass and blooming mustard lie beyond the landscaped edges of this lot and road. The trailhead is at the break in the fence and signed with the open space rules.

The houses are down in the valley, the trails are up in the hills, so I start off climbing a short way. This does have the effect of bringing more houses into view. They are all over the place but most the hill tops have been left open.

houses and hill tops
Houses and hill tops.

Simi Peak against the sun
Up to the top for a view of Simi Peak with only a few houses far below.