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 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.
|Many flowers are out. These are wonderful, yellow when closed and purple when open.|
|This one with a friendly ladybug seems unusual to me.|
|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.|