Tuesday, November 30, 2010

11-27-2010 Piedra Blanca Creek

The Piedra Blanca rock formation

I went up to Piedra Blanca a few months ago to do some rappelling, and scouting around. While I was up there I started down the creek, but didn't go very far. Since then I have been wanting to go back, and finish this little loop.

This weekend I felt like needed to burn off some of the pumpkin pie I ate, so I headed back up to the majestic rock formations of Piedra Blanca. The Sespe was flowing nicely at the first crossing. I walked on the trail through the rock formation, and down the hill behind it. There's a big boulder at the bottom of the hill where a seasonal creek flows through. It's there that I left the main trail, and started down towards Piedra Blanca Creek. Once I linked up with the creek I started making my way down south. My goal was to follow the creek back to the Sespe. It didn't take me to long to get the part I call the Piedra Blanca Narrows. This is where the creek cuts through the big rock formation. I was nice and cool down there. There were iced over puddles in the shade near the rocks. The narrows is a nice little section. The rocks are very craggy. There are a few nice chest deep pools for swimming or fishing. At it's narrowest point it got pretty choked with little saplings (Alder?) to the point where I had to rock hop through the middle of the creek.

Just south of the Narrows. The Sespe is a little further south.

After I had made it through the Narrows the landscape opened up into a small valley. I followed a light trail southward for a bit. I was making such good time that I decided to climb up one of the hills on the west side of the creek to get a better perspective. From up there I could see the Sespe wasn't to far away. I made my way back down, and continued south. The trail petered out, and I had to bulldoze through some of the thickest brush I've ever encountered. I was a pain in the butt. But, eventually it cleared up, and I found myself on a little trail that ran by the Thacher Cabin. I was respectful of their property, and left it alone (they have a nice set up).

Thacher Cabin

And that was it. I was back on the Sespe trail. A few minutes later, and I was back in the parking lot. I talked to a nice fellow who had spent a few nights up near Willett Hot Spring. I saw few people headed out towards Willett as well. I hope they made it there okay, because it started raining about four hours later.

That's it. I just got a new camera, so my future posts should have better quality pictures. Take care.

Monday, November 15, 2010

11-12-2010 Agua Blanca Creek

Cobblestone Mountain Foothils

One of the more impressive geological features of the Southern Los Padres rivers are the narrows. It happens when a river that normally meanders through rolling hills cuts through a rock formation, creating a narrow slot. Some examples I know would be the Sespe Narrows below Devils Heart Peak, and again further south at Devil's Gate. There's also The Alder Creek Narrows, and Piedra Blanca Creek has a narrows section. Agua Blanca Creek has two narrows sections, The Devil's Gateway, and The Big Narrows.

Dave Stillman contacted me recently to see if I was interested in checking out The Big Narrows. I knew it would a tough, probably nasty hike. So I signed up, and recruited Frank to come too.

We decided to make it a three day trip. Friday morning we hiked from Dough Flat to Ant Camp. Ant Camp sits at the base of Cobblestone Mountain where Agua Blanca Creek turns east towards Piru. It only took about three hours to make the trek. The trail is great condition. Someone, maybe the CCC, has recently trimmed, and flagged the trail going down the big hill that leads to Ant Camp. I tip my hat to whomever did that hard work, thanks. Once down at Ant Camp we set up our stuff, collected water, and gathered wood in anticipation of some cold nights.

Ant Camp

We also set up the horseshoe stakes to standard distance. Now you can enjoy a nice game of horseshoes next time you go down there. It was a pretty brisk evening, but the fire was large, and kept us warm until we ready for bed.

Trying to stay warm

The next morning we woke up a prepared for the difficult challenge we were expecting. We started heading east along side the creek at about 8:20. The trail isn't too bad for the first mile or so. We saw a few spots that would make fairly descent campsites in a pinch. There used to be a campsite called Tin Can Cabin down here. We made a good effort to find some sort of trace of it, but I'm afraid that all signs of it are completely gone now.

Looking for Tin Can Cabin

The trail got steadily worse the further we went. The poison oak was ubiquitous as expected. There were also those nasty, thorny vines everywhere too. Tons of fallen trees blocked the way. Sometimes the only way through was to slog through the creek.

After about three hours from the start the canyon started to zig-zag, and really narrow, aggressively. Finally we got to a point where you could no longer skirt the edge of the creek, we were entering The Big Narrows.

An ominous looking rock formation

Entering The Big Narrows

The walls squeezed to about ten to twenty feet wide, and rose 500 to 600 feet high. Frank and I removed our boots, and put on the water shoes we had brought with us. The water was 49.5 Fahrenheit. I wore heavy wool socks with my shoes, but my feet were still freezing. Frank had better luck with neoprene. The creek turned north then sharply came around a corner and headed south. We stopped in that section and had lunch.

If we had decided to continue I think we would have made it to Cove Camp in maybe another hour, who knows? But, we decided that we had gone far enough. We had been hiking for about four hours. I figured that since we had been going down stream it would probably take us longer to get back to camp. But I was wrong. We bulldozed back to camp in only three hours. We gathered a little bit more wood for the evening. Then we focused on dinner. We traded some stories around the fire, and then headed to bed.

The next morning we gathered up our stuff, cleaned up the camp a bit. The last people there had left behind some trash like tin foil, bottle wrappers, and batteries. The hike up the hill wasn't to bad. I found some more batteries on the way up. What's up with that? It's like someone was going up the hill, found it to difficult, and decided to ditch four AAA batteries to shed weight, pathetic. Anyway, it was an easy hike out. There were some locals shooting up the parking lot when we got back. Not much you can do except leave. You can check out some shaky videos from the trip here, here, and here.

So if you like being cold, dirty, hungry, tired, stinky, sore, getting bug bites, itchy rashes, lacerated arms and legs, wet feet, filthy hands, and chapped lips then this is a hike you may enjoy.

If you have ever done this hike, or made it all the way to Piru, I would love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment, or send me an email. Take care.

10-24-2010 Cozy Dell Trail

Megan wanted to go on a short hike, and get some fresh air. I thought the popular Cozy Dell Trail might be just hike to do. It's a short pleasant hike with a few nice views of Ojai. It was bit overcast his day, but still worth the effort. We cleaned up some trash. There were a few other people out on the trail too. You know you're on an easy trail when you see a five year old girl in a princess outfit walking out. It was a nice way to get out of the house, and knock some rust loose.