Monday, March 28, 2011

03-26-2011 Santa Paula Canyon

Looking down Santa Paula Canyon

It's been a while since we've been able to get out for a hike. Two weeks ago I saw the forecast for last weekends weather, and ruled out any type of hiking. The canyons are no place to be when it rains. It was quite a storm that rolled through here too. According to the USGS it was the largest rain event since the epic 2005 storms.

I figured after a storm like this one that Jackson Falls would probably be going off. So we prepared for a wet, muddy hike. Once we got past Thomas Aquinas College, the Ferndale Ranch, and the oil pumps, we could see Santa Paula Creek was angry.

That was okay, she was angry last year when we made it out to Jackson Falls. As I remembered we could make it all the way to Big Cone Camp without actually having to cross the creek. This day things were slightly different. We got about halfway to part of the trail where it starts to switchback up to Big Cone Camp, and the creek had flooded wall to wall of the canyon. We sure as hell weren't going to try to wade across this unforgiving beast. So we backtracked a bit and found a spot along the canyon wall where we could get up and above the creek. Then we bushwhacked for what seemed like a really long time. Did I mention there was more poison oak then I have ever seen? We tried a couple of times to descend back down to the creek but we just found high, sheer cliffs. Finally we found a spot that was steep, but not to steep that we couldn't control slide down. Of course we had to slide through poison oak, but what are you going to do? We flicked off some ticks that were trying catch a ride, applied some Tecnu, then started making our way up the creek again. We missed the turn to the switchbacks, so we opted to go up a steep, rocky, gully that intersected with the trail.

The price for not paying enough attention to the trail

We walked through the graffiti gallery that is Big Cone Camp then down to the first waterfall. It was really a site to behold.

Graffiti Falls

Between the waterfall and Cross camp there a few rocky outcrops that overlook the creek as it flows through a narrows section. It's here that the power of the creek is most impressively displayed. It about a hundred yards of frothy, white, fury.

Looking up the channel

We stopped at Cross Camp for a bit to get a bite to eat. Last year when we made to Jackson Falls we had to make a leap of faith. Just upcreek of Cross Camp there was a spot where we could jump from one boulder to another to cross the swollen creek. Not this day. The water level was about a foot higher then the last time we were there. There wasn't even any debate about it, there was no way we were going to try to get across this rapid creek.

The idea was to jump from the rock I'm stading on to the one on the left

Okay, so what do we do now? If you look at the USGS topo Santa Paula Peak quad there's a creek that comes down from the Bear Heaven Bluffs to the east of SP Creek, and links up with SP Creek right above peak 2507 (there's a link in the sidebar). We decided to bushwhack over to that tall waterfall.

Not surprisingly this waterfall looks a lot like Lower Jackson Falls

First we climbed up a rocky hill that overlooked the Punchbowl, then we found a game trail that took us eastwardly towards the falls. It wasn't as bad as the bushwhacking we had done earlier. As we got closer we saw a large oak tree that had a few faded beer cans strewn about its base. Then the chapperel opened up and there was a nice rocky area next to the waterfalls.

There are two waterfalls, the smaller one is hidden from view when looking up from the bottom. The stream snakes down through a smooth water carved channel to the larger falls then drops 60 to 70 feet to creek below. We hung out there for awhile. The rocks were leaching our body heat so we had get up every few minutes to keep from getting too cold. Finding the route back was little more difficult, but we figured it out.

The Santa Paula East Fork

When we got back to the spot where we had bushwhacked we were disappointed to find out that we had to go back the same way, funny how that works. Unfortunately we had to start further back because that steep part we slid down was to steep to climb back up. Remember all that poison oak we tramped through? It was still there, and I think it called in reinforcements while we were upcreek. This bushwhack seemed to take even longer then the first time. We were down on our hands and knees, and sometimes even our stomachs crawling though the bush.

Here's picture of my butt to illustrate that we had to crawl a lot

"Ridiculous" is the word that comes to my mind. Surely we had gone far enough to make it back down to the creek, nope, sheer cliff, shit, keep crawling. I did have some climbers webbing, and a single carabiner in my bag in case of an emergency, but that wouldn't be needed here. Finally we found a way down. Another scrub down with Tecnu was in order. From here it was fairly easy to walk back out. We hadn't seen another person all day. On a sad note I tore a big hole in the bottom of my favorite backpack. Despite what sounds like a horrible experience, we were in pretty good spirits. It was an adventure, and that's what we like.

Monday, March 7, 2011

03-05-2011 Tar Creek

Hopper Mountain

Frank, Justin, and I decided that another trip to Tar Creek was in order. So we headed out to Fillmore, powered up on waffles, and drove up the road to the trailhead. Right off the bat we found a rather large hole in the trail.

Watch out for C.H.U.D.S

The hike down to the cascades was nice. The water level is still pretty high. It was a cold 48.3F when I measured it.

When we got to the 70ft falls we saw a group of canyoneers rigging up to rappel the falls. I went over and was happy to find out that they knew to remove their webbing when they were done. We watched them make the short rap of about 30ft I'd guess.

Then we took the walk around, and proceeded to the larger bottom falls. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there wasn't any webbing left behind at the bolts at the big falls.

The Final Pool

Pretty soon the group made their way down to us. They rigged up, and started rapping down the 120-130ft to the shallow pool below. Frank and Justin took the walk around trail, and snapped some pictures of the canyoneers.

When they were all down I untied their webbing. I packed it into a water bottle their group leader had left with me. Sorry, I couldn't fit the rapide into the bottle, so I just fixed it to a bolt. Then I tossed the bottle down to the group. If any of you wants to see more pictures just contact me through the blog.

The three of us sat around for a little bit more. It was a really nice day. Just like my last few trips down Tar Creek, we didn't see any condors. Recharged, we hit the trail back up the canyon.

Just upcreek of the cascades we ran into a large group of under-prepared looking people. I saw a guy wearing just a pair of Crocs for shoes (he was rubbing his sore feet). And I saw more than one person that looked like they had just hand-carried a (now empty) Vitaminwater bottle as their sole source of fluids. I hope everybody made it out okay.

It took me 43 minutes to get up the big hill, five minutes off my best time. Here's a picture of Topatopa Peak (the real one) if you look closely you can see the frame of the lookout tower that burned up in the 2006 Day Fire.