Tuesday, May 10, 2011

04-31-2011 Alder Creek

The Stone Corral and Topatopa Peak

I haven't been camping in a long time. I also haven't been on a really long hike in awhile. The weather has been good, so I thought it was high time to get out for an overnighter. Frank, Zach, Cara, and I decided to start out at my favorite trailhead, Dough Flat, and then make our way up to Alder Creek. The day before we left I called the Forest Service and asked them if the road was open all the way to the trailhead. They told me, no, it's closed at Tar Creek (a few miles from the TH) because of a three foot deep mud puddle in the road. Well that was too bad but it wasn't going to stop us. Actually I didn't tell anybody about the gate until we got to it. The closed road was dry, bone dry, of course (thanks a lot Forest Service).

Hopper Mountain

It took about an hour and a half to get to the Dough Flat TH. Half an hour later and we were at the Squaw Spring guerrilla camp. Another two hours and we were at the Bucksnort junction. Soon we passed Cow Spring and the Stone Corral.

The Stone Corral

The trail then descends down a large hill. About half way down the hill is Dripping Spring. This also marks the beginning of the poison oak. We ate lunch and refilled our bottles. Then we made our way down the rest of the hill. At the confluence of the Alder Creek East Fork and a no-name creek the trail becomes much, much harder to follow. Frank and I had been up this trail before, a few years ago, so we kinda knew where to go. Still finding the trail was difficult. Up and down hills, through dried up creek beds, across mesas, then up a poison oak lined creek.

Looking south over Alder Creek

Finally after eight hours of hiking we saw the giant Oak that marked our campsite. We didn't really have time to rest. We had to get our tents set up and gather some firewood before the sun went down in an hour or so. Once we got the campsite set up properly we threw a couple of Bristol Farms porterhouses on the grill and sipped Laphroaig 10 Year Old.

The morning was a bit chilly. But things warmed up once the sun was able to angle over the canyon walls. We packed up our stuff and got ready to leave this rather unremarkable campsite. Instead of going back the way we came, we opted to go down Alder Creek directly. I wore my Canyoneers and 3mm neoprene socks. North of the Sespe you will notice that rocks turn from mostly sandstone to a mix of sandstone and granite. The granite can be quite slippery when wet. My shoes preformed well beyond my expectations. Even with water flowing over the granite my shoes stuck to the rocks. Even with sound footing, all that rocking hopping with a heavy backpack can take a toll on your knees.
Alder Creek

The creek was pretty nice. The water was about knee deep in most spots. It did get up to my waist in one section. There was only one spot where we had to take off our packs, down climb some slick logs, and then lower the packs.

I think it took about two hours to get to the East Fork / Alder confluence. Then it was just a few minutes before we found Alder Creek Camp. Not much there but a fire ring and an old icecan stove.

Alder Creek Icecan Stove

Alder Creek II

There's another small camp a few hundred yards downstream. I don't know if this was an overflow camp at some time, or if somebody just dragged a grill down there from the proper Alder Creek Camp. Not to much further down the creek we found Shady Camp and set our packs down for the day. There was still enough light out to wash some clothes and get a quick bath in the creek. Refreshed we settled down for our second night.

Frank and Zach at Shady Camp. Frank is holding a rock breaker bar that was left at the camp

Looking south down the Alder Creek Narrows. It was a humbling view

The next morning we took our time packing up. The trail back crosses the creek several times. A some points the trail is the creek itself. We were able to keep our boots on and dry all the way back to Dripping Spring Hill.

One has to wonder, did the Day Fire stop right here?

Dripping Spring is a real life saver. Right now it's more than dripping, it's really gushing. The spring turns into a flowing creek that links up with the other creeks downhill. The slog up the hill wasn't too bad. Once we got over the peak of the hill it was a rather pleasant hike back to Squaw Spring Camp. There we made camp for the last night of this trip. The next morning we packed up one last time then headed out to Dough Flat and then the dry dirt road to Tar Creek.

Relaxing at Squaw Spring Camp

Dough Flat Waterfall

Okay, so somewhere along this hike there is a cave. Perhaps it was off in a narrow canyon, or down an old dusty trail, or maybe up a dry creek bed, I'm not saying. In this cave are Chumash pictographs. It's mostly zoomorphic figures, with some geometric shapes scattered about as well. Some are trichrome others are monochrome. In my amateur opinion I'd say that there were several different artists contributing to this cave. Of all the Chumash caves I've been to, this one is my favorite.

As always, I encourage you to leave a comment, or ask any questions you have.

Monday, May 9, 2011

04-16-2011 Sespe River

Frank has wanted to do the Piedra Blanca Trailhead to Red Reef Trail for a few years now. Finally all the pieces came together and he and Heidi were all set for a four day hike this weekend. Due to my work schedule I wasn't going to be able to join them for this trek. But I decided that I could at least hike out along the Sespe Trail with them until they had to turn up the trail towards Santa Paula. We ate a tasty breakfast at Eggs & Things in Ojai. Then we headed up the 33 to the PB trailhead.

It was 9:00 and the parking lot was full of cars. The horse trailer from Thacher School was there as I've seen it so many times before. There are two creek crossing right at the start of the Sespe trail. Most of the year you can rock hop across the creek and keep your feet dry. The water was flowing too high this day and we had to wade across the creek. About ten minutes down the trail you have to cross Piedra Blanca Creek. It too was flowing too high for rock hopping. After that it's a sorta boring hike out to Bear Camp. At the Bear Camp crossing the water was waist deep. I opted to take off my pants and wade across in my skivvies.

Okay, so three years ago Frank and I tried to hike from Tar Creek to Grassy Flat. I remember it being a super hot day. We started early and didn't see anyone. It was an exhausting hike. As we were getting close to the West Fork we noticed some smoke coming up from behind a couple of rocks. We walked over and saw two men and a pitbull sitting next to a fire. The old man holding the pitbull was wearing sandles that had been made out old tire tred and some rope. I remember thinking, "How the hell did this guy get out here in those sandles?" We weren't sure what to make of these guys so we just waved and moved on.

So then last year when we did our Tar Creek loop we lost the trail back up when we got to the Sespe Camp. After we had spent an hour searching for the start of the Green Cabins road we ran into three people who were down there to do some fishing. We asked them about the trail but they didn't seem to know what we were talking about. Then it struck me, "Hey, didn't I run into you last year down here?" Yup, it was the same guy we had seen with the old man the previous year. I thought it was a funny coincidence. He offered us some Tequila, but we had to find the trail.

So back to the present. After we had crossed the Sespe at Bear Camp these three people come strolling down the trail. We exchanged greetings. Then it struck me again, "Hey, aren't you the guy we keep running into on the Sespe?" Yup, third year now that we've run into this guy. I had to laugh. I've got a feeling I'm going to cross paths with him again next year.

The Bear Camp Crossing

We dried our feet and put our boots back on. Then we started to make our way towards Kerr Spring. When we got to the spring I decided that I would make that my turnaround spot. Like 75% of my coworkers I've been sick the last few weeks. I've been getting better, but I'm still not fully healed. I just didn't feel like pushing myself any further. So I bid farewell to Frank and Heidi and then headed back towards the trailhead. I must have passed at least a dozen people headed up towards Willett on my way out.

If Frank feels like writing up a report I'll put it here. Here's some pictures from his trip.

The Harris Tunnel

California Conservation Corps working the trail