Back in the saddle and up to my usual tricks, this time with an exploration of an uncomfortable and arduous drainage. Wait. Haven't I written all this before? Yes, however, while the details of this story may seem a repetition of previous outings, the locale is new.
The subject of this day's action is a small creek that roughly parallels the trail from Dough Flat. Redrock Creek is a tributary of the Sespe only in the sense that it empties into Upper Tar Creek which then connects to the Sespe. Nothing is written or mentioned about this creek. There are no nearby trails, no campsites, it's not especially pretty, and it has few other redeeming qualities.
My kind of place.
|Sporting new body armor for the ugliest brush in the nation.|
Part of the aim was to familiarize myself with this part of the forest. The other part was to field test some new body armor in a suitably hostile environment. See, last month I banged my shin real good, and on that same day got bitten by a yucca and contracted a touch of poison oak (even through long pants). This all created an inflamed scenario which was ripe for a bacterial infection. During the time I spent with my leg elevated while nibbling antibiotics I began recollecting all the times I've come home from off-trail work with banged up shins, yucca spines, and torn up knees. I got to thinking about a solution.
As I lay on the couch, laptop in the exact place it's name implies, I scrolled through numerous athletic retailers looking for a lightweight, ergonomic solution. Not finding much I switched to sites for tactical equipment, all of which was bulky, heavy, or overpriced. Finally I started looking at motocross gear and began seeing some products that might meet my needs. I settled on Fox Racing Launch Knee/Shin Guards.
I hiked into the Sespe, enjoying views of the sheer cliffs of Whitacre looming over the right side of this landscape of rocky gullies and shale slopes. I reached the high point of the trail, the divide between the gradual climb out of Dough Flat and the descent into Alder Creek. Redrock Creek begins immediately beneath this small rise so I dropped pack and suited up for the brush. The new knee/shin guards had an ingenious mechanism for locking them onto the knee. Twin straps criss-crossed behind the knee and again over the back of the calf. Another strap secures the bottom of the guard to the shin just above the ankles. Between the pad liner and the plastic hardshell I felt almost bulletproof. For a while I've used of archery arm guards (turned outward) to protect my forearms, these being a simple piece of 4mm thick leather with stretch chord and metal loops. I was also trying out some new Kobalt gloves (Lowes brand, replacing a blown out pair of Mechanix) which have nicely padded leather palms, rubberized finger tips, and protective rubber padding over the knuckles. Admittedly I looked fairly ridiculous, but looks aside, and properly girded for war, I launched into the brushed up drainage.
After a half an hour of busting brush I started feeling pretty good about the new gear. I really liked the gloves. The arm guards didn't pinch or bind, and with them I could really lean into the brush and part a path forward. After crawling through a few brush tunnels and bashing forward through a half mile of knee-high SLP chum I was feeling really pleased with the Fox gear. No shin bashing, no stabbings, nothing got through that plastic. They didn't bind behind the knee. There wasn't any slippage. I didn't have to readjust them, ever, and I happily wore them for the next 5 hours. My only issue with them was that the knee/shin coverage was very warm. I don't think this would be a good solution for warm weather, but on a day like this one, cool and mild, these shin guards worked awesome.
Okay, let me get back to Redrock Creek. The photos you see here represent the prettiest part of this drainage. The rest of it was either brush, alder and willow, or creek bed plants like cat tails and saw grass. Much of the travel was difficult and most of the day I struggled to accomplish a mile per hour. The day would have gone much faster had I been willing to just endure being wet all day, but wading through a creek in January is very different than doing so in July. I was not inclined to endure the additional discomfort.
|The above is very typical of much of Redrock Creek.|
Toward the bottom of the creek, nearing the junction with Tar Creek, I started seeing signs of old oil exploration; rusted and broken piping draped along the bank of the creek, an old road cut completely overgrown and washed out. In the last half hour of the day a shale slope cave under me and I went in the drink. It was bound to happen and I took it philosophically. I sloshed down the rest of the creek, hung a left and headed up the last quarter mile back to Squaw Flat Rd. It wasn't until later on the drive home that I realized that Redrock Creek had been the only wilderness drainage I'd travelled in quite a while that showed no signs of an illegal growing operation. It's a rough little gem of Sespe high country.