Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Case of the Rumoured Campsite

Say you heard from a friend who heard from a guy about a hidden pool-side campsite somewhere off a trail that you thought you knew. Well I'm here to tell you that the guy was right! The campsite does exist, is quite hidden from the average observer, and the site is such a naturally sheltered spot that it has likely been in use since indigenous times. The later statement is verified by the presence of a detailed petroglyph (see below) in the rocks above the site. The site is nestled on a flat earth floor under a massive rock overhang from which drips two springs. California live oaks cut the wind and a large area of the site gets sunlight in the winter. Nearby is a nice pool, large enough for several people to bathe in, with a steady flow of water coming from above. It is a very nice place for a secluded escape, and no signs of recent human use. The photograph below shows the site. Wanting to keep this site to myself I will only divulge two clues to it's location: the site lies under the summit of Pine Mountain and is less than 1mile as the crow flies from Hwy 33. That's all I'll say except that it's pretty cool finding places I had no idea existed.
I found many bits of animals (above photo), mostly birds, that provided ample evidence of a healthy predator in the neighborhood. My vote would be for a bobcat or a clever fox.

In addition to finding the rumoured campsite, I made numerous stops on the way up the 33 for photography purposes. The light was unusually flat because of the overcast skies. This made for a few good photo opportunities. Below: autumn color, a bowl shaped by the endless drip of water from the rock overhang at the campsite, and the tunnels below Wheeler Gorge.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Topatopa Bluffs 11/29/09

Today I shattered my best time truck-summit-truck on the "Suffer Machine". Not a lot of suffering today. The previous record on this 15 miler was 6:18 with the clock stopped at the summit. Today I reduced that to 5:02. I'm feeling pretty good about that.

Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger (->)
Tip of the Hat to the talented folks that rebuilt and upgraded the
Summit Sofa. You have provided a satisfying seating solution.
Wag of the Finger to Wind. Yes, Wind. You may provide an easy green energy option, but Cold should have a restraining order against you. Wind, you should never come within 500feet of Cold as it has become clear to this individual that you cannot get along. You're getting the picture.

The view from the summit was good despite some coastal haze. All the Channel Islands, excepting Catalina, were visible: Santa Barbara, Ana Capa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel. There was a slight dusting of snow on Reyes Peak and Pine Mountain but none on the bluffs, nor on Hines Peak.

I scribbled my 15th entry in the summit journal. After 15 times up it becomes hard to say, "I really hate that hike!". That wouldn't be true. What I can say is that is that it's a heartbreaker. Every time you come around a corner the view is the same...up.

These pictures are all taken from the upper-most stage of the trail. In the picture below you can see Ana Capa and Santa Cruz on the right-hand horizon, the Oxnard Plain and Pt. Mugu on the coast, and the Upper Ojai Valley in the middle-ground. In the foreground on the right one can see a portion of the trail that goes to the summit. Yeah, it's long and steep.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tar Creek 11/21/09

12/10/13: The US Forest Service will be enforcing access restrictions to Tar Creek soon. TC is part of the Condor Sanctuary established as critical habitat to this endangered bird and other wildlife. Epic numbers of visitors, and the trash and graffiti they have left behind, has led to the acknowledgment by the Forest Service that access must be curtailed and enforced. For more information on the impending action visit: Tar Creek Closure.

Yesterday afternoon I hiked down canyon to the end of Tar Creek with Dave Rivas. The lower canyon is always a fun scramble with the all the falls, pools and stone formations. We descended to the bottom really quickly and we set up for a cold night a few feet from the edge of the falls. Firewood was plentiful which made the evening nicer. No kangaroo rat in my coffee this time. A sly Cheshire Cat's grin for a moon and a moderate breeze made things feel like late November.

The canyon below the Land of the Lost is bouldery, easy canyoneering kind of stuff. The first falls is about 80ft cascading into a series of slot pools terminating in one large pool which spills 120ft down to Devil's Gate (Sespe). Right across the way from our night site is the enormous wilderness mesa called Bear Heaven, an intriguing and imposing place. The night passed peacefully and in the AM, after coffee, we packed it up and headed back. We used the burly uphill for a little StairMaster training getting back to the truck in what must be a record. In the end, it turned out to be a perfect overnight. Dave even found Zero's dog bootie, which was lost on a previous trip.
Below are pictures from various points in the canyon.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Lost Falls, or How I Came to Love Mouse Coffee

Yesterday I set out to discover the "lost" falls above the Matillija watershed. What I found was a number of spectacular falls, some bushwhacking, scrambling, and not unhazardous terrain. In the end, there is a distinctive falls, 120ft tall with a narrow stream falling to a wide, shallow pool of crystal clear water. It takes 2 hours of difficult effort to get there from the main waterfalls 6.5 miles up the Matillija canyon. The gateway to the wilderness above those falls is a the shale chute from hell, which is a dicey climb. Would have been easier if it had been snow. Afterward, there is no trail and no indication that the upper canyon sees more than a handful of visitors. The area was very remote, untouched. I saw no tracks of humans, but I did see several signs of recent bear activity. I felt like I accomplished something.

I was pretty trashed when I returned to the camp-site at Green Pool at 4PM. After I returned I rounded up some firewood, washed, and changed clothes. Then it was time to relax and enjoy the evening.

Above, The Shale Chute from Hell. Below, scenes from the numerous pools and falls I encountered in the Upper Canyon. I did not include a photo of the final falls because I was unable to get a good picture of it because the light was wrong, that and the fact that I'd kind of like to keep it to myself.

With a wash and a change of clothes , it was time for the front page and crossword. I made good use of the community frying pan to throw together a meal of pasta pesto (below). After dinner I boiled up a nice pot of coffee in my beat up old pot, the remainder of which I set aside for the morning. I fell asleep to the hooting of owls. And owls eat mice, which leads to the next part of my tale.

In the morning I stretched and scratched, added some water to last night's coffee, started a fire, and reboiled the grounds. I had two leisurely cups of hot, black coffee as I woke up. After breakfast I dumped the last of the coffee and the grounds in the firepit. As I was dumping the coffee I heard a "thud" on the grill. And looking down:

"Yes, let's have a big round of applause for the dumb mouse that covertly drowned himself in my coffee pot, leading me to drink 2 cups of mouse coffee!"

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tar Creek (Land of the Lost) 11/13/09

12/10/13: The US Forest Service will be enforcing access restrictions to Tar Creek soon. TC is part of the Condor Sanctuary established as critical habitat to this endangered bird and other wildlife. Epic numbers of visitors, and the trash and graffiti they have left behind, has led to the acknowledgment by the Forest Service that access must be curtailed and enforced. For more information on the impending action visit: Tar Creek Closure.

I took a mental health day from work and took Zero to the Tar Creek pools. As a result of the recent rains, the pools were in as fine a shape as I've ever seen them. I did a fair amount of trail work and trimming on the way down to the creek. Had a nice time lunching at the pools. This was really just a recon to see what the water levels were like.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dog Days of Fall

Ahhh, what a beautiful weekend. Took my long-time friend, Robert (formerly of Mammoth, currently of Flagstaff) up to Matilija today. I would have gone elsewhere given that I've been that way 8 or so times since August but the place is so cool that when Rob agreed to a hike, Matilija was naturally the place to take him given that he'd never seen the canyon. We had as near to perfect a day as possible. Got to share my venison sausage with the Blue Heron Ranch dogs, went swimming, and enjoyed the warm fall weather. No more Matillija for a while. Now that the rains have arrived I'll be hitting some of the other local canyons.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Jason Carstensen bags a big, fat pig.

My friend, Mr. Carstensen got a lucky invite to Tejon Ranch, a private hunting preserve. The results are pretty impressive. I've told him multiple times to find me if this opportunity comes up again. And don't feel bad for the pig. He had it good for a long time, he was mean, destructive, and smelled bad.

The Blue Heron Ranch Dogs at Matillija 10/25/09

Yesterday's hike up matillija was more than just a hike. Neil Cowan and I had the canine escort courtesy of the Blue Heron Ranch dogs. The Lab started barking us up as we approached the ranch and the Germans came out to see what was the hubbub. After sloberry greetings and belly scratching all the way around the dogs stayed right with us the whole way, 5 miles up the canyon. Everything just felt a bit better than it normally does: the light was brighter, the shadows deeper, the water cooler, the colors more vivid, etc... Just an extra nice day. And the dogs made it that much more so. I have seldom, if ever, met dogs that I liked better.

The image below isn't upside down, it is a reflection.

Eventually the trail reaches a point where the dogs can't go, but take a look at the picture below. They waited 1:15 hours for us to return. I felt a bit honored, like they held us in such high esteem that they waited for us. They got the rest of my jerky for that. Best dogs ever.