Monday, January 19, 2009

This weather blows!

I am so sick of the Santa Ana winds. We So Cal natives get the fire winds usually in the fall but this year has been different and the last 9 days we have had temperatures exceeding 80 degrees. It's getting old already.

I went back to Tar Creek on the 17th for some R&R. I wound up doing 2 hours of trail work. I've taken to carrying trimming shears with me so I cut back a bunch of sage and manzanita and shoved some rocks around. I kind of consider Tar Creek to be mine so I felt that I had some house-work to do. As a reward for the day's efforts I was blessed with a glimpse of "my" condor doing lazy circles over the lower part of the canyon. I've seen him numerous times, as close as 5 feet away and have begun to take it granted that he'll make an appearance when I'm in "my" canyon. He even left me a blood feather once. Easy to forget that he's one of the most endangered birds on the planet.

I'm starting to plan for the spring mountaineering adventure. Split Mountain looks big and scary but Middle Palisade looks even more so. Dave and I have to work out which routes we'll take up those monsters but we'll be bringing rope, harness, and gear. No more scrambling up the Class 3 route to the summit, at least not this year.

Sorry, no pictures on this post. I'll try to live a more interesting life in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Suffer Machine, Topatopa Bluff, Ojai

*** Author's Note: 4/16/2012. Howdy. It's been a few years since I wrote this post and it's always been one of my most visited entries. I still love this hike and, even though I often link it with other near-by peaks, I still consider the Sisar to Topa hike the original "Suffer Machine". It's still long, steep, and salty. So, please understand that my perspective may have matured, but the bitch didn't get any easier! It is always going to be one of the best walks in our Southern Los Padres.

Crouching above the upper Ojai Valley is a massive escarpment of rock called Topa Topa Peak, or depending on who you talk to, Topa Topa Bluff. This mountain has loomed in the background for much of my life, from my childhood in Santa Paula to the present day. The peak is unmistakable, with red and brown bands of sedimentary sandstone crossing it's face, and enormous bluffs rising vertically from it's steep foothills. Views of the peak are common in the west Ventura county and it is easily seen from the Ventura Harbor and much of Oxnard. The peak recieves annual snowfall due to an elevation of 5,800 ft, which is pretty tall for our coastal mountains, the highest peaks being Hines, Alamo, and Pinos. Unlike those others, Topa Topa can be day-hiked, though it is more a test of will than it is fun.

To day-hike Topa Topa requires a degree of masochism. I call that trail The Suffer Machine. The name is derived from all the elements that combine to make the day agonizing. The trail runs 17.5 miles round trip, and it is almost entirely exposed to direct sun. The trail is mostly uninteresting, and it is unholy steep. Every step on the way up is elevation gain, and it just never ends. In fact, the angle of climb gets steeper the closer you get to the summit. To put it plainly, it sucks.

Why go, you might ask. Two reasons: one, it's a great way to test my overall fitness; two, the view from the top is outstanding. My best time truck>summit>truck stood, until today at 6 hours and 17 minutes with a half hour lunch on the summit,. Today I did it in 06:08 with the same 0.5 hour break on the summit.

The trail starts at the top of Sisar Rd. off the 150 in Ojai. The lower portion of the trail is fire road and sees frequent foot, cycle, and equestrian traffic. The fire road crosses Cesar Creek twice as it climbs out of the valley, and continues steeply upward onto the side of a seemingly endless ridge. As the fire road hangs an abrupt left, continue straight onto a much more pleasant single-track trail that winds its way up to White Ledge Camp and from there steeply up until the main ridge, which becomes fire road again, is gained. The single track trail is known as the Red Reef Trail. Before long the trail leaves the fire road for the last time and starts a seriously steep summit climb. It is the kind of summit trail that takes everything you have left and then, without ceremony, you find yourself on the summit. Nearly dead.

The summit is really nice. There is a kind of bench made from slabs of native sandstone and the summit register is somewhere under the bench. I've signed that thing 9 times now (as of 04/2012: I lost count after about the 30th time), and thumbing through it, I noticed that I've been up there about three times a year since 2003. Today was probably the 15th time I've been to the summit.

An additional note regarding today"s bluebird weather. Usually I would expect to see Ana Capa, Santa Cruz, and San Miguel islands. Today was clear enough to also see San Clemente, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa, and Catalina islands. A fantastic weather day.

The descent isn't neccessarily nice. For those of us that have a bad knee it can be just as irritating as going up, and the constant miles of downhill groundpounding put the hurt on your feet. I just got home from another round with The Suffer Machine and I ache. I'll probably be living in the jacuzzi, munching Vitamin A (Advil) for the next few days. Now that I've talked it all up, give Topa Topa a go and tell me if I'm wrong.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Matilija Creek, Ojai, 01/04/09

Good Day! Bad, #!*@!ing expensive day!@#*!!!

Dave Rivas and I busted out a 13 mile day hike up to the three waterfalls on Matillija Creek. It's a great hike which covers a variety of terrain and I always feel worked when I get back to the truck. I hit this trail at least five times a year, usually in the summer months due to the abundance of primo swimming holes. Today was made for speed with cool and clear conditions. Averaging 3.5 mph in a creekbed translates into an excellent workout.

Here's the expensive, jacked-up part. I fell off a boulder, eight feet down into a deep pool, got totally submerged. The tradjedy is that I had Ruth's digital camera in one pocket and my i-pod in another. The camera be dead. It is now an ex-camera. I'm holding out hope for the i-pod. The camera was older and wasn't working right all the time but I wasn't ready to replace it yet, though I already know which camera to buy: the Olympus Stylus. Compact, powerful, shock-resistant, and, best of all waterproof! Okay, I'm over it. Oh shit! I forgot to mention that my sunglasses are somewhere on the bottom of that icy pool! Now I'm over it...sort of. I keep telling myself it is all part of a grander purpose that I wasn't meant to comprehend. Maybe it's like paying your medical deductible for the year, only it's for replaceable material goods. Maybe it's a pricey reminder to pay attention when I'm STANDING ON THE EDGE OF A ROCK OVER A DEEP POOL OF ICE WATER!

Now I'm over it. I've been meaning to expound on the numerous qualities of this trail but I don't have the time right now. I'll blog it later. Tonight I've got to sleep. Ruth and I are leaving at 5AM for a day of snowboarding in Big Bear. We've got to be in good shape by the end of the month when we go to the real stuff in Colorado.