Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chorro Grande Trail 02/27/10

So, on account of the weather, the "Geezer Hike" was canceled once again. I decided early yesterday that I would venture forth be damned! Since I was going to be wet and miserable anyway I chose to up the ante. I chose to hike Chorro Grande to the Pine Mountain summit. This grueling hike would start in the rain, summit in the snow, and end in the rain. Chorro Grande is an old packing trail and ascends 3,309ft in 7.4 miles. Hard, on a nice day. Today it was really tough and by the time I was nearing the truck I was done.

As the lower trail consistently climbed through rain and chaparral I had to work my poles in greasy mud. At times, the trail was basically a creek (1st pic below). I was able to ascend through the rain and muck quickly and was relieved to find that I had reached the snow line, though the snow was wet and heavy. As I progressed, the weather cut me a break. The precipitation slacked off and views improved. I was grateful for the break. As the trail wound it's way, ever upward, it became steeper and the snow got deeper. I chose not to take breaks while ascending and instead, slurped a couple of GU's, ate a bar, and sucked down water. I wanted to be summited and descending before the weather deteriorated, certainly before any thunder storms developed. As I approached the final 3 miles to the summit I started post-holing. A couple of times I sunk up to the groin. My mental mode changed over to a stubborn persistence.

The final 2 miles to the summit were brutal, cold, and steep. As the terrain changed and a fog rolled in I found myself having to really use good trail-finding technique. Also my GPS became the MVP of the day. I kept looking hopefully upward for any indication of Pine Mountain Rd and my destination: the eastern-most camp site on Pine Mtn. The fog was really cutting visibility when I decided to use the GPS to put me right at my destination, I dodged 0.2 miles of trail by heading strait up the last few minutes worth of mountain. I was very relieved when I popped over the rise and walked right into camp. I stayed long enough to take a couple of pictures and started straight down. It took me 3.5hrs to climb the trail. I subscribe (based on bitter experience) to the school that says, "In inclement weather, summit and get down. Then feel good about yourself.".

As I descended most of the weather I'd experienced on the way up hit me on the way down, however, the temperature had plunged by 10-20 degrees. I was comfortable, though. The Gore-tex in my boots and my rainwear were holding up well. Plus, I was well layered. By the way, I had in my pack a back-up layer and gloves, a Gore-tex bivuac sack, first aid stuff, headlamp, extra food and water, and everything else I would need to survive a night up there in the event I couldn't move. That kind of planning is my MO (again, a product of experience). All that extra weight in my pack sure was reassuring. By the time I returned to the truck things were getting cold and nasty.

So, not the usual way to spend a stormy day. But that was the point wasn't it?

Monday, February 22, 2010

California Condor

In light of my recent condor sighting I decided to resurrect this photo of my friend, Condor #289. This boy and I have a history of sorts. I've seen him many times and, though his mate is rather shy, he is a pretty bold boy. This photo was taken from less than 10 feet away. He and I hung out for much of an afternoon and I've seen him plenty of times since. I suspect that the pair of condors that circled me on the summit of Topa Topa last week were this mated pair. A truly magnificently ugly animal. Condor Fun Facts: condors have no vocal chords and cannot communicate auditorily, condors cool themselves by urinating on their legs (notice chalky coloring on #289's legs above).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Topatopa Bluff, 02/13/2010

So how do you know if you're having a great day? You live it.
I hiked up Topa Topa yesterday, a gorgeous weather day. I took my time and though I hiked fast, I stopped frequently. It was just one of those days when one has to stop and look around. The last stage to the summit was mostly through untracked snow. The views were as you would expect because, hey, you're having a great day. All islands reporting in. And about that photo above? Ordinary turkey vulture. In fact, a pair of them turned some lazy loops around the summit before departing. I just sat chuckling at my good fortune.

An unusual aside. On the way up I had passed a pair of nice ladies who were heading for the summit. We chatted and I gave them a couple of directions. As I was descending I met them, making their way up the final stretch. We all agreed that the hike was long and steep. I mentioned my pet name for this hike, "The Suffer Machine". One of the ladies lit up and said, "Oh, you're the guy! We read your blog!" So that was kinda cool. I didn't know anybody read this little thing of mine (well, except mom and dad). That was really nice.

Next weekend I'm scheduled to return to this peak. I'm tagging along with three guys from work. They are all in their fifties. I'm already calling "The Geezer Hike".

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What Super Bowl?

What should I do with myself on the first somewhat clear day of a three day weekend? Does it matter that the Super Bowl is on? To the former, I'll treat myself to a full tank of gas and no reservations. To the latter, no, the game doesn't matter to me. I'd rather take advantage of a day to myself. This day started early, getting turned around at Wheeler Gorge by the CHP due to a rock slide. I did not tell the officer that the CalTrans road conditions said that the 33 was open to 4wheel drive vehicles. I just turned around, drove through upper Ojai to Santa Paula and wound up in Frazier Park. The I-5 was catching hell, high winds and snow/sleet. I was having fun already.
Through Frazier into Lockwood Valley the weather remained unpredictable and the road was icy in the shade. I really love this nowhere valley of horse ranches and hunting lodges. After the Grade Valley cut-off the road descends into an area of badlands which were all the more spectacular for the dusting of snow on the caprock. The valley was very quiet, with only the wind blowing scattered flakes for company. Nobody was out today, only the horses of the Bar-Seven ranch. They were eager for a little company and I soon had several of them crowding the fence for a bit of rub. I got the sense that despite their winter coats, these guys would have liked a day in the barn. Anyway, they're tough.
As I left Lockwood Valley for Pine Mountain Pass on Hwy33, the weather got less pleasant, however it cleared quickly descending the pass to Pine Mountain Inn. Also, I had driven around a road closure which was unmanned. Hey, if CalTrans said it was open, then it was open. It didn't take long for me to realize that I had the whole Ojai back-country to myself. Stopping in the middle of the road to snap photos is easier than pulling over.

I pulled into Rose Valley for a look around. I wasn't feeling all that athletic but a quick run up to Rose Valley Falls seemed to fit my mood. These are a pair of stacked horse-tail falls that only run winter through spring. I felt pretty good about having them to myself for the morning. The falls are hard to photograph due to their height and angle, but I had some success today.

After visiting the falls, I drove to the end of Rose Valley Road. The whole valley was vacant, devoid of people. Even the Ojai Valley Gun Club was silent. Down at the end of the road, I took a shot at hiking into the Piedra Blanca (the white rocks in photos below), but the Sespe River was really a river today, and nobody knew where I was, so I just hung out for a while. Just a short way away the upper portion of Reyes peak was still in the weather while I sat in the sun. A beautiful day up there. Good day for just looking.
I also have a spot up in the area that I visit when I want to pop off a few rounds. Today I was test-firing a rifle I just built and, oh brother, that thing is fun to shoot! I'm not really going to get into what it is, or was before I made some dramatic changes to the original rifle. I think I just wanted to see if I could do it.
All in all, I have to admit that I'm pretty pleased with my day. Good pics, good space, and completely comfortable with being my own entertainment. The shot below is of Santa Cruz Island from the Hwy 33 crest. Oh yeah, I did watch the game. I was a bit disappointed with Manning in the fourth, but I didn't have a dog in the fight so it was good to see the Saints win. They were the better team anyway. Although Adai did have a great game. Okay, yeah, I'm done with this one.