Monday, November 28, 2011

Piedra Blanca East, a scrambler's delight, 11/27/11

Free day! No demands, no responsibilities, no "to-do" list. What to do? I have planned for some time to re-visit an area of the upper Sespe River valley known as Piedra Blanca, or "white rock". PBlanca is a collection of crumbly sandstone formations most easily accessed from the Sespe trailhead at the bottom of Rose Valley Rd. PBlanca is just a fun place to hang out and explore. The rock formations are many and varied and the summit of each can be obtained with a little ingenuity and effort. One will likely donate some blood in the chaparral, but that can be said of most places in the Southern Los Padres.
The trail that brings one to the formations is called the Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca trail. According to Eric at Ventura County Canyoneering Club, this trail was named after a popular child's doll from the 1950's, of the same name. Apparently, in 1983 Congress decided to name the trail after either the doll, or a man of the same name who contributed to the creation of what is now considered to be the Sespe Condor Preserve. Eric is usually right about these things and I haven't found much to corroborate or refute these claims, so I will plagiarize him in regards to the progeny of the trail's name. This is an easy trail and a person will be among the formations in under a mile.
Below: Looking NW at Piedra Blanca Creek and an area called Twin Forks

The coolest thing about PBlanca, the thing that gets me is that this site has been used more or less continuously by humans and their ancestors for nearly 8,000 years. Pygmy Mastadon and Sabertooth Cat remains have been found the immediate area and numerous archeological artifacts from the Chumash era have been recovered. I personally know a man who has found 7 grinding dishes and other artifacts in the heart of Piedra Blanca. These, of course, have been reported to, catalogued and collected by the appropriate antiquities agency. This site was an absolutely ideal gathering locale for aboriginal hunter/gatherers offering fish, game, berries and acorns, year round water and plenty of sun/shade. A number of Chumash petroglyphs and at least one large petrograph can be found less that a half mile from the formations (but I don't tell). Parts of Piedra Blanca Creek are littered with ancient seabed fossils. It's a neat kind of place.
Needless to say, I have an affinity for rock formations and enjoy finding ways to get on top of them. During my travels this day I poked my head in any number of cracks and holes, just to see if I'd find something of interest, which is exactly what I got when a huge barn owl panicked and flew right by me (some day I've gotta write about my numerous, strange encounters with owls, and I could share the story of the large Inuit owl tattoo on my shoulders). This owl stuff has been happening to me all my life, it's worth sharing.
On today's exploration of PBlanca I was wishing to be thorough, so I have divided the area into two distinct sections which I am calling the East and West Spurs. I went East today. I ranged out to the distant eastern edge of the spur, working back to the middle. In the course of the morning I was able to get on top of every significant formation on that side of the area, circumnavigating most of the piles and large formations. Aside from the owl and the wild views I saw numerous doves and jays. Came across some pretty tracks in an arroyo, Mama coyote and her two pups.
I had a very enjoyable morning. Obviously the place is very photogenic and worth a visit. I'll come back soon with the West Spur, and in the near future I may share thos pictographs I mentioned.


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  2. Nice blog. Keep hiking and having fun. See you out there !!!