Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tar Creek 12/211

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.

It had been a bit since I had last traveled down Tar Creek and I was curious how the place was holding up. The hordes of summer visitors have left the scene, but some scars remain. Too many people visiting one place is usually a bad thing, environmentally speaking, and my beloved Tar has not been immune.
On the way down to the bottom I collected a number of bottle caps and cigarette butts, which are just the kind of stuff that wildlife (namely CA Condors) tend to investigate by eating. I was disappointed to see my first signs of spray-paint graffiti in Tar Creek. Some asshole had tagged a rock in the unsanctioned campsite adjacent to the Land of the Lost pools. I mean, it didn't come as a surprise to me, but I'm disappointed.
I grew up in Santa Paula so I'm familiar with the type of low-life scum of a certain gender and heritage that have so little respect for anyone or anything that they feel compelled to act as if it all belongs to them. These are the (insert racial generalization)'s that tag and leave beer cans and diapers at the Punchbowls up SP Canyon.  Pisses me off somthin' fierce.

As for Tar itself, the falls are still running surprisingly well, which is merely a testament to last year's stellar rainfall totals. Mine were the first prints descending below the Land of the Lost since the most recent rains greater than 1 week ago.This, I thought, was a good sign. At least fewer people are traveling all the way to the bottom falls, or maybe I spoke too soon. On the way out I passed two parties: one had 5 rickety seniors with ropes and a bunch of canyoneering shit, obviously on a quest to finally unravel the mystery of Ponce De Leon's lost Fountain of Youth, the others were a few teen boys in sneakers. Eight people (not counting myself) on a Friday. Crazy. This is exactly the kind of thing that gets the USFS interested in restricting or denying access, that and stuff like trash, dead condors, grafitti, and more than 10 helicopter rescues in the canyon every summer. Mark my words, one day the government is going to shut this place down. It's just too sensitive an ecosystem to support the amount and type of traffic that visits that canyon.

As for the day itself, I had a good time. I saw myself a wooly coyote on Goodenough Rd and spotted the nice red-tail hawk that graces the top of this post. No big birds today, however. I love this place. Let's al ltry to save it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Piedra Blanca West 12/15/11

My route through the western rocks. It involved blood, sweat, climbing skills and determination to reach the summits of these, more remote and inaccessible formations. I have to guess that I did a solid 4 miles of  "anything it takes" to explore this side of the range.
I had promised you all that I'd finish up the entire Piedra Blanca tour and that time has come. Over the past several posts I've re-explored the entire area including the paintings in PB Creek and the bleached stone formations of PB East. To finish the circuit required a visit to the western formations which I've designated as Piedra Blanca West.

I knew that assaulting PB West would be far more difficult than my prior exploration of PB East. First of all, nobody goes there so there aren't any consistent trails to traverse this side of the range. Second, the formations on the west side are more distant from each other and much brush-busting is required to get anywhere. So, once more into the breach, up the mountain, under the brush and through thin air on my lonely travels to the remote. Today was not a good day to get hurt, I'd never be found.
This site is atop the first formation to the left (west) of the massive, central  PB formation.  This was a surprise, as in WTF?!? I saw no reason to believe that this rock design hadn't been sitting there, just like you see it, for years. First of all, just getting to this point was difficult (scary) and required considerable route finding skills.  On the way to this summit, I utilized some very old toe-holds that had been carved out of the soft sandstone. The holds were very eroded and I speculate that they had been there for a very, very long time. I saw no other evidence during the day that anybody ever goes to this side of PB.
Abandoned honeycombs. A large, fresh bear scat was situated very near by.
Sad rock.
In addition to the remote, untraveled nature of PB West, it is an older (geologically) set of formations. The elevation of the western-most rocks are a couple hundred feet higher than on the eastern rocks. The ancient sedimentary seabed, which is what the rocks of PB are made of, has risen more in the west and the decay and erosion of the formations is notable for the degree of difference between west and east. These rocks were far more crumbly, which made climbing up a couple of the formations pretty damn exciting. I thought, at least once, that I was a couple of grains of sand away from taking a slide.
The Citadel, western-most of the formations, viewed from the north.  I encountered absolutely zero indications that anyone had ever even been here. 
The Grand Vista, looking east from atop The Citadel.  
The snowy peaks in the distant right are Topa Topa and Hines Peak.
Sometimes a guy has to go the extra mile to get what he wants.

After a helluva slog. Miles to go.
Above and below: highly eroded formations.

Again, I reassert that any time you think you are truly in the sticks you will run across a beer can with a bullet hole in it. 
The Chumash High Dive. This rock, of some significance to the Chumash,  isn't too difficult to find, and makes a  great springboard. It can be found on the Sespe less than 0.25 miles from the PB/Sespe parking lot.
After today I can truthfully say that I've been to the top of every significant rock in Piedra Blanca, and that I circumnavigated the base of most of the formations. I didn't see anybody else the entire day, which is probably a good thing because I was covered in bloody scratches and spent the entire drive home picking sticks, spiders, and seeds out of my hair, ears, etc...
I feel pretty good about this most recent triad of trips. Piedra Blanca and it's environs are worth exploring. The place has a natural beauty and appeal. It has been in more or less continuous use by hominids since forever and a few relics of our ancestors passing can still be found on the old paths and forgotten corners of this Upper Sespe region. Take some time to just explore, scramble about and find the hidden gems tucked in Las Piedras Blanca

First runs of the season, 12/14/11

On the heels of the most recent round of winter weather, Ruth and I got up at 04:30, gased up and sped out to Big Bear for our season's first runs. We enjoyed bluebird skies and a couple inches of fresh stuff on top of the typical bullet-proof hard pack. Both of us were sporting new boots, both of them have the super-sweet BOA lacing system. Never again will I have to help lace down Ruth's boots. Way easier.

Let's see, what else? We owned the mountain, and as you can see, the crowds didn't show up. The weather stayed cold all day and the snow held up until they closed the lifts at 4PM. My Big Bear "rock board" is sporting a new 8 inch gouge that goes to the wood. That's the price for playing in the trees. Not a problem though, I used to repair skis and snowboards when I was in college. 

The whole way home we kept telling each other what a perfect day it had been.A very good way to start the season. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My crummy pictures of the Lunar Eclipse 12/10/11

Despite having been battling the common cold and end of week fatigue, I managed to persuade myself that a complete lunar eclipse on a clear and calm night was worth getting up for. I'm glad I did. It was just your ordinary, every day kind of celestial omen that would have had our ancestors feeling a bit uncertain about their futures. I took these admittedly crummy pictures from the bridge above Emma Wood St. Beach, Ventura. I looked on in envy of those with shiny new bad-ass camera's that have an f-stop and shutter speed and all that wizardry. You know who you are.