Monday, January 14, 2013

Cuyama Peak Fire Lookout and environs, 01/13/13

There's been a death in the family. Lookout #6 fell down. 

If you'll all remember what Sunday the 13th felt like you'll recall that it was just extra cold. I'm generally pretty adaptable to temperature extremes but some days I start feeling my age, my real body age, not just the number. I've had some pretty good crashes over the years and sometimes when the barometer swings wildly I feel it all coming home to roost. This was such a day. I wasn't interested in a lot of hiking and running and jumping and crap. I put together a quick plan that accommodated my achy pity party. On the agenda was a drive up to the old lookout on Cuyama Peak. 

The Sierra Club Angeles Chapter Hundred Peaks (HPS) list Cuyama Peak as one of their suggested peaks. I don't know why but this bugs me. First, there's an open, ungated road to the top. Second, there is no single-track alternative to the road. Third, the HPS says to park at the take-off for Tinta Canyon and walk up the road to the summit. This walk is only 2.25 miles. It's silly, contrived, a gimmick. Drive way the hell out to Santa Barbara Canyon and 9 miles up Dry Canyon to walk 2.25 miles up an ungated road? Even the route up Reyes Peak is more legit. At least it's a trail. So I figured if I wasn't in the mood to walk I might as well check out this old tower. And that's how I discovered that the lookout ate shit. To get some backstory on the tower and see images of what it looked like not that long ago, see Craig Carey's write-up.

So I had too much fun 4X4ing up the road in mud and snow. It's nice to have one of the more capable off-road vehicles to drive off a lot. I had to drop into 4-Low for the last mile to the summit. On top there was a chilled couple who had spent the night on top. I was a bit baffled by that, but they were great people (for the life of me I can't remember their names dammit). They gave me coffee and bacon. He's a Ventura County firefighter and she's a student at the zoo sciences school at Moorpark College. Good people, even if they were nuts to over-night on top in this weather. Wish I remembered their names.

After a few minutes chatting I walked over to the tower. The whole cabin structure had simply collapsed to the north. Snow had blown through the entire thing and the whole platform was a mess. Down below is the remains of the old cabin. I didn't even sign the register at the tower's base. Most of the entries were written by deer hunters or guys with motorcycles. Like I said, walking up here from below just seems silly, but I didn't do it, which is why I didn't sign the ledger.

The old ground-level cabin.

A view north.

Done with the tower I followed some prints off the eastern side of the summit. I spent some time reading the tale of a puma stalking a deer down the mountain. This cat had a 5" foot which puts it at at least 115 pounds. Not a kitty you'd want to meet.

I drove down Cuyama Peak and back into Santa Barbara Canyon where I did a little looking around. I satisfied myself that I had located the take-off for Fox Mountain, for future reference. And I scrambled over, under, around and through the red rock bluffs above the SB Canyon Ranch. I'd always told myself I would someday check out these impressive bluffs. Under the bluff I found a huge pile of owl droppings, fallen from a sheltered alcove 50 feet overhead. On top of the bluff I got these awesome pictures of Bob Reyes' private Idaho. He's a nice guy. Talked to him for a bit after coming out of Madulce a couple months ago. The Santa Barbara Canyon Ranch has been in his family for generations.

Collected owl droppings.

This is just damn pretty. Atop the red rocks at Santa Barbara Canyon Ranch.

I eventually headed home, but I pulled out for some particularly scenic things I had to shoot. I also stopped at the old Chorro Pack Station. 

Cuyama Peak Fire Lookout from near Quatl Canyon
Pistachio Trees, Ventucopa

This is the main room and fireplace of the Chorro Station on Hwy 33.

Chorro Pack Station


  1. I mountain biked up the Tinta to that tower in late 2011, that was a blast, sad to see the tower collapsed now. When I was up there last there were bugs falling out of all the wood, it was pretty nasty.

  2. Aloha Chris,
    I admit I don't envy you cranking up that road to the summit. Yeah, wished I'd gotten out to that tower 6 months sooner.
    Hey, I'd like to get your info again. I never really got a chance to look at your stuff and I think I deleted the link.