Thursday, January 10, 2013

Samon Peak (HPS) 01/08/13

Back in November I took a good shot at Samon Peak. Unfortunately, it had been raining on me that entire morning and as I ascended the ridge to the summit I got twisted around in a cloud, suspected that the GPS was lying to me (known as "bending the map"), and generally failed to summit. Not that I didn't enjoy the day, but that was a lot of walking just to spend the day wet. 
Redemption day. I got out of bed at 02:30 for the two hour drive to Santa Barbara Canyon. Ruth kind of woke up for a second and mumbled something about her husband's sanity before falling back to sleep. I staggered out the door, turned the ignition and started my day.
Stepping out of the Perseverance (that's the name of my truck, Davi Rivas' truck is called the Endurance) I sucked in a full lungful of shockingly arctic air. Jeezus it was cold! The gauge in the truck said I'd be starting with temps in the 20's. Brrr! There wasn't a lot I could do about that other than start walking. I got going a little after 5AM on what would be a 23 mile day.

The only noise in the cold dark air was the metronomic crunching of my footsteps. Buckhorn Rd had started out a mixture of frozen mud and snow, but as I climbed it's twisting miles my path became increasingly the latter. The cold seeped up through my soles, pushed it's frosty tendrils through zippers and pockets. It usually takes me a good mile or so to get all the morning kinks and bullshit out of the way. Between the watery eyes, numb toes and runny nose I was finally able to get my act together and start burning up the road. 
Junction: Buckhorn Rd and Sierra Madre Rd
Buckhorn Road is long and tedious. And boring. I passed the junction of Buckhorn/Sierra Madre as the eastern sky started showing signs of the coming dawn. I killed the headlamp and kept walking. Now that I was up in the high country, and with the sun rising, things got beautiful. I started really enjoying my walk. I consider myself somewhat of an amateur tracker, and with 3-6 inches of snow on the road I was able to entertain myself with the unending variety of animal sign. Tracks I saw during the morning include coyote, deer, elk, feral cow, mountain lion, bear, bobcat, some kind of weasel, raccoon, rabbit, and several bird species. I enjoyed silhouetted views of Cuyama and Madulce Peaks, but what really grabbed my attention was Samon, my reason for being here. I had rounded a twist in the road and all of a sudden there was this enormous ridge, the skyline of which was rough and rugged. Looking at it from the north I could visualize almost the entire ridge to the summit and I was reminded that I had been up there somewhere just 2 months ago, wet, wandering. I wasn't going to let that happen to me again.
Ice crystals in the road bed.
Madulce Peak in the distance.
Samon's summit ridge.
Crunch, crunch, crunch. Punching holes in snow. The sun was up now and the GoreTex in my kicks couldn't keep the wet out. About 9.5 miles into the morning I finally reached the take-off for the ridge to the summit. This "trailhead" lies 1-2/10ths of a mile north of Chokecherry Spring and is poorly marked. I should say that on a good day this trail can be a bit mystifying, add half a foot of snow and everything starts looking the same. So I can say that most of the climb from the road to the ridge I was winging it, but eventually I cleared that first climb and continued west across a small meadow on the north side of the ridge.
Samon peak with the telephoto lens.
This is the highly marked and immediately visible take-off for the summit.
Past the meadow and up on the summit ridge for real I continued west along the undulating crest. This is another one of those peaks that don't seem to get a lot of traffic and so the trail along the top of this ridge is mostly overgrown and the route itself is pretty tough. After cresting a series of three small summits I was presented with the last short grind to the top of Samon.

The last step to the summit.
Atop the summit I was greeted to 360 views ranging from the Sierra Madre to the north, the Sisquoc Condor Santuary to the west, Big Pine Mountain to the south and Madulce and Cuyama peaks in the east. Quite a view from up here. Turning to the summit benchmark, those that have been know that the crew that placed the benchmark here misspelled the name. That's kind of fishy, but funny. The old coffee can register goes back a ways and there are a few names in it that I recognize from other summit logs in the SLP. This is a nice summit, well earned, and just parked way the hell out in the middle of nowhere.

Samon Peak, misspelled.
After some lunch and play time with my shiny new camera it was time to depart the high realms and resume the second half of this day. I reversed my route, struggling through the same snow and brush that fed me on the way up. Just so you know, this ridge is a lot like work. Add snow and mud and it starts feeling just hard.
Looking back along Samon Ridge from the summit.
Back on the road I turned north and started the long trek out. The snow on the road was getting slushy and as the hours rolled by, the snow and mud became a real pain in the ass. The rest of the afternoon was a muddy mess, the kind of mud that sucks at your heels and globs up on your shoes to the point that they weigh like 5 pounds. Sucky, but for all that it was a long and pretty day. Good peak.



  1. Congrats on a successful 2nd attempt.

    Surprised to hear you saw elk prints. Didn't know we still had any around here.

    Our SLP mud is awful... Jhaura and I had a couple of miles of trudging through it on Cherry Creek Rd recently. Just like you said, felt like each foot weighed 5 extra lbs! Makes a long, boring walk that much longer.

    What camera did you end up with?

  2. Thanks Nico, that mud sucks, literally, figuratively. I've seen some elk prints on the north side of the range here and there. I think some elk have wandered off the Tejon Hunt Club ranch (which is under federal indictment for allegedly killing about 100 mountain lions).
    For cams I'm using the newest Pentax Optio, an iPhone 5 which takes remarkably good pics and the new crown jewel is the Sony NEX 3. I got their top Eseries telephoto lens which is just ridiculous. -DS

  3. Interesting theory on the elk. I'll be curious to hear more if anyone has any knowledge that supports this (or otherwise).

    Nice choice on the new camera. I've been super happy with my NEX-5n. I've built up quite a stable of native E-mount lenses now. Did you go with the 18-200 tele or the 55-210? I have the 55-210 and figured out a way to add on a 1.7x telextender to give me a bit more reach for a small light-ish telephoto kit. Good stuff!

  4. I too went with the 55-210 long lens. I went with the NEX-3 because it has a built in flash. Very pleased so far