Friday, May 31, 2013

Unanswered Curiosities and Loose Ends

God rays over Ozena Valley, taken from Hwy 33.
Burn a tank of gas, do some off-trail, take a bunch of pictures. I spent much of the morning exploring some canyon country near New Cuyama. There is a pictograph site in the area and I stopped by to get some pictures before exploring up a near by rocky and cave riddled branch canyon. Found some odd stuff.
After that I drove east to Lockwood Valley and looked up another small pictograph site in the vicinity. I'm taking the lazy way out here and going with pictures and captions.

Outside New Cuyama I found three weird, but obviously man-made holes.  Only one of them was large enough to be able to squeeze inside. 
I found this to be very mysterious. That door is solid, pasted to the rock with JB Weld which is nearly impossible to remove. The door is about 20"x20" and presumably there's some kind of recess behind it. There's a guy I could ask (he owns the land and we've talked before) but I don't really think I was supposed to run across this. 
This is the largest and deepest of the man-made caves I found. It only goes in about 12 feet.
I mentioned some pictographs being in the neighborhood and these are they. This is a small and pretty degraded site. Paintings are found in multiple huecos. A very small cave has both paintings and cupules.

This was my favorite image from this first of two pictograph sites for the day.
In the same general neighborhood as the rock art I came across this cool little cave. Note the "1983" carved on the right side of the entry. This site was at least 0.5 miles off-trail, totally in the sticks. There's a story there that I'll probably never know the particulars of.
A badlands ridge, taken from Lockwood Valley Rd.
Mt Pinos from Dome Springs.

This neat pictograph comes from the second rock art site of the day. He's commonly  referred to as "Quail Man" because of his jaunty forward facing top feather. 
Quail Man and El Sol

I thought this was a pretty panel of rock.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I cannot believe how many people I just saw at Tar Creek 05/27/13

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.

Monday. May 29. Memorial Day, in the year of someone's Lord, 2013. 
Ruth and I needed sun and water and exercise. She picked Tar Creek. I hmmmed on that for a bit and made it clear that there would be at least a few dozen people in the canyon. We went anyway (this is kind of like Steven Wright's classic one liner, "My wife and I tried a new restaurant, we had reservations but we went anyway.") and boy, was I wrong! Way wrong.
Extra. Wrong.
How about well over 100 people! In that little place! 
So I'm starting this post with nice happy pictures before getting to the unchecked masses.
As for Tar, I've never seen it this dry before July, but it isn't even June yet. Essentially, Tar has no flow. And after this weekend I'm not sure anybody'd want to swim in it anyway.

I spooked this boy back into the trees before some jerk came along and threw a rock at him.

This photo is undoctored. That is the actual nuclear waste green going on at Tar this week.
The bottom falls has become a vertical flower garden.

There are 52 people and 1 dog in this picture.
There are 31 people in this shot.
30 in this shot.
31 vehicles in just this shot. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Los Padres Oaks in Miniature

This is my oldest, grown from an acorn off the massive oak at Indian Cave. She's 3 and a half years old.

I'm stuck on call this beautiful Memorial Day weekend. What this means is that I'm expected to be 100% at work within 30 minutes of receiving that phone call, and there's already been five of those this weekend, so far. I was sitting in the back yard doing nothing when it occurred to me that I've never mentioned my trees...banzai oak trees born from Los Padres acorns, that is.

Several years ago I collected a couple acorns from the grand old California Oak at Indian Cave, brought them home, potted them and waited to see what would happen. One acorn failed, but one sprouted and is growing into a real beauty. After the first little oak sprouted I rounded up several more acorns from various corners of the Los Padres and they too have sprung to life. I have found that if potted most acorns will sprout, but it requires as much as a year before a baby oak breaks the soil from the time it is planted. These little trees are pretty resilient and once they've grown a couple inches it's a pretty good bet that they'll keep growing for a very long time. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

San Rafael Peak (HPS), 05/22/12

What the hell is going on with me and BEARS!?! This is getting ridiculous!

All I wanted was a pumpy morning and a view summit. I didn't ask for yet another huge bear.
Colbert is right! Number 1 threat to America? BEARS!!!
Godless Killing Machines indeed.

So yeah, let's talk about the whole reason for the day, San Rafael Peak. This is another of the Angeles Sierra Club's Hundred Peaks recommendations, and a damn good one at that. I love a good climb and this peak has steep in spades. The route starts in Grade Valley/Mutau from the Johnston Ridge TH. A short time after crossing Mutau Creek the Johnston Ridge Trail turns south. Continuing on toward Little Mutau the trail climbs east up a shallow wash which transitions into a narrow ravine before switching back out of the ravine and climbing to a saddle. The path down Little Mutau continues east off the other side of the saddle while those who are here for the peak hang a right and start uphill. The total mileage there and back comes to around 10, and the elevation gain comes in at 2,400', 300' of which is on the way back. All sounds pretty good right? Well... ever since crossing Mutau Creek I'd been following the  enormous track seen below.

I followed this big print until I met the owner.
Now I understand that some of you have trouble swallowing that this is the #8th or 9th bear I've found myself within 100 feet of since last November when all this started. That was in Kings Canyon where I  encountered four bears in two days, but since I got back from that trip I keep running into these guys and I'm not sure what's going on. A lot of it probably has to do with the fact that I'm pretty quiet compared to many folks, certainly more quiet than two or more people. But I didn't ask for this.

In this particular instance I rounded a bend in the ravine, looked up and saw this big sunuvagun looking right at me from about 40 feet away. He stood there, all cinnamon in the sun, shaggy and huge, looked away and casually started walking across the dry creek and up the hillside to my right. I moved to where he'd been and tried to spot him in the brush on the hillside. I looked all over for him and then my eyes went back to an odd shadow, just something unusual about that shadow 50 feet away. Glanced back and realized that the "shadow" was the bear, standing on two legs staring at me. Errr. I got my wits together in time to snap this lousy shot of him vacating the premises. Enough with these bears!

My eighth bear encounter in the last 9 months. 
Those are trail markers and this is the trail.
 This trail, the one I'm getting back to talking about, in the Sierra Club's notes they describe the navigation as "Very Difficult". All I got to say is that a bucket full of common sense and experience might be helpful. I'll explain.

As seen in the shot below, the two or so miles over to the summit involve some pretty gnarly steeps. This is a use trail, and in places it is obvious, plain as day. In other areas it is nonexistent, that's where the common sense comes in. I had a feeling, which was later confirmed, that I was the first person up here since the USFS reopened Grade Valley. So I got to contend with a winters worth of pine needles, leaves, branches and deadfall trees. I imagine that the state of the trail will improve over the summer but as of now it is pretty feral. This is a devilish route. Sucker trails abound. Staying on route requires nearly constant vigilance.

This shot looks southwest to the summit of San Rafael Peak. The route climbs the dragons back ridge. Taken from atop the first step above the Little Mutau Saddle.
 As you can see from the photo above, the ridge up SanRaf has one long grind and a few lesser ones. They are steep, extra steep in places. And a lot of it is sand and gravel. Which sucks. But a lot of it is open and grassy and really pretty. The views are panoramic, even while still climbing. You just work it out somehow and then you're there. It took me 2.5 hours from the truck to work it out.
The summit register dates back to 05/1974. I wasn't even 2.
Sulfer Peak, Devils Heart and Topatopa.
Devils Heart Peak (low left) and Topatopa Peak.
 And these incredible views are why I now love San Rafael Peak. My goodness! The gang's all here. I turned in a big circle and started dropping names. Out of all the named peaks that I could physically see, the only one I haven't stood on is McDonald. And that my friends, is a curious feeling. I'm running out of peaks. 
The one and only Cobblestone Peak.

As I mentioned before, the summit register confirmed that the last visitors had landed in early November of last year. The registers in the can go back all the way to 1974 and the spiral pads are almost exclusively jammed with the summit scribbles of the large and small parties of Sierra Club group hikers. This is another of those cases where very few people who actually live in Ventura County ever summit this peak. We're being outdone by LA sierra Clubbers. Jeez.

I spent a really nice hour on the rocky summit before turning back the way I'd come. San Raf is a good one. Giverago.

Here's a breakdown of peaks, looking west. Click any image to enlarge.

For a more realistic video about bears click: