Saturday, August 30, 2014

Grouse Mtn, Sawmill Mtn, and Sheep Camp

The view into Pine Mountain Club from the Cerro Noroeste trailhead

Finally. A day without some superseding priority. But too hot for any low-land trails. So up to 8k and the rolling forest between Mt Abel (Cerro Noroeste) and Mt Pinos. The Tumamait, one of my favorite standard trails in the SLP

I prefer to start this route from it's western trailhead at Mt Abel. A rapid descent into a dense cedar forest ends in a moderate climb up the western flank of Grouse Mountain. The trail ascends through a thick collection of spruce, pine, and cedar and during this climb I spooked a pair of young deer who quickly disappeared into the woods. The air here is simply delicious, dry and richly scented with pine. New growth saplings have sprung up everywhere, mostly spruce. Eventually the path levels off, passing beneath the summit of Grouse, where a simple rock cairn indicates the use trail to the summit. Cresting the peak I spooked a pair of young deer. The view from the top looks southwest over an ocean of trees toward Reyes Peak. Looking northeast through the trees one can see my next stop, Sawmill Mountain.

View south from the western trailhead.
New growth spruce.

The use trail ascending through cedars to the summit of Grouse.
The view toward Reyes Peak from the summit of Grouse.

The rounded summit of Mt Pinos, from the west.

On the way to Sawmill I spotted a pair of older does. I paused to watch these graceful ladies fade into the woods before resuming the gentle climb up to the summit. On arrival I realized that the prayer flags adorning the summit cairn were looking pretty sad, so I set about restringing the whole arrangement. This is a unique little spot. The cairn, the open views to the north, the ever-present breeze, all of it combines to make Sawmill feel very different than the typical Los Padres summit experience. Granted, there's nothing difficult about getting here, but some places don't need to put one through their paces to be rewarding.

View from Sawmill. The big peak dominating the right side of the frame is Antimony. Following that ridge left and past the nameless middle hump, one can see Eagle Rest Peak.
The newly rehabilitated cairn on Sawmill.

On the return trip I detoured down the trail which leads to Sheep Camp, Lilly Meadows, and all the way down to the Boy Scout Camp in Lockwood Valley. It had been many, many years since I'd seen Sheep Camp and fond memories came percolating up from the ether. This is one of the quintessential Los Padres campsites, a small vale tucked beneath whispering cedars, graced by a flowering meadow beside a seasonal ground spring. A short climb above the camp reveals stunning westward views, a primo sunset spot. Sheep has a well deserved reputation for beautiful seclusion. It is also a notorious wind tunnel, but today was perfect. After a walk around I sat very still on a log, just enjoying the place. Within about five minutes the character of the place came alive. Dozens of little birds, woodpeckers, and jays forgot that I was there, and a chorus of chatter quickly rose to ridiculous heights. A couple chipmunks darted out from behind a large cedar and a huge gray squirrel descended from a hidden perch. I took it all in for about twenty minutes before turning back uphill to the main trail.

A mild, pleasurable day. One without challenges, struggle, or oppressive heat. Sometimes this prickly forest of ours is a real giver.

The trail down to Sheep Camp.
Sheep Camp.
And the meadow immediately below Sheep Camp.
Cuyama Wash dominating the distant view, from somewhere east of Grouse.
The San Emigdio Mesa and Cuyama Badlands, taken from Cerro Noroeste Road.


  1. Absolutely loved this David. I always have to get out the old "fire finder" map I have and follow you as you go. The pictures through Sheep Camp remind me so much of the trail near the top going to Thorn Pt. I loved that part of the trail, so open under the big pines. I think I need to find a more up to date map though, ha! Rinnie

  2. Rinnie, anything I can do to put a smile on your face, I will endeavor to accomplish. In your case I take requests. -DS