Monday, March 23, 2015

Agua Blanca Backcountry


Here are some photos from an extraordinary day of off trail rambling. The area in question could be described as the wind blasted high country between Whiteacre Peak and the Agua Blanca drainage. I, and two mates, set out from Goodenough at sunrise, pounding through road miles. In time we switched gears, leaving the road for a brushy dragon's back ridge climb. This difficult ascent gained 1,500ft in just 0.85 miles. Hampered by the angle and the human repellant brush, the climb took more than an hour to complete, but this unorthodox route provided a quick access to the top of the hulking Whiteacre massif. 

From that point we turned north, busting, scraping, and crawling toward the wind blasted sandstone plateau behind Whiteacre. The going was rough, taxing. After a time we discovered and explored a tiered series of dry waterfalls, each tier taller and more beautiful and unique than the last. The lowest tier was tucked into a deep hollow of green oaks and spruce. As I explored the dramatic overhang beneath the middle of these three falls my comrades above were treated to the sight of six condors circling.

We climbed out of that sculpted terrain and onto a huge plateau of gently rolling sandstone. Over the ages the wind has eroded the surface rock leaving behind scatterings of harder, more ferrous stone strewn this way and that. Club-like tufas of weathered sandstone stood lonesome, patiently waiting for the day when their supports weathered away and gravity took hold. Wind scoured caves dominated any vertical surface, some being the size of a two car garage. We discovered a dramatic and bulbous arch, the likes of which I've not seen. In the sandy gullies between formations we saw numerous bear prints. This was a place of nearly alien beauty.

The brush mauling we suffered was a reminder that with some ingenuity and grit, going off-trail in the Los Padres is not only possible, but can be hugely rewarding. Enjoy the photos.











17 comments:

  1. Great write-up & photos Mr. Stillman.

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  2. Amazing rock formations. "Alien" was the right word. Cool.

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  3. I never thought I'd say it, but I miss seeing bear tracks. Sorta.

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  4. Great photos David, that arch is simply majestic. For those not familiar with it, the purple grass flower is chia, an important protein food for the Chumash. Imagine huge springtime fields full of it with kids and women using woven seed beaters to gather tons of it. Well, maybe pounds. Thanks for posting, lee t.

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  5. Fantastic formations.
    Really like the stark contrast of the first leading image.
    Nice work!

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  6. I'd have to agree with your assessment; that's some prime real estate!

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  7. Lordy, big response. Must done something' right. -DS

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  8. Wonderful pictures. I have flown over the area numerous times and have been In awe of the drainage to the East of Whiteacre... kind of a mini BearHaven with all the delicious sculptures and slot canyon's, (just not as many). I have wondered what would be the best way up there... The drainage at the end of Bucksnort Trail or the ridge to the south was where I was going to twist my ankles.

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    1. Charlie, shoot me an email. Quid pro quo? -DS

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    2. Tenacity is only part ASS'ity. I apologize for the wait I have been hunting for these pics and have finally found them on an old laptop that needed to be coaxed back from the dead. The pictures you will see are of a Dr. Suessian alternate universe. Shortly I will make a few available on my my G+ page.

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  9. Sheepish correction - the flowers are Blue Dick, not chia. Got my colors mixed up. Chia is shorter, branched and dark purple. Sorry for the confusion (if there was any). lee t.

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    1. I was wondering if I might be confused. Thanks Lee. -DS

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  10. Primo shots from some primo country...

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  11. I had no idea those formations were out there!

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  12. Hi Dave. I have a newly found respect for you. I grew up hiking all around Swallows Nest and Devils Gate etc... Never this high! Beautiful pics. Ty for all the detail. Going to share with my Mom. My grandparents owned about 40 acres at the end of Goodenough for years.

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  13. Hi David,

    I enjoy your adventure posts and photographs. Thanks for sharing.

    We recently moved next to the Sespe River and I have since become fascinated by the flora and marine fossils that washed down with the last heavy rains. I've done some research and I'm intuitive, but by no means am I an expert in rock or fossilized rock identification. However, the sixth and tenth pictures below your write up have me intrigued. Don't laugh, because I could be way off base here, but I can't help but see large marine animals, perhaps whales in those rock formations. I would love to see other pictures of the two locations if you have any you wouldn't mind sharing.

    Thanks.
    ~Deb

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