Above is a map of our final itinerary including where we camped and mileage for each day.
You can zoom in for more details.
The first three days of the trip were part of a Forest Service work trip to do trail maintenance on the Alamar Trail in the Dick Smith. We drove out to Bluff Cabin on Thursday after work. This was our last chance to contact the outside world, note the "cell phone" sign on the left. Kevin used the opportunity to have his wife send his forgotten insoles to Camp Scheideck.
The crew enjoying a sunset above Bluff Cabin. Cousin Will, Kim, Kevin and Nate the Human Masticator.
The plan was to drive as far as we could along the Buckhorn and start the hike from there. The road had not been cleared past Bluff Cabin yet this season, so we were not sure how far we'd be able to make it by truck. This is the view looking down Indian Creek from the Buckhorn Road.
Still on the south side of Big Pine, we found a few boulders blocking our path. We were able to move most of them, and drive around the others.
Amazingly we made it past Windy Gap and onto the northern slopes of Big Pine. The snow patches started out small and gradually increased. The first couple posed no problem. This is Cousin Will charging along, sort of ironic based on the events yet to unfold.
We eventually parked just past the Big Pine Peak spur trail. Bailey was frozen in anticipation, either that or she was pissed at wearing a pack with 4 days worth of food.
As we hiked around the northern flank of Big Pine we came across some real obstacles. Lots of snow and a big pine across the road. We were tempted to go after this behemoth with our handsaws, but decided it better to leave it to the pros.
Nate tried to move this boulder off the road, but again we left it for the next group through.
There was a good amount of snow and drifts that were probably 3-4ft deep.
Our goal for Friday was to work the Alamar Trail from the Saddle down to Bill Faris Camp. I've been slowly working this trail for the past couple years and it was nice to see the tread work we did last July survived the winter.
The upper section of the Alamar Trail used to pass through a thick pine forest. Now it passes through a thick forest of dead trees, compliments of the Zaca Fire of 2007. Many of those trees are falling across the trail. We cleared what we could, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Good news is that there are many young pine saplings ready to replace their predecessors.
Either that or these two dudes are dog chiropractors and are busy doing some serious work on Bailey.
Madulce Peak in the distance.
There are still some pine covered ravines that survived the fire unscathed.
Eventually the trail drops down into the riparian zone of Alamar Creek. The trail gets worse at that point. We flagged and worked to Bill Faris Camp. There are sections where the old trail is impossible to find and we decided to clear the path of least resistance. This photo shows a switchback that was part of the old trail as it passed through a deep gully. Can you see the switchback?
Bill Faris Camp. It burned really hot in this portion of the canyon. The camp used to by dark and dingy with tree coverage, that's no longer the case.
Also of note, the shortwave radio worked from Bill Faris.
We spent Friday night at Bill Faris. It was dewy and cold. We used the morning sun and the small potrero behind Bill Faris to dry our gear.
Our goal for Saturday was to work the trail from Bill Faris to Dutch Oven and then flag the Puerto Suello up and over to Madulce Camp.
Bill Faris Camp is located next to the single dead pine.
Bend in Alamar Creek, looking downstream.
Downstream from Bill Faris, the trail leaves the creek and climbs up and over a hill on the east side of the creek. The tread is currently followable, but its getting more and more faint. You can see it sloping up and to the right in this photo.
We worked this stretch last Memorial Day. It was interesting seeing how the regrowth stemmed from the previous years cuts.
That's the tread amongst the flowers. Madulce in the background.
We spent over an hour clearing one particularly difficult switchback as the trail headed SE. This particular section of trail WAS thick with sage, but now there is a quarter mile section of freeway waiting for those who hike down to Dutch Oven.
We started running out of time as we got near Dutch Oven, and as a consequence our trail work got worse. Dutch Oven Camp is in really poor shape right now. Its hard to find and really in need of a severe spring cleaning.
Other than Nate the Human Masticator, we stopped clearing the trail up Puerto Suello and instead focused on flagging and finding.
The lower reaches of Puerto Suello. The trail was really hard to follow. To our knowledge no one had been on this trail in a few years.
Puerto Suello Trail follows an incredibly beautiful canyon.
When we did find the trail, we generally found obstacles impeding our progress.
I think this is an Elm sprout. Puerto Suello had so many different types of trees and vegetation. An all star zone of foliage.
A lush stretch along the trail.
Kim led the way up the canyon and had the blood to prove it.
Nate the Human Masticator.
We could not stop this man from lopping the trail. He should be invited on every work trip!
The final climb to the saddle is a tough one. Needless to say we were excited about getting to the top. All downhill to Madulce from here.
The trail down to Madulce was followable but should be worked sometime sooner than later. The oak is starting to take back the trail. We flagged down to Madulce.
Pine Canyon with Pine Mtn in the far background.
Puerto Suello connection with Madulce Trail and Don Victor.
We spent Saturday night at Madulce Camp and went to sleep under clear skies. We awoke to sideways rain, crazy winds (40-50mph+) and temperatures hovering around freezing.
Jack Attack, cold.
Nate and Will headed back to the trucks while Kim, Kevin and I continued down to Don Victor. Will and Nate ran straight into the storm and ended up getting a truck stuck in the mud. I'll save that story for another time.
The last trail sign for a while.
Looking down into Don Victor Valley. I flagged this trail in May 2008 and unfortunately almost all the flags were gone. The stretch of trail from this saddle down to the bottom is non-existent. We flagged a little here and there, but more or less every man/woman&child for themselves.
A fresh bear track along a trib of Mono, Don Victor Trail.
Once at the bottom of the canyon the trail is findable. Here is an old crib-wall remnant. The bottom couple miles up from Don Victor Camp were worked in November 2009. The problem is connecting Madulce to the section that was worked in Nov '09.
In order to connect to Rancho Nuevo Canyon we had to cross country over from Don Victor. The route was steep but relatively wide open. I can provide GPS coordinates if needed.
We'd been hiking in the light rain all morning, but the full fury of the storm seemed to hit as we climbed the 1000ft over to Rancho Nuevo. The wind was really cold, strong enough to almost knock you over and was a virtual white out as we got close to the summit.
The wind at the peak was brutal. I blundered in the white-out and took us down the wrong ridge, but we made it safely off the mountain.
And down into Rancho Nuevo. I love this canyon, its very underrated. We were racing the rain and unfortunately it caught up with us about 5 miles before we got to Deal Canyon. We booked it for Deal; soaked, cold and tired.
Monday night at Deal Junction was cold and wet. We setup camp in the pouring rain and each of us climbed into our tents without saying a word. I spent the night relatively dry with a soaking wet dog to keep me company.
It rained steady and hard most of the night. We woke up Tuesday to a low snow level covering the nearby ridges in white.
Kevin started a fire (thankfully!) and we used it the best we could to dry out our soaking stuff.
We left Deal Junction in the 10's and headed up Deal Canyon for Bear Canyon. It was raining lightly, but our friend the sun made a brief appearance.
Deal Canyon, another hidden gem.
There was a dog thermometer that was reading 42 degrees at 11:30am.
Upper Deal Canyon
As we climbed out of Deal, the rain turned to snow (thats not dandruff), then back to rain, back to snow and then to sun - repeat again. It was an incredible hike.
Leaving the Dick Smith
Dropping into Bear Canyon
Bear Canyon Waterfall
Bear Canyon Trail connects Hwy 33 with the Deal Canyon Trail.
After Bear Canyon, we had to cross-country along the side of Hwy 33 before finally crossing Hwy 33 at Ozena Station. Oddly it felt really good crossing the highway, I did not expect that.
Kim had left his truck here and while Kevin and I continued on, Kim headed home to regroup for future trips.
Fortunately the weather cleared a bit while we climbed the Boulder Creek Trail. This is the view back towards Ozena and the Cuyama Valley.
Pine Mountain was covered in a fresh coat of snow.
We had mailed food and supplies to Camp Scheideck and the Reyes Creek Bar and Grill, which is located at the Reyes Creek Trailhead. They were very receptive to having a mail drop, I can provide details if needed. I had noticed that on an old 1:250k topo sheet there was an old trail that connected Reyes Creek with Boulder Creek. I named it the Snail Canyon Connector. I was not sure if it existed or not and took a chance climbing Boulder Creek in hopes that the trail was there. Fortunately I was able to make it. The red trail indicates severe bushwhacking and the green indicates road/trail.
This sign marks the turnoff from Boulder Creek down the Snail Canyon Connector. There is tread along the way, but expect to spend at least some time crawling. I would certainly rather go down the trail than up, its a steep one.
I mentioned severe bushwhacking, that was not a typo. I followed old cuts and some old tread down to the bottom and was rewarded with an old trail sign - indicating that I was somewhere. Stoked!
Once off the mountain, the route was along an old ranch road, a trail, then a new ranch road, a trail and finally more bushwhacking. This is what a portion of it looked like.
The old ranch road.
Check the map to the right and click View Album Map, then view it in satellite view mode. You can sort of follow the Snail Canyon Connector I took from the bottom up to the Boulder Canyon Trail. Its faint, but its there.
And the end of the new ranch road, I prefer that over the start of more severe bushwhacking.
My biggest regret on this trip is that I did not take a picture of the tri-tip sandwiches, beer, double chili burgers and fries that we ordered at Camp Scheideck. It was heavenly to have that food after 4 HARD days on the trail. We bought Bailey a burger as well, it did not last long.
We spent Monday night at Reyes Creek Camp. Woke up to blue skies and sun - YES!
The next section was to hike the Gene Marshall trail up onto Pine Mountain and eventually make our way to Pine Mtn Lodge.
Into the Sespe.
View back towards Cuyama.
View up towards Beartrap and Haddock.
We started to hit snow just as we were dropping into Beartrap Creek. View downstream Beartrap.
Beartrap Camp #1
Shortly after the camp we got into some real snow, and it didn't let up until the next day at Cedar Creek.
The trail was hard to follow in the snow and the going was slow.
As the day went on there was water pouring out of every drainage and coming out of all the cracks. The night before, the owner of Reyes Creek Bar & Grill (the owners are Tony and Ale) were telling us that they had more rain in this storm than the whole season combined. We were starting to believe them.
The climb out of Beartrap and into the Piedra Blanca drainage is a tough one. Add snow into the mix and its brutal. Don't slip......
At the saddle and starting to wonder if we'll have enough time to make it the 5 more miles to Pine Mtn Lodge. Also wondering if the clouds will bring more snow or not.
Lots of water, lots of snow, no tracks - great time.
Winter wonderland in April? Southern California?
The falls just upstream from 3 Mile Camp.
3 Mile Camp
We wondered, "Three miles from where?"
As we continued, the normally wimpy Piedra Blanca was showing some teeth. Kevin had some bomber waterproof boots and rather than inundating them in the crossings, he opted to wear his sandals and walk through the creek crossings. He was freezing and needless to say, I kept my distance from him.
After 4 days of hard walking, snow, cold, wet shoes and socks - my feet were taking a beating. Always nice to find time to dry them dogs out.
And here comes Kevin, frozen feet, sandals in the snow.
Continuing towards Pine Mtn Lodge.
Pine Mtn Lodge Area Camp
And morning sun, Bailey was stoked. I was still thinking more about heading back to Scheideck for more tri-tip and beer.
Cave above PML
The real Pine Mtn Lodge
Our original plan was to hike out to Piru and through the Big Narrows of Agua Blanca. Based on the amount of water we came across up on Pine Mtn, we decided to change our itinerary and instead come out at Dough Flat. Something about hiking the Big Narrows after a storm, in April, during an El Niño seemed stupid. We wrote a couple notes telling our change in plans and Kevin headed down to Piedra Blanca, while I headed out towards Cedar Creek. Later this day, Kevin found two couples who accepted our notes with promises of relaying them to the appropriate people.
I climbed over towards Cedar Creek. The trees were full of falling ice. Watch out!
Summit with Grade Valley in the background.
Funny hat, happy dude.
Backside of Pine Mtn / Thorne Peak.
Following bobcat tracks.
That's either a really large bobcat, or bear scat.
Finally, after about 12 trail miles, I dropped out of the snow.
Junction with Pine Mtn Lodge, Cedar Creek and Fishbowls.
It was about 70 degrees, light wind, we had not seen anyone on the trail the entire hike.
Trail down to Cedar Creek.
I really feel that the most beautiful place on the whole trip was Cedar Creek Camp. I've been here many times, but for some reason it was perfect this day when I passed through.
There are some downed trees along the trail.
Lots of water.
Piru Creek, between Halfmoon and Thorne Meadows.
There was a landslide on Grade Valley and the normally busy road was blocked from the usual traffic. It was great! Amazing how nice places are without a constant buzz of motorcycles and Jeeps.
Cave off the beaten path.
Inside the aforementioned cave.
Aliens, conquistadors, or SC Trojans?
Piru Creek, closer to Halfmoon.
Water was flowing nice and was great swimming.
Pano of Mutau Flat.
Some Chumash paintings along the way.
I camped along the edge of Mutau. I had visions of seeing the deer and the antelope play.
Finally some down time to relax. Up until this point the trip had been about work, endurance, perseverance and cold.
Mutau has some seasonal ponds.
And the ponds have some bear shit in them, thats great. There goes hot chocolate.
Sunset along Mutau. Where are the deer and antelope?
Still trying to see them play.
Woke up Thursday and still no deer or antelope. It was freezing though. Temperatures were around 27 when I woke up. I cross countried to the Johnston Trail and within 20mins it was 70 degrees and climbing.
Ah yes, Sespe Hot Springs. It worked out that I had over 24hrs of layover at Sespe Hot Springs. Great place to waste time.
I finally saw the illusive human species I had been trying so hard to avoid. All good though, they left shortly after I arrived.
Topatopa from Hot Springs Canyon.
A day alone in the canyon gave me plenty of time to see the area from every angle.
And relax under all 3 trees.
And build a couple pools.
And see where the hot water comes from.
Did you know that Sespe is the hottest hot spring in Southern California?
Supposedly 160+ degrees at the source, which is just above this pool.
Its more a hot creek than a hot spring.
The premier pool.
Kevin arrived in the late afternoon after his journey along the Sespe. The 'change in plan' notes were successfully dispatched. This photo did not turn out, but Kevin's tent looked so great with this backdrop. I had visions of selling this shot to Montbell for millions. Oh well.....
We camped at the top of the canyon. As everyone knows, at Sespe its all about cold water access.
Friday morning and heading for Alder Creek. Hoping our notes made it successfully so our ride would be at Dough instead of Piru. This is Sespe proper Camp.
Back up Hot Springs Canyon with San Rafael Peak as the backdrop.
Lupine along Sespe.
This is my second crossing of the Sespe. The first one swept Bailey down two series of rapids. It was really funny. So this one I decided to film and it did not live up to the hype.
We heard rumors that the Sespe was neck deep earlier in the week. The crossings were waist deep on this day. Sort of scary in a challenging way. Neck deep would have been real scary. Good choice to avoid the Big Narrows.
We had heard that the trail from Sespe to Alder was extremely treacherous. Visions of 2 inch tread and 100ft drops were dancing through our heads, mine in particular.
We went left here.
As we climbed over to Alder we noticed that a group of Sierra Club hikers (we had heard they were coming from Dough to Sespe) were hiking down this obscure ridge on the wrong side of the canyon. We still have no idea how they got there, or where they came from. Anyone?
This is a shot of the treacherous tread along the Alder/Sespe Trail. Its a bit sketchy but very makeable for the time being. This trail from Alder to Sespe would be great to maintain. Not including the Sierra Club, we came across 7 guys who got lost trying to find this trail. It needs direction.
Some more of the sketchy tread with Sespe in the background.
And down towards Alder Creek.
Getting brushy on this side. This area burned in the 2006 Day Fire.
Alder Narrows, just downstream from Shady Camp.
Hard to tell the scale, but these falls are about 10feet high. Felt great too.
Maybe part of the reason people are getting lost. We found this sign in the bushes well off the main trail.
And repositioned the sign in the proper location. We had some down time. It really was a story of two trips with regards to down time.
Camped Friday night at Shady Camp.
Woke up Saturday and climbed to the top of the Narrows for a better view. This is up canyon.
And down canyon, down the Sespe.
And down mug.
Shady Camp is under the oaks on the far side right.
The climb to the top of the Narrows.
Bailey - frozen again. For some reason she freezes each time I put a pack on her.
There are two camps at Alder Creek. This is the overflow camp downstream from the main camp.
The trail down Alder from where the McDonald splits is in poor shape. Most of the traffic is going straight down the creek.
The main camp at Alder Creek.
Double ice can stove with hinges. Don't see many of these.
The notes worked. Our ride came in on Saturday.
We found a cave along the way.
Chumash were flexible.
And a camp worth staying at.
Alex raised the flag, announcing our intention to stay.
Mortar grinding site.
Our reinforcements brought tri-tip, beer, eggs and bacon. Along with Nate the Human Masticator - Alex and Frank need to be invited on each trip as well. Good work guys!
Alex also built us a pool, Frank provided the whirl.
Along the creek.
Along the trail.
Headed home with mixed emotions. The trip was coming to an end, but Kevin and I were ready for a return to civilization.
Hiking back to Dough Flat, the final stretch. This picture is of Devils Heart Peak, you can see the heart on the left side of the photo, the bald sandstone heart on the side of the mountain.
Dropping in to Cow Springs.
Cliffs above Dough Flat.
And that's it. Done deal, trip over. Great time as always. Thanks Kevin for being a great hiking buddy.
Highlight was probably Camp Scheideck, really nice to backpack into a bar/grill and regroup.
And this extremely long slide show is over!