I hatched a crazy plan to hike from my front door east 100 miles to where the PCT meets Highway 138 at a place called Hikertown. Here I am leaving my front door.
Walking down my street
Walking down Carrillo St.
Stopped for coffee, met Tony
Tony gave me a ride to the trailhead. Yeah, so it wasn't a pure thru-hike to the PCT, but as you will see, I proved it could be done, and that is good enough for me.
Romero Trail creek
It'll be nice to leave Santa Barbara's fog behind
Almost out of the fog
Tony hiked with me down to Blue Canyon. Here he is taking a picture of the fog.
At the junction of Romero and Blue Canyon Trail.
Hiking the blue canyon trail. I'm aiming for that pass.
I'm hiking alone now. It's hot here at Blue Canyon Pass so I put on my umbrella for some shade.
Here's the water crossing near Juncal camp
I've begun to climb toward Jameson Lake. This is looking back toward where I have come.
Junction near the Franklin Trail. I'm headed for Murietta Divide.
Looking down at the flume at Franklin Trail.
Looking back at the lake
Nice creek near the campsite above Jameson Lake
Here's the campsite
Metates at the campsite
I climbed over the divide and set up camp a little ways over the other side. While hanging out, a bear or two came by and scared me away. I ended up hiking down toward Murrietta Camp but it got too dark for me to get all the way there. I saw fresh, wet bear tracks the whole way down.
The next morning I headed for Matillija Trail. There were Matillija poppies.
Here I am at the trailhead for Matillija trail.
Here's Matillija creek
Matillija trail is a nice, wide trail
One of the campsites on Matillija Trail
A nice campsite. This may have been Maple, the last campsite on the trail, and the last place to get water for a long time. The next place for water will be Sespe Creek.
Taking a break at Maple camp.
Penstemon. It's May 26 and for Southern California, spring is almost over.
Maybe this one is Maple
I'm now climbing toward a Jeep road out of Matillija Canyon. It's very hot and steep. The north side of the mountains has big cone spruce trees.
This does not capture how steep the trail was.
This doesn't capture how steep the trail was, either, but maybe it's a little closer to the truth.
I can now see toward my direction to go the next few days.
I think this is looking back at where I have come
I hiked a motorcycle trail and this is the firebreak trail I needed to follow to get to Dry Lakes Basin
Here I am all bloodied up after bushwhacking the firebreak. The firebreak doesn't go all the way through. There's a chunk missing in the middle.
My goal for the night is that dry lake up ahead.
And here I am! This is the first of the Dry Lakes when you come from the west, or the last if you come from the east. I recommend coming from the east. This was the best of the dry lakes.
This dry lake was full of these pretty yellow flowers
My camp at the dry lake.
Hiking out of the dry like in the early morning. It was nice and cool until I climbed about 5 feet up that trail and then the daily blast furnace could be felt.
A bumble bee among the penstemon.
Looking back at the dry lake where I camped
The other dry lakes are full of sage scrub.
Somebody lost a pen. Now I had a pen.
Ojai valley is full of fog
More dry lakes
I've left the dry lakes and am now beginning the climb down to Highway 33 and the Sespe Creek trail.
Interesting rock formations near the Piedras Blancas area.
The turnoff to Sespe Creek trailhead. You'd miss it if you weren't looking for it.
My first opportunity to get water since Maple Camp yesterday. This is Sespe Creek. It'll be several miles before I see the creek again.
The trail stays high away from the creek.
The rock formations of Piedras Blancas
The junction with Piedras Blancas trail
The Sespe Creek trail is really wide. I think it used to be a road.
I stopped here at this great spot for lunch and a quick swim. I'm not sure, but I think consuming this water here without treating it made me slightly sick for the next few weeks.
Here's a nice camp further along the trail.
The creek is wide with plenty of water on this late May day.
Sometimes the trail was lush and shaded.
Often the trail climbed high. This is a little side creek down below.
This sign pointed to a trail that's not hardly there anymore.
A campsite at Willetts
I explored around Willetts. Here's an old chimney.
Here's the cabin at Willetts. You wouldn't want to stay in it.
Inside the cabin
Climbing steeply to the hot spring at Willetts
Here's the tub at Willetts. It was nice and warm.
Here's my camp at Willets down by the creek. I thought it might sprinkle, but it did not.
Leaving Willetts in the early morning
Nice sycamores along the creek.
A nice campsite down the way from Willetts
Lots of Matillija Poppies
Sespe Creek is nice and big
Climbing up and over yet another one of the ridges. The trail would go up and over a ridge, down close to the creek and then up and over again.
You wouldn't know by the sign, but it's the junction where you turn left to go to Sespe Hot Springs. I think if you stay straight, you come to where you turn and go down the Sespe Gorge.
Is this Poplar Creek? I'm not sure. It flows strangely warm.
Sespe Camp. It's a big camp.
Sespe Camp has an outhouse
Poplar Creek. You can see the trail on the left.
I walked up the trail to the canyon where the hot spring pools are.
A campsite in the palms
Here's a pool where I soaked. It was not all that hot, but it felt great. I soaked with all my clothes on because I had a big, hot climb ahead of me of almost 5000 feet, most of which had no shade. I wanted to be wet for it.
Another hot pool. This one was much hotter.
Beginning the climb on Johnston Ridge Trail.
Johnston Ridge Trail
The climb on Johnston Ridge is relentless
Looking at my progress on Johnston Ridge Trail
A mesa across the way
A field of Poodle Dog Bush below
Poodle Dog bush
Looking at my progress. The trail has leveled off a bit.
Walking toward Mutau Flat
Mutau Flat in the distance
More Poodle Dog Bush
Even more Poodle Dog Bush, plus clouds are forming. This would be the start of over 2 weeks of rain that ended up causing many thru-hikers to change their hikes into section hikes.
I was hiking now into better forest, some not burned.
The junction with Little Mutau trail.
A campsite on the trail.
Sometimes the Little Mutau trail was quite overgrown.
I climbed up the Little Mutau creek for several miles, then began a strenuous climb up toward 7000 feet. Here I am about half way up and looking toward the east.
I think that's the back side of Topa Topa bluffs and the condor sanctuary.
There are a lot of balloons that end up in the backcountry around Ojai and Santa Barbara.
This is still Little Mutau Trail. I'm in some nice forest now. Motorcycles had traveled the entire trail. I think the trail was so steep because their trails have hidden the switchbacks. I did find faint switchbacks sometimes to ease the slope of the climb.
Finally at the end of Little Mutau trail is a road with trailhead parking and a really nice outhouse. Since I had only seen bear prints the whole way so far, I thought I might seek refuge from bears inside the outhouse if they smelled the smoked salmon juice I ended up spilling all over myself.
So I camped outside the outhouse with my food inside the outhouse and me ready to run inside and lock the door. I kept telling myself not to lock the door on the way OUT of the outhouse, because that would not be good.
The next morning I set off down the dirt road. Lots of flowers on the hillsides around the road.
The dirt road is in good shape.
Flowers along the dirt road
I have reached the last trail on my connection to the PCT. The Buck Creek trail. I felt so triumphant, but things were about to go terribly wrong.
The Buck Creek trail
Looking toward Ojai and Filmore.
I think this is where I went wrong. I followed this wide trail down. There were lots of motorcycle tracks going this way. Somewhere around here must have been the right way to go. Buck Creek trail should have gone to the right of the mountain ahead somewhere, perhaps somewhere behind me. I should have not gone near that big mountain.
I searched and searched for the trail and then found a really good trail. I mistook this for Buck Creek Spring. I believe it is the headwaters of Snowy Creek.
I mistook this for the Buck Creek trail. It was a beautiful trail, but I believe it's actually an illegal motorcycle trail that is not on the map.
This is a real spring and I believed now that this was Buck Creek Spring, but it was not.
The valley was really pretty.
Here is a campsite after the spring. Since the Buck Creek trail had a spring and then a campsite, I believed this to be Buck Creek Camp. I thought it was only a few more miles to Hardluck camp. But this was not Buck Creek Camp. I don't know what camp it was.
The creek was choked with stinging nettles, poison oak and mugwart. It was a nice little creek, especially near the top of the canyon like it is right here.
I saw a beautiful snake.
I walked by a lot of old junk
The trail started climbing out of the canyon. I thought it might be trying to avoid some narrows down below. The map didn't show the trail climbing and I was starting to get a little worried.
My trail was taking me to Hungry Valley up ahead. This was not right at all. I was mad that the motorcycles had mislead me and I turned around to head back to the canyon to find the real trail. I still thought it was Buck Creek, but a part of me was starting to think that I'd really messed up.
I returned to the creek and could see the trail. But any time I could see the trail like this, I would try to cross the creek and follow it but not be able to find it on the other side.
I encountered more rusty stuff. I later could see this area on the map in Snowy Creek as the site of an old cabin.
I ended up trying to follow and stick to the faint trails along the canyon, but after a while, the trails were impossible to follow. The only prints on them were bear prints. They were narrow and would disappear. They were treacherous. They were animal trails. I dropped into the creek to follow the creek instead. The rounded rocks were extremely slippery and the going was very difficult. Lots of poison oak, stinging nettles, wild roses and dead branches made the going extremely tiring.
As I descended down that creek for 4 hours, a sinking feeling in my stomach grew and I knew for a fact that I was terribly lost. I had no idea where I was. In my desperation, I took no more pictures, and did not take any pictures when I reached the confluence with a larger creek, nor any pictures when I reached a gate at the paved road by Hardluck Camp. When I reached that road and learned I had come down Piru creek I was very confused, but also very grateful that I had ended up at Hardluck exactly at the time and place I had expected. This photo is walking up the road from Hardluck.
Here's where I had hidden a bicycle on the road.
Here I am at the Los Padres Forest sign on the road.
Here's my bicycle. Riding the bike was a little scary. The brakes were pretty weak and the bike was too big for me. It also only got 2 of its 3 speeds. I ended up donating it to Hikertown. I had found it to begin with anyway.
Here I am riding my bike down the road toward Los Alamos Campground. In the distance is Interstate 5.
Here's my camp at Lost Alamos Campground. I called Tony and he decided to come meet me in the morning and drive me the remaining 22 miles to Hikertown and the PCT. Then he could hike the aqueduct with me and visit with me and I wouldn't have to ride that clunky old bike. While I was here, I examined the map and finally figured out I had gone down Snowy Creek instead of Buck Creek. Snowy met with Piru Creek near Hardluck camp. There was no trail on Snowy Creek past the motorcycle trail headed for Hungry Valley. Someday I'll return and hike the Buck Creek trail.
Here we are at Hikertown. There were lots of hikers here and many of them were suffering from shin splints.
Hikertown is a great place. If you were driving along, you'd never know that such a great haven was here.
Here's the PCT emblem. Even though I got a ride to here, I felt I proved to myself well enough that the PCT was within walking distance of my house.