dispatches & explored

Ellis Apiary

As something of a sidebar to the “Diamonds in the Rough” theme, Nico and I headed up to the Ellis Apiary site in the eastern Sespe Wilderness this past weekend. Even by the mid-70s, the route was considered to be in pretty poor shape. It’s not improved since.

The previous evening’s storm had left a fine low-level blanket of snow atop the surrounding hills, and as we headed out from the lower parking area aside Lake Piru (the Fernandez Launch being closed for the season), gloves were in order to ward off the chill.

On the Road


After the five-mile march along the service road, we picked around the wind- and water-eroded sandstone just north of Blue Point, and then continued easily through a few knee- and waist-deep crossings upstream of the abandoned Blue Point Campground and beyond the Whitaker Ranch and the Agua Blanca/Piru confluence. This entire route was an easy exercise along sealed road and silty double-track. A few hundred yards beyond the confluence, however, this easy route abruptly turned into the narrow cobble-strewn walls of the Juncal formation, and we spent the next hour wading, scrambling, and generally bushwacking through the vestiges of what had once been the Cobblestone Trail (18W03).

Lower Cobblestone Route: The Geology

Path of Least Resistance

The water level was pretty high, so we were resigned to a few crossings which in drier seasons may be more of a rockhop across. The deepest reached my sternum, but none were overly challenging (the uber-hund may disagree on this final point, as she found herself surfing the rapids more than once).

Lower Cobblestone Route: The Topography

Once through the two stretches of narrow canyon, we followed the long-abandoned service road beyond the old site of a hydraulic mining operation, finally coming to the oak-shaded and grass-choked flat where stands Ellis Apiary campsite. Once the site of a commercial beehive operation (hence the name), we only saw a single bee (Omega Bee?). He was outnumbered by a unusually high number of spiders lurking in the grass on the flat adjacent to the camp’s main kitchen.

Type Unknown

Smear Tactics

The site has certainly seen better days, but it was still nice to find yet another of these nearly-forgotten gems.

Somewhere up there, beyond the Turtle-Piru confluence and that southeast flank of Cobblestone Mountain, await two more sites … two little gems out there in the chaparral- and Douglas-fir-choked rough.

Soon enough, you two. Soon enough.


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