Fourteenth Time’s a(nother) Charm
Excluding the routes of the Chumash Wilderness, no other trail has seen my and ZK’s boots more than the upper Piedra Blanca/Gene Marshall NRT — specifically the stretch from the Reyes Creek corral to Beartrap No. 1. And not including the you-shoulda-been-there (but-are-probably-glad-you-weren’t) epic when the Billy Monster led me from Reyes Peak down Haddock and into the Beartrap, Reyes, and Raspberry drainages as a nascent mountain biker in the years before the formation to the Sespe Wilderness, I’ve tallied the overnight trips to this stretch of the Los Padres to now number 14 visits.
The route to Beartrap is often the first trip for friends (and their willing canine companions) who want to get a taste for the southern Los Padres. This was my son’s first backpack (at all of two-and-a-half years), it was a staple of our Scouting years when training for the Sierra Nevada, and it’s a perfect microcosm of the “classic” terrains: the start consists of pinon-dotted scrub typical of the San Emigdio Mesa; riparian sycamores and alders punctuate the crossings; chaparral hedges you in on the open slopes; thick cedar, big cone Douglas-fir, and ponderosa at the camps provide ample shade. Perfection.
So for this year’s Boxing Day escape, the three amigos (ZK, DAW-G, and I) led a crew of three trail-hardened middle-schoolers and their canine bodyguards for an easy overnight to Upper Reyes. Turning off the 33 into the Ozena Valley and Upper Cuyama, we saw nobody. Nobody on Lockwood Valley Road. Nobody crossing the ford. Nobody at Camp Scheideck. Nobody in Reyes Creek campground. Nobody at the corral parking area.
The temps peaked at maybe 60°F, and it was a leisurely ascent out of the Raspberry drainage to the photo op saddle and down into the massive Incense-cedars that mark the best of the two official trail camps.
This stretch of the canyon doesn’t get much sun, and by early afternoon things were already getting frosty. Camp was made, and we all marveled at a bear cub’s front paw left uneaten on a nearby flat clearly preferred by the local P. concolor (quick, make sure the kids are all accounted for!). DAW-G laid the tinder and kindling, and HFM impressed with her mad ninja-like flint and steel skills. Shortly we were enjoying the scents of the steak fajitas simmering over the C. decurrens-fueled fire, cold Guinness, and drams of single malt. We retired early as the temperatures steadily dropped to a low of about 25°F, and spent a comfortable night under a moonless sky.
The next morning the wee ones awoke to the scent of bacon frying over the fire, and we all enjoyed a lazy morning of exploring the nearby slopes and waterways. The pack continued to find pieces (mandible, leg bone) of the little cub, much to their delight and digging/burying pleasure.
The hike out was a serene walk under high wispy clouds, so relaxing in fact I decided I’d mention neither a) the careless horsepacker who’d left the other campsite full of droppings perhaps a week ago nor b) the mountain biker with 2.1 Tioga (maybe WTB) knobbies who’d entered the wilderness around the same time … it was that relaxing.