dispatches & explored

Chumash Annual VIII

A Family Affair

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I’ve made no secret of my love for what is now the Chumash Wilderness, and many a post on this site has sung the praises of that stretch of the Los Padres. It was the stretch where I cut my own teeth, where the uber-hund and I perfected her trail manners, and my go-to on the rare occasion a free weekend allows me to go roam the earth for ~48 hours.

Each Spring, a small crew of us heads up the North Fork Lockwood trail to spend a weekend near Lily Meadows. Li’l G has been making the trek since the wee age of six. This year, Little Man got to join the fun — carrying all his own gear for the first time — and so only a day and a half following our sojourn in Kings Canyon, I awoke the morning of our scheduled departure to find him watching Scooby-Doo with his pack already packed and cinched around his little shoulders. That moment could have very well qualified as the best part of the trip, and I hadn’t even had my coffee yet!

Ready (Early Bird Edition)

Day the First

We three headed off for the Mt Pinos RD, the uber-hund and Mad-Eye bouncing around in the back of the new ride knowing exactly what was coming. And so with nary a wisp of cloud in the sky, we were soon moseying along the service road above Three Falls scout camp. It was warmer than anticipated, but still a breezy and comfortable 70. Prime conditions.

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The old service road to the falls had recently been graded, so again we enjoyed that typical easy Pinos-area navigation, now only moreso. After trekking Upper Reyes and then Raspberry Spring as a two-and-a-half-year-old, I think Little Man was expecting a bit more of a challenge. His sister dutifully informed him there would be challenge enough for his little legs.

As fellow wanderers of this wood are well aware, it was a miserably dry winter, and this summer looks to be a pretty miserable one in terms of available water across the southern Los Padres. Even the North Fork trail hasn’t been exempt from the micro-drought — the falls near the wilderness boundary were barely a trickle, and the mutts were denied the opportunity for their usual swim here. There was barely enough to drink, let alone frolic.

Vasa, Mein Hund!

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After an extended break at the trickle formerly known as the falls, we doubled back to the trail split and headed up that steep stretch that in the snow and winter conditions can be downright treacherous. Aside from the requisite photo ops, the young posse motored right up, with nary a complaint (Sports Beans are a great motivator, I will concede).

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Once into the high ravine and heading toward Lily Meadows, the mutts knew the drill and alternated between finding small stretches of surface water, and exploring the steep, sugar pine cone-clad slopes of the western side of the drainage.

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At camp, the monkeys busied themselves with laying the fire, and I scouted for water. As the other crews began to trickle in, we found a dark pool some ways from camp and filtered enough of the earthy, mica-flecked soup to get us through the weekend. As the temps dipped into the high 20s, we kept the fire going ’til nearly midnight, until finally we set to slumber. I sleep better here under a certain trio of Jeffrey pines than pretty much anywhere else in the world (the Auckland Sheraton after five pints of Moa imperial doesn’t count).

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Rogues Gallery
Rogue’s Gallery; image courtesy and (c) RG2.

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Day the Second

The next day broke not quite so friendly-like. Strong winds, downright cold, and it smelled like rain was coming. The NOAA forecast had predicted perhaps 20% chance, but after the previous day’s sun-drenched hike in I had rather forgotten all that. Some of the rag-tag crew headed out before sun-up, others shortly thereafter. I had originally considered a long good-bye; maybe leading the kids up a nearby drainage I know that tops out among some granite hoodoos and genuinely breathtaking views of the San Emigdio Mesa and Cuyama watershed. But that wind was only getting stronger, and the sun struggled to make its presence known. We slung our packs over our shoulders and the dogs were off like a shot, ready for more trail time whatever the direction.

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Laters

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A lesiurely snack above the falls — the winds buffeting our foodstuffs to and fro — was about all the leisure we took during our departure.

So now Little Man has joined the ranks. Yes, of course, we’ll be back next spring. Yes, I’ll probably hit this corner three or four times this year before then. And no, I’ll never tire of it.

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9 Responses to Chumash Annual VIII

  1. George Armstrong says:

    Craig, an inspirational story as always. It is so awesome that you initiated your kids at an early age. Initiating my kids is still a work in progress for me although we have done as much as 12 miles in a day during a car camp in the Sierra. https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/103576058528360735961/albums/5501351359759935441 Now on to my post broken ankle plans for a break in back pack…. I am planning a solo trip from Mount Pinos to Sheep camp in a couple of weeks. Would you expect that I should encounter good weather and more importantly good water flow at Sheep camp considering our current mini drought?

    • craig says:

      Geo., despite how little precip the area has received of late, I’ve the spring(s) at Sheep Camp without water, even in August during the worst droughts. The spring in camp (between sites 1 and 2) is running as of last 4/22, when MMcG reported conditions over on facebook. Lower than average at ~1 gallon every 20 minutes, but that’s still reliable. Just mind the snakes!

      • George Armstrong says:

        Good advise. I will peer out of my tent before getting up in the morning. Truthfully I have not seen a rattler in over 20 years so it might be pretty exciting. I remember when we were disembarking the ferry at Edison Lake to do the JMT (section) we were admonished to look out for those slinky things. I didn’t see one the whole trip. Still, it’s always good advise well given. Thanks and I will post a trip report.

  2. EMW says:

    I am trying to come up with a unique, creative way of conveying how wonderful this story is and how important it is to instill an appreciation of the wilderness in young people. No group has been more important in my life than outstanding teachers, whether of the classic academic variety or those who instructed me in wilderness topics. CRC, you are doing work of immeasurable value.

  3. Steve Genest says:

    In reading your trail guide I’ve found myself drawn to the Chumash Wilderness even though I’ve never been. It’s on my short list now, however! An overnighter…perfect for these old legs.

  4. Stillman says:

    Good stuff C,
    Been many many moons since I’ve been up that trail. I too have been curious about the reliability of the spring at Sheep. -DS

  5. Michael says:

    Craig,

    For what it’s worth, last year I had a brief conversation with someone who lives @ the property located at the end of Boy Scout Camp Rd. (house on the right just before the gate) The guy stated he has lived there a long time and has yet to see the spring go dry.

    BTW going back up to Sheep Camp in a few weeks; I haven’t forgot your promise on the brew. I’m hoping you can hike up there a day ahead of time and get them chillin in the spring box. Shouldn’t be a problem for you…..Right ? 🙂

  6. Michael Shields says:

    SPRING BOX UPDATE @ SHEEP CAMP (6-24-13) = 1 gallon every 3.5 minutes. Yes, I timed it with a stop watch.

    BTW I agree with EMW above; thumb’s up on instilling the wilderness in our young!

    Michael

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