Sometimes life gets in the way of things that matter … but that’s not actually the case here.
In this case, life just got in the way of my drafting a report about the things that matter — namely, getting the wee ones out into the fair corners of our backcountry. And so now I make up for some lost time by chronicling our annual Chumash Wilderness escape — thrice over.
Our eleventh annual spring escape along Lockwood Creek’s north fork was really part of the reason this site isn’t updated quite at the feverish pitch it was only a few years ago. Well, that might be an over-simplification. The slightly longer version: a few months earlier, I’d helped found a new Boy Scout troop in Ventura, and so in addition to the Lady Mountaineers of Girl Scout Troop 201 dusting me on several trips that year, the usual excursions with the RSO & Co., family trips, and the like, suddenly my calendar was effectively 7 weekends in the wilderness, and a weekend off … and repeat.
Am I complaining? Certainly not! But with a finite number of hours in a day, the time to sit and draft entries for this site became considerably less.
That addressed, Clan Carey and a pal of Trailmaster’s were joined by the heterchromatic hellhound for the initial Spring 2016 mosey under windy, cloudless skies. In the throes of recent Scouting archery outings, the young men of the crew spent a fair amount of their time aiming their blunt arrows for far-off trees and then twice that time chasing down wayward arrows.
Nary a mile in, G and I stopped a moment for a quick drink and to adjust a bootlace. Lilly immediately scrambled onto the ledge below which we rested, rifling through an wood-rat nest. Despite our instructions the she cease and desist, she did nothing of the sort until she sent a rain of debris down upon us, the main flow of which was accompanied by something that sounded suspiciously like a lawn sprinkler.
Never in my life have a seen a teenager move so quickly — what a remarkable Beamon-esque backward leap!
The dog safely retrieved, we eschewed a longer stay with the angry serpent and continued on our way.
It wasn’t long before we met up with Bardlero Primero at Lily Meadows trail camp, who awaited us as coolly as one can await.
Just up-trail from camp was a very large pine that had gone done; naturally we took it upon ourselves to not only measure and assess this fallen giant’s potential for a future Scout service project, but also to have very serious photos taken.
In keeping with the “dangerous beasties abound” theme, immediately upon our arrival at our favorite little guerrilla site, Trailmaster found the not-yet completely-gnawed remains of a deer at precisely the spot we prefer to set out the bedrolls. (He was then doubly-glad to have the unhinged hound with us.)
Water has of course been low throughout the forest and California as a whole, but we were happy to find enough to eke out the necessary quarts for dinner and general use.
We spent the night in the good company of the usual suspects for this annual trek, with G tinkering with her camera and taking various night shots and various exposures.
It was a fine cool evening, with temps dipping into the high 20s. The next morning, Little Man — who by now has become something of a camp kitchen wizard — assembled a rather hearty breakfast for his sister (and pretty much kicked me out of the kitchen because my potato-cutting wasn’t up to par. Whatever!) before we headed back down the canyon.
… and so that’s it, right? These trips don’t vary much, and this was the eleventh consecutive year we’d headed to this little flat and enjoyed the quiet and tidings of the Chumash.
Well, yes … but no. Because the following year …
A year into his Boy Scout experience, and Little Man isn’t so little anymore. He’s clocked hundreds of (additional) trail miles, and now he and a pal are eager to knock our some requirements for their Backpacking merit badge, which means an additional night and additional miles. So along with a fellow Assistant Scoutmaster from the Troop (codename: Skunkbait) headed up Mt Pinos late Friday night for the short walk into Chula Vista camp. Also, this time, we also had Little Man’s new canine companion Scout along for the adventure, as the uber-hund by this point was retired and enjoying the cushy orthopedic beds back home. (She’d earned it.)
The plan was simple — from Chula Vista we’d head across west across Mt Pinos and Sawmill Mountain, pay a quick visit to Grouse, and then double back to the North Fork junction and drop in our little guerrilla site via Sheep Camp and upper Lily Meadows. Easy-peasy.
The plan, it turned out, was soon to be amended. By the time we reached the old condor lookout parking lot just west of the Mt Pinos summit, it became apparent the snows further on were a tad deeper than we’d expected. After some time at the old parking area, we eventually conceded our best route for the would, in fact, be the usual route. So back down to the Chula Vista parking area we went, and fast forward to the lower North Fork Trail:
At Lily Meadows camp, we crossed paths with Li’l G and Her Royal Hotness, who’d come via this lower route that morning for a daytrip. They were on their way back now, and so here the heterochromatic hellhound suffered some indecision — go with her human for a certain evening of belly rubs and comfort, or stay with me and Trailmaster for an evening afield with tasty fireside victuals? (We eventually convinced her to stay with us.) At our guerilla site, the RSO and sundry others had already set up camp, and so the young explorers laid out their bags beneath our usual copse of Jeffrey pines, and set about preparing their kitchens, practicing their lashings, and generally exploring the environs. That night, I was startled awake by what sounded like somebody dropping their backpack right by my head (more on that in a moment).
The next morning was bade our fellow wanderers the usual goodbyes, and then headed further up-canyon to explore drainages and give the young men the opportunity to perfect their backcountry navigation and document some trail obstacles.
Eventually (and a tad reluctantly), we turned back and began our descent of Lockwood Creek’s North Fork. As neared the falls, behold — a mighty tree had fallen across the very trail we’d walked the previous afternoon. Surely this was the colossal crash that had roused me from my sleep only hours before.
Come Spring 2018 — after another year of wandering with me on dozens of trips — the young Careys joined me once again for what was the (lucky, of course) 13th annual Chumash escape, wherein Bardlero, the Billy Monster, Mighty Mary, Mr G, and a host of the “usual suspects” would convene in a remote corner of the backwood for a fine weekend of decompression.
Unlike the previous few years, which had largely been cool but featuring clear skies, all reports indicated the weather might prove a tad more entertaining. That of course did nothing to discourage either the wee hikers nor their canine companions. For these two, the immortal surety of “death and taxes” is more “dogs and backpacking.”
The snow started shortly after we reached camp, slowly adding to the few patches already on the ground. We collected an inordinate amount of fuel for the fire, as it was early afternoon and already 24F.
The endeavor of cooking dinner became more and more comical as the rest of the crew trickled in, and the snow and wind continued.
But cook of course we did, a veritable calorie-loading to ward against what promised to be a long night in the tents.
The next morning broke crisp and clear and gorgeous and ridiculously cold. Everything was frozen, stiff, shattered, or some combination thereof. It was awesome.
We took our sweet time cooking a big breakfast over the fire, filtering water, throwing snowballs, and letting the dogs run wild in the hills above.
They say parting is sweet sorrow, but that’s a tad dramatic for the slight tinge of melancholy each time we walk away from this beloved corner of the wilderness. Because we know we’ll be back soon enough … and even if delayed in our return, this corner will always await us. See you next Spring.