A Family Affair
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.