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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rancho Nuevo Canyon/Pine Mountain

 Clark and Jo Ann met me in Frazier Park at the Flying J on Friday morning.
We drove west across the Lockwood Valley to CA 33.
 After driving north for a few miles we turned left and drove west toward the Rancho Nuevo trailhead
 Cuyama Wash.
 Fording the mighty Cuyama River. No disrespect intended because in the past near this location I have observed the river to be a raging, very scary body of water 60 yards wide.
 Turning south into Rancho Nuevo Canyon.
 Approaching the trailhead.
 At the trailhead our hike began with a little sadness after reading the note below.
 Many times during our hike I called for Blaze. It had only been four days since the dog had become lost and there was water in the creek. I was hoping that the dog would come wandering down the trail and a phone call could be made to the owner but Blaze never appeared.
 Entering the wilderness.
 The trail was in very good shape.
 Many trees had survived the Zaca Fire in 2007.
 As we approached Deal Junction a helicopter flew over the canyon.
 Clark and Jo Ann at Deal Junction Camp. Not much of a camp but hard to miss.
 Looking west into Upper Nuevo Canyon. The rest of the trail will have to wait until another time.
 Baby Elephant Rock?
 Both of my hiking companions photographed a tree. It was a very colorful tree and after they were finished I took a photo.
 Many curious formations along the trail.
 Everyone seemed to be hiking faster than me.
 We sighted a cave about 150 feet above the trail but none of us had the gumption to climb up to it.
 Fall colors were in view all along the creek bottom.
 The single tree at the top of this formation just cried out to have it's photograph taken. After noticing the first cave above the trail we began to look for others. We sighted several others and wondered how many caves there were in the area that might be filled with Native American artifacts like Bowers Cave.
 The camp site at the Rancho Nuevo trailhead was little rough so we decided to head for the campgrounds high on Pine Mountain.
 On the drive up the weathered road we spotted a short road leading to a small clearing that would make a great camp.
 Jo Ann climbed up on their camper to make a small repair. While up there she remarked that the view was excellent.
 Sunset at our camp high on the western ridge of Pine Mountain.
 Cuyama Valley to the north.
 We set up our chairs and ate dinner as the sky began to darken.
 Dawn. The sun is just beginning to shine on Cuyama Peak to the north.
 Far in the distance Caliente Peak 'peeks' over Cuyama's shoulder. Drove to the top of Cuyama back in 2004 and examined the old lookout. Hiked/biked to Caliente's summit in 2010.
 When we drove into our camp clearing the night before none of us noticed this broken sign.
Clark, when walking around just after dawn, picked up the sign to examine it and discovered our transgression.
 The Pine Mountain road alternates between being comfortably paved and jarringly rutted. More rutted than paved.
 The road back down to the Cuyama Valley.
 We turned right on the Lockwood Valley Road and passed this sign. I have driven this road when the warning is valid. Once back in the 80's the water on the ford across the Cuyama was two feet deep and flowing fast. At another time there was eight inches of snow on Lockwood Valley Road high above Wagon Road Canyon.
 We turned onto Camp Scheideck Road to scout the Piedra Blanca trailhead.
 If the reader is ever driving the Lockwood Valley Road, Camp Scheideck is worth a visit. My first stop at this hidden village was in 1988. 
 My friends and I had lunch at the Reyes Creek Bar and Grill. The next visit was in 1994 while camping at Reyes Creek Campground.
The Piedra Blanca trailhead was scouted for a future hike. After meeting Clark and Jo Ann back at Camp Scheideck, we returned to the Lockwood Valley Road and continued east to Interstate 5, where they drove north and I south.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Saddleback Butte HIke/Camp - "looked like the odds were against us"

 34 families were scheduled to join me on a hiking/camping trip to the Mojave Desert.
 Rain began falling early Saturday morning. At 9 AM I sent messages to all the participants saying, "Still going even if raining at our rally spot. Good chance it will not be raining at our destination."
Twelve intrepid families joined me at the rally spot but it looked like the odds were against us as we began our journey.
After 30 minutes of driving, the rain stopped and by the time our destination was in sight everyone was happy to know that they would be hiking dry. Except Clark, myself and a couple of others who enjoy being in weather.
We arrived at Saddleback Butte SP paid for the campsites and gathered our gear for the hike. By the time we ready to start three more adventurous families joined us making the total 15.
Photo Credit: Tori Crews
 The skies were clearing, the trail was marked and the summit was in view. Two horizontal miles and 1000 vertical feet away.
About 70 minutes later Explorers began to arrive at the top of Saddleback Butte. 27 hikers eventually gained the summit at the conclusion of a gorgeous afternoon.
 After a brief rest it was time to head back to camp. The sky to the west over Palmdale/Lancaster still had some clouds but it looked like our camp would have clear skies for the night.

 The moon slowly sank through the clouds and then below the horizon as campers built fires and prepared dinner.
 Morning at Saddleback Butte State Park. Tony and his daughter, Sierra, were gracious enough to allow me to share their campsite.
Dawn at one of the many Explorers' camp sites. Around 8:30 I lowered the popup on the camper, bade farewell to the remaining campers and began the drive home.