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Monday, February 17, 2014

Nira/Figueroa, Los Padres NF - "Hiked up the sketchy trail"

Driving east from Santa Barbara along the Sunset Valley Road.
Jo Ann and I were planning to do some hiking in the Turtle Mountains near Needles but the desert was forecast to be unseasonably hot so we decided to head for the coast and cooler temperatures.
Descending into Fir Canyon.
Nira Campground was not as crowded as we thought it would be on a three day weekend.
It was late afternoon when we set up camp and figured there was still time to hike south along Manzana Creek.
After exploring a few side trails we reached Lost Valley Camp just as darkness was falling. On our walk to Lost Valley Jo Ann spotted a purple Nalgene bottle high up on a hillside about 100 feet from the trail. I climbed up the steep slope to retrieve it and found a phone charger laying a few feet from the bottle. The mystery was, how did both objects come to be resting 50 feet above the trail. Walking farther south along the trail we noticed a faint use trail that appeared to track above the spot where the Nalgene bottle was found. We hiked up the sketchy trail looking for evidence to solve the Nalgene mystery. Soon we were high above the spot where we found the bottle and charger. It was a very steep drop down to the canyon below. The only scenario that seemed to solve the mystery was for someone to have fallen or intentionally climbed down the slope and lost the items from their backpack. But why were they up on that faint use trail, our maps did not show anything of interest in the area. A Mary Jane grow perhaps.
We donned our headlamps and hiked back to camp through the dark forest. After dinner we enjoyed sitting in the cool damp evening air and around 9 o'clock retired to our respective sleeping accommodations.
Three hours later several vehicles drove through the campground. Their movement was captured by my game camera. On a side note: The game camera has captured more wildlife in my backyard than it has in eight months of use at our FWC camps.
Dawn at Nira Campround.
The view above the picnic table.
Upon leaving Nira we drove to another trailhead and hiked north a short distance down Manzana Creek.
Driving Fir Canyon toward Davy Brown Campground we noticed that the stream had a fair amount of water flowing. That was interesting because it flows into Manzana Creek and the water in the stream was intermittent at best.
As we turned onto the Figueroa Jeepway we met Kevin and Dawn from Long Beach. We chatted for a while and admired their new Rubicon. They drove west and we drove north.
The beginning of the Figueroa Jeepway.
The jeepway is rated "More Difficult" but we found it to be very tame, nothing more than a narrow dirt road with a couple of tight switchbacks, although it would be nasty when wet.
About 2/3's of the way up the road there is a large clearing which would make a good place to camp.
Near the summit of the Figueroa Jeepway.
Reaching the top of the jeepway we turned right and drove north past the trail sign for Zaca Spring.
Looking east across the San Rafael Wilderness.
We returned to the Cutway Road and drove downhill toward Figueroa Mountain Road.
We stopped for lunch at this view point.
And then drove up to the top of Figueroa Mountain because Jo Ann had never been there.
The Figueroa Mountain Lookout.
Soon it was after sunset and time to find a place to set up camp.
Looking into the viewfinder of my camera while taking this photograph I heard movement and heavy breathing off to my right. I turned expecting an encounter with a black bear but instead saw a disheveled man walking up a trail. He had no light or backpack and there were no vehicles parked nearby. Odd to say the least. I said hello in a loud voice to alert Jo Ann, who was sitting in the truck. The man and I spoke for a few minutes. He revealed that he lived about a mile away and was out for a walk.
Jo Ann found this tree very photogenic and I agreed.
We set up camp on Zaca Ridge and sat in our chairs looking west at the lights of the Santa Ynez Valley.
Our chairs kept watch over the valley during the night.
Dawn at our Zaca Ridge camp. The contrails in the photo were created by airliners flying north from LAX.
A jet flew over our location about every two minutes. Heavy traffic on a Monday morning.
My camping companion preparing her morning coffee.
Driving west down the Figueroa Mountain Road toward the Santa Ynez Valley.
Leaving the LPNF with Zaca Peak in the distance. We were up on that ridge the day before.
Driving through a grove of oak trees laden with lace lichen.
We drove past Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch.
A mile or two farther on, just off the road on the edge of a field, we caught sight of some turkeys displaying their plumage.
Reaching Los Olivos we decided to take a stroll around the town.
Interesting facade on the front of this building.
Jan, who enjoys an afternoon of wine tasting, would have been delighted to spend some time in Los Olivos. Upon reading this post, Jan informed me she had visited this delightful wine tasting village.
Driving in the fog along US 101.
We stopped for fuel at this Shell station.
  photo by Ron Pinkerton
I think I stopped at this very station 16 years ago while driving my Unimog home from the importer. Turning into the station I noticed a group of men standing around a Lamborghini and talking to its owner. A curious thing happened after I parked next to a pump on the other side of the station. Most of the guys walked over to admire the Unimog. I asked why and they responded, "You see a Lamborghini every now and then but most of us have never seen a truck like this." Very cool thing to happen on the first day of ownership.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Spelunking at Pisgah - "inside the crater looking down into a vent"

 After several hours of driving our objective finally came into view.
 Our group making the wide crunchy turn toward the volcano.
 Nearing the parking lot we chanced upon a large group of photographers and our caravan of vehicles seemed to have photographic value because just about all of the 20+ shutterbugs turned their cameras toward us.
Soon we were inside the crater looking down into a vent.
 Next we headed into the lava field.
At the first tube, Dave, a long time friend and spelunker, emerged from a cave ready to guide us on our underground adventures.
After exploring a tube called The Glove the crew divided into small groups that crossed the lava field looking for more caves.
 A flight of helicopters passed east of our position.
 Some very cool shadows were happening in the late afternoon.
 This frozen lava flow looked a bit like a trilobite.
 Some members of our group left early.
 While most stayed until the sun began to paint the clouds orange.
 Everyone reported that they had a spectacular time spelunking.
 Susan recorded a message thanking Dave.
 After sunset only four people remained: Dave, Erik, Jan and I. We ate dinner sitting beside the camper and watched the traffic pass by on both I-40 and the BNSF RR. The lights of Las Vegas glowed on the eastern horizon.
 Just before dawn at Pisgah.
 A volcano, a FWC, a F-150 and a Rubicon waiting for the morning sun.
 Sleeping Beauty in the distance to the east.
 A small part of this old piece of boiler has been sticking up out of the gravel on the edge of the parking lot for years. In the last year someone decided to dig it out. It reminded me of the metal object, Bobbi Anderson, stumbled upon outside of Haven, Maine, in Stephen King's novel "The Tommyknockers."
 Sunrise shadows at Pisgah.
 After breakfast Erik photographed his truck with the volcano in the background and then started the long drive back to the South Bay.
 Next Dave departed. He was driving east to Ludlow and then north following the T&T RR toward the Mojave Road and the Desert Megaphone.
 We left the volcano later in the morning after guiding a couple from Victorville and their son to a few lava tubes.
The long pot-holed route back to the interstate.