|View North Down Beartrap Canyon from the Gene Marshall Trail|
So we quickly re-configured and targeted the Gene Marshall National Recreation Trail (the "GMT") which cuts through the heart of the southern Los Padres National Forest. Beginning at its northern terminus near the Reyes Creek campground in the Lockwood Valley, and ending at Lion Campground along Sespe Creek, the GMT is a scenic 18 mile frolic through the riparian canyons and over the forested plateaus of the Pine Mountain ridge. It's not the Sierras, but defaulting to this option certainly wasn't settling for anything. It is a very worthy destination in its own right.
|The Gene Marshall National Recreation Trail|
The initial thought was to spend the first night at Haddock Trail Camp and the second night at Piedra Blanca. But at the recommendation of Los Padres explorer extraordinaire David Stillman, we decided instead to aim for Beartrap Trail Camp the first night and Pine Mountain Lodge the second. As it turned out, it was a good recommendation for a variety of reasons.
|First Night's Destination|
|Second Night's Destination|
|End of the Trail :(|
|Trail View Along Lower Reyes Creek|
|Climbing Out of Lower Reyes Creek|
|View North Into Upper Reyes Creek|
At about the 3 mile mark, we crested a small saddle and then gave up some elevation as we dropped into forested bowl in which Upper Reyes trail camp is located. The setting, adjacent to Reyes Creek where water was still flowing, is pleasant and scenic and would make a nice destination for a short overnight. The camp was empty except for a newer looking tent that was lying on the ground covered in pine bows and its tent poles. We saw no one around.
|Tent Site at Upper Reyes Creek Trail Camp|
A note about fires in the Los Padres: before we left, we checked with the forest service's Ojai District office about fires in the backcountry. We were told that for the weekend we were out, fires were permitted in established fire rings with a permit as were backcountry stoves. The permits are available on the forest service's website and can be pulled and printed out on-line. But just because you can have a fire, doesn't mean you should have a fire. On our second night out, the winds came up thus making an open fire a dangerous proposition, particularly in the drought conditions. Despite the cold, we therefore decided against another camp fire.
|Trail as it Drops Into Beartrap Canyon|
|View North Into Beartrap Canyon|
|Beartrap Trail Camp - Home for the Night|
|Breaking Camp at Beartrap|
|Upper Beartrap Creek|
|Petrified Wood Along Beartrap Creek|
|Shady Rest Spot in Upper Beartrap Canyon|
|Over-the-Shoulder View North Back Into Beartrap Canyon|
Here, we ran into a couple of young fellows who were making their way to Reyes Peak. They had started the morning before a Dough Flat near Fillmore and had spent the night near Piedra Blanca trail camp. They were going to exist at Reyes Peak although it wasn't exactly clear how they were going to accomplish that given the fact that Pine Mountain Road is still closed. Either way, by my reckoning, their first day had to be 25+ miles through some very remote and difficult terrain. Their second day had to involve about 18+ miles with substantial elevation gains. Oh to be young again.
|One of the Sites at Haddock Trail Camp|
|Trail Through the Pines|
|Trail Signage at Three Mile Trail Camp|
|Three Mile Trail Camp - Super Deluxe|
|Making Our Way Toward Pine Mountain Lodge|
Pine Mountain Lodge is another 1.8 miles further. It is a small camp that sits adjacent to Piedra Blanca Creek about a half mile from where the GMT spills into Piedra Blanca Canyon before dropping 3,000 in 3 miles or so into the lower canyon where Twin Forks and Piedra Blanca trail camps are located. Apparently, there is another Pine Mountain Lodge, the "real" Pine Mountain Lodge, located in a forested bowl just south of the official trail camp. Not knowing exactly where that was, we opted for the official camp which once again we had completely to ourselves. We sipped more bourbon as the sun vanished from view, the temperature dropped, and the winds came up then retreated to our tents for the evening.
|Pine Mountain Lodge Trail Camp - Night No. 2|
|Approaching the Trail Crest Above Piedra Blanca Canyon|
|View South Into Piedra Blanca Drainage|
|Piedra Blanca Formation in the Distance|
|Piedra Blanca Creek was Flowing Nicely - Watch for the Plentiful Poison Oak|
|View Back up Piedra Blanca Canyon|
|Piedra Blanca Formation|
|Post Adventure Refreshments at Lion Camp|