Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Glamping at La Jolla Valley Trail Camp

Sunrise in the La Jolla Valley
Just a quick report out of the Santa Monica Mountains.  A friend and I recently spent the night at the La Jolla Valley walk-in campsites located in Pt. Mugu State Park. To reach the camp, we would typically take the La Jolla Canyon Trail which begins in the parking area near the beach just across PCH from Thornhill-Broome State Beach. But ironically, that trail is currently closed because in these days-of-drought, it was completely washed away during a storm last winter. So instead of taking the direct route through La Jolla Canyon, we were forced to take the alternate route which ascends the Ray Miller Trail to its junction with the Overlook Fire Road coming out of Sycamore Canyon, traverses Overlook to its junction with the Guadalasca Trail at the top of Hell Hill, and then drops you into the La Jolla Valley on the well trod fire road. It's ok. We had nothing but time on our hands, and the views of the azure Pacific from the Ray Miller Trail were more than worth the price of admission. Coming in by way of the Chumash Trail to the west is a shorter and more direct route (and considerably steeper), but I don’t believe you can leave a car overnight at that trailhead.

The La Jolla Valley walk in campsite burned in the Springs Fire in 2013. The area has not fully recovered from that event and won’t for some time, but re-growth of the vegetation has occurred. Additionally, the park service has added brand new food boxes to the picnic tables at each site so you can keep your edibles and other aromatics beyond the eyes and hungry reach of the local varmints during the night. Super deluxe if I don’t say so myself.

One of Many Campsites

Food Box Hanging from the Picnic Table Hidden Behind the Blue Pack
The night we were there, the moon was full and bright, the sky brilliantly clear. We sat at the picnic table solving the world’s problems, enjoying an adult beverage, and listening to our boisterous coyote neighbors who apparently were doing the same thing. Later, as the moon began to make its way across the sky and our eyelids became increasingly heavy, all became incredibly still as we entered our tents for the night. At first light, we jump out of bed, made some cowboy coffee, packed up, and headed out.

First Light at La Jolla Trail Camp

Morning Sun Creeping Across the La Jolla Valley

Sunrise as it Crests the Eastern Ridgeline

Looking West Along the Road Through the Valley
La Jolla Valley is a super nice, easy to reach spot to get some solitude in the midst of the greater Los Angeles concrete jungle. The La Jolla Valley campsites are available on a first-come, first served basis, but I have never had a problem getting a site. In fact, on most of my trips to La Jolla (this one included), I have been the only one camped there, even on warm summer weekends. As an additional, added bonus, there is a fairly clean pit toilet in a concrete enclosure at the site. The night we were there, the facilities were adequately stocked with all the necessities if you catch my drift. There is a $10/night fee to camp at La Jolla Valley which you pay at a self-serve terminal located in the parking lot at the Ray Miller trailhead. 

Now get out there and experience the local mountains.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sespe Creek Recon: Searching for Water in all the Wrong Places

Update - March, 2016

Sespe Creek, Piedra Blanca Creek, and Lion Creek are all flowing once again thanks to the winter rains we have had. The flow won't last long, but for now water is moving in all three creek beds with nice, deep pools for swimming forming along the Sespe. Here's a couple of pics from last weekend.

Lion Creek
Piedra Blanca Creek
The Sespe
Sespe Swimming Hole
Sespe Swimming Hole ~ Another View
Can You Tell I Like This Swimming Hole?
Gratuitous View of the Topa Topa Bluffs

Original Post - October, 2015

It may not be readily apparent, but I really do still get out into the amazing playground that is our local mountains. Because of my indolent and slothful ways, however, I've allowed this blog to become a bit hairy, stale and stinky of late. Well I'm going to remedy that right here and now. This thing is getting off the goddamn couch and is going to shave, shower, and dress so that it is at least minimally presentable to all you fine outdoor folks out there who have been patiently waiting in great anticipation for another riveting installment of Wild Southland. Ok, perhaps that overstates things just a wee bit, but for all three of you who actually visit this blog, here's some stuff for you to look at and read.

Sespe Creek Water Recon

A couple of weeks back, I decided to recon Sespe Creek for water. Starting from the Piedra Blanca trailhead, I first traveled west on the Middle Sespe trail for approximately 4 miles. This stretch of trail, which lies outside of the Sespe Wilderness, sees considerably less travel than its counterpart going east. On the day I was out, I saw no one. The trail meanders in and out of a number of drainages as it parallels the Sespe on a relatively level plain that sits above the riverbed which is not always visible. On this section of the trail, I spotted one pool of water in the river below which I attempted to reach by dropping down a dry wash. Those efforts were thwarted when the wash eventually topped-out at some dry falls that were about 25 feet high. I might have been able to down-climb them, but decided against it since I was solo and nobody would know to look for my body in the wash since it wasn't on the itinerary that I had left with my spouse. So I sat in the shade, had a snack, and then headed back up to the main trail.

View North Toward Piedra Blanca and Thorn Point
Thorn Point Up Close and Personal

View West Along the Middle Sespe Trail
Beautiful and Invasive Thistle

View East Down the Sespe from the Middle Sespe Trail

The Pine Mountain Ridge from the Middle Sespe Trail
The Only Pool of Water I Saw Along the Middle Sespe
After striking out along the Middle Sespe, I back-tracked to the junction with the Piedra Blanca Trail and headed east toward Bear Creek trail camp. Here too, I surprisingly had the trail to myself. And just like the Middle Sespe, water was very scare along this stretch as well. I saw one small, stagnant pool between trail junction and Bear Creek, but that was it. Piedra Blanca Creek, which was flowing quite nicely in March, was dust dry.

Bear Creek trail camp was different. The two big pools that sit adjacent to the camp (which was completely empty) had a nice amount of water (and fish) in them. I pulled out a book, popped a beer I had brought along, and savored the silent moment. Fine literature and still cold adult beverages in the wilderness. Does it get any better?

Eventually, I had to pick myself up out of the shade and start heading back. Before I did, however, I decided I needed a couple of pics of the pools to document the fact that there actually is still some water in the dry Ventura County back-country. To get a better vantage, I dropped down near the water's edge and onto a sandstone slab on the edge of the pool. In wetter times, that sandstone had been under water and covered in moss. You couldn't see the moss now that the sandstone was dry, but is was still slick. With camera in hand, and day-pack on, I stepped onto the mossy sandstone and then slowly and reluctantly glided into the pool and up to my neck in the warm water. I was able to keep the camera above the fray, and out of harm's way, but nothing else. Amazingly, after I'd found my footing and removed my pack (which had been fully submerged), I discovered the contents (including my book, wallet, and phone) completely dry. Props to Osprey for making such great gear. If you're in the market for a day-pack, let me recommend the Osprey Talon 22.

Large Pool at Bear Creek Trail Camp

One of the Many Denizens of the Bear Creek Pools

Beautiful Blue Dragonfly

Red Dragonfly-looking Thingy



Second Pool at Bear Creek Trail Camp

The Pool I Slid Into

Sunfish (ID assist to iWalton)

More Sunfish

View West Along the Sespe Trail. Note the Dry Riverbed

View East Toward Bear Creek Trail Camp

Piedra Blanca Formation
So there is still water in the Sespe, just not much. And the water that does exist is pretty much collected in intermittent pools located along the river's course. But there is water in them thar hills if you know where to look. But I'm told you need to be careful about drinking it because it might give you a bellyache.