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.


  1. Thanks for the water report. The Sespe pools seem like a long way to go for your monthly bath. Ha!

  2. Great photos and report! Those fish are a type of sunfish, either green sunfish or bluegill

    1. Hey thanks for the assist on the fish ID iWalton. Much appreciated. As you can tell, I pretty much just made an uneducated guess based upon the species known to inhabit the Sespe and fish pics on the interwebs. ;)

  3. I almost missed this trip. Cool fish and dragonflies. I was surprised to find out recently how far north the Los Padres goes.

    1. Yeah, it's huge. I've never even ventured out into the northern division. My time has pretty much been limited to the SLP, and that in Ventura County (with an excursion or two into Santa Barbara County). Still lots of territory to cover.