Sunday, March 04, 2007

Hiking Ventura County #7: Aliso Canyon Loop

OK, this is the seventh installment of the increasingly misnamed Hiking Ventura County series. The Aliso Canyon loop is in Santa Barbara county. The trail is on the way to Lake Cachuma in the Los Padres National Forest. I have driven this road several times and had wondered if there were trails in the wilderness surrounding the lake. The description of the hike said that an Adventure Pass was necessary to park at the trailhead so I stopped at the ranger station to buy one. Unfortunately, the station was closed so I backtracked a mile or so to the Paradise campground where some grandpa living in a trailer sold me an Adventure Pass. I headed back towards the trailhead passing some wild turkeys along the road. The trail starts in Sage Hill campground. Most of the place was closed. I forded the Santa Inez River (I did say WHEE! as I did so but it didn't have the funtasticness that it had when the wife and the J were in the car). As I arrived to the parking lot, I noticed that there was a trailer and ... they sold Adventure Passes there. Oh well, I didn't have to backtrack after all - a brief waste of time but I was in no hurry.

The loop follows a creek for the first two thirds of a mile. Along the way there is an Interpretive Trail. There are markers along this Interpretive Trail that are numbered and labeled with stylized bear prints. Unfortunately, there were no Interpretive Trail pamphlets in the Interpretive Trail pamphlet box at the beginning of the Interpretive Trail so when I arrived at these Interpretive Trail markers, I had no clue as to how to interpret them. Sigh.

There was very little water in the creek. Southern California has been very dry this winter. The lack of rain is good and bad - Good because a normal rainy season would mean that I would not have been able to do many of these hikes - Bad because the creek and rivers are low and the plant growth is dry and brown resulting in dull, drab hikes.


At the end of the Interpretive Trail, the path starts heading up. It was pretty steep but I felt pretty good going up it. I guess all this weekend hiking is finally paying off. Also helping was the fact that the skies were this bluish-gray haze and there was very little sun. There was also a light breeze once you climbed out of the canyon into the muted sunlight to keep you cool. The path continued up to the crest of a ridge. The calm was interrupted by someone in a nearby campground who thought revving his motorcycle sounded nicer then the sounds of nature. Fortunately, he also decided to drive away.

At the top of the ridge I sat on a stone to take in the breeze and drink some water. I also planned how I would tackle the one cache on this hike. The cache, "Oso Lookout (A.K.A. Dam Cache)," was hidden in April 2006 and no one had been able to find it since. There had been two attempts (a third never got up to the top of the ridge). I fully expected to look around and not find it. Well, it took me less then ten minutes to find (Toot Toot - yeah I'm tooting my own horn here). The container was a white plastic container that the hider had painted black but of the last eleven months the paint must have flaked off and the white lid was clearly visible. As I went through the contents and signed the log I noticed that I, in fact, was not the first to find it and that someone had signed the log in August of 2006. Since they did not log the find on the web, I think I can claim First To Find (Yay for me!). I covered the cache with a flat stone to make it less obvious. While I was hunting I did see a snake - it was only four inches long so I wasn't too worried.

After the cache I started heading back down. Of the way I passed a Mother and her two kids riding horses on the trail. We exchanged pleasantries and I started to watch more carefully where I was stepping - the hazards for sharing a trail with horses - POOP. I successfully made it down and back to the car. On the way out of the campground, I saw three deer grazing. I rarely see anything larger then a lizard on my hikes.

I was a little disappointed. The Ventura Star writer had said this was a 3.5 mile hike by my GPS said it had been only 2.9 miles. It did go by a little quick and an extra mile or two would have been nice. Oh well. A few pictures here.


Next week the Matron Of Honor and the Alter Boy are visiting so I won't be hiking. I am sure there will be other things to post about then.

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