Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hiking Ventura County #21: Palo Comado & Cheeseboro Canyons

After my experience at Gibraltar Reservoir last week, this week I decided I would try to keep my hike to the original length of 6.5 miles. I tried but didn't quite make it. I looked at the hiking trail map from the Ventura County Star. I looked at the satellite photo from Google Maps. The trail was two parallel trails connected at either end making a rectangular loop. I thought I had a pretty good handle on the trail. I found 5 caches that seem to be on the trail. I was ready.

I reached the trailhead at 9:30 and ran into a couple of mountain bikers who were returning from an early morning ride. They told be to keep my eyes open as they had seen two rattlesnakes this morning - one actually rattled at them. Cool!

I headed up the trail. The trail description said that I was to turn left at the "T". I reached the first geocache ("Odd Rock"). The cache site was near an intersection of trails.
  • Lesson #1: an intersection is not the same as a "T".
I turned left at the intersection and went up the hill on the wrong trail. The GPS showed that I was not on the right trail. In the past there have been errors in the downloaded maps that result in the GPS and the maps not agreeing and I assumed that this was just a map error.
  • Lesson #2: Trust the GPS - The GPS is your friend.
Eventually the trail I was on ended. I was so sure I was on the right trail that I imagined seeing the trail continue down the hill. The trail I followed down the hill was probably just a game trail. After wandering around and bushwhacking a bit, I gave up and went back to a high point of the trail and looked around and at the GPS. I saw a trail that was either the one I was supposed to be on or it was the trail I was suppose to come back on. Either way, I decided to make my way to the trail. I went out on a ridge where I thought I saw a trail (there wasn't) and I bushwhacked down the hill to the trail. There had been a fire in the past on the brush was black with soot. When I reached the trail, my sand colored cargo pants were now soot colored. The GPS said I was on the trail. Sigh.

My mistake cost me additional distance, vertical climbing, and energy sapping bushwhacking.
My little detour really wore me out. I reached a fork in the trail. One fork went to another geocache, the other was the original trail. I was so wiped at this point that I decided not to do the geocaches and turned right and stayed on the original trail. The trail climbed up a ridge that separated the two canyons - Palo Comado and Cheeseboro. The climb was around 600 feet. Oh, did I mention that it was hot? The thermometer in my GPS said it was 103°F. It probably wasn't that hot but it must have been in the 90s at least. At the top of the ridge I sat on a rock (a hot rock) and had a snack and drank some water. As I chewed my protein bar, I looked at the GPS and figured that three of the caches were not on the trail and to do them would require adding about 3 or 4 miles to my hike - HA - as if! At that point I decided that my earlier navigation mistake had probably saved me. If I had not made that wrong turn, I would probably had been fresh enough that I would have gone for those caches - a big mistake. A little mistake ended up preventing a bigger mistake.

After my snack I headed down into Cheeseboro canyon. Part of the trail is perforated with holes. These holes are made by bees. It was too hot for them today - I only saw one buzzing around the holes. I did take the time to look at a big bumble bee buzzing around some cool, spiny flowers. The connector trail passes by an old sheep corral left over from the sheep ranching days of this area. Apparently Basque Shepherds settled near here. There was a virtual cache here that I logged called "Don't Fence Me In".

I paused at a signpost pointing to the Cheeseboro Canyon trail. A biker (There were quite a few mountain bikers on the trail today) asked me if I was OK. I must have looked a wreck with my ash streaked pants and the tired look I must have had. I said I was OK.

I headed back down the trail. There was a little more shade on this trail. It's amazing what a little shade will do. I like a bright sunny day on a shady trail. I'm not so sure of a bright sunny day on a trail with no shade. I reached the connector road that headed back to where my car was parked. It went up and it was not shaded. The last mile on that connector road felt like it lasted forever. I was dead tired. I felt just like I felt after last week's 12.78 mile hike. I reached the car. I had finished the water in my camelbak about 500 feet from the car and I downed another liter in the car.

I was a little disappointed about my performance on this hike. The total distance was 8.07 miles. I should have felt better. I think there were two factors that sapped me - one was the sun and the heat, and the other was my hydration. On Friday I was at jury duty and I didn't drink as much water as I usually do.
  • Lesson #3: Always hydrate yourself before heading out on a hike.
Pictures are here. Oh yeah, I didn't see any snakes dang it!

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