Friday, April 18, 2008

Hiking Ventura County #50: Sulphur Mountain Road

I've hike parts of Sulphur Mountain road three times before. The hike is a 10 mile section of ranch road that leads from the 33 to the 150. the 33 side is low and the 150 side is high. Twice I started from the bottom and went about three miles up. Once I started at the top and hiked about two miles down. The best way to hike this road is to drop a car at one end and then have someone drop you off at the other trailhead. I didn't have this option (The Wife was at work when I was doing this hike) so I started at the bottom and hiked as far as I could before turning around. Since I am preparing for a hike up Topa Topa and that Hike is approximately 15.6 miles, that was my goal.

I parked my car near the locked gate and headed up the road. Within the first quarter mile or so you will pass a little stream of oil along the road. When I first saw this I thought "whoever dumped this oil is an A$$hole" before I realized that it is natural seepage.

The road is flanked on both sided by private property. I'm thankful that they've given hikers and bikers the right of way on the road. There are signs all up and down the road.

The road winds up through forests, meadows, and fields of vibrant yellow mustard. The wildflowers were out in force and the meadows were green. The sky was blue, the breeze was light and cooling, and the day was near perfect for a hike. As you walk along the road the thrum of the traffic fades and is replaced by the thrum of the insects and the chirps of the bird. The views from the road vary from green valleys, oak forests, ocean, lake, islands, and mountains.

I had 20 geocaches programmed into my GPS. I ended up doing 17 - the other three being beyond my turn around point. The first one I did was in a shoe hanging from a tree branch, "1000 Stinky Badfeet". In a hollow of the tree was some PVC pipe you could assemble into a pole that let you retrieve the shoe. Very clever.

I continued to pick up caches until I got to "Stinky Mountain 8, Stealth View". I found the container in the hollow of a tree. I put my GPS down in the crook of the tree and reached in to get the container. Next thing I know I'm feeling something pinching my arm. I pulled out my arm and it was covered in big, biting ants. I took a minute to do the OhMyGodAntsOnMyArm dance before I took a closer look at the cache. The cache and the entire tree was engulfed in ants. I grabbed my GPS, rolling it in the grass to get the ants off it, took pictures, then walked away flicking ants off me. I was probably bit five or six times.

I found several more caches until I was distracted by the sweeping landscapes. At the two mile mark the ocean of mustard became almost overwhelming. I forgot to look at my GPS and I passed two caches by. I ended up getting them on the way back to the car.

At three miles there is a great view of the city of Oak View and lake Casitas. I felt pretty good at this point. Over the next three miles I slowly wore down.

I reached my limit at around 7.62 miles. I stopped at a great vantage point. From here I could see Boney Ridge, the Channel Islands, Lake Casitas, and the backside of two tree hill. (Two tree hill is a hill overlooking Ventura with two solitary trees on top. The Wife used to us it as a navigational landmark.) On the lower seven miles of the road there are no homes, at least none visible. At my turn around point I saw a bus parked on a knoll. The bus has been converted into a motor home. From that spot you would have views of the entire valley all the way down to the ocean. If I owned a converted bus and I wanted to park it in the perfect spot, that would be where I'd park it. Turning around I noticed a house on the top of the ridge line above me. All I could see were the eaves of the roof. The house didn't seem that great but the views from up there had to be spectacular.

I saw a few animals on this hike. Birds, lizards (this one startled me as I was examining a cache), snakes, and the largest animal I've ever seen on a hike ... the cow.

This was a really nice hike. The views were magnificent and the conditions were perfect. The hike was 15.24 miles - a personal best - with 1,842 feet of vertical. This hike proved that I could do the distance up to Topa Topa, but Topa Topa has a lot more vertical - 4,487 feet. Pictures of Sulphur Mountain Road can be found here.

Topa Topa is my next hike. I'm not sure exactly when I will do it. I need to psyche myself up. It will be my biggest challenge and I'm having some major doubts about if I can do it or not. One issue is simply that I can't get to the trailhead because of the poor condition of the road. The ol' Honda just couldn't handle it. Another is if I'm not sure I can handle it. We'll see.


Speaking of the ol' Honda, when I got to the car and started for home, I noticed the check engine light was lit. The car is in the shop today. *sigh*

7 comments:

  1. Wow, loved the bird pic!! Of course I loved the cows, I'm such a cow fan.

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  2. Dobegil: Thanks! Is it possible to see a cow and not say "Moo"? I don't think so.

    JaG: Thank you!

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  3. The mustard blooms are amazing this year, aren't they?

    That shot of the turkey vulture is amazing; I've been trying for years to get a shot like that.

    Makes me want to go hiking, but it may be a while with the busted knee and all...

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  4. GH: The mustard is amazing this year and Sulphur Mountain road is full of it.

    Thanks about the picture. It almost seemed to take it's time while i pulled my camera out of my bag and snapped it.

    You will heal soon enough but remember, don't rush it. You don't want to re-injure it by going out too soon.

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  5. If you're going in from Sisar canyon then your Honda shouldn't have any problem making it to the trailhead. There's just about a half mile of dirt road and it's not bad.

    Give me a shout if you decide to go for it and want a buddy.

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  6. Phil: The last time I drove up to the trailhead back in February, the dirt road at the end of Sisar road looked pretty bad. There were some really deep ruts filled with so gravel. Didn't look that great. I plan to make a reconnoiter later this week once my car is out of the shop.

    I will consider your offer to be my hiking buddy.

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