Homer's Travels: Hiking Ventura County #27: Sandstone Peak, Mishe Mokwa, and Tri-Peaks Trail

Monday, August 06, 2007

Hiking Ventura County #27: Sandstone Peak, Mishe Mokwa, and Tri-Peaks Trail

I wasn't sure what this hike was going to be like. It didn't have that great of a vertical change and the length was not too long. I expected some interesting scenery but I expected it to be just an OK hike. It turned out to be a hike of the extremes.

The drive up was typically dreary but as I drove up Yerba Buena road the clouds thinned and I drove up through the top of the marine layer. This changed my mood quite a bit. Clear skies always brighten my mood even if it means that I would be hot on this hike.

The hike starts off at the Sandstone Peak trailhead. At about the 0.3 mile point I took a connector trail to the Mishe Mokwa trail. I then took a left and followed the Mishe Mokwa trail. The trail is shaded by trees and tall brush. The trail follows the wall of a canyon. Across the canyon you can see Echo Cliffs. On one rock along the trail someone had painted the word "ECHO." I fought the urge to yell echo. The cliffs are often frequented by rock climbers and Saturday was no different. There were five or six climbers preparing for the climb while one was about two thirds of the way up.

The trail continues down the canyon wall until you bottom out at the Split Rock Picnic area. It is, of course, named after the large split rock in the area. After a brief rest in the the shade and walking through the split in the split rock I continued on the trail. Not too far away is a sign for the Balance Rock spur. I thought - what the heck - and headed up the trail. After only about a tenth of a mile or so I lost the trail. Stumbling around the brush took its toll - I was all scratched up and I was covered in chaff and seed pods from the dry brush I was walking through. Enough was enough. I turned around and headed back to the Mishe Mokwa losing my way once more on the way down. Now I know what it means for a trail to not be maintained.

The Mishe Mokwa starts going up at this point. The trail is shaded most of the way and it was easy going. I had four geocaches in my GPS and they were all located on various peaks in the Boney Mountain area. I left the trail at coordinates listed in the "East Peak Cache" and climbed up a hill just east of the East Peak. There really wasn't much of a trail and I eventually hit an impassable row of trees. I walked along the edge of the trees a couple times until I found an overlooked clear path through the brush to the rocky hilltop. I then headed for the saddle that connected the hill I was on to the East Peak. On the way I was attached by a rabid yucca plant - Man are they sharp! I looked down and I had four red blood spots on my right pant leg. The yucca had bloodied my shin.

I made it up to the East Peak (Altitude 2,924 feet) where I sat and rested a bit. I then looked for the cache. After several unsuccessful attempts I re-read the description - twice - before I realized that the actual cache was hidden about 110 feet away from the coordinates. Sigh. I need to read those descriptions more closely.

At this point I had a couple of choices. I could head back to the Mishe Mokwa trail to the Tri-Peak Trail or I could find an alternate path. I chose the alternate path. I would head down the north side of the East Peak and head over to the next peak - I don't know the name so I will call it the Middle Peak - before crossing a saddle to the West Peak. I headed down the side of the peak with only a little difficulty. There wasn't much of a trail but the brush was sparse on the rocky terrain. I eventually followed a game trail up the hill to a better trail that took me up to the summit. I passed a couple on the way down and we exchanged pleasantries. For once my alternate path was panning out.

At the Middle Peak summit (Altitude 2,978 feet) I rested again and had my lunch - Turkey Sandwich and an Orange. Best tasting orange I've had in a long time - really juicy. Looking around the peak I found a container where people left log pages. It wasn't a geocache - just a log. Many of the log entries seem to be from cancer survivors. Ironically the container was surrounded by cigarette butts. I never could understand smoking hikers. It just doesn't make sense to me.

I left the Middle Peak and headed across the saddle to the West Peak. Once again I ran into an impenetrable wall of brush but, after a false start, I found the trail going up. The trail was hidden by a canopy of trees and shrubs so that it could not be seen from the Middle Peak. The trail took you up and around the peak. This peak is fascinating. The summit is a jumble of huge boulders that form a maze of narrows, caves and rooms. I am sure I could have explored this place for hours. There are four caches up here. The first is located in a large stone room called "Nice Room". The room is pretty cool. I had no GPS reception in the room but the cache was pretty obvious. Not sure about the swag though - someone had left a tampon as swag.

I left the room and started towards the next cache. The rocks were like an intricate maze and finding a path to where I wanted to go was interrupted by several false starts. It sucks when you clamber up a large boulder just to run into a 15 foot deep crevasse too wide to be jumped ... well jumped by someone like me anyway. I eventually went through some narrows that got me to the entrance of "The Cave". OK, this cache is suppose to be located in a cave that extends down 150 feet. The coordinates take you to the mouth. I started in and got about 15 - 20 feet in when my limitations tapped me on the shoulder and introduced themselves - A man's got to know his limitation. I was carrying a small LED flashlight that lit up nothing. The cave became a small four foot opening and that was enough for me. I guess I'm not much of a spelunker.

I left the mouth of the cave and made my way around to the other side of the peak where I located a couple more caches: "WEST-PEAK CACHE" and "Tri-Peak Cache". I swapped the chaosmanor's Torn Yellow Mailer #3 geocoin for the Mini Photo Album TB at the Tri-Peak Cache.

I found the Tri-Peak trail back down to the Mishe Mokwa/Sandstone Peak trail and started up the trail. At this point I was exhausted. I guess the rock hopping just sapped my strength. I was hot and thirsty and I was trying to conserve water since I still had a couple of miles left. I made a brief stop at Inspiration Point - one of the most over used place names. The views were muted by the marine layer. On a clear day you can see the islands and the TopaTopa mountains. Today I saw only the nearby mountains and a lot of white haze. Never the less the views were still satisfying. There is a plaque pointing out the nearby peaks and islands.

As I followed the trail further up toward the ultimate goal of Sandstone Peak (Also known as Mt. Allen - I read that it is made of igneous rock, not sandstone, but I am not a geologist) I began to doubt that I would make it. I was stopping every 20-30 feet to rest. At one point I just laid down on the side of the trail with my head in what little shade I could find and let my heart slow down from 'Go Speed Racer, Go' down to a more normal 'Machine Gun' rate. If someone had come upon me on that trail ... I am sure I looked like a dead man. Hiking this trail during the summer is probably not the best thing to do.

I eventually made it to the spur that took you up to the peak of Mt. Allen. The sign said that Mt. Allen was the tallest peak in the Santa Monica mountains. How could I get this close and not go to the top of the tallest mountain in the Santa Monica Mountains? Sure I felt like death. Yes I was close to heat stroke. What the heck, up I went. I made to the top where there is a plaque commemorating Mr. Allen. There were four other hikers resting at the top. One was smoking and another was drinking a beer - I just don't get it - have I said that before? I still don't get it. I signed the register at the top before heading down.

The rest of the hike was down hill. My legs were cramping a little on the way down. I emptied my two liter camelbak and the extra half liter bottle of water I was carrying about 0.2 miles from the car. Actually I downed the last when the car was in sight. I may have to start using the three liter camelbak that I have to make sure I don't run out of water.

The total length of this hike was 8.14 miles with a vertical climb of about 1,050 feet. My GPS reception was a little sketchy in parts so the length may not be accurate but it should be close. Pictures and be found here.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Homer,

    Glad the hike went so well for you, if a bit hot. I hope that my hike description was helpful, though if you have suggestions for improvement, please e-mail me as that kind of feedback would be most appreciated.

    Good luck on your future hikes and keep in touch!