Homer's Travels: Hiking Ventura County #31: Nicholas Flat

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Hiking Ventura County #31: Nicholas Flat

On Saturday I got back on the trail, this time to Nicholas Flat. This hike, actually in Los Angeles County, starts at the Leo Carrillo State Beach, climbs up a ridge to over 1800 feet, and drops down into a flat meadow and pond.

Being back on the trail was such a relief. I was antsy to get out and hike. I started on the trail which begins climbing at once. My foot started whining immediately but I chose to ignore it. Along this trail there are 20 geocaches that I was going to tackle. 7 of the geocaches are named after Pink Floyd albums. I think I may have been the first person on the trail on Saturday - there were spiderwebs across the trail. You could also see animal tracks in the trail dust - probably deer and coyote. In places I found coyote scat on top of deer scat - I guess that's one way to say "Deer, your ass is mine!"

The first part of the trail which takes you up to the Ocean Vista Knoll was easy. I found 7 caches on this part including one near the top of Ocean Vista knoll. The cache was being guarded by a nasty looking spider. Along the way I left my walking staff at cache sites forcing myself to backtrack a couple of times.

After taking in the sights from Ocean Vista I started up the ridge. Here the trail rises sharply. The steepness of the trail was challenging. I had my doubts as I struggled up the grade. Near the top the trees and brush grew taller forming a shady tunnel around the trail which helped.

I finally reached the top of the mountain. The trail follows the a ridge before heading down to the flat. I found three caches on the ridge. The views from the top was amazing. The sky was a clear blue and only the sea haze impeded the view. I headed down to the meadow and followed the trail to the pond. My feet were aching and I was looking forward to finding a rock or log where I could dangle my feet in the pond and eat lunch. When I reached the pond my hopes were dashed. The pond, while still quite large, was a lot smaller then I expected. On a large rock I noticed a dark waterline. The line was about 10 feet high. The pond was another victim of the drought choking southern California. The pond would be huge if it were full of water. Now, the pond was surrounded by drying mud. Deer must be plentiful here based on the number of prints in the mud. I walked around the pond and said hi to a couple of guys fishing. The fish weren't biting but you could hear the splashing of the fish in the pond. One fish carcass I say on the shore was 8 to 10 inches long - a good size fish. If we don't have rain this winter the pond could vanish.

I found some trees and, sitting on a fallen log, ate my lunch. I looked at the map and decided to add what looked like a small loop to the hike on the way back. I think I missed a turn off and headed up the wrong trail (I do that a lot don't I?). The trail soon became overgrown and hard to follow. Looking at my GPS map I knew where I wanted to go so I headed up what looked like a game trail to the top of a hill that was between me and the meadow. At the top I could not see the meadow but I did see a maintained trail. I made it to the trail and headed west. I reached a junction and had to choose going up or down. I started going down but after 30 feet or so I thought better of it and went back to the junction and headed up. As I headed up the side of the mountain (mountain, hill, not sure ??) the GPS showed I was heading in the right direction. There was a cache near an overlook that I wanted to reach and I was heading in the right direction. Unfortunately on this side of the mountain there was no breeze and it was getting hot.

I crested the top of the mountain, saw beautiful views of the meadow below, and found the cache. The cache was near a trail sign and I confirmed that I was back on the correct trail - Yeah for me! Another thing that happened once I got to the top was a cool ocean breeze - Ahhh that felt gooood! I started back down the ridge. It was not easy going down. The trail was so steep I worried about keeping my footing. This means I took little baby steps all the way down resulting in whimpering feet. I passed a father-son geocaching team on the way down the ridge. They told me they had been following me all day which confused me until they asked me if I was Homer-Dog - they had been seeing my logs in the caches they were doing.

I arrived back to the Ocean Vista junction. Here I took a left and followed the Willow Creek Trail back to the trail head. I found another three caches on this trail. The trail curve around the knoll revealing an ocean vista complete with kite and wind surfers. In the end I located 16 caches on this hike (I couldn't find two, another was on another trail, and the last was near a busy path to the ocean that prevented me from looking for it - no privacy).

I forgot to reset my GPS odometer but I estimate that the hike, with my detours, was 9 miles. The vertical climb is around 1,810 feet. Pictures are here.

I was really sore when I got home. I'm not sure if this was the right thing to do with my foot problems. I am starting to doubt my ability to complete my goal. I am starting to reconsider my hiking. We'll see how my foot progresses.


  1. Nicholas Flat is a neat place I haven't been to since I started the blog (hence no entry). A fun option in winter is to go in the rain; just drive up Decker Canyon road, make a left at Decker School road and follow it to the end. You'll be at the "back door" for Nicholas Flat. The trail is muddy in the rain, but that's part of the fun.

    I'm really impressed that you manage to blog the same day you hike. I went out today, but my post won't be up until Monday or Tuesday!

  2. GH,

    I try to post within a day of doing the hike. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it this time but managed it. I probably should hold off and give myself more time - the quality of the post would probably go up.

    During my meanderings (i.e. while i was lost) I reached the Decker School Road "Back Door".