Homer's Travels: Hiking Ventura County #45: Gridley Trail to Nordhoff Peak

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hiking Ventura County #45: Gridley Trail to Nordhoff Peak

This week's hike was up to Nordhoff Peak. There are several ways to get to Nordhoff Peak including the Pratt Trail, the Howard Creek Trail, and the one I took, the Gridley Trail. Today was an overcast day and you could not see the mountains. This was a little discouraging. I was hoping to have great views from the fire watchtower on Nordhoff Peak.

The Gridley Trail starts at the end of Gridley Road in Ojai and winds up through Gridley Canyon on the way up to the ridge and Nordhoff Peak. The hike follows a narrow trail up a short distance until it reaches a road that goes through private property. After a short walk on the road the trail veers off to the left and climbs away from the orange and avocado orchards. The trail goes up, up, and up some more. Along the trail I searched for nine geocaches, finding seven of them. One of the caches was called "Lookin' up the Chief's Nose". Here is a picture showing the view of Chief Peak and, yes, that is up his nose (I've been on his nose!).

I'd not seen anyone on the trail and, after finishing off a cache, I got careless and let out some gas in a very petite manner. That's when I saw a guy and his dog coming up the trail. I hurriedly continued up the trail looking over my shoulder to see if he was going to catch up. That's when I say that he had turned around. Now this could mean one of two things. Either he had reached the 1.5 mile point and had decided to do just 3 miles today, or he passed through my cloud of anal vapor and noticed the odor of Channel no. 2. I really doubt that he heard my little indiscretion and I think he had just reached his turn around point ... I hope.

The trail passes a horse trough, horse tie, and a bench at the 3 mile point. Soon after that the trail begins to switchback up the ridge. There is a lot of vertical on this hike and I was really straining. My calve muscle felt really tight this morning and the climb wasn't helping.

As I climbed I was getting closer to the clouds. There was rain in the forecast and the clouds looked a little threatening. At one point I thought I heard some hard rain but it turned out to be the sound of a river down in the bottom of the canyon. By the sound there was a lot of water moving very fast. Unfortunately the trail is too high above the river to actually see it. Looking up to the ridge, most of the time I could not see the watchtower or even the top of the ridge. There was some sun for brief periods on the way up but most of the time the skies were overcast which limited the picture taking opportunities.

I finally reached the ridge road. The sign at the trailhead had said it was 5 miles to the ridge road. The sign on the ridge road said it was 5.75 miles to the trailhead. My GPS said 5.5 miles. Nothing like a consensus. I turned left and headed the extra mile along the road to get to the Nordhoff Peak Fire Watchtower. This last mile was a steep road that switchbacked up the ridge some more.

I arrived to the tower after two young ladies who had hiked up the Pratt Trail. The tower is about 20 feet tall and made of metal. It is located about 6.66 miles from the Gridley Trailhead. The altitude at the tower is 4,509 feet. The platform is a see through grate. At this point the wind picked up and it became quite cold. We sat down on the grating and I leaned back on a piece of grating that turned out to be quite cold. I put the jacket I had on earlier back on before I ate my lunch. I listened to them talking about their dance and music classes and complain about idiosyncratic band leaders. As we ate the cloud ceiling rose up to the point that we could see the Ojai Valley and Lake Casitas. Note the small patch of snow on the lower right side of this picture.

My lunch companions left before me and I took some pictures from the tower. As I looked up at the increasingly dark clouds overhead I wondered how wise it was standing on the tallest metal structure on top of a mountain while a storm was approaching. Not very wise I would imagine. I climbed down the tower just as a mountain biker arrived and I started back down the trail.

I headed down the trail going back the way I had come. I was planning to check out the two geocaches that I couldn't find on the way up but as I got closer the spitting that had gone on most of the hike turned into a steady rain. Since I was still two miles from the car I decided to cut my searching short and push on to the car. As I walked in the rain I was quite comfortable. My camera was safely tucked away in it's case and shielded under my jacket. I was wearing a water shedding jacket instead of the usual sweatshirt hoodie and I was wearing my new hat which has a wide brim. The hat was very good at keeping the water off my face and neck. One thing that did bother me were the droplets of water that formed on the brim. As I walked the drips would move back and forth along the brim which was kind of distracting in a weird hypnotic sort of way.

The hike was 13.3 miles long and there was 3,425 feet of vertical. This is a new record for vertical for me, beating out the climb up part of Mount Rainier. On these long hikes with large vertical change I often wonder why I do it. About one half to three quarters of the way through the hike I am usually in major agony. Why do I subject myself to this? I think it's the challenge - I want to know just how far can I go. Except for the sore muscles I'm currently experiencing, I usually feel really good after a hike. I guess that's why I subject myself to this masochism.

The only downer on this hike was the weather. I will have another opportunity in a couple weeks when I return to Nordhoff Peak, this time on the Howard Creek Trail from the Rose Valley side of the ridge. Hopefully I will have clear skies.


  1. Nice hike! You are ready for Spain, unlike the rest of us. As usual I loved the gas part of the story. Its in our genes, I can't help it. Best Man misses "Holmes" and I do too.

  2. Heh, now I'm reminded of how long it's been since I've done a hike with that kind of elevation change. It'll probably kill me the next time I do.

    What, you didn't give the "two young ladies" my number? ;)

  3. MoH: I'll have to post a list of all the names Homer answers to. There are so many I am surprised he isn't any more confused than he is.

    GH: I think I like pushing myself. I did wonder what the heck I was doing but I never stopped and I'm glad I didn't.

    As for the young ladies, they were in their lower 20s I would guess and I think that would make them a little young for you. They were attractive though.

  4. Thanks for your little narrative about your hike. I did this same hike twice last season (December 2007 and March 2008). The first time the weather was clear (although a bit cold at the top) and we could see everything in the area... from Lake Casitas and the Channel Islands, Rose Valley, Frazier Park, and the Santa Monica Mountains. I was so disappointed when I returned for a second hike. The day started off mostly sunny, but the clouds kept rolling in and we were completely standing in the middle of the cloud at the very top. Luckily, we didn't get caught in the rain!

  5. Kyle: Thanks for visiting my little corner of the Tubes.

    You are welcome. I went to Nordhoff peak twice in two weeks - once from the Gridley side and once from the Rose Valley side (Howard Creek)[http://homerstravels.com/2008/02/hiking-ventura-county-46-howard-creek.html].

    Cloudy and drizzle the first time. Sunny and partly cloudy a week later.