→ Photos from Lonnie Davis and Big Cone Spruce, December 2013
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The weather over Christmas and New Years was unseasonably warm so I decided to use a few of my holidays to go backpacking. I was feeling like "Piper" was dying just sitting around the house. I couldn't get Trailhacker to go with me because he tweaked his back doing yard work. So I went alone.
This is the Manzana Trail.
Some pretty oak leaves on the trail
It's a low rain year this year. The Manzana was dry all the way to Fish Camp and beyond.
Very dry. Looks like Fall.
These sage plants were dead, not just dried up.
I took a quick break at Fish Camp. It was really hot out in the sun. Probably close to 80 degrees.
The great oak tree at Fish Camp.
My first water on the trail was at this creek crossing. There's always water here and I always take a break here.
The water was all full of fallen leaves.
Instead of crossing at my usual little water stop, someone had flagged a trail to cross just a little beyond there. I wasn't sure why as it's easy to cross at the big rock. I followed anyway to check it out.
Maybe whoever built the alternate trail thought it was easier to cross here. We'll see after the rains come and fill up the creeks again.
Onward through the riparian potreros of Manzana Creek.
I rounded the turn into the shady canyon of Manzana Narrows. Here's a crossing below Manzana Camp.
The creek flowed well from here on.
I found a rather large Dudleya.
Another picture of the creek. It's low but the water was flowing and clear.
Looking up at the cliffs above Manzana just behond Manzana Narrows camp. That camp is so cold. Nobody was camped there. There was a man taking a rest there. Turned out I knew him from Sierra Club hikes. His trail name is Boats. He left some flagging here and there with his name on it.
It was hot climbing the switchbacks after Manzana Narrows camp.
Up here above the switchbacks is my favorite place back here. I just love it up here.
Looking up toward the alcove.
I like those big round rocks waiting for the day they'll finally roll over the edge.
Bear scat. Not particularly impressive and certainly not the only bear scat I saw. But it was a reminder that I was in bear country once again.
There was water in the shallow ledges.
It's kind of amazing in such a dry year that these shallow pools had water.
Up into the pretty pines above the ledges.
Blocks that had come tumbling down once upon a time.
A juniper. A reminder of the semi-desert I call home.
This curious tree somehow cleaned up after itself, stacking its dead branches in the crook. I can't imagine that someone did this but have no idea how it could have happened on its own.
Approaching the cliffs near the summit before the descent to Happy Hunting Ground.
I stopped for a snack before the big descent. I bought these from an Asian market. They turned out to be really tasty. The fish snack was really good and the sweet potatoes tasted sort of like vanilla and were the consistency of dried mango strips. I will definitely get these again.
The fish snack is an actual little tiny fish.
The beautiful land on the descent into Happy Hunting Ground. It's amazing how at this time of year, one minute it seems like it's still morning and all of a sudden it feels like late afternoon.
Looking toward the upper Sisquoc.
There was actually some water in these red pools that form near Happy Hunting Ground. There was no water at the campsite, though or in the little creek that flows near it.
Fire pit at Happy Hunting Ground.
Onward we go into the late afternoon shadows. Boats is with me now. I didn't take his picture.
Here we are at White Ledge. There was no water here, not even any little stagnant pools.
Our goal is Lonnie Davis. The shadows are making things look interesting.
The creek is dry. Someone had said there would be water at Lonnie Davis, but if I hadn't known that, I might be starting to worry since I hadn't seen water since the ledges.
Campsite at Lonnie Davis.
I set up my tent in an unused spot. The thick layer of oak leaves made for a soft and warm bed.
Plenty of water in the creek at Lonnie Davis. Very cold.
Here's my dinner. The squares are something called "Sizzling rice" that I got from the Asian market. I think it's just pressed together instant rice. It didn't sizzle, but then I didn't follow the instructions on the package.
I made chili. I dehydrated some cooked ground beef. I cooked ground liver with the ground beef in a ratio of about 2:1 ground beef to liver. I was hoping to get extra vitamins that way. It came out great. I like liver anyway but I could not taste it at all with the chili seasoning, so if you are looking for a way to eat your liver, making chili is an option. The chili seasoning was dehydrated tomato paste with chili de arbol and onion flakes. It was delicious. I will definitely make this again.
I made a fire. I thought Boats would join me but he kept to himself in another campsite.
I slept great that night. It was warm at Lonnie Davis and my bed was soft. In the morning I wore my Jacks R Better quilt and read The Hobbit while I drank coffee for breakfast.
I love this Jacks R Better quilt. Such an ingenius idea to put a hole in the middle so you can wear it like a serape. It's warmer to wear around camp than a regular down jacket, and when I add it to my normal sleeping quilt, I'm super warm (well, most of the time) just like sleeping at home. Because of this quilt, I don't bring a down jacket in winter in our backcountry anymore.
This is my Z-Packs cuben fiber rain jacket. It's a nice jacket but it's really hard to tell which side is the inside. I fixed that with this ingenious modification. TrailHacker laughed at me that I could have put my name on it or something more useful than "Inside" but whenever I pick this jacket up I'm thinking "which side is the inside" so this made sense to me.
The Lonnie Davis sign is standing this time around.
Boats decided to head home. I decided to go to Big Cone Spruce. So for a little while we hiked together again.
So we went back up the long climb toward Happy Hunting Ground and the summit above.
The morning shadows make things prettier.
We're still below Whiteledge camp.
There's supposedly a cave painting in this rock. It's very small and easy to not see and not really worth looking for.
This Whiteledge country is just so lovely. I always feel so happy back here.
The magic rock at the summit above Happy Hunting Ground. Now it's down hill for a while.
There it is again, the magic rock.
Back down through the bunch grass and white ledges.
Dried clematis in the morning sun on the Big Cone Spruce trail.
Hiking up the hot, dry canyon to Big Cone Spruce.
My friend Yoshihiro from Japan sent me this pocket bidet. It works pretty well. It's the cure for the the scourge of all this toilet paper on the trail. I saw a lot of it on this trip. Millions of Japanese people can't be wrong. Those people know how to make toilets a delight.
Impressive trail work on Big Cone Spruce trail.
I remembered I wanted to take a picture of the pack modification I made to my backpack. This pack was a Gossamer Gear prototype that they let me test. It didn't fit well and it wasn't made with all the normal materials. For example, the haul loop is little more than a piece of ribbon you can slip a finger or two into. The straps were some kind of thin slippery material that didn't hold in the buckles.
I replaced the shoulder straps with regular nylon webbing so they would hold tight. The waist belt was attached to the bottom of the pack. This made the pack too tall for me. So I removed the waist belt and sewed on some thicker webbing to the tab the shoulder strap attaches to. Now the pack fits perfect.
More impressive trailwork on the Big Cone Spruce trail.
My first water on the Big Cone Spruce trail. I stopped here for a lemonade.
Took a selfie. I wonder what's on my forehead?
Interesting oak tree on the trail.
It's dark and cold at Big Cone Spruce. There's a lower camp and a upper campsite. Nicely, someone has marked the sign otherwise you might not be able to see the trail to the upper campsite or the trail that continues on to McKinley Road.
The upper campsite still had a little sunlight and seemed significantly warmer than the lower one.
There's a very large tree here.
Home sweet home.
I froze most of the night. I only had a 3/4 z-rest pad. My legs had to warm up the bare earth under my tent. I curled in a ball most of the night. It felt drafty even with my two sleeping quilts.
I went down to the lower camp because the water is down there. My pictures make it look a lot less dark and gloomy than it actually was. Plus it was a lot colder down here.
The picnic table is much improved over what it once was, but it's not lasting very long.
The fire pit had evidence someone probably had camped here the night before.
The water in the creek below the camp was flowing into the ground. But this pool was deep enough to scoop some water out.
Here's a pretty horrible selfie. I found a sunny spot where I could wash my legs and feet, play my strumstick and read my book. The sun was warm and the squirrels made bird-like noises all around me.
Here I am the following morning. This is a rather large big cone spruce tree. Those aren't gaiters I'm wearing. I cut the sleeves off a fleece sweatshirt and I use them for leg or arm warmers. Works great.
Here's the reason they are called BIG cone spruce. They are some kind of fir and have large cones for fir trees.
Cliffs above Big Cone Spruce Trail.
The cliffs above the Manzana Trail.
Poison oak vines growing on a burned tree. The Big Cone Spruce trail is going to have a lot of inconvenient poison oak and raspberry vines come spring.
The cliffs are approaching.
Interesting brown flowers.
Dry red buckwheat flowers.
I'm now hiking down the Manzana Trail. Here's Cachuma mountain. I had considered climbing from Big Cone Spruce trail up to McKinley road but I didn't want to do the long road walk from Cachuma Saddle back to Nira.
Back to the delightful potreros of the Manzana.
I stopped for brunch. I thought I would try this cheese powder I found at Lazy Acres. I know you can buy it online in bulk but it was nice to find it in small packets at a local store. They had four flavors of this.
Here's my cooked brunch. I put too much water in it so it didn't turn out creamy like I'd hoped, but it tasted good as a soup. It's chicken and vegetables that I dehydrated myself, except I bought the dehydrated corn and peas.
Here's a new campsite between Fish camp and Manzana camp. It's official name is "Ray's Camp", named after Ray Ford. There was water here and a shiny new table.
I stopped by Fish camp to see if there was any water at all. There wasn't. Look how deep this pool can get!
Well, the end is approaching. Some final views along the Manzana trail.
These white sycamores caught my eye. I was just about at the end of the trail. I was sorry to go home. I thought to myself, if I didn't have to work I'd probably just go get more food and drive down to Ojai and do a hike down there, maybe go to Willets or something. Oh well.
Today is New Year's Eve. Happy New Year.