Saturday, May 30, 2009

Matillija to the Dry Lakes

In the morning I packed up and hiked up the Matillija Creek trail. The trail runs along Matillija Creek. It was shady and very nice. The creek was flowing and there were numerous campsites along the way.

The last camp was Maple and the last chance for water. I filled up all my bottles for the steep climb up to the Ortega motorcycle trail.

The climb was extraordinarily steep. It was extremely hot. When I reached the road, I fastened my sun umbrella to my pack and proceeded down the motorcycle road.

Along the road I met up with a man on a motorcycle. He asked if this was the Potrero Seco trail. I told him it was not and showed him the map. He thanked me and forged ahead, happy that the trail led to Wheeler Gorge. He returned a short while later saying he was afraid of taking a wrong turn and decided to head back to Highway 33.

Soon the dirt road, which was very steep both up and down, turned into a trail. The trail was a little nicer to walk on, but I stubbed my right pinky toe on a rock. I had to remove my umbrella because of all the overhanging chaparral scrub.

I tried to keep my eye out for the trail to Dry Lakes Ridge. I thought I had found it and walked up the firebreak. At a small summit I looked around to try to make sure. The firebreak continued up some high mountains. In the distance to the south I thought I could see in a valley a meadow that looked like the picture of the dry lakes that I had seen. I figured I was not on the right trail so I retreated back to the trail.

I walked down the trail further, keeping an eye out for the trail to Dry Lakes, but I passed the valley where I had seen the meadow. Soon I saw a trail leading to the left so I followed it. It led only to some interesting rocks. It wasn't the right way.

I decided I would hike until I found the campsite shown on the map and then I would know for sure that I had gone too far and that one of these two trails was the right one. I found the camp, which was just a pile of old ice cans, and knew I had to retreat a mile and half back to find the trail. It was steeply up hill.

Turns out that the first firebreak trail I had found was the right way after all.

I followed the firebreak for a while heading mostly steeply up. At around 5 I stopped and made dinner. I had cell reception so I talked to Tony for a while. Then I lost connection. I was staring at a huge, nearly vertical hill I had to walk up. I decided after dinner to attempt the hill.

I made it up the hill and continued on. Soon I lost the trail completely. I looked all over but could not find it. They make firebreaks along ridges pretty much straight ahead and I could see the firebreak through the brush way up ahead. So I bushwhacked straight ahead. The chaparral was very thick and I tore up my arms. I took a picture of my bloody arms.

Having regained the firebreak, I forged ahead. I could see one of the dry lakes in the distance. That was my goal.

I made it at dusk and set up my bed under some pine trees in a delightful meadow of little yellow lupine-like flowers. It was another hot night sleeping under the stars with my bug net.

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