Monday, December 21, 2009

Gaviota Peak and the elbow of California

Yesterday, I led a Sierra Club hike to Gaviota Peak.

Gaviota Peak is at 2458 feet and you start low enough in elevation that you have to gain at least 2000 of those feet.

The way I normally do this hike is to hike up the dirt road and then down the Trespass Trail. Going up the dirt road is steep, but not bad. The road is receding into trail again and the bed is smooth and easy to walk on like the PCT. I could feel the similarity so I switched into PCT hiker mode and powered up the hill. It felt good to move like that again.

On the way up, there are gorgeous views of the Point Conception area of California. I am fascinated any time a lofty view allows me to see geography on a global scale. I could actually see the "elbow" of California. I could see the coastline where it trends east/west and could see it where it turns the corner to trend north/south. I could see the rolling hills and flat-iron points of the mountains in the ranchlands around Lompoc. At this time of year, because of our recent rains, everything was a soft, pale green with new growth.

Once we crested on the road and began the final push to the summit, we could look over the other side and see the Channel Islands and the coastline stretching all the way toward the mountains of the Conejo Grade near Thousand Oaks. If it had been just a little clearer, we might have been able to see Catalina and the cliffs along the coastline in Los Angeles.

The ocean was glassy smooth. The clouds in the sky softened the reflection of the smooth ocean and made it look like it wasn't even there. Soon a wind came up and the glass was replaced by texture and the ocean reappeared.

After a nice lunch at the summit, we headed down along the trail. We descended to a small vernal pool that looks like it serves as a cattle pond. Vernal pools are a special kind of ecosystem formed when rain water collects on soil with poor drainage.

We followed the old dirt road that is now hardly even a trail, passed through some old, vine-covered cattle gates and then turned on to the Trespass Trail. The trail was full of ticks, but previous hikers had knocked most of them off for us. I walked in front and saw only two on my own pants. They fell off quickly. Only one other person saw a tick.

The Trespass Trail took us through oak woodland, which always makes me feel like I'm in a fairyland forest. We finally completed our loop at the sign that marks .3 miles to the Hot Spring. The sycamores in fall orange led us back to our cars at the trailhead.

It seemed like everyone had a nice time. I can never really tell. When I'm in the forest, I feel so happy and at home. Others maybe not so much. All I can do is show them the forest and hope they see what I see, which is what is truly important in life. Nature, beauty and wild places.

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