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A Different Way to Haddock and Reyes

October 12, 2008

By: George Wysup

Leaders: Jennifer Washington, George Wysup

I don't know why, but I thought it would be a good idea to lead a day hike to Reyes and Haddock, in Los Padres National Forest, by a different route, from Thorn Meadows. An out and back would be maybe 32 miles with 8000' gain; no way, not for this old dude. So it had to be with car shuttle.

It wasn't practical to do all this hiking after setting up the long shuttle on the same day. The shuttle between the Mutau gate on Lockwood Valley road and the usual Reyes trailhead, at the end of Pine Mtn road, is a twisty and bumpy 60 miles round trip for each car.

Jennifer Washington agreed to co-lead with me and consented to helping me set up the shuttle. I calculated that the extra miles involved in this shuttle would release enough CO2 to raise the average temperature of Earth by about 1 degree F. But this is HPS, after all, so why not. We decided it was best to set up the shuttle on Saturday and do the hike on Sunday, leaving enough time for a hike to Thorn Point on Saturday. A fun and fattening car camp seemed appropriate.

We scheduled this for the weekend of Oct 11 and 12. We even attracted a fine gaggle of participants; Dave Benson, Keith Christensen, Scott Gabbert, and Anne Howell. We admitted to these participants that there were parts of the hike that we had never been to.

The first thing I noticed was that the roads and campgrounds were clogged with pickup trucks driven by large men in camouflage clothing and orange hats. Yes I had done it again - scheduled a hike in deer habitat for opening weekend of deer season. My many encounters with hunters have all been cordial and we have never come close to getting shot at, so I didn't consider this a big deal. Most hunters are true sportsmen and know what they are about and are quite safety conscious. Then there's Dick Cheney, but I don't think he was around. I did have an orange hat and a yellow windbreaker to provide some visibility. And I cautioned my group not to wear their fake antlers.

We started our hike to Thorn Point at 11:15 in unseasonably cool weather, with a gentle breeze. We returned at a little after 3 pm and we killed some time trolling for a good camp site. We soon realized that having a campfire would be illegal as well as very unwise, so we just found any old flat spot and set up our wagons in a circle for defense. We immediately let down our guard by having happy hour and pot luck. When the sun set the temperature began to plummet, as it always does in clear dry weather. The forecast at our 4800' elevation site was for gusty winds and a low of 31 deg.

By 8 pm everyone except yours truly was hunkered down in a vehicle or a tent. My car was the shuttle car, located elsewhere, and I am too lazy to pitch a tent in clear weather. [Actually it's the un-pitching that I hate to do.] So I slept under the stars and the almost full moon in my 20 degree rated bag. Should be plenty warm, right? Wrong. As the night progressed more and more of the residual heat of the atmosphere radiated into outer space. The good news is that there was little wind. The bad news is that my happy hour imbibing, in concert with my ageing prostate, made it necessary for me to make repeated trips to an (ad hoc) restroom. After each trip I donned another warm garment in an attempt to be cozy. I noted that the water in the bottle next to my cot was frozen as were my toes (despite the heavy socks). Fortunately, much of my food and drink were in a cooler on ice, which kept it from freezing. The weather guy was way wrong. Scott's cheap-o thermometer said 10 degrees at 6:30 am. I don't really think it got that cold, but neither can I say for sure it didn't.

Here's another law of hiking: The colder the morning temperature, the later the hike will start. I had planned a 7 am start, but we didn't get moving until 8:04. We started from the Cedar Creek trailhead, hiking past a couple of camo dudes with rifles, as we scared away all the deer, and up the dry Cedar Creek for 5+ miles to a shallow saddle. There were plentiful tracks of deer, bear, and cougar along the trail, but no more hunters. The ridge heading to the left here goes to Thorn Point (that's another story). We continued down the trail for another mile to Pine Mountain Lodge (Google it!) campsite. There is no longer any vestige of the old log hunting lodge built in the 1890's by a group of hunters who called themselves 'the Sisquoc rangers'. Here the Cedar Creek trail ends at the Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca National Recreational Trail. There is no sign here indicating such; indeed this grand sounding trail is rather faint in several spots and seems to get little use by humans.

We turned right and continued westward (ho), the trail here being far from flat, finally reaching Piedra Blanca Creek and, soon, Three Mile campsite where we took a well-deserved break at a picnic table. We could divine no reason for the name of this campsite, as it seems not to be 3 miles from anything. Another very twisty 2 miles up the trail took us to Haddock campsite, where the Reyes Peak trail tees into the Piedra Blanca. The trail spends precious little time following the creek because the creek has created a rugged gorge. The trail does cross the creek at several spots.

In any case, I was now in familiar territory, having hiked to Haddock campsite, and then to Haddock and Reyes, from Reyes Creek campground on the Lockwood Valley Road. We went the steeply up the Reyes Peak trail, attaining the top of Pine Mountain Ridge and, soon, Haddock Peak itself. The trail appears to be going back to nature in some areas as the scrub buckthorn is taking over. From Haddock it was the usual route 1 stroll along the ridge, over Reyes Peak, and down to my trusty 200 k miles 4Runner. The time was 6:04 pm, almost exactly 10 hours after we started. We managed to stuff all of us in the vehicle and drove slowly and safely back to Thorn Meadows.

Jennifer's GPS showed the trip stats to be 16.6 miles with 5600' elevation gain. Transferring the GPS track to TOPO showed the stats to be 16.0 miles with 4800' gain. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in this gap. To avoid incurring the wrath of Jennifer I will say that her GPS is probably closest to truth. If you do this hike in May or June conditions would be much wetter, maybe even too wet. But you could get by without carrying much water. All of us were dazzled by the beauty of this Los Padres terrain. Try it, you'll like it.

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