FEBRUARY 12, 2016 – Western Plateau? (Camarillo)

February 12, 2016

For as long as I can remember, the area on the North side of the 101 between the Camarillo plain and Wildwood Park has been called the ‘Western Plateau.’ This past weekend I saw signs there that variously read Camarillo, Hawk Canyon and Hill Canyon. I unexpectedly ended up there when another location had extreme dust filled wind gusts. Sissopolis and EcuaDeb chose the plateau as Plan B. My last visit was on Black Friday 2013. What I noticed this time was the utterly empty pay parking lot and the almost full free lot. Strangely the free lot was much closer to the trailhead! There wasn’t much dust but it was still windy enough to keep some tumble weeds rolling.
The bridge over the North-flowing artificial stream led to the trailhead.
This guy probably didn’t know that the water is the output from a sewage treatment plant!
Early February in So Cal, 85 degrees and cloudless. We passed so many dog walkers that we thought there was a dog event nearby.
Because we hadn’t planned for this location we had no pocket queries or caches in our GPS units. Phone signals were sporadic and the GC.com app was slow. So we probably walked right by several caches.
These palms could be long ago escapees from someone’s landscaped garden.
I whined and whined about needing to find “at least 1 cache” so much so that siss & Deb indulged me. They went out of their way to go with me to COSCA’s 23rd Annual Trail Work Day cache (GC4CFBZ) and a neighboring cache.
Having found the caches I was unstressed and took the time to observe the scenery.
Here are Siss & Deb on a conveniently placed scenic bench, just steps away from No more house overlooking Mars! (GC50ZFQ).020716_09_mars_bench
We were very careful not get blown over the side by wind gusts into the canyon below.
Behind us was the newly named Elliott Mountain. We remembered reading about a memorial cache. With strong cell service we found the coordinates and Deb led the way. Both the mountain and cache are named after Burt Elliott (cacher Big Eagle) who gave decades of volunteer service to local trail and recreation organizations.
The summit was so windy that we only stayed long enough to find the cache, The Eagle’s Roost (GC5WF2J).

The descent was easier than expected.
020716_14_lichenWe rejoined the main trail and looped back to the parking lot.
After the 7.9 mile hike we had a Vietnamese/Californian fusion lunch at 9021PHO in Thousand Oaks. Spicy!!

JANUARY 27, 2016 – Indian Creek Trail Head (PCT)

January 27, 2016

With my friend Christine (cacher sissopolis) I tried to drive to Messenger Flats Campground in the Angeles National Forest. Our plan was to hike from there to Mount Gleason summit. She likes forest & snow hiking and I wanted to find the summit cache. But we were thwarted on every attempt by private property and road closures. The route recommended by a hiking blog led to a private animal sanctuary. A helpful local told us that everything beyond was also private property. He pointed us in the general direction of possible routes but we found them also blocked.
The left fork here was the wrong road, but it was closed anyway.
The right fork ended at an active mine/quarry.
Instead of driving around all day we went to the Indian Canyon parking lot (see Dec 22, 2015 post) where the PCT (mile 444.2) intersects Soledad Canyon Road.
We hiked South on the PCT. The trail was immediately uphill. An ammo can cache Cherokee Warrior (GCZQPF) was a welcome stop. Just ahead there were 2 long ago crashed cars in a canyon below the trail.
There was ample evidence that a lot of shooting goes on here.
Trail intersections were helpfully marked.
From here there was a long flat stretch.
We met a Northbound hiking Australian family, probably from the parking lot RV. They were worried about large animal tracks they’d seen. I think those were made by dogs. We said goodbye and kept hiking. The sun broke through the clouds and made me regret leaving my sunglasses in the car.
At just under 4 miles (PCT mile 440.3) we decided that we were losing more altitude than we wanted to make up on our return trip. We sat down, enjoyed the view for a few minutes and hiked back to the parking lot.
Back at home I read a warning that there’s a big stretch of the infamous Poodle Dog Bush ending at mile 440.0. I’ve always wanted to see it but missed it by 0.3 miles! Pictures 2 & 3 are by Christine, cropped by me.

JANUARY 3, 2016 – vacation’s end

January 3, 2016

Two days after hiking in Acton my new Black Diamond Trail Pro trekking poles arrived. The next day I used them to hike up a hill in Agoura that my geofriend EcuaDeb calls “Heartbreak Hill.” It’s the one on the South side of the 101 at the Liberty Canyon exit. I needed 7 finds to reach 15,000.

I started badly by not finding her trailhead cache Heartbreak Hill (GC46CDN). It was later determined to be missing. Oh well. Anyway, the trail looked innocent enough at the beginning.

Then it went up steeply, flattened out, went down and then almost straight up.
Finally, at the top I turned South on a ridgeline. One cache was rusted shut. I carefully used my Leatherman Skeletool CX to wiggle open the lid. The log & contents were in good condition. I left a Don_J memorial wooden nickel.
A few more finds but two more DNFs (I think they’re truly missing) had me worried that I might not reach 15,000. In the end I backtracked North and turned West along another broad ridgeline and found #15,000 Ogling The Lady…face (GC2HRK0). “Lady Face,” refers to a neighboring hill said by locals to resemble a lady’s face, when viewed from the North.
The trail crossed a paved utility road that I used to descend back to the street. It dropped me a mile West of the trailhead. The walk back was easy.

On Christmas night I drove through light traffic to my desert standby, Barstow. My Garmin Oregon was fully loaded with thousands of powertrail caches. I planned to wake up early and drive 120 miles East to reach them. But dawn temperatures in the 20’s convinced me to stay in bed for a few more hours. By then I decided to stay near Barstow to find caches hidden since my last visit a year earlier. It was still 37 degrees when I reached the Planes Trails Automobiles & Ships series 25 miles West.
Only 3 caches in, I noticed the bright yellow low tire pressure light. The right front tire looked low and my compressor failed in October. I didn’t want to be stuck so I rushed back to Hwy 58 and to American Tire Depot in Barstow. The crew fixed a nail and pumped up all 4 tires to optimum, FREE! Thanks Manager Mike!! I went back to the PTA&S series and found 7 more caches. Some were within a few steps of the (“open route”) trails and others were park-&-walk. The temperature reached 47 but by then it was windy and it felt colder than ever in my short sleeves & hiking shorts.

The next day I again chose not to go toward Needles. I went back to Hwy 58, exited South on (unpaved) Helendale Rd and turned East on my favorite Open Route, #8800. I took various short side trips to find caches. This one is the most original, best constructed I’ve seen in years.
The next one contained a $5. bill! Joshua trees in the area are few and scrawny compared to the ones in Palmdale. A rare giant exception contained a cache. I extracted it cautiously without drawing blood.
The temperature again hovered between 37 and 40. I wondered how reptiles could function. The guy below didn’t make it. And no, it wasn’t a cache container.
I usually solo hike on New Year’s Day. But this time the hike was on December 31, with sissopolis & EcuaDeb. We started at Rancho Sierra Vista from the Satwiwa parking lot.
We went East toward the waterfall & the Danielson monument/grave. That’s Tri-Peaks / Boney Mountain ahead.
The waterfall was dry except for a puddle at the bottom.
A brief stop at the monument where we rehydrated and ate cookies was interrupted by numerous hikers. Sunlight shining through the leaves made it impossible to take usable pictures. Rested, we continued upward on the Old Boney Trail.
Eventually we reached 1,850 feet before gradually (& sometimes not so gradually) descending. We found 9 caches including one at an area with a lot of fossil bearing rocks.
We hiked 8.3 miles in just under 5 hours. The elevation difference between high & low points was almost 1,400 with some ups & downs in the middle.

I spent New Year’s Day recovering. On January 2 I drove to Zev Yaroslavsky Las Virgenes Highlands Park and was pleasantly surprised to see an official parking lot & trailhead. For years there’d been no signage, confusing chain link fences and a locked gate. Some cachers turned back, afraid of being arrested for trespassing. Now there’s no doubt that it’s a public park. I knew it was, from the beginning when I watched the dedication ceremony on TV. My goal here was to archive 4 caches (NERD, DORK, GEEK, DWEEB) that I hid in January 2011. A fire since then and regrowth totally changed the vegetation. The caches were now in less than ideal spots. I placed a new cache BIRD BRAIN (GC6934N) just inside the trailhead gate.
This is the trail going up.
And this is looking back from my 2nd new cache BONE HEAD (GC6935D).
This is ground zero for my 3rd cache DIM WIT (GC6935P).
I hid 1 more “DING BAT” before continuing up to find 3 caches hidden by others. At the top I looked into a landfill. It seems to be growing!

Tomorrow, I’m going back to work after 16 consecutive days off. Next hike? Probably on MLK Day!


December 22, 2015

It’s hard to organize a group hike during Christmas / New Year’s vacation. I didn’t want to wait until 2016 to hike the section of the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) immediately South of the area in my last post. Facebook PCT Section Hikers assured me that the parking lot I saw on Google Earth was public trailhead parking. Thanks! They were correct. I arrived at a super clean, developed lot where the PCT intersects Soledad Canyon Road.122115_01_parking1
As is often the case at recreation areas in the off season, there was no one else there. I didn’t see another human on my entire hike! The 49 degree temperature was probably a factor too.
I found the easy parking lot cache Indian Cyn Rd & PCT Trailhead (GCWDWR) and cautiously ran across the street to the trailhead.
Only 2 minutes later I stopped at an abandoned trailer. The warning on the door didn’t stop me though I half expected that something revolting was inside. It was a relief to find only some old wiring and a few pieces of scrap. I searched for 5 minutes but couldn’t find the cache Spinal Meningitis Got Me Down (GC5JQBF). Later, back at home, I read that the previous finder moved it outside! $#%*%^)*#!!!
Beyond the trailer there was a short stretch of canopied vegetation along the completely dry riverbed (Santa Clara River). A PCT sign at every bend kept me on course.
The “real” hike began at the railroad crossing. The tracks are active. I heard trains rumbling & whistling in the distance for much of the day.
Beyond the tracks I saw an interesting benchmark. Too bad that there’s no serial number to log on gc.com.
For the first hour the hike was gradually uphill with switchbacks leading East around the hills. I remember only 2 short steep 50’ sections.
My favorite cache of the day Hand Thing (GC5JQC5) was here. I didn’t “get” the name. Thanks for NOT hiding the container in the vegetation.
The long flat stretches were easy to hike.
50 shades of red.
The PCT turns left at the unsigned intersection marked by the red “X” and continues across the middle of the picture.
The plant life was drab. Nothing bloomed. The yuccas looked dead. This cactus and its friends were the only interesting plants I saw.
Ahead! I found my 3rd and last cache Lazy 8 (GC5JQC9). The container was a fading un-taped prescription tube with a childproof cap. It’s going to shatter soon. I didn’t have a replacement to leave.
Northbound PCT through hikers standing at this spot in June/July in 100 degree heat will lament that there are 2,100+ more miles ahead to reach Canada.
I’d planned to hike North until 2pm but sensed a weather change and turned around at 1:30pm instead. On the way back this

4” millipede crossed my path.

It rained heavily that night. The hike was 9.4 miles round trip, finished in exactly 4 hours. I hope to group hike the entire stretch all the way to Vasquez Rocks in the Spring with a car shuttle.

OCTOBER 29, 2015 – Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) @ Vasquez Rocks

October 29, 2015

Every time I tell friends that I’m going to Vasquez Rocks, they warn me about Gorns. This time I saw my first one, in the dirt parking lot. He was scary looking but exceptionally slow. Even at my normal hiking speed I easily left him hissing away in my dust.
The PCT runs along the lot and continues South.
I hiked toward the under-freeway tunnel, passing many caches found on previous visits.
Away from the iconic giant thrusting rock outcroppings, there were no muggles near the equally interesting smaller formations.
Parts of the trail were washed out (from the freak storm in mid October?) and debris covered. The tunnel approach was especially ripped up.
I walked through along the right edge, because road apples tend to accumulate in the center, and emerged at the old I-beam framework. There’s a cache just off screen to the right: Vasquez Tunnel (GC1AQ03).
The South side of the freeway is outside of the park boundary and not as well maintained. Debris covered the trail. I got through by remembering the way from my June 2014 visit.
It was a relief to see a PCT marker. But then, I went the wrong way (RIGHT) at the fork. d’OH! d’OH! d’OH!
The trail ahead was in great condition. But it looked unfamiliar and there were no footprints. There should’ve been recent evidence of SOBO (SOuth BOund) PCT thru hikers on their way to the Mexican border.
Two new PCT caches on my GPSr screen weren’t getting any closer. At 1.5 miles away from the caches the trail headed into a network of powerline service roads. I turned onto a side trail going in the right direction. Soon it became rocky and went steadily uphill.
This is the view from the top, looking back across the 14 to Vasquez Rocks. The tunnel exit is a small dot below and just to the right of the largest vehicle on the freeway, 1/3 in from the left side of the picture.
All of the gained elevation was lost on a steep downhill that connected to the PCT less than 400’ from my target cache of the day, Lunchtime! (GC5JQCC). Unfortunately for me I found only a pen and no cache. I sat on a rock, ate a Clif Bar, and looked South. One of those must be the PCT. It’s not realistic at my age (54) and physical ability (middling at best) but I imagined reaching the same spot having hiked NOBO (NOrth BOund) all the way from the Mexican border.
I returned to reality and started hiking back toward the tunnel. On the way I found FRZ Cache#13 (GC56CV). Erosion was evident. Hiking here in wet conditions could be treacherous.
Another part of the trail was partially collapsed into a ravine.
102515_15_washout2Just before the tunnel a REAL PCT SOBO thru hiker sped by. I asked and he yelled back his trail name “Tiger” and confirmed that he was going “all the way” (to the border).
My goals were accomplished. I’d hiked the PCT beyond my previous trip and found a cache. Additionally I’d hiked an unknown wrong-way connector trail and reached an unexpected summit. There was plenty of remaining daylight for sightseeing on the way back to the parking lot.
I wondered how many people camped in the numerous caves in prehistoric times and what they’d think if they could look into their distant future to see me walking by.
This may be one of them.
The roundtrip hike was 9.1 miles. Eventually I’m going back to spend the day rock scrambling to find the new caches there that aren’t on the PCT.

OCTOBER 19, 2015 – Natural Bridges State Beach, (Santa Cruz, CA)

October 19, 2015

On the last full day of my central coast vacation I drove to Natural Bridges State Beach at the northern edge of Santa Cruz.
From a few steps off the parking lot I saw what must be a natural bridge.
In the foreground a juvenile seagull harassed its parent for a regurgitated meal.
But caches called and I walked inland. With each step I dreaded what I’d probably see at GZ;
the ground covered with sticky, smelly eucalyptus leaves and bark! Even with my HSP (hiking-stick-poke) method I wasn’t able to locate the cache. At least the humidity of the last 2 days was gone and broken cloud cover provided part time shade.
I somehow got through the eucalyptus forest without stepping on any hidden doggie landmines. Construction barriers blocked access to the next cache about half way down and to the right of this ugly trail.
It was worth the hike because earthcache I wouldn’t sit on these Coastal Benches (GC5EQGF) and THIS were at the end.
Turning North I walked to Seymour Marine Discovery Center and found a cache off the parking lot. More hiking along another part of the construction zone eventually led to 3 easy caches near Antonelli Pond.
Without detailed local knowledge, finding ways through or around the construction zones to more caches was too time consuming. So I hiked back to the car and drove North along the coast and found 4 more caches on desolate, windswept beaches. More to follow in the next post.

OCTOBER 18, 2015 – SFB Morse Botanic Reserve, (Pebble Beach, CA)

October 18, 2015

Another area with a cluster of hiking caches is SFB Morse Botanical Reserve. It’s only 5 minutes away from Cannery Row. It seems to be part of the Del Monte Forest, mostly (but not all) in Pebble Beach. I drove around winding surrounding streets and encountered multiple guard shack payment stations. It would’ve sucked to pay for entry and find out that the caches were far away from parking. Eventually I found street side free parking and a public trailhead at N36°35.632 W121°55.286.
The hike started on deteriorating pavement.
Then my GPSr arrow soon pointed to side trails. Lots of old downed trees were evidence that the weather can be extreme. The tree below looked like it’d been twisted apart.
Even though the road was never more than a ½ mile away, at times there were no human sights or sounds.
Occasional clearings were convenient places to sit and enjoy the solitude.
The humidity was uncomfortably high and a brief thunderstorm made it worse. As a botanic reserve there were undoubtedly many unusual plant species thriving on the moisture. With no knowledge of botany I only recognized the plentiful ferns.
I can’t spot special plants but I saw this well placed cache below.
Thankfully no caches were hidden in pine cones.
101415_08_pineconesIn 3 hours I hiked 5.3 miles, found 5 caches, DNF’d 1 and didn’t reach 2. Due to the rain I didn’t look for a trailhead into the Northern part of the reserve that contains another cache cluster. Instead I drove back to Cannery Row and reset for bike caching, only to find 2 flat tires (they were fine at the bike shop 4 days prior) and my fully charged portable compressor completely dead. To save the remainder of the day I walked 3 blocks to the neighboring town of Pacific Grove and found a few coastal caches skipped on prior visits. PG Beauty (GC4XM0X) was 70’ from the posted coordinates, only found using alternate coordinates posted by a prior finder. It’s an all too common occurrence, one of the main reasons why urban caching is so much more frustrating than it used to be. The hider? Zero finds, 1 hide.
By now it was late afternoon and the fog rolled in. I turned inland for a cache and then an early dinner. The hike was 1.9 miles with 4 caches found and no DNFs.


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