Nov 15

Cruickshank to Salmon Creek, Rec-Site Adventures

On our last hitch we visited the Silver Peak Wilderness, parking our vehicle at the Salmon Creek trailhead, we then headed north along the Buckeye trail.   My trail partner Sam has been visiting the Big Sur area since a young child, having grown up in Santa Cruz, and this was his first trip down in the southern reaches of this marvelous coastal mountain range.  The trail traverses along the steep mountainsides yielding exceptional views as we climbed our way up to Buckeye Camp.  Being our first hitch over a weekend, an incredibly warm and sunny one at that, we were sure to see some other hikers.  Sure enough as we reached the

A view south from the official wilderness boundary of the Silver Peak

outskirts of Buckeye camp we came across six young college guys who said they had made their first ever backpacking trip north having come from Los Angeles.  It sounded as though it had already been an adventure, a couple of them had been lost for a while one remarked to the embarrassment  of his friends, having lost their way on the Soda Springs trail.  They were all safe at camp though and settling in when we approached.  They were in good spirits and glad to be there.  We made our way to Buckeye camp and were awed by the large meadow pocket that sits high above the ocean and the different layers of human history that exists there.  Upon first approach we were greeted by a row of rather large eucalyptus undoubtably planted by some pioneer of the past.  Old fencing and a spring box too speak to that history.  What a spot to lay claim and graze your sheep, or whatever it was.  The spring seemed like good water and we filled our canteens.  Making our way to the wide open meadow we found it covered with numerous shell middens.  The natives too thought it a good place to be and must have spent countless years living in this little coastal nook, hiking down to the ocean's edge, gathering mussels and abalone, harvesting acorns from the oaks surrounding the meadow and perhaps even walking the same trails as us.  The main camp nowadays sits below a large bay tree with long reaching limbs that climb along the ground.  For some reason a past hiker thought it a good idea to dispose of his toilet paper in the fire pit, and perhaps wanting to respect the no fire rule of the summer season, decided to leave it for the next lucky hiker to burn.  We too wanted to respect the no fire rule and decided to make camp elsewhere.  Upon investigating the different ends of the meadow, Sam found more campers, a father and young son, set up near the ridge overlooking the ocean.  The sunset was incredible and we made our way to a little overlook to catch the last rays.

A view from the ridge near Buckeye

As the sun went down various cheers could be heard from respective locations along the ridge, modern day sun worshippers saying farewell and welcoming the night.  A heavy wind picked up and we decided to sleep low in the meadow but away from the trees, oaks are known to drop dead branches in a wind like that. It had the trees dancing all night. We continued on the next day to Crucikshank and on down to Villa Creek.  We found the most curious conference in session and observed with reverence.  Perhaps some mating ritual or maybe just a family reunion, the ladybugs were out

Ladybug Galore

in full force.  They were everywhere, on rocks and plants and logs, in just one section of the creek.  If any bug experts out there know, please do tell what they were up to.  Quite the sight.  We inventoried the camps in the area and continued on up the Cruickshank towards Lion Den camp.  After the long slow climb to the ridge we were greeted by a rare presence, a cypress grove.  I learned later back at the VWA office from our ecological expert that it was the Sargent Cypress, Cupressus sargenti.  Known to grow

Sargent Cypress

in coastal mountain ranges, the Sargent Cypress prefers serpentine soils.  The soil on the ridge here near the South Coast Ridge Road is definitely serpentine and has that strange other worldly feel that is barren, rocky, and oddly colored.  We made our way to Lion Den Camp and were awed by another spectacular coastal view at sunset.  We were also pleased to find another spring to fill our canteens, no filter straight from the earth, the way we likes it best.

Lion Den vista

More weekenders were encountered here, a couple on a romantic getaway probably bummed we got to the camp with the view before them.  After talking with them, Sam discovered that they too had gotten lost, they had spent the better part of the day trying to find the Cruickshank trail from Lion Den.  Perhaps the rocky soil made it hard for them to find the tread.  Its a good thing me and Sam hike with GPS, otherwise we would probably still be out there trying to find our way back.  Neither of us have ever hiked with GPS before and admittedly it makes it much easier when in doubt; but really nothing is better than a good sense of direction and observation skills, and the courage to prove yourself right or reroute when your wrong.  Sam has actually spent multiple days off trail bushwacking through the Ventana trying to find camps that don't exist.   Our little coastal wilderness can be tricky and its a good thing were out here doing this inventory and getting a comprehensive view of what's out there.  The map is not the territory.

Salmon Creek Trailhead

A non descript entry to Salmon Creek trail, someone decided to take the sign down from the South Coast Ridge Road entry.  This section of trail has been one of my favorite thus far, such gorgeous wilderness and the brush was not too thick, nice going down hill through it.  Nice too the trail is more or less shaded on the north facing side of the hill while following the creek valley.

One of Spruce Creek's camps

Towards the bottom of the trail we ran into more hikers.  They had come up for the day from San Luis Obispo to see Salmon Creek Falls.  They said they come up all the time to hike around and enjoy the falls.

Salmon Creek Falls

Supremely epic spot to enjoy.  The massive boulders that surround the approach are also amazing to see.  All in all a great stretch of territory, the far reaches of the wilderness is worth the drive if you're a northerner like us.

Sam overlooking highway one, that's Salmon Creek Station in the background


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