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Jan 24

Los Padres Dam to Rattlesnake, RSI

I recently embarked solo on a short Rec-Site Inventory of the Danish Creek Camp  and the Rattlesnake Trail.  It was a gorgeous "Juneuary" day to be out in the glorious coastal California mountains of the Ventana Wilderness; warm sun in the clear blue sky and a cool winter breeze made for some great hiking weather upon the steep, rugged slopes of the Ventana.  I parked my car at the Los Padres Dam trailhead on the outskirts of the small town of Cachagua, a small valley southeast from Carmel Valley.  The name Cachagua is strange and striking,  much like the place its named after, and inspired me to do a little research.  According to the book Monterey County Place Names,  a popular local legend has it that it came from an Esselen indian word that meant, ‘hidden waters’.  Another theory claims that it came from garbled spanish, combining the words canada, which is 'glen', and ojo de agua, ‘spring source’.  There’s also actually the word in spanish, cachagua, that means ‘sewer’ or ‘gutter’.  If I was a local, I think I too would prefer the indian story.  My friend pointed out that the word sounds a lot like “catch agua”,  a fitting name for a town next to a dam. IMG_1344 I encountered several groups of day hikers making their way from the reservoir above the dam amidst the beautiful afternoon sunshine.  With a full backpack on and striking out into the wild at a healthy pace--solo--  I was greeted warmly by these afternoon strollers, a tad surprised but nodding their heads approvingly that I was heading out for a wintertime ramble.  One man informed me that the temperatures had hit a chilly 28 degrees F the night before; indeed the ground was still crispy frozen and mostly solid in some places along the reservoir.  Nevertheless, the Rec-Site Inventory must go on and I would not be deterred!  I was ready to brave such extremes with my down bag,  a healthy ration of fats in my food sack and plans for a nice warm fire under the winter stars. The Danish Creek trail to the Rattlesnake is not marked at the intersection of the Carmel River trail and Big Pines trail-- which is what you want to take to get over to Danish Creek Camp trail.  Once making it up to the ridge you follow along for a while then come to a burned signpost with no sign.  Someone took the liberty to inscribe BPT with an arrow to the right, and DC to the left. IMG_1326 The fire of 2008 raged in this area and the subsequent brush regrowth was quite vigorous in some areas.  The trail down to Danish Creek Camp, though, is not overly brushy and aside from the ticks was quite enjoyable hike meandering down the ridge.  Upon entering Danish (actually pronounced Duh-NISH) Creek Camp I was pleased to find a very attractive campsite in a creekside meadow of the gorge.  If I was trained in hydrology or earth sciences perhaps I would have a technical explanation for this sort of watershed formation; I always find them intriguing, these alluvial deposits that accumulate enough for a meadow environment to form, these rather pleasant stream-side attractions make excellent camping spots and grazing grounds for critters.  There's two sites to choose from here and I ended up making camp for the night under the canopy of a very ancient oak tree and kept toasty with a blazing fire and listening to the creek ripple.  I take pride in tending a fire and can spend a whole night keeping it just right and warm. Waking early the next day I layed my bag out in the meadow for the morning sun and packed a day pack for the jaunt to Rattlesnake.  Having checked the trail conditions on the Ventanawild.org trail conditions page,  I knew I was in for a rugged day.  In fact, this particular section of trail is of historical interest as the old route to resupplying the Ventana Double Cone lookout and said to be one of the oldest trails of the Ventana (probably not including trails used by the Esselen and Salinan I would assume.  As an extended side note,  an elder recently shared with me that the Esselen are one of the 5 or 6 aboriginal tribes of California, including also the Yurok, Karuk, Chumash and others I unfortunately do not remember.  Aboriginal is different from indigenous in that there language cannot be traced to someother territory via migration.  (According to poet-naturalist and all around bad ass Gary Snyder, it takes 7 generations to become indigenous to a land.)  In the early years of anthropology, they realized California was one of the most linguistically diverse places in the entire world!  Granted the exceptional ecological diversity present its no wonder that diversity would also be reflected in the human population. California was also home to some of the largest native populations on Turtle Island, <North America>.  I had heard in an anthro class once something like over 200 distinct languages were here; however according to a quick (all-knowing) wikipedia search, they say 70.  In any case, some of these languages still survive, for many others they have gone the way of the grizzley bear.)  So anyways, this old historical trail feels old and historic and is grown over and in pretty bad shape.  Following the trail from Danish Creek, one makes sure not to continue up Rattlesnake creek at the confluence but rather to stay along Danish until coming across what appears to be an old homestead site and a fire ring. IMG_1331 IMG_1329 I guess if your going to drag a bunch of stuff out into the wilderness, its nice to have a spirit of sharing about it. Once at the homestead site the trail crosses the creek and heads up the ridge dividing the two watersheds.  With the help of H.J. McCracken's metal markers nailed to the trees (circa 1965; see Jack Glendening's entry in the Ventana Wild trail reports for Rattlesnake), I followed the steep ridge  to the brushy top, only to lose my way several times in a sea of ceonothus, madrone and lots of deadfall. IMG_1336 This is actually one of the easier sections of trail-- you can actually make out the tread here.  Often times the tread would disappear and I'd find myself on some animal track, crawling under the bushes, only to find the handy work of Jack Glendening in some fresh cuts to inspire some hope and keep moving forward;  he hiked this section of trail early January with his loppers and made some improvements along the way.  As mentioned this trail/camp has received special interest from Dr. Jack and he's made several trips here now over the years.  The register he left at the camp has seen scat visitation over the years of its existence since 2010.  In one entry, two fellows made the hike down from the VDC trail and wrote that if it hadn't been for one of them's expertise at bush-wacking through poison oak and bramble, they probably would have died.  Perhaps one day a more concerted effort will be made to reopen this old route and hikers will be more attracted to this now obscure section of the Ventana, and access the Double Cone from a different direction will be had.  For now, Jack's leading the charge and perhaps others will be inspired to help the recovery efforts.  IMG_1341 After inventorying this site I made my way back out the trail towards Danish Creek camp to retrieve my belongings and hike back to the Dam and my car.  Following the trail out proved much easier to stay on tread than my folly filled entry and gave me a little more interest in a return trip to brave the brush.  The view of Blue Rock Ridge was a neat sight, having hiked along the Big Pines trail and past Blue Rock the previous month. IMG_1337   My adventure continued after leaving the wilderness in an unexpected direction.  While driving out Cachagua Road towards Carmel Valley I happen to pass my good buddy from Santa Cruz on the road; he was heading to teach music lessons to two of his young clients who live out in Cachagua.  Well there we were, practically in the middle of nowhere crossing paths. So I pulled over, and he did to, only he didn't see the ditch next to my car and drove right into it!  So now there we are with his car elevated in the back and stuck.  Being one of the more cosmically comedic friends I know, I was in stiches at the hilarity of this sour situation.  Well within minutes a kind neighbor was there offering a hitch out of the ditch. "Who can you count on if you can't count on neighbors?"  he exclaimed dutifully.  My buddy actually grew up in Carmel Valley. and knows the area well. IMG_1357 This chance event lead to an invite to the children's music lesson and the opportunity to hang with a Cachagua local.  He ended up being one of the more interesting fellows I've met in a while with wild stories of his time in Zimbabwe, where he had been doing some "wild-life management" years ago. IMG_1360 This is what he called a 'daga' Kudo, their about the size of a horse.  'Daga' is an African term for bachelor; basically male's who don't participate in the herd or are involved in breeding and end up taking the resources from the rest.  Over there, hunters take the lame, the old and the bachelors in order to keep the various animal herds healthy, much like a predator would do.  Over here in America,  most hunters like to take the biggest and healthiest animals, ultimately weakening the genetic pool.   Another Rec-Site Inventory stint to check off the list with more to go.  I had dinner at my friend's parent's house in Carmel Valley that night then headed back to Santa Cruz.   While on the subject of names this entry, I also did some research into the origin of 'Carmel'.  Turns out to actually be one of the earliest place names of post-conquest California and began with the naming of the Carmel River by the Vizcaino expedition of 1602, conducted under the order of the Viceroy of New Spain (Mexico), Gaspar de Zuniga and Acevedo, Conde de Monterrey.  Older texts actually list the name as ‘Carmelo’.   “ Vizcaino had in his company three Carmelite priests and, as a compliment to the friars, chose their patroness, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, as patroness and protectress of the expedition (Culleton).  Mount Carmel (Hebrew “Kar-mel” - a “garden” or “garden-land”) is the mountain in NE Israel that was famous for its caves which housed Christian anchorites who were later organized into the order of Carmelites.  It is also said that the friars, particularly Father Andres de la Asuncion, gave the name Carmel to the river and the bay.  The exploration party camped at the site of today’s Monterey from December 17, 1602, to January 3, 1603.  “  (quoted from Monterey County Place Names).

1 comment

  1. gregmeyer

    OK Bryce, I am down to help work on this trail. I tried to do it once from Danish Creek and gave up. Maybe we can take a hardcore YIW crew up there!

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