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Nov 08

Lost Valley Found, Rec-Site Adventures

View of the Valley

On October 9th my trail partner Sam and I headed out to the Lost Valley.  I had been there twice before, the springs of 2007 and 2008, when the trail was nearly impassable with several heavy sections of brush then that warranted crawling and the dragging of backpacks behind us.  Slightly fearful of the chaparral regrowth we might find post-fire (summer 2008) , we nevertheless headed out to continue on the epic journey of the Rec-site Inventory mission.  We were able to park at Escondido Camp outside the Indians Valley after traveling south from Santa Cruz on Highway 101.  We filled our water bottles at the spring where the trail begins and nibbled some watercrests before shouldering our packs and striking out.  The trail down to the Arroyo-Seco seemed freshly gone over by a trail crew and was a promising start to our journey.  After winding down the dry slope of the river valley entering the cool canopy of alders was a welcome relief from the heat and always a wonderous sight.  Something about those thirsty alder roots clinging to the riverbank and sipping into the waters  really puts my mind at ease.  Its also quite curious how the alder leaf chlorophyll decomposes,  leaving just the lacey vein outline.  We had arrived and the late season  river was an easy rock hop to cross and we did so gingerly.  I had remembered there being a large fallen tree across the beginning of the trail up to the saddle once crossing the river and was relieved to find it was no more.  The section of trail up the saddle had also received some attention from a trail crew and was no longer the poison oak dodging dance I had also remembered from my last trip years ago.  We reached the saddle after our long slow climb and looked out to the Lost Valley.  To our pleasant surprise the trail down into the Valley was not nearly as overgrown as we thought and proved to be a great hike, though still some brush to push through.  My previous experience in the valley made it easy to find many of the camps and brought memories flooding back of my last trip in 2008.  I had spent a week there with a group of students while serving as teaching assistant with a Sierra Institute backpacking course entitled "California Wilderness."  I was surprised to see the state of our campsite post-fire, many of the coultre pines have been lost and the new growth has altered the site.

Lost Valley Camp

Still a gorgeous place to camp, its amazing to see how fire and time alter a landscape.  Many of the trees didn't make it, but some did and new sapplings are on their way.  I look forward to visiting again far in the future and wonder what it will be like then.  The meadow remains beautiful and vigorous with its stay of native grasses that remain green, while the non-natives brown.  An odd thought to ponder, backwards in time, the California landscape hundreds of years ago,  was this dance of brown to green, fall to spring upon the rolling hills, unknown?  I need to study up on my grasses, I'm not too good at identifying them other than native from non-native.

Lost Valley Camp meadow

We made our way across the valley, crossing the creek with the now classic placard in memoriam, "Lest man forget the awesome powers of nature," erected  for a man on a horse who died attempting to cross the creek during a rainstorm many years ago.  We failed to take a picture unfortunately, perhaps in our confusion at why the placard has been so abused over the years.  People have scratched it up and pounded it with rocks for some odd reason.  Perhaps wilderness purists who think the awesome power of nature need no sign in its honor.  We crossed the valley in the afternoon golden sun and saw a buck grazing.  He turned the other way when he saw us and we continued on as well.

In the Valley

The green creeps back now in November as the rain returns and reawakens the land.  We were lucky to be out there on this hitch to receive  the first substantial rain of the new season.  We awoke early at the far end of the valley just before the trail meets Higgins Creek and I remember spying a little rainbow in a cloud as my eyes opened from dreams.  Moisture was in the air.  We packed our selves some day packs and headed out that morning up the Higgins Creek towards Pelon camp and Upper Higgins, careful to tarp our belongings for chance of rain.  The trail along Higgins is not for the faint of heart and here we met our match.  Thick brush covered large sections and we were glad to only be shouldering day packs as we pushed along and around, scrambling over rocks, tiptoeing boulders and crossing downed logs as we journeyed forward along a beautiful riparian corridor.

Higgins Creek Waterfall

If you look closely you can see some mergansers hanging to the left of the falls in the above photo.  An incredible sight to behold on this creek are the incense cedars, so noble and grand, growing along its banks.  A rare sight  in the Ventana Wilderness, the noble cedar has found a home along this little creek and several strong they stand.  Cedar is highly regarded amidst some American Indian groups who use the sweet cedar smoke as a blessing.  When we finally made it to Pelon I had just gotten the Trimble GPS unit out of my pack when a slight drizzle began.  I quickly inventoried the site as thunder rumbled and a full on downpour began.  Up the rugged creek, way out in the wilds, the smells of wet earth wafting though the air we sighed deep in gratitude, what a place to take in the first rain of the season.  The landscape takes on a whole new vibrancy as the moisture and cloud cover make the colors stand out in awesome fashion.  Lightning flashed and more rumbling, the rain seemed to be increasing in intensity.  We finished our inventory and decided to make our way carefully along the wet boulders and logs of the creek to our little camp and rain shelter,  "Lest man forget the awesome powers of nature" fresh in our minds.  On our way back we saw a western pond turtle perched on a rock unfazed by the rain.  Perhaps glad the rain had returned.

Pelon sign has seen some years

1 comment

  1. Rich

    Such a treat to see your photographs!

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