Posted by: James Wapotich | November 17, 2009

The Golden Hills of Little Pine

Los Padres National Forest Hike Little Pine Mountain Santa Barbara

More pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/skybear7/


The plan was to get up at 6:00 AM and have the whole day to hike to Little Pine Mountain and back. Amazingly I was able to talk my friend into going with me and so after getting her some coffee and packing our lunch we headed out. Taking Highway 154 over San Marcos Pass to Paradise Rd. and then the turn off to the Upper Oso Campground we arrived at the trailhead about 30 minutes later. And from there we hit the trail shortly after 7:00 AM. There was a definite chill in the air that morning which only inspired us to quicken our pace. For roughly the first mile the trail follows the Buckhorn-Camuesa Rd.–a favorite of motorcycle enthusiasts, and then goes its own way and follows the creek for another mile.

Los Padres National Forest Hike Little Pine Mountain Santa Barbara

At about the 2 mile mark we arrived at the turn off for Nineteen Oaks and from there the trail begins its 3.6 mile ascent to Alexander Saddle, an altitude gain of around 2250 feet. This is definitely the most challenging part of this hike as well as the most rewarding as the views along the way are spectacular. Looking south one can not only see the Santa Ynez Mountains across the valley, but from the saddle the Santa Barbara Channel Islands as well. Also from the top looking west one can see Lake Cachuma and to the north one can see the next ridgeline back which includes San Rafael Mountain. When hiking any arduous trail I recommend bringing a modicum of red wine. Just 2 or 3 sips are the perfect remedy for taking the edge off of trail fatigue allowing one’s muscles to relax just enough to transition without becoming inebriated.

Los Padres National Forest Hike Little Pine Mountain Santa Barbara

From the saddle the trail branches, one trail goes up towards Happy Hollow and looks vaguely like the Road to Solla Sollew, the other trail descends down the backside towards Santa Cruz Station and points beyond.

Los Padres National Forest Hike Little Pine Mountain Santa Barbara

 

Los Padres National Forest Hike Little Pine Mountain Santa Barbara

From the saddle it’s 1.2 miles to Little Pine Spring, the turnoff to which is easy to miss if you haven’t been there before as it is overgrown and somewhat indistinct. Look for the metal ¼ mile sign and then turn left down into the valley, following the “edge” where the grass and brush meet. The trail itself is in need of repair threading its way through “groves” of dry wild mustard plants and then into oak and other brush. The spring is definitely an oasis providing water and shade to travelers and is an excellent way station to Santa Cruz Camp and Flores Flat. The camp is small and boasts one table and the remnants of an Ice Can stove.

Los Padres National Forest Hike Little Pine Mountain Santa Barbara

At Little Pine Spring we were joined by a couple that were clearly avid day hikers, having hiked most of the trails in Los Padres that one can reach by car. Trails that others might’ve turned into a 10-14 mile overnighter they instead did as day hikes. When asked what their favorite hike was they offered Chorro Grande in January. The trailhead to Chorro Grande is past Ojai along Highway 33 about 20 minutes before the turn off to Pine Mountain. The trail starts at about 4000 feet and arrives 4 miles later at Chorro Grande Camp having gained about 2400 feet. Along the way the plants transition from chaparral to pines and in January this transition is also roughly where the snow line begins. And in this way one is treated to a southern California hike that is topped off with pine trees and snow, not a bad way to start off the new year.


From Little Pine Spring my friend opted to hike back to Alexander Saddle and take a nap, while I opted to take the connector trail from Little Pine Spring to Happy Hollow and ultimately to loop back around to Alexander Saddle. The connecter trail was even more overgrown than the one to Little Pine Spring. In fact the first half of the trail was a game of follow the pink ribbons that are often used to mark trail. At about the halfway mark the pink ribbons gave out and it became a game of guessing where the trail “ought” to go. In the end it wasn’t that bad as I was able to find the trail here and there amongst the brush. In fact the real high point for me was seeing how well the plants had grown back on the backside of this mountain in the wake of the Zaca fire. Across from Little Pine to north the hills remains quite desolate looking, but here in the “shade” the growth has been impressive.

Los Padres National Forest Hike Little Pine Mountain Santa Barbara

Little Pine Spring-Happy Hollow Connector Trail

Eventually I arrived at Happy Hollow which at one time must’ve been striking nestled amongst the pines. Today, however it looks more like the remains of a civil war battlefield with charred trees strewn about camp as the forest service has cut down all the burned trees in and around the campsites. At Happy Hollow I found three sets of tables and fire rings and a latrine all with a fresh coat of paint and a stillness in the air that seemed to mark the loss that goes with epic forest fires.


From Happy Hollow I returned to Alexander Saddle and met up with my friend who by now had decided that I must’ve gotten lost or eaten by a bear and was debating whether or not to come look for me or hike out to the car and call for help. The hike out was equally pleasant as during the entire day the temperatures never seemed to get above the mid 70s. Shortly after 5:00pm we arrived at our car firm in the knowledge that we would certainly sleep well that night.


If you have a trail report I’d love to hear it. thedreamingland@gmail.com

 

At about the 2 mile mark we arrived at the turn off for Nineteen Oaks and from there the trail begins its 3.6 mile ascent to Alexander Saddle, an altitude gain of around 2250 feet. This is definitely the most challenging part of this hike as well as the most rewarding as the views along the way are spectacular. Looking south one can not only see the Santa Ynez Mountains across the valley, but from the saddle the Santa Barbara Channel Islands as well. Also from the top looking west one can see Lake Cachuma and to the north one can see the next ridgeline back which includes San Rafael Mountain. When hiking any arduous trail I recommend bringing a modicum of red wine. Just 2 or 3 sips are the perfect remedy for taking the edge off of trail fatigue allowing one’s muscles to relax just enough to transition without becoming inebriated.

 

 

From the saddle the trail branches, one trail goes up towards Happy Hollow and looks vaguely like the Road to Solla Sollew, the other trail descends down the backside towards Santa Cruz Station and points beyond.

 

 

 

From the saddle it’s 1.2 miles to Little Pine Spring, the turnoff to which is easy to miss if you haven’t been there before as it is overgrown and somewhat indistinct. Look for the metal ¼ mile sign and then turn left down into the valley, following the “edge” where the grass and brush meet. The trail itself is in need of repair threading its way through “groves” of dry wild mustard plants and then into oak and other brush. The spring is definitely an oasis providing water and shade to travelers and is an excellent way station to Santa Cruz Camp and Flores Flat. The camp is small and boasts one table and the remnants of an Ice Can stove.

 

 

At Little Pine Spring we were joined by a couple that were clearly avid day hikers, having hiked most of the trails in Los Padres that one can reach by car. Trails that others might’ve turned into a 10-14 mile overnighter they instead did as day hikes. When asked what their favorite hike was they offered Chorro Grande in January. The trailhead to Chorro Grande is past Ojai along Highway 33 about 20 minutes before the turn off to Pine Mountain. The trail starts at about 4000 feet and arrives 4 miles later at Chorro Camp having gained about 2400 feet. Along the way the plants transition from chaparral to pines and in January this transition is also roughly where the snow line begins. And in this way one is treated to a southern California hike that is topped off with pine trees and snow, not a bad way to start off the new year.

 

From Little Pine Spring my friend opted to hike back to Alexander Saddle and take a nap, while I opted to take the connector trail from Little Pine Spring to Happy Hollow and ultimately to loop back around to Alexander Saddle. The connecter trail was even more overgrown than the one to Little Pine Spring. In fact the first half of the trail was a game of follow the pink ribbons that are often used to mark trail. At about the halfway mark the pink ribbons gave out and it became a game of guessing where the trail “ought” to go. In the end it wasn’t that bad as I was able to find the trail here and there amongst the brush. In fact the real high point for me was seeing how well the plants had grown back on the backside of this mountain in the wake of the Zaca fire. Across from Little Pine to north the hills remains quite desolate looking, but here in “shade” the growth has been impressive.

 

 

Eventually I arrived at Happy Hollow which at one time must’ve been striking nestled amongst the pines. Today, however it looks more like the remains of a civil war battlefield with charred trees strewn about camp as the forest service has cut down all the burned trees in and around the campsites. At Happy Hollow I found three sets of tables and fire rings and a latrine all with a fresh coat of paint and a stillness in the air that seemed to mark the loss that goes with epic forest fires.

 

From Happy Hollow I returned to Alexander Saddle and met up with my friend who by now had decided that I must’ve gotten lost or eaten by a bear and was debating whether or not to come look for me or hike out to the car and call for help. The hike out was equally pleasant as during the entire day the temperatures never seemed to get above the mid 70s. Shortly after 5:00pm we arrived at our car firm in the knowledge that we would certainly sleep well that night.

 

If you have a trail report I would love to hear it. thedreamingland@gmail.com

 


Responses

  1. Looking forward to reading more about your Wild
    discoveries!


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