Posted by: James Wapotich | November 9, 2010

The Agua Blanca Trail

In April I went on a Community Retreat with the men from Mankind Project Santa Barbara. We were blessed that one of the warrior brothers’ family has an inholding within the Los Padres National Forest. And so we were able to camp out along the Agua Blanca Creek, out past Lake Piru. On the second day of our retreat we had the opportunity to hike Agua Blanca Canyon through the Devil’s Gateway and to the edge of the Pothole (about 7.5 miles round trip). The Pothole being a natural sandstone basin deep within the Sespe Wilderness.

Back in the day when one could camp at Blue Point and drive all the way to the trailhead the trail was probably used a whole lot more. But now because the road is gated shortly after the main entrance, access to the trail is limited. In fact the people who seem to use it the most are those associated with studying the reintroduced California Condor. With limited use and the regrowth from the recent Day fire that burned through here, the trail is overgrown and easy to lose. And while one is helped by the pink ribbons that mark the trail along the way, the real trick is to realize that there’s a certain to logic to how man-made trails are laid out. That although the trail crosses the creek numerous times, each time it then climbs away from the river and so the hardest sections are where it actually crosses the river as that’s where it’s also the most overgrown. And so the real task is figuring out where the trail “wants to go”, that is where it crosses the creek and where it ought to show up on the other side. In the places where it rides above the creek it is actually a very nice trail and offers some great views of the Canyon.

Los Padres National Forest Sespe Wilderness Hike

Agua Blanca Creek

Los Padres National Forest Sespe Wilderness Hike

Agua Blanca Canyon

At about the 3 mile mark, just after the Devil’s Gateway, the trail splits with the trail to the right continuing up the Agua Blanca and the trail to the left heading up to the Pothole. The turn off can be easy to miss. In fact the only thing that saved us was that Sayre, who’s land it was, had been there before and knew which canyon the trail ought to go up. Fortunately once we found the trail we discovered that much of it had been recently brushed within the last year. This was a double blessing considering just how much poison oak and wild blackberry grows in this particular, narrow little canyon.

Los Padres National Forest Sespe Wilderness Hike

Devil’s Gateway

Los Padres National Forest Sespe Wilderness Hike

Homestead at the Pothole

At the top of this uphill climb we were treated to one of those rare backcountry sites—a homestead. The cabin itself would probably be in far worse condition had the road still been open. But the extra miles have no doubt saved it from being completely vandalized. Unfortunately as we had gotten a late start we had to save our visit to the Pothole for another day.

If you have a trail report, I’d love to hear it.

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