Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Oso Crest Trail Through Fern  Grotto and Wills Canyon
May 23, 2018

Laura, Ken and I set off late one afternoon with Bodee and Lucy to check out Oso Ridge.  The last time we were up here was in April when plants were greening up and life was coming back to the mountains.  Sages, mustard, and the last remnants of lupine garnered the trail.  We enjoyed the light breeze as we ascended Oso Ridge and took in the view of Rancho Matilija with it's fields of golden harvest.

There are still skeletal trees standing like stark soldiers.  They will remind us for years of the Thomas Fire and the toll it took on all of us: plant, animal, environment; mind, body and soul.  

Different flowers and shrubs adorn this trail, so exposed and dry with a lot of bedrock on the surface.  bed.  We hiked past Chaparral Mallow, Monkey Flower, Delphiniums and sages up and over the crest.

The non-native Spanish Broom was not deterred in making a comeback, but it's remarkable yellow flowers are always cheerful.  We wonder to ourselves "when does a plant species become native after it has taken hold in a new environment, is there a time limit"?

We stop to take in this tree with a huge goiter and admire the Chinese Lanterns that we have only seen in Wills Canyon.

The sun is getting lower on the horizon and we are hiking in the cool evening hours.  Fern Grotto is always a pleasant surprise with it's robust ferns and shady landscape.  This north-facing side of the ridge it doesn't get the full exposure that south-facing Oso Crest does so it's not a parched landscape.

We meander down Wills Canyon and start to see other hikers, joggers and horseback riders.  The bottom of the canyon is still pretty green and the tops of the oaks have leaves.  An errant,  rather large gopher snake meanders across our trail and leaves it's tail hanging out.  What a joy to see reptiles and we hear reports of red racers, rattlers and garter snakes in the preserve!

The sun has now passed below the horizon and darkness is setting in and we have to cross the river at some point.  We opt for the lower crossing because we will still have a little light left to rock hop across.  Our flashlights and headlamps are out and we hike back along the river to the Oso Trail head where we luckily parked outside the gate because it is now locked.  I stepped over an interesting scorpion on the way back and we start to hear interesting night sounds in the river bottom.

This was a lovely hike to do in the evening now that our days are heating up.  

Happy Hiking,

Beth & Laura
Bodee & Lucy 

Friday, May 25, 2018

May Day! Mother's Day
Transitional Landscapes
May 2018

Sulphur Mountain Road

A Wildflower Wild Ride!

Our Sulphur Mountain Road Hikes exceeded our wildflower dreams!  I have combined two hikes here because I did them a few days apart.  The first thing you notice as you ascend Sulphur Mountain Road from the Arnez Girl Scout Camp is the sulphur smell from the tar seeps on the side of the road.  Oozing black tar meanders its way across the trail, a shiny, glossy goo you want to absolutely avoid and make sure the dogs don't step in it either!

The first wildflowers we noticed were Hummingbird Sages growing on the downward side of the road, their magenta pink flowers a highlight along the way.  It's obvious why they garner the name Hummingbird.

The ascent is steeper at the bottom and we get past the 1 mile marker.  Some of the mile markers, I'm assuming they were put there for the bikers, are totally hidden in mustard  or are melted from the fire.  Sulphur Mountain Road continues past Camp Willet up to the summit for 10 miles where the pavement starts near the weather doppler tower.  Rounding past mile marker 2 we start to notice an influx of blooming mustard flanking the hillsides on all sides.  The sight is quite remarkable and it's a sea of yellow.

You can imagine we are quite enthused and the hiking is easy.  We pass the 3 mile marker and the landscape changes and becomes a mosaic of purple and yellow.  My son and I did this hike on Mother's Day and he was like a kid in a candy shop with his camera.  Bodee and I lost track of him on the ridges!  The lupines are thriving in banks along the hillsides and poppies are popping up along with canyon sunflowers and starlights.

Once past the 3 mile marker you get a stunning view of the Ojai Valley and the Topa Topa mountains.  We pass the Oak Trees with their roots in the sedimentary rock that we noticed on our first hike, some struggling or giving up the fight.

There are lost souls along the way.  Their strength and endurance finally at an end, but they will provide habitats for many new beings.  We are reverent with their passing but acknowledge that there are many trees in this area that are vibrant even after the fire. 

We are surrounded by bird calls, the sounds of insects, the wind and we realize that for our first few months of hiking in the burn we heard absolute silence except for our own voices. Rehabilitation is happening.

The wildflowers are so stunning, we feel like we are in the Sound of Music whirling on the top of the Alps in Spring!  Somehow we missed the mile 4 marker and were almost to the mile 5 marker when we turned around.  We exalted in the wildflower bloom on the way back, both hikes.

Keep on Trekking!
Keep an eye out for Rattlers they are OUT!

Beth & Laura
Bodee & Luci

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Glorious Unbelievable Spring
Treks through Wills, Rice and Lupine Ridge
April 2018

Spring has sprung and we can't get enough of it!  April found us trekking up Wills,  down Rice and over ridges we never experienced before the burn.  We hiked in the early morning, the afternoon and even the evening when we had to rock hop across the river in the dark - and we loved every minute!

Our first foray into springness started in early April up Wills Canyon with a profusion of green; leaves, grasses the whole nine yards.  We spotted a few wildflowers along the way and we thought "ok this might amount to something special".  Then we topped over the saddle and headed into Rice  and the wildflower stupendousness began and it was lupine mania.

There were stinging lupines  (Lupinus hirsutissimuswith their spiny stems and amazing magenta flowers.  The ever present purple lupines covering the hillsides and slot canyons like blankets took our breath away.  Such an awe-inspiring sight after all the treks through the burn.  We soaked it up and are still soaking it up.

We climbed up onto the ridge that stands between Wills Canyon and Rice Canyon (we have named it Lupine ridge) and couldn't believe our eyes.  The two species of lupines were mingled together with their purple and magenta flowers making amazing bouquets on the ridge.

We didn't see any California Poppies, which was interesting, but we found Monkey Flower, Mariposa Lilies, Blue Dicks and Penstemon centranthifolius with it's beautiful scarlet flowers. Every twist and turn on the trail was a delight.

I especially love this dry creek bed with lupine covered banks!
 Every time I hike by it I take a picture I just can't help myself!

The burn is still with us but the ash has given rise to all kinds of plants.  The drought is still with us and we know we have to conserve water.  But for now we are trekking in the wildflowers and enjoying every moment and rock hopping across the river.

Waltz Among the Flowers!

Beth & Laura
Bodee & Luci

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Horn Canyon
April 4, 2018

The amount of trepidation we felt just driving up to the Horn Canyon trail head was huge.  We saw this canyon burn from our houses on the opposite side of the valley.  The fire was out of control, extremely hot and reduced everything in it's path to ash.  The flames were huge, we knew what to expect.

The going was tough, little was spared and things were exposed that we never new existed.  The remains of a brick fireplace are all that stands of a cabin just off the trail.  Miles of old rusted water pipes line the creek bed and surrounding banks.  A pump head that looks like a old fashioned R2D2 robot sits forlorn on the rocks.

Horn Canyon is exposed in all it's old glory.  The trail is a gradual uphill for about a mile and parallels the creek and there is water running in the creek!  The burn is extensive here exposing rocks that have split with the heat, skeletal sumac and burned oaks.

Crossing the creek we start the steep climb up to the "Pines" a flat plateau on the ridge that was planted with pine trees years ago and became a hiking destination.  Sadly the pines died a few years ago because of the drought and the needle miner beetle, and then the Thomas Fire was the frosting on the cake that did them in.                                                               

The steep climb up affords us views of  the burn and slot canyons.  It's a dismal sight but we are encouraged by wildflowers along the way.  Blue dicks and lupine line the trail. 

What is left of the "Pines" comes into view as we top the crest and start the ascent up the ridge.  It is a sobering sight.  We used to enjoy the shade of the trees and sit on the oak logs around the campsite eating cara caras before the trip down.  Now the trees are mostly gone and fire has burned into the roots leaving giant tunnels into the earth.


Bodee is barking as we head down the trail and she is a couple of switchbacks ahead of us.  A couple of people are heading up the trail and low and behold I recognize a pair of blue pants!  And Bodee is going nuts with excitement! It's Hattie and Martha hiking up to the ridge.  Bodee can hardly contain herself she knows these people!

The dogs relish every creek crossing on the way back and we expect as the years go by things will turn around in this canyon.  We will be back soon.

Hike with Perspective,

Beth & Laura
Bodee & Lucy 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Luci to Fox Loop Trail
March 28, 2018

Two weeks have passed since we trekked on a Wednesday morning because we had some rain and then I got sick, but we are back on the trail and the scene has changed.  There is an abundance of greenery, mostly grasses and ground cover, but it's lovely to hike in and we soak it up in the early morning light.

Rocks and burned trees really stand out amongst the green and the landscape portrays a paradox of life and death.   The wild cucumber, one of the first plants to return to the terrain,  can be found climbing everywhere with an proliferation of blooms.

There are California Poppies ready to burst into bloom and we expect that Lupine won't be far behind.  The slot and debris channels stand out in blazing glory that one day, when we get a big storm,  will be full to bursting with rocks, mud, water, ash and tree limbs.

The view of the Ojai Valley is spectacular from the back of the canyon and we realize what a beautiful place we live in even though we have been here for over 30 years.  Like the Pink Moment we never get tired of it's glory.

Hike with a Spring in your step!

Beth & Laura
Bodee & Lucy