Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Big Sur

The second weekend in October Jenny, her sister Anne, and I decided we weren't getting enough punishment in our lives, so we planned a trip to Ventana Double Cone in Big Sur. My brother Matthew, Jenny, and I attempted to do this hike last spring as a day hike but were turned back, so I decided it was time to go back and seek my revenge. Last May we attempted to climb Ventana (the blue pin below) starting from the ocean side of Big Sur at Botcher's Gap as 30-mile day hike (red pin). This time, since we had seen the ocean-side, Jenny, Anne, and I started from the inland-side of Big Sur in the quaint Carmel Valley at Los Padres Dam (green pin).


While our total trip was longer, around 40 miles, this time we had two nights to do it. We started our hike Friday afternoon around 4 and hiked a quick four miles to our first camp on the banks of the Carmel River, a river we would come to know intimately...

The trailhead at Los Padres Dam:


In the middle of the night we were awakened by hooting and, with the fly off the tent, we were able to see two owls flying around camp. It was so quiet that we actually heard them snatch a mouse (and it's terrified squeaks as it was carried away)!

The next morning after a quick breakfast we began hiking, and after about 3 minutes came to a river crossing. And then another and another and another. We took bets to see who could stay dry(ish) the longest. Anne was the loser, dipping her toe (and foot and leg) in at the 4th crossing. Jenny hung on a little longer, making it to the 6th crossing, and I was the winner, but only managed to stay dry until crossing 9 or so. By lunchtime we had waded, hopped, splashed, and stumbled across the Carmel River 53 times. One of the easier crossings below:


and Jenny losing her bet:


The river was quite pretty, though the time lost to crossing the river and our wet feet were less than desirable.


After lunch we began a brutal several thousand foot climb on an overgrown trail (like pretty much all the trails in Big Sur actually), and we got our first view of our goal...


After a few hours we made it to a trail junction on the ridge where we dumped our packs hiked to the summit. Late in the day, as the sun started to set, we finally made it to the top. Whew!


I even brought some bubbly for the summit.


The champions' self-timed victory shot:


And even though we couldn't see the ocean through the clouds, it was definitely a worthy view, and Ventana Double Cone was conquered. We hiked back to our packs as the sun set, the biggest casualty of the day being my pants (or perhaps my legs underneath), which went from having one or two small holes to having many different leg hole options.

The next morning we hiked a quick eight miles further down the ridge and then began our descent back down to the trailhead. Taking a wrong turn at the top was a bad omen. We eventually determined which of the two charred trail signs we were supposed to follow down and back-tracked to where the trail down split off. Trail was a strong word however. It turns out that the top two miles of the trail we were hiking down were obliterated by a forest fire in the summer of 2008. Luckily for us, after 3 and a half years the only thing that had time to re-grow were fast growing plants like poison oak and briars...


Note the poison ivy below- all the non-green in the photo.


After bush-whacking through briars thick enough to hold you up, losing the trail several times, and walking through dense thickets poison oak we finally made it the seven miles from the top of the ridge back to the trailhead in five hours. Four hours after that (two of them stuck in traffic) we made it back to campus scratched, itchy, and with our punishment quota fulfilled for a few weeks. Take that Ventana Double Cone!!! I certainly won't forget you any time soon...


A special thanks to my usual hiking buddy (Jenny) and special guest (Anne).

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