Mary I and drove to Lake Piru arriving about 6:45am before the lake entrance station opened at 7:00am. We parked in the Forest Service Office parking lot nearby. While I grabbed all my gear Mary took some photos of some turkey vultures roosting on a nearby telephone pole. I took it as a good omen. We walked past the entrance station to the next locked gate along the road, topped off my water bottle, and said good bye. Hardest part of these hikes.
The first four miles of paved road walk went quick. Once I arrived at the Pothole Trailhead things got a bit tougher. The trail climbs up over thick, green, wet, grassy slopes. Trail was easy to follow but overgrown. My feet were soaked, as expected, from the dew on the grass. It was a bit of an uphill slog as some of the vegetation was over waist high.
The Pothole Trailhead was a little overgrown. Once the trail left the grassy slopes and started down hill to Pothole it improved greatly. A very nice and well maintained trail with only a few minor washouts. Once down at Pothole I made a quick stop to check out the old tin shed then headed down the steep trail to Agua Blanca Creek.
Where the trail meets the creek is a camp named Log Cabin Camp. I found three overgrown and unused fire pits around the camp. It was only 1:00pm so I decided to start up canyon to Cove Camp, about four miles. There is supposed to be a trail that crisscrosses the creek but I was never able to find it once I left Log Cabin Camp. With the flooding rain of February any indications of where the trail would cross the creek were washed away. My best bet was to stay in the creek and walk upstream. It wasn't that bad since the creek had been mostly scoured by the flooding rains.
Occasionally I'd look for the trail above the creek but when I did find what I thought was the trail it was very overgrown, and lots of poison oak. Most of the day I had been following a single pair of shoe prints very similar to mine. They looked very fresh either from that day or the previous day. I also noticed very fresh bear prints and scat. Lots of raccoon and deer prints as well. Truthfully I was hoping to get a glimpse from the owner of either set, but never did.
I arrived at where I thought Cove Camp should be around 4:00pm but never did find it. I found a nice flat spot to camp on a sandy spot near the creek. Made a small fire, had some dinner and slept well that night. Quiet. I did notice an abundance of large millipedes. Seemed harmless.
Got up at 6:00am and was on the trail, or in the creek, by 7:00am. Big Narrows was first on the trail. Beautiful high cliffs and a narrow channel with below the knee deep water. I was wondering how this section would be but it turned out to be one of the easier sections of the creek to ascend. Once out of the Narrows it was about four miles to Any Camp, almost entirely in the creek.
I'm done with walking up creeks for a while. Along the way I met another Condor hiker, Brian Sarvis. Brian had already done the section from Highway 166 to Highway 101 a few weeks earlier. We hiked out to Ant Camp together, annoying the same rattlesnake. We made the climb out of Ant Camp separate after taking a break there. I again met up with Brian as we approached the trail to Dough Flat. Interesting landscape and rock formations in the area known as the Stone Corral.
As it was getting near the end of the day we ended up camping on a small rise above Dripping Springs before Alder Creek Camp. Another nice quiet restful night, though I did sleep on a slight incline. One other person was already camping in the middle of the trail below us.
Brian and I got started about 8:00am this morning. First day of Daylight Savings Time. Didn't realize at first, just thought we were getting a late start. It was a fairly quick hike down to Alder Creek Camp then over to nearby Shady Camp. From Shady it's an uphill climb to the saddle where the trail drops down to Sespe Creek.
It's on this downhill section where a slide was reported about an eighth of a mile down. The slide was described as dangerous with some folks turning around. Brian decided he was going to cross. As I watch him traverse the slide, the more it convinced me I was not going to attempt it. The slight trail across was about fifty feet long with a tread only as wide as your foot. And about three quarters of the way across was a toppled bush you had to climb over. Lucky for me I had planned for this and had scouted out an alternate route if I did not want to cross here.
After saying good bye to Brian after he made the other side I backtracked up to the saddle. From there I climbed to the ridge to the south then down a slope to the Sespe. Disturbing a large rattler along the way. It was steep at times but never to the point where I was uncomfortable. Very similar to some of the slopes Mary and I have climbed up and down doing some of our peak bagging. Once I was at the bottom it was easy travel along the Sespe. Beautiful clear clean water. Took a nice dip it a pool, the water was plesant to walk in. I joined the trail about a mile upstream.
My plan was to hit Sespe Hot Springs and take a dip. But when I reached the trail to the springs I was tired and it was a warm day. Since I had taken a dip in the creek a dip in a hot spring with about a 1/2 mile hike in, just didn't convince me. I did cross the hot springs creek and it did feel much warmer to the touch compared to the other creeks. I continued on up the Sespe Trail to Willet Campsite. Willlet is a nice big flat area with some old buildings from a past occupation. Once of the buildings is somewhat maintained with cots to sleep on and supplies others have left behind. I decided to set up camp near an existing fire ring away from the buildings. There were three or four other parties camping in the general area.
I collected some wood for a fire that evening, had some dinner and went to bed about an hour after dark. Quiet night and I slept well.
After a good nights sleep and a very bright moon, I was up about 7:00 giving my gear some time to dry out from the dew. I was back on the trail by about 8:00a. I contemplated a dip in Willet Hot Spring (tub) but decided against it as I was ready to start hiking. By now I'm seeing other campers about every half hour or so. This is a very popular section of the trail with many folks going to Willet and Sespe Hot Springs. I even found Brian cleaning up camp about mile from Willet. Wished him luck on his continued Condor Trail travels.
Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful nine or ten miles to Piedra Blanca. Although it was a beautiful time to be hiking in the area. Everything was so green. One section of the trail was washed out pretty good but no problem finding a route across it. I even took the time to take another dip as it was a warm day. I met Mary just down from trail sign on the north side of the Sespe. It was good to see her again!