Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 1: The Hike-a-Thon Begins!

This signage at the trailhead is new since my
last visit--and it conveniently had a great map
with all of the area trails on it! Which was good,
because I'd never followed all of these trails before--
I didn't know where they all went! =)
I've been meaning to update this blog the whole month of July. Remove all those PCT references--that adventure is over--and update it a Hike-a-Thon theme because this month, August, is once again the WTA's annual Hike-a-Thon, and I plan to blog all about my hiking adventures. Perhaps not long in distance, but certainly long in philosophy, right? Right? Anybody?

Well, fine, be that way. =) I still hope to get this blog updated sometime this month, but darn, Atlas Quest does keep me busy!

I'm at my mom's house right now, here in sunny San Luis Obispo, CA, taking care of the animals. (Three chickens, two tortoises, and two dogs.) My mom went off to help my sister move all of her worldly possessions to her new home in Arizona, and somebody had to feed the animals! That's my job.

So here I am, living the good life in California, and I woke up this morning with the plan to do a solid 8-mile-or-so hike in Montana de Oro State Park. It's a beautiful place--one I've hiked in countless times over the years, but I haven't made a trip out there in probably five years now. It's about time I went back for a visit.

Except.... stupid work sucked me in. Ran into all sorts of problems on Atlas Quest. (And for those of you who think you know what I'm talking about--the shadowed text wasn't the problem. That would sort itself out automatically as the cached CSS pages got refreshed.) It wasn't until about 6:00 in the evening that I was ready to get out and hike! Between the drive to Montana de Oro (my mom--silly her--left me the car keys so I could get around if I need to) and the length of the hike, I bagged that idea. Maybe another day.

The map photo I used to navigate my way around.
Look at all those curvy, windy trails! Lots of loop
opportunities, and places to cut out early if
it started getting late.
But what to do? I had to do some sort of hike today. Even a little bit--a mile or two--just for the opening day 'festivities.' I decided to do the Irish Hills along the southwest side of town. The trailhead was mere minutes away, and I knew there were at least a couple of miles of trails back there. In fact, there are trails back there that I don't even know where they go because I never hiked them before. In fact, I still had never seen a map of the area's trails, but I decided to hike on some of those trails anyhow, even though I had no idea where they might lead me. =)

So off to the Irish Hills I went. I brought a flashlight with me--it was already getting pretty late, and depending on how long I hiked, I could get back after dark.

I parked, and at the trailhead, there was a beautiful new sign about the area, including a fairly detailed map of all the area's trails! Sweet! I had a map to follow! I took a few photos of the map. They didn't have any handy-dandy paper ones that people to carry with them, so my camera would have to do.

Four of the nine mountains making up a chain called the Morros. From left to right:
Cerro Romaldo, Chumash Peak, Bishop Peak, and Cerro San Luis Obispo (a.k.a. Madonna Mountain)
The sign describes the area, in part:
Wide open grasslands and dark green patches of coast live oak woodlands stretch across the Irish Hills Natural Reserve, providing food and shelter for many species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

Froom Creek and Prefumo Creek meander through the Irish Hills, lined along their banks with mature native trees. Willows, cottonwoods, sycamores, California bay, and coast live oaks shade and cool the water, providing habitat for aquatic wildlife, including the threatened southern steelhead.

The most widespread plant community growing throughout the Reserve is chaparral. Dense masses of shrugs include chamise, deerweed, manzanita, coffeeberry, California buckwheat, islay (hollyleaf cherry), bush monkeyflower, toyon, yucca, wild cucumber, and black sage.
Blah, blah, blah... the usual stuff. I'm rather proud to be able to recognize every one of those plants the sign listed--but then, I grew up in this area. I can probably identify the plants and animals found in chaparral better than any other ecosystem. Honestly, chaparral I find kind of boring--especially in the summer when everything around it is brown--but to each their own. =) I kept reading, however, and did learn one thing new:
The serpentine soil common in this area supports a distinctive plant community that can tolerate the heavy metals and lack of nutrients that most plants need to grow. As a result, native plants have not been overrun by nonnative grasses and crop plants, and hundreds of species of native wildflowers bloom here throughout the year.
I've never seen this at a trailhead before!
I did know that serpentine soil is common around here--you trip over the stuff everywhere! I didn't realize, however, that it has helped protect the native plants and grasses from those nonnative cousins overrunning the world.

I made a plan of attack, and charged up the Mariposa Trail, almost to its very end. It passed near a mine (a mine!!!) and I wanted to see the mine. I knew this area had lots of old mines, but I didn't realize that any of them were accessible by trails until I saw this map. I've heard that they used to mine chrome around these parts, but I don't know what they were looking for specifically in the mines of Irish Hills. Maybe it was chrome. *shrug* Maybe not. It always amazes me that there's anything worth while in what looks like otherwise boring rocks. =)

At the junction with the Mine Trail, I took the detour down--a steep and sketchy path filled with lots of loose rocks--and almost immediately slipped, fell on my butt, then somehow rolled over into a bush. That hurt too! It probably wasn't more than a 1/10th of a mile to the mine, and what a huge disappointment that was. There was no hole in the ground anywhere. It just looked like they dug out part of the hillside and pushed it over a small slope. (The mine tailings, I think they're called?) I really wanted a giant hole that I could throw a rock into and see how long it hits bottom, so I was pretty disappointed when I didn't find any hole in the ground at all. And I hurt myself for this?! *sheeze*

The signage was pretty good, but I can't
figure one thing out. What the heck is
that thing in the picture for the King Trail?
I'd have expected a crown or something, but
it looks more like a sprinkler head to me!
I scrambled back up to the Mariposa Trail, and cut over to the Poppy Trail to intersect with the Froom Creek Trail. I didn't see any creek at first, which isn't surprising. In the summer, a lot of creeks run dry. But further downstream, by golly, there was trickling water. I could hear it--even if I couldn't exactly see it through the brush.

There were two other mines on the map--both near the end of Ocean View Trail. My plan was to hit them both and head back to the trailhead. The sun had finally set along the Froom Creek Trail, but it was still plenty light to see. By the time I reached the mines, though, it would probably start getting dark very quickly.

The Powerline Trail connected the Froom Creek Trail to the Ocean View Trail. Now, you would expect a trail called the Powerline Trail to be pretty obvious. Probably has powerlines nearby. And so far, all of the trail junctions have been well marked. I took pictures of every one I passed!

But somehow, I missed this trail. Completely and totally missed it. There was one place where I saw a trail sign that was not at any trail junction, which I thought seemed odd since all of the ones I had seen were always at junctions, but there was nothing about a Powerline Trail in the area, and I never did see any powerlines.

It wasn't until I hit a dirt road blocked off with a 'private property' sign near civilization that I knew I had missed the trail junction, so I studied the map on my camera and decided to extend my hike with a different loop made up of the Ocean View Trail and the Shortcut Trail.

Don't be fooled by the Mine Trail--it's
sketchy and so not worth the effort!
Except, ARGH! Where the heck is the Shortcut Trail? It's supposed to be RIGHT HERE!!!! Originally, that's where I meant to exit at after seeing the two mines, but now I can't even find it as an entrance.

Stupid trails... It was starting to get dark anyhow. May as well hike out. So I followed the Froom Creek Trail to its end where it intersects with King Trail, which I followed back to the trailhead. My hike was done. According to the map, I covered 4.1 miles.

And I'm thinking that maybe those trails I wanted to take but missed--I wonder if that's because they aren't even built yet. Maybe the map was a 'forward-thinking' map with plans to build those trails but it hasn't happened yet. It would certainly explain a lot!

I also really liked the icons they had for each of the trails on the trail markers, and I've got this idea in my head to carve stamps of all of them then hide letterboxes on each respective trail. Who knows when that will happen, though--another idea that may or may not happen. =)

So! It's not too late to support Amanda and myself for the Hike-a-Thon!

Our Team Page

I also have a Personal Page, but admittedly, I've done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING with it so far. I was going to do that when I updated this blog to be more than just the PCT and, well, you know how that went. =) I still plan to update, though. Maybe tomorrow.... Amanda has a page as well, but I don't think I should share it. She's a fundraising machine and it's embarrassing how much more money she's raised than I have. If I gave you a link to her page, you might feel inclined to embarrass me even more. ;o) So just go to my page and click that "Sponser Me" link. It would be a huge help! =) If I reach my goal of $200... I'll even throw in a premium hat day on Atlas Quest sometime in September--if that sort of thing matters to you. =)

I've already taken one bad fall for your blog-reading pleasure! How many more do I need to get y'all to sponsor me?! =)

This is the "mine." I told you that it's so not worth hurting yourself over! =)

Froom Creek is represented by an image of a steelhead trout.
It astounds me that fish could survive in such a small creek!

Can you see the water in Froom Creek? There a little peeking through the brush
in the upper-right corner of the image!
I took a picture of myself because, hey, I need proof I was
really here, right? =) I even took my hat off for this photo.
I think it messed up my hair, though, and turned my
forehead red....


Anonymous said...

That "King" thing is (I believe) a Chris King Headset.....the bearing unit for the front fork of a bicycle (Best known around the Mountain Bike circles)......and a VERY nice one. Pretty cool to find it on a trail sign......and I bet Chris King is from around those parts.

Yak~King blues

Ryan said...

Can't say I know much about mountain bikes, but I did a Google image search for "Chris King" and that's *totally* what it is! Mountain bikes are allowed on these trails as well (bike bells and all!), so I guess that even makes sense. =)

Glad that mystery has been put to bed! Thanks!

-- Ryan

Lovebirds-NC said...

That Bike Bell Box is brilliant! We walk on our local greenway trails and really prefer the bikes that signal passing with a bell rather than "on your left" (which is usually either yelled loudly, too quiet or often, none at all). I'm thinking this could be part of a boy scout Eagle project or something maybe? So thanks for sharing that and I might just have to go up your total;-)