Pine Ridge. Ventana Wilderness. April 2014


One more trip to our local wilderness place. I lead a trip there pretty much exactly two years ago. We visited Pine Valley that time. This time I thought of doing something different. Then, as usual, I just pointed a place on the map and decided to got there. It was Pine Ridge camp this time. In retrospect, it was a good idea – Pine Valley is nice when the weather is warm because then it is possible to swim there. It wasn’t warm at all this weekend, so the views from Pine Ridge were just fine. Since the map doesn’t have the mileage I only had some guesstimate, but it looked under 10 miles one way.

I’ve posted this trip for the weekend one week before. But it was going to be raining quite a bit, so I postponed it. Eventually a group of eight people collected.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

I like the Big Sur trips. Mostly because we can start early Saturday morning; not insanely 4AM early, but still at good time. However, we can still get going on the trip at the reasonable time. I also like to stop somewhere on the way to get good breakfast, mostly at some bakery, they are usually open early.

We started at 7AM from Sunnyvale. Three cars total so I had to find a place to meet and regroup. I was a bit tricky but I found an interesting Mexican bakery in Salinas, CA called La Plaza Bakery. It had big assortment of the pastries and Mexican food. It just didn’t have tough meat.

After the good breakfast the group collected together and proceeded to the starting point. I knew where it was – some old abandoned (perhaps) campground called China Camp. I also knew that the road was very beat up. I just forgot how beat up it was – long driving on gravel road in urgent need of repairs. The most surprising art was snow! Really, really snow. Not everywhere, just in some shaded areas. Weird. I did not expect that. Yes, there were some rains and the nights were a bit cold, but I thought it was warm enough during the day to melt everything. Apparently not. We quickly got our gear and started. There were cars on the trailhead, but not that many.


The ‘before’ picture

The trail proceeded as expected without any events till the lovely lunch spot which is located in this tree shaded saddle at the crossing of different trails. It was possible to see some snow on the far away mountains. I guess this forests didn’t really wake up yet from winter. It seemed like it was just getting ready to bloom. It would probably be very lovely in a couple of weeks.

After lunch the fun part started. Mostly due to the fact that I had no idea how the trail would look. It was fine up to the junction with some unnamed trail, which was leading to Pine Valley. After that the trail was quite overgrown. However, there were new trail signs so some group was working on these trails. Perhaps they just didn’t get to clearing all of them. Well, one step at a time.


Snow on the trail

There was snow on the trail, in some places. The snow was strange. It wasn’t that packed concrete that fills the Sierras after many freeze-thaw cycles. This snow was slushy like it just recently fell and the weather was warm. Strange.

The trail it this point was visible, in a strange way. It looked like this long thin cut on the body of the ridge. At least it wasn’t going up and down all the time. We did have to bushes or crawl over trees all the time. Why is it so bad? It is a lot more fun than some well maintained trail that feels like a walk in a park. Well, raw bushwhacking isn’t fun either, but there still should be some difficulty.

We reached the junction in another saddle with the Bear Basin. The Pine Ridge campsite was quite close after that. There was a very tiny easy to miss metal sign pointing to it. Then after some more bushwhacking I found it.

The cam site was great. The view of the ocean was obscured a bit, but other than that it was perfect. There was a running spring (coming out of a pipe). Someone left a large metal box there, locked from sides by two sliding padlocks. I’m not sure if anyone still remembers where the keys were. I suspect the box was for the food storage away from the local creators. But now the locks were rusted (and shot at numerous times, someone really tried opening it) so it was just sitting there making a decent table. There was even a toilet, but I found it the next morning.

We made it to the campsite quite early. There was enough time to set up, sleep, even for some wilderness acupuncture.


Wilderness Acupuncture

However, after the sun went down it became really cold. I mean big time cold. No wonder there was still snow on the ground. It wasn’t freezing cold, but for some reason I felt colder than two weeks before in the snow. Perhaps I was wearing more clothes. The good thing was the campfire. I’m not sure if it was allowed, however, I did make sure I put it out well and we only burned down wood. Fire is always nice when camping. It’s the wilderness TV.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The night passed without any events. No one was eating my stuff this time. Maybe the rodents were still hibernating. Krishna and his friend wanted to finish early so they were up and all packed by 8AM or something. The rest, including me, were still eating, washing, packing, etc. But we got going eventually by 10AM.

The main Pine Ridge trail looked a bit different going back. Perhaps the light was different. We made it to the same lunch spot by about noon and then to the trailhead by 3PM or so. We just met one couple on the trail going back from Pine Valley. But there were several groups going to Pine Valley area.

After the ending everyone just left quickly. We stopped by on the was at one of the wineries. Either I was dehydrated and empty or their wine was not good at all, but it felt like the worst wine tasting I’ve had so far. Perhaps it isn’t a good idea to enjoy wine right after a trip. That time usually calls for good steak or a bowl of ramen.


Pine Ridge trail

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