I'm trading some very familiar people and places for a year of foreign cultures, strange faces, wonderful landscapes, and certain adventure. As my family packs and plots, the pressure mounts. But this weekend saw an opportunity to pass a few days and nights in a familiar place with an old friend in one of the wildest parts of our coast, Big Sur.
I wasn't about to bother with a trip report, but I wanted to share this one, sort of as a thank you to BPL for hooking me up with one of my best friends and backpacking buddies, Josh "HigherGround" Billings. We haven't been out together or seen much of each other lately; Orange County to Santa Cruz seems further and further away. But our first outing together was a meet up through this site, it also happened to be in Big Sur. And Since then, Josh and I have adventured in the Grand Canyon, along the many trails of our local coastline, and across the expanse of the Sierras. So, before leaving for this crazy year, I made sure Josh and I shared the trail and a bottle of tequila just once more.
There's really few or no pictures, though Josh could provide a couple. We decided to hit Sykes from the back way, China Camp-Divide-Pine Ridge Trail-Sykes. I came up late Thursday night and crashed at his place. We drove in early on Friday to China Camp, braving the rough drive in the belief that recent slides and Hwy 1 closures would give us the only open route cross country to Sykes Hot Springs. Updates from a CCC crew and a local ranger told us otherwise. Apparently a back road was open, though little known, allowing hikers to enter again at Big Sur Station for an easy 10mi hike. So, at the least it would be a brave 17mile route in open sun, and the hot springs and river would be welcome at the end of the day, even with the company of the Sykes mobs (100+ in summer!!!)
The wild beauty of Big Sur is unmistakable and particular to this stretch of coastal National Forest. Recent fires cleared out a lot of the ragged trail segments we'd bushwhacked in years past, opening our views and easing the travel a bit. I figured that, while this route to Sykes was new to me, I was fairly familiar with the area, overall. But what I didn't expect was the 3 miles of 3000ft descent (+/-) at about the half-way mark just past Pine Ridge Camp (also a previous camp site and adventure from our trips together). I should have known it would be a bomber route, as I've had the same experience on the South East end of this wilderness belt in Los Padres, getting to the Sespe Hot Springs. While we crashed down this goat trail of a route, I couldn't help but dread the familiar, looming climb back out. Open exposure was baking us and we marked every water hole for the return trip. Scenic views of distant trail sections lower in the valley never seemed to get any closer. But the mood never darkened. We joked and laughed and reminisced, and took our time. Some herb passed the hours sweetly. Glimpses of the ocean brought a cool breeze, and we finally dropped into the canopy of our old friends, the California Redwoods. Just before nightfall we hit the Big Sur River and were soaking ALONE in the upper pool at Sykes.
Damn straight. ALONE! We passed a single small camp, soaked our weary limbs, and made our own camp as near as you could to the pools... and soaked some more. And got drunk. And Josh fell on his ass. And we woke up in the morning, and soaked and lazed about. We couldn't come up with a realistic way to hitchhike back to China Camp, though we dreamed of a second day at Sykes with an easy hike out to the coast where a willing driver would take us 4 hours out of the way, just so we could soak for another night. Alas, we accepted fate, front-loaded as much water as we could stomach, and headed back up.
Luckily an Angel brought some coastal clouds to shield us from the direct sun on the exposed trail. Luckier still, because we missed our last water hole. But, I'll have you know, it wasn't just luck; my girlfriend was at Sweat Lodge that day, and it was her doing the sweating so we didn't have to.
And that's really the adventure. We didn't push further than needed that day, and smartly made camp at Pine Ridge Camp while we had light and strength and could enjoy the downtime. I obsessively constructed a towering rock wind-break for the fire (because I was still baked from some brownies). We didn't drink as much. Josh didn't fall on his ass. Though he did turtle out of camp late in the morning... as usual.
Cheers Josh. Yer truly one of the good ones.
at our best...
and our worst...
Farewell Brother, I'll miss you