Just a quick memorial day trip report. Spent 3 days/2 nights backpacking the Santa Lucia trail and the Marble Peak trail.
Link to our blog where you will find this report and others
Memorial day weekend and we needed to find someplace to hike STAT. Sierras were about to get dumped on and with temps in the 25-30F range overnight me and the lady agreed no thanks. We busted out our Ventana Wilderness map, we had hiked the Pine Ridge trail to Pine Valley a few months ago and really enjoyed it. I found a nearby trail that lead up to the Pimkolam Summit called the Santa Lucia trail. Packed up our gear and we hit the road on Saturday morning.
first view of the Santa Lucias
Cut up the backway through Carmel Valley and eventually arrived at Arroyo Seco campground, I didnt realize this place was actually a fairly large operation full of day use areas, car camping spots, etc. Ended up having to pay $7 day to park ($21 ouch) and wound our way through a zillion cars/people to the other side where the park meets up with Indian Rd. Was planning to just drive down Indian Rd. to get to a spur of the trail but the road was blocked off. Parked in the lot and found another spur.
Hiked up up and away from all the bozos camping down below and soon found ourselves in our happy place ambling down a faint single track through very tall grass. Got about a 2 miles in and could not find the trail.
After some backtracking and checking the map we eventually found something that resembled a trail, followed it for a while and wound up at the old Santa Lucia station. A small brick/mortar building from the 1800's. No pics unfortunately. Looked around for a bit and eventually found another trail helpfully marked "TRAIL" with a small cairn around the back of the place.
The signage in Ventana is pretty crappy and at this point we weren't sure what the hell trail we were on. The map was little help as well, showing the river on the right hand side of us as opposed to the left. We went ahead and assumed the map was wrong and we were still on the Santa Lucia and kept pressing on. The trail was winding through a long canyon with a river flowing down below. Overcast weather but still very beautiful.
After about 4 miles of climbing higher and higher and deeper and deeper into this canyon, we realized it was getting pretty late and we had no idea how much further this canyon would go, there was no room for a camp on the trail and we were running low on water. The decision was made to turn around and head back to the spur to camp for the night and reorganize in the morning.
Still happy when somewhat "lost"
Back down at the trail we found a nice camp and settled in for the night. Looking over and over at the map still not 100% sure where we were exactly. The map shows the trail with the river on right but clearly it is not. Oh well. Some wine and a delicious curry salmon freezer bag meal do the trick of making us not really give a hoot where we were at.
Monster ant, This guy was huge. Anyone care to ID?
Next morning we awoke and broke down camp, hiked back out to the old station and ran into some bikers. We showed them our map and they were just as confused as we were. We planned to hike back up this fire road to Indian Rd. to grab our bearings. Once up there we hiked a bit further and reached the Marble Peak trailhead and decided to give that a shot instead. The weather was beautiful today and the trail was nicely worn and clear.
Crossing over the Arroyo Seco bridge
SIGNAGE, OH BEAUTIFUL SIGNAGE, HOW I LOVE YOU
The lovely Los Padres Nat forest
Plenty of stream crossings on the marble peak trail, think there was 13 in total
Wildflowers blooming everywhere, Anyone care to ID?
side-blotched lizard I believe?
After about 5 or so miles we came to Willows camp and setup, early day so we had plenty of time to lounge and take in the sun
nice little camp
Looking over the map that night we realized that we had to be on the Santa Lucia trail that first day, the map was just wrong. However we still didnt know how far we had to go to hit Last Chance camp so I think we made the right decision to turn around.
All in all a great trip in Ventana, just be aware that the signage on some of the lesser used trails is poor to non-existent, the trail may be disappear for a while, and the map may be wrong