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Ventanna Wildnerness: Santa Lucia Trail and Marble Peak trail 5/25-5/27 2011
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Chuck Cheese
(defrag4) - F
Ventana Wildnerness: Santa Lucia Trail and Marble Peak trail 5/25-5/27 2011 on 06/03/2011 18:08:25 MDT Print View

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.

tick country

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


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

Edited by defrag4 on 06/03/2011 19:39:20 MDT.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Very cool on 06/03/2011 18:28:11 MDT Print View

Thanks for the nice report and beautiful pictures.
Here is some info on the wildflowers. Your first picture has some blue Lupine, some " Indian paintbrush" or Castilleja sp. and I don't know the yellow one. The next picture has a "Sticky monkey" or Mimulus aurantiacus. The whitish flower spike is the bloom of the california Buckeye ( one of my favorite trees) or Aesculus californica.
: )

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
more.. on 06/03/2011 18:31:07 MDT Print View

You added more...Those beautiful dark pink whorls are of a Salvia spathacea, or Hummingbird sage. I was in the same area last weekend and saw entire hillsides covered with this sage.

Chuck Cheese
(defrag4) - F
thanks! on 06/03/2011 19:06:54 MDT Print View

awesome! thanks so much for the IDs. I was attempting to google them but not having much luck.

Do you have any plant ID books that you can recommend for the northen california area?

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Books on 06/03/2011 19:16:42 MDT Print View

Thank YOU, for posting the nice report.
If I had to choose one book to learn about and identify local plants, it would probably be
"Plants of the Coast Redwood Region" by K.Lyons. Rather small, good pictures, interesting bits about quite a few local plants.

Chuck Cheese
(defrag4) - F
re:books on 06/03/2011 19:35:42 MDT Print View

thanks just ordered it!

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Ventana Wilderness Trip on 06/04/2011 12:30:56 MDT Print View

Nice TR James. Looks like Kat got you squared away on the local wildflower IDs... I just know the common names.

Trails in the Los Padres (and especially up around Big Sur) don't always get a lot of use or attention. It's not uncommon for trails to get lost to the brush over the years. It's also not uncommon for old trails to be abandoned and/or re-routed due to storm damage, rivers changing course, etc with little regard for updating maps, etc. Maps in the guide books could be 15 years old (or more) and a lot has happened in the Los Padres since then: multiple fires, big storm events, additional acquisitions of public land, easements gained, easements lost, etc. We run into the same problem regularly down here in the southern Los Padres... trails show up on the map that don't exist any more on the ground and trails show up on the ground that don't show up on the map! It's enough to make you go mad sometimes.

Glad you were able to salvage the trip and still make a good time out of it.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
RE: Ventana on 06/04/2011 15:31:27 MDT Print View

Your Ventana trip looks much greener than mine through Arroyo Seco and, like you, I resented paying a private campsite operator for access to hike on public land.

Guess California has its wet vs dry years as well.

Joshua Billings
(Joshua) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz,Ca
sounds like the gorge on 06/09/2011 22:31:59 MDT Print View

It sounds like you didn't hike far enough on indians rd and were down in the gorge somewhere. Did you head down by the trash cans? Such a great green year. I was at pat springs that same weekend. I got totally soaked from the rain and caught off guard with out raingear. I had to hike with my tarp wrapped around me like a poncho. You didn't get any rain? It looked dark in some of your photos. Did you get rain Kat?

Chuck Cheese
(defrag4) - F
re gorge on 06/12/2011 22:39:37 MDT Print View

Ya we didnt follow Indian Rd out of the private campground. We found a trailhead that went up and over the ridge and eventually drops you out at this Santa Lucia packhouse from the 1800s, there is a road that leads up to Indian Rd from the packhouse. Around the back of the packhouse and across a small stream there is another trailhead that leads you up a ways and into a canyon/gorge as you described.

Next day we hiked back to the packhouse and up the service road to Indian Rd, then headed up towards the MarblePeak trailhead. I believe if we would have kept heading down Indian Rd we would have reached a spurtrail that would have lead to LastChance camp.