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Los Padres National Forest: Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca Trail
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Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Los Padres National Forest: Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca Trail on 06/19/2011 23:22:53 MDT Print View

Over Memorial Weekend, my girlfriend and I planned a two-night trip up the Gene Marshall Trail from Reyes Campground to the ridgeline along Pine Mountain, the high country of the Sespe Wilderness in Ventura County. The Pine Mountain area gets pretty regular snow in the winter but is a nice late spring/summer destination where temps are much cooler than than the lower elevations around the Sespe and Piru Creek drainages.




The trail itself is beautiful and in great condition. It winds its way upwards through high desert chapparal and into the pines. There's reliable creeklets along the way, with Beartrap Creek being the largest and most reliable.




We got a late start on Saturday afternoon, leaving the trailhead at about 5:30 p.m. We only ended up making it as far in as Beartrap Camp for the night; about 5 or 6 miles in from the truck. It being Memorial Weekend, we weren't the only folks out here and ended up needing to make use of some local knowledge to seek out the hidden camps in the vicinity, leaving the official campsites to the two scout troops.

Our hidden camp was set amidst the pines along Beartrap Creek and featured an awesome fire pit/ice can stove with built-in stove counters on either side! The fire ring was ringed with great log benches. It was a little tough to find a suitably large space to set up the Trailstar but I managed to shoe horn it in between a few boulders and trees.





Saturday night wrapped up sitting around the campfire, enjoying the beautiful weather and sipping some local SB County red wine.

Sunday morning dawned early to what sounded like rain pelting the Trailstar. "Nah, couldn't be," I thought. The weather forecast called for clear skies and mild temps all weekend. I figured it was just pine needles getting blown off the trees and hitting the tarp. But it kept coming. Soon enough, curiosity got the better of me so Bixby and I climbed out to assess the situation and take a quick morning walk. Sure enough, it was cold. And raining.


I was able to get a fire going again in spite of the wetness around camp and got some water going for breakfast. My girlfriend reluctantly climbed out of her warm quilt to join us. As the morning wore on, the weather got worse rather than better. It kept getting colder and colder and the rain upgraded to hail and then snow flurries.






At this point, we really didn't know what to do. Our plan had been to continue on, gaining elevation for the day and spending our second night up at Pine Mountain Lodge, but Heather was already feeling under prepared with respect to warm clothes and the degrading weather wasn't instilling much confidence for a nice day, another 1000-1500' higher in elevation. While deciding what to do with our day, we watched a group descend the trail from up near the ridgeline looking a little shell shocked by the unpredictable weather. They claimed there was a couple of inches of snow on the group up higher on the trail. The scout troops who took the official camps out in the meadow near us looked equally soggy and cold.

Ultimately, we decided to scrap the rest of the trip and turn around and head out a day early. The hike out sure felt a lot like winter as were buffeted by cold winds and snow flurries. Every once in a while the clouds would temporarily lift up off the mountains, allowing a glimpse of the snow-covered trees above.








While the trip was cut short, it was still a beautiful overnight walk and a fun change from the typical predictably sunny warm southern CA weather.


David A
(DavidAdair) - M

Locale: West Dakota
Re: Los Padres National Forest: Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca Trail on 06/20/2011 01:06:16 MDT Print View

Enjoyed the report and pictures! Thanks for sharing.

kevin smith
trip report on 06/22/2011 08:51:04 MDT Print View

hey nick

great pics and trip report im going to have to do that hike some time to go explore that area i too got snowed on that weekend at our mountain cabin at 5000 ft

couldn t believe the snow was actually sticking on the road i was thinking in my mind (really this is june right) lol woke up sunday to three inches of fresh powder on the ground

i was thinking of heading out july 4th weekend as the wife and kids are going out of town until monday any interrest in heading out for an overnighter ?? i can t head out until saturday afternoon but can stay out until monday afternoon let me know if you can get out that weekend and maybe we can plan a trip bixby will probably be raring to get out again by then too im guessing pm me or let me know im sure ican find a few others to go out bushwhacking with us if we decide to get out

talk to you soon

Kat ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Nice on 06/22/2011 08:58:24 MDT Print View

Nice write up and great pictures. Nice pup to take along too. Thanks for posting the report.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Thanks on 06/22/2011 14:30:46 MDT Print View

Thanks David, Kevin and Kat. We had a good time on this hike in spite of the weather.

Kevin, you really should look into this area. It's relatively close to you and should be pleasant well into the summer this year. Access the area off Hwy 33 via Lockwood Valley Road. If the roads open eventually, you might also consider checking out some of the hikes off Grade Valley Road (accessed from Lockwood Valley). Good stuff out that way too.



Andy Duncan
(bluewater) - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: Los Padres National Forest: Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca Trail on 06/23/2011 22:42:38 MDT Print View

Thanks for posting your report Nick. I was hoping you would put up some pxts. I remember how cold it was that weekend, glad you made it through the rain. The picture of the creek and lush trees/foliage is amazing!