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.