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Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Ventana Wilderness Questions on 12/07/2011 22:10:37 MST Print View

I am planning a trip from the pine ridge trail head off highway 1 to the redwood camp. I am wondering how many miles that trip would be? Any good things to see/places to explore?(wondering where the hot springs are) I am a little out of shape lately so this won't be a hard trip, spending 3 days (long hike back on the last day and drive home).

Joshua Billings
(Joshua) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz,Ca
ventana answers on 12/07/2011 22:42:42 MST Print View

Its about 13 miles to redwood. Sykes hotsprings is the camp before redwood. It is the second or third bigger river after terrace creek. You will hit a set of small switch backs going downhill.there is a new , large down redwood almost in the river. Once you hit the river go downstream for about 10 mins and the springs will be on the south side. If it is your first time to the springs (and it is not crowded) I would just stay there. There is plenty of camping. Lots of great places in ventana:Pat springs, pine valley, Cone peak, Double cone, Vincenty flats.......Redwood camp is very nice but after spending sometime in the hot spring you may not want to leave. Like the land of the lotus eaters. Enjoy!

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: ventana answers on 12/07/2011 23:06:20 MST Print View

I am going to spend one day just exploring or doing whatever, So I will definitley have time to see the springs. (I am going to complete some of the bushclass lessons from bushcraftusa) Are they crowded? I'm probably going to go on a weekend.
This summer I went to the very first camp, I think it was called barlow? a few miles in. I pretty much fell in love.
I will probably try and follow a stream a ways down each night to find a nice remote place to camp, terrain permitting of course. I remember barlow being filled with random fire pits and barely any firewood. However, there were literally no flat spots to camp in between the trailhead and barlow camp. Ridiculously steep!
Thanks!

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: ventana answers on 12/07/2011 23:28:09 MST Print View

Also, are there any good car camp sites I could easily find in the dark? Maybe I could walk in the dark for a couple hours and cowboy camp straight on the trail...

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Ventana Wilderness Questions on 12/08/2011 00:10:27 MST Print View

If you go there in the winter months, the trail isn't so bad. The one problem is where you leave the trail to get to the hot spring. There might be lots of un-leaved poison oak.

If you go there in the summer months, it is prettier, but it gets awfully hot. So, try hiking in at night. You can use a headlamp, but it helps to hike on a night with a full moon.

--B.G.--

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Ventana Wilderness Questions on 12/08/2011 00:42:29 MST Print View

I am going soon, this month. I am not allergic to poison oak, I have literally rubbed it on my face intentionally and had not reaction (not the smartest idea).
I don't mind nasty trail conditions at all as long as I can find my way, I am more of a bushwacker anyways.

Joshua Billings
(Joshua) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz,Ca
Ventana camp on 12/08/2011 20:04:31 MST Print View

I think you camped @ ventana camp if it was the first one down to the left(straight down forever). Barlow is the camp before Sykes and after terrace creek. Bushcraft is cool.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Ventana camp on 12/08/2011 22:13:02 MST Print View

We got up the first really big uphill area, and then it seemed to be perfectly flat for like forever. No flat places to camp. We actually kept walking in the dark because we didn't want to camp in the middle of the trail. Eventually it turned into a couple of downhill switchbacks and we ended up by a small little creek surrounded by redwoods.

There was one camp that veered off to the left, very small. Not by any water sources.

Harald Hope
(hhope) - M

Locale: East Bay
have to swim on 12/10/2011 18:09:14 MST Print View

To follow a stream down, or up, you almost always end up at a canyon with steep walls, ie, you have to swim it, dragging your gear behind you if you want to get further past those canyons that block in the camps, at least around Barlow they do. And it's too hard to climb around those, too steep. I've swum them, it's nice, but it's a pain bringing your gear, I guess if you have an air mattress and a big dry bag, garbage bag, to put your pack in, you can do it. Brrr though, will be cold. Terrace creek itself, as the name suggests, is actually a series of terraces, which are cool but very slippery and not so safe to climb up, I did it part of the way but stopped because I thought it was a bit risky to do alone off trail. So you can't easily go down to the main river from Terrace, or up it.

Redwood will be a lot less crowded than Sykes, where the hot springs are. Ever since I heard they poured cement to make permanent pools I lost all interest in ever going to those hot springs again. In winter I don't see Sykes being that crowded, but there will be people there on the weekend, but to me, those hotsprings aren't worth visiting anymore, they used to be ok a long time ago, maybe if you've never seen them check them out, but I'd rather spend time away from that scene, it's not that nice, too impacted. But if you've never seen it, I guess it's nice hanging out at night under the redwoods. If you go to Redwood, there's a cool big spot, just hike in, until the trail crosses the stream, there's some big redwoods fallen over the stream, then hike down river along the trail, which takes you to the last camps on that side. That is not the main trail, it's marked with pink flags right when you cross the creek, and actually heads upwards a bit before resuming the climb.

Don't be too quick to state you're not 'allergic' to poison oak, it's not an allergy as far as I know, it's a resistance you have to it, that you can slowly lose over time, and after repeated exposures. I was just talking to some young guy at the farmer's market who got a massive case, him and all his friends, by running through it at night to prove they didn't have any 'allergies' to it. They hadn't, then they reacted, ie, they lost their resistance. The single best way I have found to finally lose that resistance is to soak in the poison oak oil filled hot springs for a while, which will open all your pores up, then go on the next day. That did it for me, heh. That's another reason I wont' use them anymore.

I never had issues with poison oak until I did, and when I got it, at Big Sur in fact, boy oh boy did I get it bad. Twice in fact, made me stop backpacking for a few years it was so serious. As will you if you keep trying to reduce your resistance by repeated exposures, so I'd stop rubbing that on your face and just work on avoiding it as much as possible, maybe you can keep your resistance up that way.

There are no flat spots along the pine ridge trail, except the campgrounds, and sometimes right at the top of a ridge or climb, there might be a single flat spot. People often massively underestimate how steep the Big Sur mountains are.

Winter is a nice time to go, streams might be high, the logs people lay over them to cross them will wash out after the first big storms, but crossing them is not hard. Watch for ticks too, lyme disease is definitely there.

Bushwacking there is great, but watch for poison oak, and ticks, and make sure to bring a map, and a compass. There's no way to know when you have crossed from one ridge to another, and they are so twisted that you can get lost fast. That's if you are planning to do anything actually off trail, which is so hard in general you'll probably have to stop before you get too far from the camp anyway.

Barlow is a few hours in, depends on your conditioning, call it 8 miles, 4 hours or so, if you can hike at around 2mph, then it's a few hours in. Sykes is 2 more hours in, give or take. Redwood is about 1 more hour from Sykes, give or take. But remember, from Barlow to just before Sykes is a long slow climb, then a quick descent into Sykes, then after Sykes, it's uphill all the way to the top of the ridges, 4500 or so feet. So keep that in mind on deciding where to stop, after the initial climb from trailhead, it's basically rolling up and down, pass Ventana camp trail, which goes down 1 mile to river, a mile you have to go back up in the AM, which makes that a bad choice, pass terrace creek, which there is no reason to stop at unless you ran out of light or energy, 45 minutes from there about is barlow. If you find those time frames roughly matching your speed, then the rest of the time distances should be the same for you. Or adjust up/down to fit.

After redwood is a bit too far for a one day hike in, unless you are in good shape and don't mind doing a 3500 foot climb at the end of your day.

There's a hike / bike campsite in the main campground, pfeiffer big sur or whatever it's called, cheap, and parking in the fee lot is $2 a night, or was last time I paid it. Definitely pay it, people break into cars parked on the highway shoulder.

Have fun, there's really not a lot of options from where you'll go, you'll be on Pine Ridge the whole way, terrace creek trail just goes up to a fire road, that's the only real option from that location.

Should be very nice this time of year, I used to make a point of going during the rains in winter, was my favorite time there.

"Eventually it turned into a couple of downhill switchbacks and we ended up by a small little creek surrounded by redwoods."

That by the way doesn't actually narrow it down any, that description fits all the camps along pine ridge to and including Sykes. The flat spot to your left you passed, no water, is right before you drop down to the Terrace creek camp ground, it's the top of the ridge, and those ridge tops are the only flat spots you'll find that aren't real camp sites. IE, when you get to the top of a climb, and right before you go down, there is often a smallish flat spot that can be used to camp on. Also by creeks there might be one or two spots. However, if the creek struck you as truly small, that was Terrace Creek campground, not a very nice one, but ok if you just have to sleep somewhere to go on the next day. Terrace creek though is only 45 minutes from Barlow, which is much nicer, so as long as its dark and you have headlamps, just go on to barlow.

Edited by hhope on 12/10/2011 18:30:16 MST.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: have to swim on 12/10/2011 18:27:23 MST Print View

Andrew Molera is another place to camp. It is on the western side of Hwy 1. The camp is a walk in with about 30 or so campgrounds in a large field. Makes for some interesting people watching...ie people playing guitar, dancing the twirly type dance that you do at Grateful Dead shows, and other ahem interesting things. Pretty cheap too. It is a state park BTW

Harald Hope
(hhope) - M

Locale: East Bay
molera ... not my choice on 12/10/2011 18:35:08 MST Print View

Yeah, you can do it, keep in mind the Raccoons there can be truly absurd, totally out of control, no fun at all, I didn't like it the one time I stayed there, wouldn't do it again, they were circles around our table watching me make dinner, and didn't care when I threw rocks at them. I'd rather use the hike/bike campground which is only a mile or half a mile from the trailhead, less if you know the path from it up to the ranger station at the trailhead, it's almost literally just down the hill from the ranger station. I never had heard about that one, but that's what I'll use if I'm coming in at night. Molera is weird, also, all night long you might hear people yelling as organized bands of racoons raid their tents, it's kind of funny to listen, if you took your stuff to your car. Or have they added raccoon boxes there yet?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: molera ... not my choice on 12/10/2011 18:45:46 MST Print View

Andrew Molera is a good destination, but only if you like mammals of all types raiding your camp. Deer, black bears, small mammals, etc.

Photographers: take a big strobe flash.

--B.G.--

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Ventana Wilderness Questions on 12/13/2011 12:38:23 MST Print View

Went there this weekend. Between the ranger station and sykes, probably over 300 fallen trees on the trail. There were literally about 50 people at the hot springs. About 15 groups, a couple groups with about 7 people. We could barely find a place to camp. Very, very, very lame. We didn't even bother to see the hot springs because we knew they would be crowded. Walking out on Monday there were hordes of college students walking in. But still a good trip. We didn't end up going to redwood because we didn't want to walk 13 miles out in the rain on a short winter day when we had to work the next day.

I am definitley getting a hammock for the next time I go there. The lack of flat places to sleep is ridiculous, and I don't really like using very used camp site areas.

Water was cold. I tried washing my hair and got mild hypothermia symptoms. After crossing streams my feet were in a bit of pain. Washing my hands or my pot was very uncomfortable. I was surprised how cold it was, almost felt like glacial stream water.

Edited by justin_baker on 12/13/2011 12:45:08 MST.

Harald Hope
(hhope) - M

Locale: East Bay
told you to avoid sykes on 12/14/2011 12:04:28 MST Print View

Good to hear that Sykes sucks as bad as it always does.

The flat spot shortage only applies in Sykes, and since sykes is not that great, as you discovered for yourself, there's no need to bring a hammock, just avoid sykes. What's extra gross about Sykes is that it's virtually impossible to dig a cathole the recommended safe distance from the river/water, and you can be sure that most of the visitors there fail to follow even remotely close to recommended safe practices in that regard... I leave that to your imagination, but it's another excellent reason to avoid Sykes, and to bring a real water filter, or poison solutions to kill all those bugs.

What happens is this: all these kids from santa cruz, santa barbara, and LA, come to Big Sur because they've heard of the hot springs, and because people always go where they have heard to go.

Barlow Flat, for example, is great, has tons of flat spaces, is beautiful, far more than Sykes in my opinion, but people don't go there because it's not Sykes, and there are no hot springs. Same for every single other camp site in Ventana that isn't Sykes, except maybe Terrace Creek, which is pretty limited, and sometimes fills up because people can't hike further than that, or run out of light, or whatever. Another site to use only if you have to, because you ran out of gas/light/time.

If you'd stopped at Barlow, you would have had a perfect big sur time, though from the numbers it sounds like there might have been some kind of school break event happening. Barlow also has a pit toilet dug, one on each side of the river, so you don't even have to dig a cat hole, unless you really want. That's a relatively recent addition. Great spots upstream, cross the river a few times, and you are alone.

I did finally find one good use for Sykes, if you are heading further in, you can stop right at the pine ridge trailhead after crossing the river, in the evening, then pack up in the AM, and head on, without wasting too much time at Sykes , since that's pretty far from the sprngs it tends to be less filled than the closer spots, and has the added bonus of being as far from the springs as you can get more or less, upstream. As an added bonus, when someone asks you if you have enjoyed the hot springs, you can tell them that you aren't using them, which makes people confused, since for most people, that's the entire reason for the backpack trip, and the only one conceivable.

If you'd hiked the roughly 2 miles further to Redwood, you would have had a peaceful time, with probably only a camper or two to share with. Usually there's nobody there, not sure about the weekends, but it doesn't get used much. The hike out is easy because it's basically all downhill, on average anyway.

It gets nice and cool in Ventana in winter, but I have to admit, never in decades of visits there did it ever cross my mind to take a bath or wash my hair there in winter, although rinsing off in the stream, quick, invigorating, is nice, as long as you have a towel to get dried as quickly as possible, heh.

I'd be careful with using a hammock off trail though, there's a lot of poison oak. But I can see the idea.

Good to hear the storms knocked over the trees again, not quite as dramatic as when they have a big earth slip, that tends to happen in the heavier rain years too, if you are observant, you can see the ones the trail has been fixed to cross over as you walk along.

Here's a hint with Ventana, and any other impacted destination: don't go where everyone else goes, you'll have a radically, massively, superior experience. And the harder it is to get where you are going, the better your experience will be. Go up to the ridges, get away from all the newbies, I can't give better advice than that, and that's all the advice you need. Lots more flat spaces on the ridges too, i"m camped on one of them in my picture for example, looking out over the Pacific to the South.

Edited by hhope on 12/14/2011 12:19:39 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: told you to avoid sykes on 12/14/2011 12:16:39 MST Print View

"Go up to the ridges"

Pat Spring comes to mind.

--B.G.--

Harald Hope
(hhope) - M

Locale: East Bay
it gets MUCH better than Pat Spring on 12/14/2011 12:24:41 MST Print View

A nice spot, but it gets better than that, especially if you really look at your topo map and figure out where you can find spots. Lone Pine is really good too. But really all of those spots are excellent up there. That's what's so funny/sad about everyone going to the hot springs, which aren't even very good hot springs as hot springs go in the first place, though the location is great I will admit.

Basically, the only bad spots I know of in Ventana are: Sykes, Terrace Creek (only because it's overcrowded), Cienega (look it up, that's spanish for swamp, and it's true, or was last I saw it)... and I'd say Ventana, because it's too close to the trail head, and fills with boy scout troups, homeless travelers, and assorted other non backpacking types.

Edited by hhope on 12/14/2011 12:25:22 MST.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: told you to avoid sykes on 12/29/2011 17:12:49 MST Print View

Ridges ridges.... Damn! I always looked up at the hill from the trail and wonder if it would flatten out at the top, but was too lazy to climb and see. The trail was never that far from the top. Should have gone with that.

We went to stopped by barlow flat on the last day just to hang out. Nobody there! I built a primitive shelter out of all of the wind blow trees and bows everyone, that was cool. Barlow flat was just awesome.

I agree with no going where other people are. I'm thinking about going from china camp to redwood camp soon, any input on that trip? How cold would it be in the winter up on the pine ridge area?

Harald Hope
(hhope) - M

Locale: East Bay
botcher's gap on 12/29/2011 22:05:24 MST Print View

I'd do the botcher's gap trailhead and go up the mountain from there. That takes you immediately out of the standard backpacker zone, because, well, because the first thing you do when starting from botcher's gap trailhead is climb the mountain. At the end of the climb, you're on the top ridges, 4500 feet or so. There's a few camps up there, plus there's the hike up to the double cone peak, at about 5k feet, nice view there, and just down the peak is lone pine camp, very nice spot, excellent spot I'd say, with a tiny creek. Will have bushwacking however to get to lone pine, some complain about it, but to me it's really not that bad. Ticks, I guess...

Warning, the Botcher's gap main trail is an old jeep road, and it's far steeper than standard trails, eats your knees up going down it, so if there ever was a time for dual trekking poles, this would be it.

If you plan ahead and note where the last water crossing the climb is, you can camp on top of the ridge when you get there, there's some big oak trees and you can look out over the pacific, I mean, the clouds, but there's zero water there, so you'd need to have enough for dinner and breakfast the next day. One reason I always carry at least 1 gallon capacity of water containers ideally by the way.

China camp parking makes me a bit nervous re trailhead breakins to be honest, botchers has or had a ranger station there at the parking lot, that may be closed, don't know, depends on budget issues.

When I parked at China camp I'd make sure that nothing was in the vehicle, and then I'd take a piece out of distributor, or otherwise disable the vehicle totally, that works ok, too many locals watching for easy pickings there I think.

Another semi loop I'm thinking of is: main ranger station, pine ridge, up to dirt road at china camp, then hike on dirt road to get to a connector trail that takes you to the double cone trail, not a real loop because of bad trails, ideally you can cut over from the bear basin area but that trail I believe is not passable for a mile or so at the moment, chaparral. There's some really good places up in that area, and there is actually flat ground on that side too by the way, quite a bit. I found a place off trail there that was basically just huge old growth redwoods, quite flat, nobody for miles. Creek right by it too. That's the big pines trail area. A good topo map will show the flat areas quite well.

I'm getting tempted to do another week there in winter just to see if it is as nice as I remember it to be in the rain, have to see how health goes.

Re china camp to redwood, it's a major climb, but ok if your gear is light and you're in fine shape, so you'd go down the mountain to get to redwood, and then back up to leave. About 3k feet, give or take. Redwood isn't that nice, it's just a small creek campground, nice but not super nice, but if nobody is there, and you have it to yourself, and you go to the camp at the furthest downstream side, that is pretty nice place to wake up I'd say. But I prefer waking up on top of the ridge, then hiking down, not the other way. It's a fair hike to redwood from china camp, I want to say 8 or more hours, could be a bit more. There's about a one mile section of the trail on the mountain that is degraded, and about 1/4 mile of that is badly degraded, they can't fix it because all that's holding the trail onto the mountain side is the chaparral, literally, the trail itself is slipped out, ie, a bad place to hike at night or with headlamps. That's maybe an hour or so from Redwood camp going down from the ridge, ie, an hour before you get to redwood from china camp.

Re temps up on ridges, in winter, in rain, it can be cold. I almost got hypothermia up there once, that's what finally made me stop using cotton clothes and a leaking tent, heh... so yeah, it can be quite cold, but not super cold, not below 25 degrees I'd guess, but the rain can really be heavy at times. With all this newfangled warm/light gear though I just don't see that as much of an issue providing real tents, real sleeping bags, real rain gear, is used. Mesh sneakers... probably not the best idea in the world, heh...

By the way, you weren't really seeing ridges, what you were seeing were the spines that run up the mountains there, they aren't actually flat, they are just flatter, relatively. You get a really good sense of how these spines work when you climb up to ventana double cone, that trail basically follows the spine all the way to the top of the peak. It's like a ridge, but it's not flat, it is going up the whole time usually. If you go up to the higher altitudes there you can see all those running up the sides of mountains, the ridges are what's all the way on top, at around greater than 4k feet. You were never really close to them on your last trip. There's a technical mountaineering term for these spines but it slips my mind, like so much, heh.

You can also go down from Big Pine trail to Carmel River, I did that one winter and if memory serves me right, in a few days camped down there, I saw exactly zero people, maybe one, day hikers, or zero, don't remember exactly, but it was close to zero.

Edited by hhope on 12/31/2011 15:23:15 MST.