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Bears in Ventana.
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Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Bears in Ventana. on 10/29/2012 02:04:28 MDT Print View

Yesterday, we were camping a ways upstream from Barlow Flat along the Big Sur river, away from any trails. We heard a large animal smash it's way through dead wood and push through some serious brush. We carefully walked over too see what it was. It crossed the river and busted up a steep slope at a very quick pace. It was big, fluffy, brown, and walking on all fours.

I didn't see it directly, but two of my friends saw it and to them it looked like it was clearly a bear. The thought of a bear being in Big Sur was just so irrational to us at the time. Later in the night, it freaked us out again by walking through the trees and making a ton of noise, but it never got close.

On page 262 of the book "The Natural History of Big sur", (you can find that page on google books) it mentions that black bears are making a comeback to the area, which leads me to believe that it wasn't bigfoot or chupacabra that we saw. Has anyone else heard of bear sightings in the big sur area?

Edited by justin_baker on 10/29/2012 02:05:58 MDT.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Bears in Ventana on 10/29/2012 10:51:27 MDT Print View

Bears are common throughout the entire Los Padres National Forest. I mostly hike the southern sections of the Forest (from San Luis Obispo area south) but we see bear, or signs of bear, all the time. Big cats too.

I don't see why it would be any different in the northern areas of Los Padres. It's probably unusual to see them around the more popular areas like Barlow, Sykes, etc. though as there's plenty of remote areas in Big Sur. Los Padres bears tend to be very skittish; they don't want anything to do with people.

Plus the bears help keep Los Padres trails open and followable!

LPNF Bear Tracks

I consider myself fortunate each time I get to see one these big mammals in the local backcountry.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Bears in Ventana. on 10/29/2012 16:48:01 MDT Print View

this is the first I have heard of bears near big sur. if true, I guess we all should start taking more care with food storage. I have been totally lazy in that area.


Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Bears in Ventana. on 10/29/2012 19:02:20 MDT Print View

I am pretty sure that this was an extremely rare citing. It could be that there is only one or two in the entire forest. Nothing to worry about. The area I saw it at was not a used campsite, it was out of the way and a decent trek upstream from Barlow.

The Big Sur river area has some scary looking terrain. The mountain slopes are usually too steep to hike and they drop into cliffs. Even in places with trees and soil, you would really want ropes to travel downhill. That being said, it really surprises me that any animal could travel around there. I have only seen one deer there, and that was by the river.

Edited by justin_baker on 10/29/2012 19:04:12 MDT.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
heard rumors on 11/12/2012 12:56:45 MST Print View

Glad you found that natural history of big sur book, it's good, you can, by the way, buy it at the Henry Miller library, which is a bit south down highway 1, a good way to contribute to that library project too.

I've been hearing rumors that bear were coming back into big sur, they certainly were not there for a long time. I'm also glad it's you reporting that, that way I don't have to wonder if it's just a weird rumor.

Unfortunately, given the horrible practices most visitors there have re food storage, particularly in barlow, sykes, and the closer camps on the pine ridge trail, I can see bear canisters in our future there. I always have tied up my food, but more for the raccoons than anything else (and yes, raccoons, if bored, do consider it great fun to unroll your toilet paper roll just for the sheer joy of it).

Don't read too much into your recent trips there re animal life, I've noticed a huge drop in the visible animals there, ie, the ones that let you see them, could be increase in hunting around the area, could be ecosystem failure, I can't say, but as ecological preserves get squeezed in by development around their peripheries the damage to the wildlife is pretty extreme, and very visible. I have heard/seen almost no life there at all in the last years, a huge drop in what used to be the case there in previous decades.

I've seen deer there running at full speed on hillsides, and leap over tall bushes without missing a step, so I'd say they don't have much trouble finding their way around the terrain, which is as you note, very steep and extreme, but that's for clutzy ignorant humans, not for other creatures that are a bit more coordinated than we are. They also, remember, know the land much better than you, and have networks of deer trails all over the place to follow, something if you keep going and exploring you'll discover, getting lost as a faint trail turns into a deer trail there will make the point register a bit more strongly, heh.

Glad you're taking the time to really get into big sur by the way justin, good to see, not many do in their haste to go to the vile sykes, which is so overcrowded and impacted it bears little resemblance to the actual wilderness anymore. Here's a hint if you haven't done it yet, up or downstream from any primary big camp the creek hits a canyon that is only passable by swimming, and if you float your gear through that, you are alone, and will remain alone for as long as you want. And you'll be in totally raw untouched wilderness. Well not totally, there's cool hippy kids etc that discover that type of thing while exploring too.

If you want to see animals, particularly big ones, hike off trail until you are at a safe (for deer) distance, stop, and sit. Do not move, do not do anything. If you're at all synced in to your environment, you will at some point see a deer come by. I've done that and had the deer come within about 20 feet or so, but at that point, they sense that something is up and get nervous. They are wary however, and probably are more wary today than in the past due to increasing encroachment and hunting. You strike me as a guy who can get into that space though, unlike many who are in too much of a hurry...

Edited by hhope on 11/12/2012 13:02:23 MST.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: heard rumors on 11/12/2012 19:10:33 MST Print View

Like I said, it could only one of few in the entire ventana wilderness. Or maybe there are a lot more. Either way, it would be a good idea to hang your food around Barlow.

I know what you mean about the small canyons. There is one upstream from Barlow. Me and a friend have a big secluded spot upstream from Barlow that's like our little paradise. On a day trip from that spot in August, we decided to hike upstream. We encountered a canyon that required swimming. Even in August, getting in that water was pretty cold. It was one of the most fun experiences I have ever had in the wilderness. I felt like I was entering an untouched world that was isolated by the steep mountains and cliffs on each side. We found some really nice camp areas, one was a big sand beach with redwoods and a deep pool of water. I didn't see any sign of humans, except a random flip flop and a very old rock fire ring that didn't even have any traces of ash or coals in it (why people choose to make a stupid ring of rocks whenever they have a fire, I will never understand. It's worse than leaving trash because it lasts forever). My friend studies botany at sfsu and he was amazed that the diversity of plants and pristine native ecosystems along the river. I really want to do a trip where I hike from the ocean all the way to where it forks after Sykes, or even further.

I noticed the lack of wildlife as well. It's kind of like walking into an old, abandoned house. If I stay for too long, the ancient forest might eat me. There are lots of interesting birds though.

I have become absolutely addicted to Ventana. There are so many places and routes that I want to visit. I don't really have interest in long distance trail hiking, I am more interesting in doing crazy, off trail routes and exploring. I have done plenty of serious bushwacking on ridiculously steep slopes, but I feel like if I try that in Ventana I am going to walk off a cliff. I actually want to learn to rappel so I can rappel off trees and rappel down the gorges and canyons in the river. Also so I can rappel down waterfalls. I have no problem torturing myself through thick brush and tangled messes of deadfall, which most people would never even attempt.

This winter I am going to hike from Picco Blanco boy scout camp up to the Window, which is supposed to be an amazing place. I will do that with a couple of my hiking buddies. From there we will summit Kandlbinder and attempt to skirt around the north side and get up to the double cone. I also really want to creewhack up Ventana Creek from the south and somehow get up the steep, western ridge and follow it to Kandlbinder. Apparently there is an 80 ft waterfall far up the creek.

It's a lot better than hiking on the pine ridge trail to sykes, that place is a total zoo. I went to sykes once and never went back. It's just a narrow area with too many people and not enough campsites. When I set up camp I don't want to be able to hear or see any other groups. Ventana camp was pretty secluded, but kinda weedy and slightly ugly. We actually met a homeless Vietnam veteran who had been living at Ventana camp for a month and clearing out the trail. He was a really nice guy.

We should hike together some time. It sounds like we like the same stuff.

Edited by justin_baker on 11/12/2012 19:43:38 MST.