Place: San Rafael Wilderness, Los Padres National Forest, California
Coordinates: 34.769886, -119.936571
Length: 2.8 miles
I finally did it. After years of hoping, gathering equipment, dripping the idea bit by bit into Papa Quail's consciousness and priming the chikas on independent trips, it finally happened. On our spring vacation we went on a backpacking trip in full family format.
Considering how long I've been gearing up for it, this trip was completely impulsive, almost spontaneous outing, for which I had less than a day to prepare.
This spring is all about wildflowers, and this time we were going south to Carrizo Plain and from there to Santa Ynez Valley and Figueroa Mountain. I didn't want so spend more time in the car and so I set our backpacking destination to be in the San Rafael Wilderness, right behind Figueroa Mountain.
Our main objective for that day was to observe the mega-bloom of Figueroa Mountain, and this we did big time. I cannot recall ever seeing a wildflower display so grand, so impressive. If not considering the surrounding backdrop I'd say it even beat the display at Death Valley.
We spent the greater part of the day driving slowly (very slowly!) along Figueroa Mountain road, stopping frequently to appreciate the bloom. It was already later in the afternoon when we finally arrived at the Nira Campground. We had lunch, completed arranging our backpacks, and headed east along the Manzana Creek.
|Our hike from the trailhead at Nira Campground to Fish Campground as captured by Papa Quail's GPS|
A few steps into the trail Papa Quail turns to me and says that we've been there before. I cannot remember it so naturally, I tell him he's wrong. I would have remembered this lovely place, I argued. You must be thinking of a different trail.
|Manzana Creek Trail|
|Purple Owl's Clover (Casyilleja exserta)|
It is likely to have been a squirrel, but it did bring me back a memory of a bear I'd seen at Kings Canyon NP that was sitting on a pine tree and was tearing green pine cones, eating their soft inside.
|Dismembered pine cone|
I was beginning to wonder if Papa Quail may have been right after all.
The soft soil that made the slope turned into a low cliff of brittle rock. Yucca grew right at the edge, their roots holding the rocks from eroding down into the creek. Mostly balls of foliage but also an occasional old bloom stand.
We passed the first campground and continued on.
|Broomrape (Orobanche sp.)|
I don't remember what time of year is was, but I doubt it was at spring time. I would have remembered the bloom for sure. Although now I cannot swear on that.
One thing is sure: I will not forget it again. And not only because of this blog post.
|Colorful slope (mostly chia and monoplia)|
One od these gravel species was the Santa Barbara Milkvetch with its creamy flowers towering like candles over its grayish-green foliage.
|Santa Barbara Milkvetch (Astragalus trichopodus)|
|Ladybug cleaning a Milkvetch.|
|Swallowtail butterfly servicing Blue Dicks.|
Lucky teens, I thought.
It was getting late and we were nearing the campsite we planned on when we came down to the creek again. Across the water was a single tent. It was then that I made a critical mistake - eager to arrive at the campsite and seeing a row of rocks across he creek I led my family over to the other side without consulting the map first.
That tent, apparently belonged to one of the surviving teens. We looked for the promised campsite but didn't find it. Instead of backtracking we kept along the water, looking to connect with the trail. At first it was easy, but before long we were pushing our way in a thicket of willows and other tall creek vegetation.
And the light was fading.
|Raccoon Paw Prints|
|Late Crossing of Manzana Creek|