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On my first effort, I hiked up the trail with my friend Steve, not really knowing what I was up against. I didn't even tell Steve about the objective when I invited him to join me for the hike. As we passed by the turnoff point, I noted that there was no obvious remnants of the old trail and we simply passed it by, continuing to El Sombroso. A power transmission tower is located at its summit and we got into a discussion about how effective the anti-climbing measures that had been installed might be. All the crossbeams for about 10ft are covered in pointy metal strips to deter humans from climbing the tower. Steve decided he could probably foil the deterrent and began to climb the tower. He was very cautious and slow to get by the metal strips, but in three minutes he had done what I had guessed would be far more difficult.
On the second effort I came back by myself with a pair of clippers. I found remnants of the old trail and clipped a route about halfway from the trail to the summit. But the old trail seemed to end at some chicken wire and other remnants of what may have been a pot farm long ago. Beyond this, I could find no continuation of the old trail. I was a bit short on time, my clippers' blade had been damaged some and I decided to leave the rest for another day.
The third effort proved successful. I came back again by myself, clippers resharpened, in the morning so I'd have lots of time. I spent about three hours clipping the remaining distance to the summit, about 1/8 mile or 650ft. It was brutal work, hacking through manzanita and other brush. Much of the undergrowth was dead and much of this could be broken with my boots. The live stuff required the clippers. Using the clippers on dead branches was mostly ineffective. I tried using a dust mask to reduce the amount of dusty material I was inhaling, but it was too warm and I gave it up after a short while. I would have to live with some dead organic material in my lungs. My legs would take several stab wounds that drew blood and my pants would take a beating as well.
I found a number of animal dens, piles of sticks and branches 2-3ft in height. Exactly what animals might use these dens I had no idea. There were a couple of cute little brown birds that hung out in the underbrush with me, I suspect they were inspecting the newly broken branches for insects they might enjoy for lunch. For the entire time I was some 3-10ft below the height of the brush, so there were no views to be had anywhere, including at the summit. I followed the GPS to where it indicated the summit was, but it was so flat and brushy that the highpoint could have been anywhere in a 1-2 acre area. It didn't really matter. Mostly I was curious as to how much effort it would take to blaze a trail through heavy chaparral. Now I have some idea. While much of the trail was cut to allow me to walk through without ducking, not all of it was. In some places I resorted to ducking and cutting a smaller opening to save time. Some of this I widened upon the return, but not all of it.
I left an Altoid tin with a pen and single piece of paper in a clearing I made where the GPS indicated the summit to be. I spent about 40 minutes retracing the trail back to the maintained one, most of this time spent making additional cuts. I think the whole trail would take only ten or fifteen minutes if one were just walking it. By 2:30p I was back at the car, taking about six hours to cover 9 miles.
If you're thinking of visiting Collords via this trail, I would recommend you bring a GPS with the gpx track I created. I referred to the GPS at a number of points on the return where it wasn't obvious where the trail was. It's a pretty good trail, but it meanders some and has some dead ends where I gave up to try a different route. If you're feeling more adventurous, go without the GPS. If you attempt it anytime after 2014, I would recommend you bring clippers, too.
This page last updated: Tue Dec 3 16:51:56 2013
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