Sat, Nov 18, 2006
Old Man Mountain
|Story||Photos / Slideshow||Maps: 1 2 3 4||Profiles: 1 2|
I slept overnight at the TH in Murietta Canyon, just outside the gated entry to the residential community on the other side. As I was prepping the van to make my bed, lights came walking down the road towards me from the other side of the gate. Uh-oh, I thought, someone's going to tell me I can't overnight here. Their greeting was warm enough, and they weren't residents it turned out, but three backpackers heading back to their cars. Having left all my maps at home by accident, I wasn't exactly sure I was at the correct location, so in our friendly conversation I mentioned this. They asked where I was heading, and when I mentioned Old Man Mountain, two looked uncertain while the third spoke determinedly, telling me it was a good distance in the direction he raised his hand, to the south. That didn't sound right, especially after they described the trail they'd just come off, with two creek crossings at the end which matched the description I recalled from the HPS website.
"Are you sure?" I asked, suggesting it should be to the west, not the south.
"Oh, definitely. It's that way," he reassured me, raising his woodsman's axe to point the way. "I guarantee it."
His friends weren't so sure, and by the time we finished the conversation I was positive he wasn't right, but never challenged him further. I knew enough that I was at the right trailhead and would sleep sounder for knowing so.
It was going to be a long day of more than 20 miles, so I planned to get up before sunrise. It was just after 6a and quite dark when I started off by headlamp, passing through the residential area and easily fording the two streams, low as one would expect for late fall. Shortly after the second crossing I came across a sign to Murietta Camp on the left side. I left the dirt road and followed the trail through the tall brush, which led for several miles along Murietta Creek. I lost the trail at the streamside camp, but regained it after a few minutes of backtracking. The trail continued up the canyon for some time before coming out on a dirt road. Twisty and turny as it had been, I got confused. Thinking I was on the south side of the canyon, I turned right to continue up to Murietta Divide. There was no moon, but the stars shown brightly and I could see the sillouette of the hills around me. I thought I saw Muriette Divide ahead of me and happily headed off towards it. That the road headed downhill rather than uphill did not alarm me initially, but after ten minutes it suddenly dawned on me that I might be heading the wrong direction. I looked up to the stars and could immediately tell by Orion's Belt that this was indeed the case. What I had thought was Murietta Divide was just the two sides of the downhill canyon coming together in the distance. I was actually on the north side of the canyon and my right turn had taken me down the hill. Rats. I turned around.
Getting over my disorientation, I cruised back up the road as the sky gradually lightened. The sun came out just before I reached the divide, and soon warmed up. I took a right at the 4-way junction and continued up the hillside. There's a lot of gain on this route. I hiked up to the base of the SE side of Old Man Mtn, following it around the south and west sides of the mountain. The HPS site describes the SW Ridge as a brushy possibility, but it looked like quite a bushwhack from below.
I decided to bypass Old Man for the time being and continued on the road to Monte Arido. It was not hard to find, only about 50 yards from the road. It was 9:45a when I reached the broad, open summit. There were no trees and few shrubs to obstruct a fine view of the Dick Smith Wilderness to the NW, and out to the Channel Islands to the south. The skies were clear with excellent visibility, only a few high clouds to add to the scenery. In perusing the register, I noted Tina Bowman's name on May 28, earlier in the year. It struck me that was only three days before her fateful trip with Patty Rambert to Mt. Mendel in the Sierra where Patty fell to her death. Not far from the summit cairn I found a small rock memorial to Patty, placed at a later date by an unknown hiker. I had spent some time earlier thinking about Patty as I do on almost every outing these days. Apparently I'm not the only one, and it gladdened my heart to feel the bonds between peakbaggers, many who I've never met.
On the way back down the road, I climbed Old Man Mtn by the usual route on the northwest side. Though it is well-ducked in most places and regularly groomed, it was still a brushy climb and made me forget about trying to descend via the SW Ridge. I found the highpoint and the register atop the higher west summit at the east end of a ridge. There is a large notch between the west and the lower (not by much) east summit and it looks like a horrendous bushwhack. I would have liked to visit both summits (especially since the SE ridge of the east summit could have saved more than a mile on the return), but I had no interest in such a bushwhack for dubious gain. As usual, I stayed only a short while before returning.
I retraced my route back down the road to Murietta Divide and then down the canyon. I took the longer Murietta Trail again as I wanted to see what it looked like in daylight. The trail was actually a bit ugly for much of it, travelling through high, dead brush reaching over my head. The creek still had water in it - more than I would have suspected, but not enough to make for a refreshing dip.
Back at the two creek crossings within a half mile of the TH, I ran into the first persons I'd seen since the previous night. A few groups were out for a walk with their dogs, while a group of three men were loading large rocks into the back of a pickup. It looked like back-breaking work, as the rocks were the size of breadboxes. I was back at the TH just before 2:30p. It hadn't been a hard day, but it was certainly a good workout. Back in the van I drove to Santa Barbara, about an hour away. There I met up with my brother Ron who lived there and planned to join me the following day to Hildreth Peak. Dinner that evening was quite memorable as we ate at a brew pub downtown. They had placed us at a small table looking out to the sidewalk, and for most of the two hours we were there our conversation was one of constant interruption as our eyes would be drawn to one beautiful coed or another that roamed the streets on a Saturday night. I was a bit envious of Ron and his college town environ. Ah, to be young again... :-)
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