Half Moon Mountain P1K

Sat, May 26, 2018

With: Jackie Burd

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


I'd spent the night sleeping in the Jeep in a suburban neighborhood of Goleta, a few miles from UCSB. I was up early, breakfasted and then picked up Jackie at school at 6:30a. We were heading to San Diego to meet up with Mom and Grandma, with what turns out to be a very long diversion to tag a P1K in Ventura County on the way. It seems like it would be on the way when looking at a state-sized map, but the peak is buried in the heart of the Los Padres National Forest, deep in the backwaters of Ventura County. We would spend three hours driving between Goleta and the TH (a distance of only 100mi), most of that time on the winding SR150 & SR33 that go through Ojai between Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. Much of the landscape along SR33 had burned the previous fall in the Thomas Fire, but I was most impressed with how green it looked already, with new chaparral growth springing forth to cover the charred landscape. We drove by a few homesteads that had been consumed in the blaze as well, but humans don't seem to have adapted as nicely to fire as nature, and will undoubtedly take much longer to rebuild.

We drove east on Lockwood Valley Rd for about 10mi, then south on dirt Grade Valley Rd for another 10mi to reach the end of the road in Mutau Flat. Actually, we drove just short of that because the private inholding that grazes cattle in Mutau Flat has a locked gate that prohibits the public from reaching the (now) historic Mutau Flat TH. There is another old road, no longer driveable, just east of the gate that is now used as a trail to access the Johnson Ridge Trailand other trails east and south of Mutau Flat. We parked just off the road and hiked along the old road for about half a mile before starting up to our peak, whose summit is about a mile northeast of where we'd parked. The better route would have been to continue to the NE corner of Mutau Flat and go up from there, but instead we made things a little harder by going up and over an intervening ridgeline. Our peak was too brushy on the west side so we moved more to the southwest/south sides where we found easier going, but still a workout up loose sand sections that had Jackie out of breath in a short time. Fortunately it wasn't a very big climb, taking us just about an hour to reach the summit. When Jackie found the register in a glass jar I guessed correctly that it would have been left by John Vitz. Vitz had visited in 2015, ours only the second entry. For a relatively easy hike, it's surprisingly obscure. Vitz had named it Half Moon Mtn after the campground of the same name below to the northwest, so I've used that name here instead of the rather boring, "Peak 6,084ft".

Our descent went much faster thanks to gravity and the fun, sandy sections. We also chose a much better line going south down to Mutau Flat where we picked up the trail/road that we could follow more easily back to the car. We came across two college ladies who were out backpacking, heading to Sespe Hot Springs to meet up with friends who had hiked in a day earlier. They stopped us to ask some navigation questions, having been similarly confused by the locked gate. We gave them some help, pointing them in the right direction and confirming that they were where they thought they were on their map, before heading continuing on. We got back to the Jeep before noon (finding a truck with a trailer stopped at the locked gate - good luck backing that combo up to turn around), changing into more comfortable clothing before continuing our drive. After a delightful drive through Lockwood Valley and Frazier Park, we got on Interstate 5 and headed south. We would spend the next five hours driving through the hell that is the Los Angeles freeway system, bumper-to-bumper traffic no matter the time of day or day of the week. It would be 5:30p before we arrived in Rancho Bernardo - more than enough driving for one day...


george comments on 06/02/18:
I hope you've hiked up Dry Lakes Ridge from that first saddle on 33, right about near where the burn ends and before you drop down into the Sespe watershed. I was up there for the 4th time last weekend, and the views were better then ever with abundant flowers and interesting colors from the burned manzanita. You can see Santa Cruz Island on the horizon. Rode the bike up Cuyama Peak that morning from Dry Canyon. It also has a stunning view. If it's really clear, you can see the Sierras near Mineral King.
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