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Willow Creek Trail

Re: Willow Creek Trail

Postby Farley on Mon Aug 09, 2010 1:26 pm

Date Hiked: August 6, 2010
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Three of us hiked down to the Willow Creek trail from the wide spot in the road to Happy Landing. Took a side trip over to Sycamore Flat camp - road is getting pretty overgrown with honeysuckle, poison oak and other resinous shrubbery. Somebody has left a cab-over camper up on logs (no blocks around) under the large redwood on the west edge of the camp - thoughtfully they painted it chaparral green. A few of the windows are already busted, so the woodrats should be moving in anytime now. Removing this creepy piece of junk, along with the old car just over the slope, will make a good stewardship project.
From Happy Landing the trail is in fine shape. There is one tanbark oak across the trail upstream from the side trail to the old McGranahan (sic?) site (site is returning to wildness nicely). Folks have by-passed the fallen oak, but a half hour of work would remove it. There is a nice new landslide upstream from Willow Creek camp on the downslope side of the trail. Directly across the canyon from this relatively young slide exists abundant evidence of past slides - tree jumbles, slip-faces, toe slopes. Perhaps these facing slopes are evidence of a hidden nw-se trending fault in the area cutting across the canyon at a rightish angle?
After Willow Creek camp (in good shape with minimal trash besides a wheeled thing) - the trail begins to deteriorate. It is largely hidden and overgrown from the site of the old Hobbit cabin on.
Leopard lilies were still abloom in the stream along with columbine and California spikenard (gotta love that name). Ladybugs were massing under the blackberry brambles and inside the reflexed lily petals.
In response to the lasting economic downturn, some enterprising soul is trying to open up a gently used car lot along the Los Burros road just up from the junction with Hwy 1 - http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/H2 ... directlink. More cars appeared in the "lot" during our hike.
All in all a great canyon worthy of more exploring - especially along the creek up- and downstream.
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Willow Creek Trail Conditions History 1999-2008

Postby Site Administrator on Thu May 07, 2009 2:50 pm

Date Hiked: February 17, 2008
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Conditions reported by: Tom Hopkins
Survey date: 17-FEBRUARY-2008
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

There is a group of recent bay and tanbark deadfalls between Happy Landing and the intersection with the trail down to the McGranahan site. The deadfalls range from knee to chest high. Small folks can crawl under the deadfalls. Larger folk will need to climb over or follow steep work arounds either uphill or down. Otherwise the trail is clear to Willow Creek Camp.
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Conditions reported by: David Knapp
Survey date: 30-AUG-2002
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

I followed the instructions from Jon Libby's trip report - all information was exactly right. His information was a great help!

The Willow Creek trail past the Willow Creek campsite was in passable condition. It looked like someone had gone through and pruned fairly recently. I performed some additional pruning, and had to saw one branch. One thing that would help is cutting back the plants that are encroaching on the trail. If I had to do it again, I'd bring one of those chain gang type weed scythe thingys to remove plants.

I camped at the living bridge,in the actual creek bed. I wouldn't try to cross the living bridge, the near end is fairly unstable. Also, the redwood I climbed down to get into the creek is also fairly rotted and I took a great deal of care going up and down.

I didn't go past the living bridge, so I don't know the conditions past there.
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Conditions reported by: Jon Libby
Survey date: 20-AUGUST-01
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

The trailhead for the Willow Creek Trail goes off to the north (left if you are coming uphill) from Willow Creek Road. If you look carefully you will see one of the old USFS trail sign wire hangers coming out of an old live oak across the road from the trailhead entrance which is the first dirt road to the left coming up from the coast (approx 1 1/2 to 2 miles?). The diceiest part of the Willow Creek Trail is driving off of the Willow Creek Road and into the "trailhead"; the dirt road has a steep side slant down into a gulley. I wouldn't try it in wet weather and was glad that I had 4WD on the dry road. It is advisable to park in the live oak grove as the road out of the grove is long, gullied and narrow; if you meet someone coming out it will be a difficult narrow drive uphill backwards, and impossible without 4WD.

The trail down to Willow Creek Camp is open and passable. Not far down the trail on the left is a dirt road through thick scrub which goes to Sycamore Flat where there is lots of water, a picnic table, a (54/55?) Lincoln down the bank and a nice view. It would be a nice camping spot other than the fact that it looks like a popular target shooting spot. There is a nice spring with a hose about a third of the way down the WC trail. Further on there are 2 cutoffs from the trail to the left, one of which goes to the old suspension bridge which does not look safe and it is advisable to cross the creek rock hopping.

Take the upper (right) fork at both forks and you will soon come to Willow Creek and into the lower Willow Creek Camp which has a fire grate. A hundred yards or so further is Willow Creek Camp with (the remins of) an old USFS picnic table, a fire ring and grate in a beautiful old growth redwood grove next to the creek.

To continue up the trail, cross the creek directly across from the camp and it does a zig zag stair step up for a bit and then begins a gentle climb up the north side of the creek. The trail is quite clear to the 'living bridge"; several of us just did some pruning and tread work this past weekend to that point. There is a spring seep just before the living bridge and the creek below the living bridge appears to be perennial and was flowing well. The bridge (some boards on a fallen bay tree with a side rope) looks to be dying as it is rotting on the upper end and quite bouncy. I, for one, chose to traverse down a fallen Redwood rather than risk the "living bridge".

Past the living bridge the trail still has some dead branches and limbs but is passable. The tread is narrow and sloped and the bank below is very steep and high but a beautiful view down to the north fork. Past the living bridge it gets brushier and drier and as you continue uphill it becomes a long, hot, dry hike to the coast ridge; we did not attempt it.

We spent our free time wandering around near the confluence of the north and south forks and up the south fork. Good birding (brown creepers, flycathers, kingfishers), botanizing (leopard lillies, blazing stars) and relaxing. The general area has been mined for gold and jade off and on for quite some time and there is a fair amount of historical evidence which is interesting to observe. Of particular note is the long rock wall which is across the creek and upstream of the WC camp. The story goes that a couple of guys spent 8 years building this wall as part of a giant sluice box but ran out of funds before they could run any gravel through it.
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Conditions reported by: Barry Farrara
Survey date: 4-JULY-99
General: PASSABLE TO DIFFICULT
Specific:

I followed the Willow Creek trail from the Forest Service Road to a point about 4 miles in over the fourth of July weekend camping one night at Willow Creek Camp. The trail to camp (about 2 miles from the Forest Service Road trailhead) is shaded, nicely graded and in passable condition. There are a several downed trees to climb over in this stretch, and the tread is dicey in some places as the trail contours across some steep slopes. There is one turnoff not marked on the map which could lead you astray. It occurs about 1 1/2 mile in and leads to an old mining claim via a really neat but dilapidated suspension bridge.

Past Willow Creek Camp, (nice spot complete with picnic bench and cooking grate) where the trail crosses it's namesake for the first time, the trail is really difficult to follow. The next 1/4 mile of trail is nearly impassable. The streamside vegetation, including lots of poison oak, has really overgrown that stretch. With the help of a detailed topo map it is possible to skirt the poison oak stretch and reconnect with the trial as it rises above the creek further northeast. For the next mile the trail is in easy enough to follow but is in difficult condition with little or no tread remaining on some of the steep canyon slopes. I got as far as the Living Bay Tree bridge which spans a gorge about 40 ft wide and 30 ft deep. As I said this was about 1 1/2 mile above Willow Creek camp.
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Willow Creek Trail

Postby Site Administrator on Thu May 07, 2009 2:01 pm

* USFS Trail #5E08
* Parking: Willow Creek Road
* Watershed: Willow Creek
* Connects: Forest Road 23S14 to South Coast Ridge Road
* Camps: Sycamore Flat Camp, Willow Creek Camp
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