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Big Pines Trail

Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby dillinger on Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:33 am

Date Hiked: January 22, 2018
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Lower part of trail, from reservoir to the blue rock itself, is in good shape.

Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby jdoelman on Mon Jan 22, 2018 2:47 pm

Date Hiked: January 21, 2018
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

This trail is transformed since prior to the Soberanes fire. The "trail" loosely follows the blue rock ridge. The former trail bypasses all high points along the ridgeline by traversing along the northern side of the ridge(except the westernmost bypass). Each bypass leaves the ridgeline at a point where the ridge becomes steeper than a decent hiking trail. There is one such bypass section just east of the Blue Rock, and another 4 west of the Blue Rock.
These bypass sections of "trail" form most of the trail (part of the trail does follow the ridge) between the blue rock and the point where the trail leaves the ridge toward the bottom of the "Big Pines" basin. In many cases the beginning of the bypass section of trail was flagged with ribbon. If you elect to folllow these sections of "trail" you will find most are followable but tread is almost non-existent and following the tread is difficult. The largest two of these bypass sections were unfollowable. Of the bypasses on the north side of Blue Rock ridge I failed to follow the easternmost bypass section and only succeeded in following the 2nd-most-easterly section on the return from Pat's Spring.
The trail through the "Big Pines" area is horribly overgrown. I was not able to follow the trail and elected to make a bee-line for the Pat's Spring area. This worked well. The former big-pines camp site is now more visible as all Pines within 100 yards of that site are burned and dead, the "Big Pines" area is now more aptly named "Dead Pines".
The Pat Springs area has many large pines remaining and is as beautiful as ever. There was no sign of anyone camping at any camps in the area, this includes the two overflow sites prior to reaching Pat's Spring, the slopy main Pat's Spring site and the two use-camps along the ridge. The table exists and has been moved to the lower of the use-camps.
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby Fred Watson on Thu Nov 23, 2017 8:51 pm

Date Hiked: November 23, 2017
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Started at dam. Went up just past the blue rocks, to high point 1/4 mile inside NF boundary. Tall grass & weeds & sticky seeds (hedge parsley? Torilis arvensis) after reaching Blue Rock Ridge. Concur with previous posts. Stuck to ridge line / dozer line. Tread apparent most of the time; but more like following a steep deer trail than a hiking trail. Didn't see any off-ridge route that might have existed.
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby Erik on Sun Nov 12, 2017 11:49 pm

Date Hiked: November 11, 2017
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

It was a wilderness freeway up to Blue Rock ridge, it was game trails or no trails between Blue Rock ridge and the Ventana [aka VDC] trail. The trail is gone so we had to hike the dozer line which ended about a mile from the Ventana trail. Big Pines trail should bypass some of the knolls, but we stayed on the dozer line which added a lot of very steep ascending and descending to the hike. The last mile was difficult with many dead ends due to overgrown foliage. There is water flowing in the creek right below the Ventana trail (I believe it is the source for Danish creek). It is the only water source that we came across. We didn't make it to Pat Spring due to time constraints. There is some poison oak and thistles so long pants are needed. We also found some bear scat about a mile in from Los Padres dam. Out and back from Los Padres dam took a little over 9 hours.

PS: I would like to clarify that the last mile after the end of the dozer line was difficult because of many dead ends due to overgrown foliage. We made it to the ridge where the Ventana trail used to be. It appeared passable where we were at towards Pat Spring but the trail was gone. It's only a matter of time before new growth makes it impassible.


Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby jack_glendening on Tue Nov 22, 2016 11:43 am

Date Hiked: November 21, 2016
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

The northern end of the Big Pines Trail is outside the National Forest, so I hiked out to the serpentine rock outcrop to view the effect of the fire. What I saw immediately was backburn, but beyond lay the effects of the wildfire. Looking at Elephant Mountain from afar, of the tree foliage roughly half was green with the other half showing fire damage - of course could not tell how damaged the tree trunks were.

As to the trail itself, the ascent to the ridge was burned through but the tread remains good except for a 6 foot undercut section which had been marked with pink ribbon (apparently fire fighters since the same pink ribbon also marked such things as the end of the dozer cut). Don't know if a sign had marked where the trail met the ridgeline but if so it is gone now - the trail's departure from the ridge is easy to miss so I put an orange ribbon there. Beyond was essentially dozer tread. The first few places where the trail departs from the ridgeline firebreak had been cleared, but beyond they were not. I attempted to follow the first such one but it became messy so afterward I stayed on the ridgeline firebreak, being careful not to disturb the erosion control ditches along it.

A sign still marks the start of the Danish Creek Trail. A firecrew cut a hand line along the ridgelet crossing it, marked by cut stumps.

Ribbon has "Killer Tree" emprinted
Danish Creek Trail & sign
Handline cuts
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Click to view panorama
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby Mojave_Geek on Thu Jul 14, 2016 8:24 am

Date Hiked: July 8, 2016
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Went up to where the fire break meets the trial on Blue Rock Ridge. We took the old road from the road around the lake rather than the trial given some of the TRs here and dislike of PO. The road is obvious and takes off where a "TRAIL" sign points you on the other fork. The road is fine. Note that the road is not aligned precisely with that shown on the USFS version of the 7.5 minute topo - it starts a bit later and ends a bit higher up the ridge from Danish Creek trail.

From there up to the main ridge the trail was quite overgrown but not too much PO and not overly hard to travel as it winds back and forth along the ridge. Whenever it swings to the south side of the ridge the trail is clear with evident dirt tread. On the other side, you have to keep your eyes open but there's not many places it can go so navigation is not difficult.

Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby anon on Fri Apr 08, 2016 10:21 am

Date Hiked: April 6, 2016
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Hiked from the dam out toward big pines camp (not sure if I made it quite there b/c it was dark). First 3-4 miles of trail are great and passable without too much effort aside from copious amounts of poison oak, but after that the trail grows very faint at times and the brush is quite overgrown in places. I was happy I had a trekking pole that I could hold in front of me to push through the brush. No water on trail until two creeks near big pines camp (just as the trail bends south), which I am guessing is around mile 7. Several deadfalls in the forest. Do not expect to move quickly over this terrain with this much growth.

The second day, I simply backtracked back to the dam, and this proved harder than I expected. Ended up losing the trail a few times, most notably at a makeshift camp in the forest near the wilderness border. Ended up bushwhacking around for around 50 minutes looking for the trail, found it, immediately lost it again and eventually just followed a compass bearing until I saw a rocky ridge I recognized just outside of the wilderness border and hiked up to it to get back on the trail. Possibly since I did not know when I was on or off the trail, some areas were very eroded and the trail gave way a few times, to the point where I was flat on my chest to prevent sliding down the hill.

Overall I did not enjoy this trail. The almost complete lack of trail markers (tape tied to branches? really?) or signage really distracts from the natural beauty and enjoyment of the area.

[Ed.note: this is an overgrown _wilderness_ trail and so requires more experience/skills than does a parks trail]

to_the_editor wrote:
I wanted to point out that making comments like this, as an editor, you set a tone and example for the forums. If someone posts a trail report, I would expect you to be grateful, whereas the perceived tone of this note is sarcastic and condescending. No one needs _your_ opinion since it's not _your_ trail report. See what I did there? I suggest keeping your comments in check and instead simply being thankful of those providing valuable trail information since otherwise you will only succeed in alienating others from the VWA.

Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby sboor on Mon Feb 15, 2016 11:41 am

Date Hiked: February 13, 2016
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I hiked the Big Pines trail from Los Padres Dam to Big Pines where I turned towards Pat Springs. Generally I would say it was pleasantly challenging with the caveat that the thick poison oak is weeks away from being a real hazard. The PO was just starting to leaf out when I hiked it - definitely need pants, and maybe a full hazmat suit in a couple of weeks. I took the trail from the bottom up to the Rattle Snake Creek junction, but I would recommend the fire road instead. Looked clear and would cut out a lot of steep cross slope tread with PO to each side. A few large dead-fall trees were fairly easy to get around. When you switch to the south side of the ridge you get out of the PO and into low but dense chaparral. the trail was still pretty easy to find and the low brush was easy to push through - I found it almost pleasant as I wishfully imagined it was helping to scrub the poison oak oil off of my pants and shirt. As you get to Big Pines the trail gets luxuriously clear.

Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby Steve B on Tue Nov 03, 2015 3:53 pm

Date Hiked: November 1, 2015
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I hiked in from Bottcher’s Gap with the VWA trail crew with the intent of logging out the Big Pines Trail from the Double Cone/Big Pines junction to where the Big Pines Trail hits the dozer line. Someone has gone in to the Wilderness with a chainsaw and cleared most of the trees on the Big Pines Trail and some of the Double Cone Trail. We flagged the trail from the Double Cone Trail to the junction of the old Big Pines Camp. Big Pines Camp is now a ‘lost’ camp due to dead hazard trees and it is covered with blackberries and other vegetation. The Big Pines Trail is brushy but not too hard to follow. The creek at the old Big Pines Camp was flowing.
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby pantilat on Mon Jun 08, 2015 11:38 am

Date Hiked: June 6, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I last traveled the Big Pines Trail on January 10th and it looks like very few people have used this trail in the interim, thus the trail has become more difficult. My description of current conditions is from top (Pat Springs) to bottom (Los Padres Dam).

The Big Pines cutoff trail and the upper section of the trail through the burned pine forest are in better shape as many big blowdowns have been removed. These parts are now "clear." When the trail merges onto the crest of the ridge and onto the old firebreak things become increasingly brushy and difficult. The chaparral is growing vigorously on the fire break and there are several sections with push throughs and some doubts where the trail is actually located in spots, especially in areas of tall grass. The trail deviates from the ridge at a few points traversing on the north side of the ridge in oak woodland that is rife with poison oak of epic proportions. In the winter the flagging for these deviations to the north side were obvious but it has since become faded and/or more concealed in brush. In the oak woodland the poison oak grows in all forms... groundcover, bush, vine, small tree, you name it, making it a veritable poison oak jungle! Where the trail is not concealed in poison oak, it is covered in a thick layer of leaves making for slippery and faint tread. Lots of poison oak contact is unavoidable but travel in the poison oak woodland (where the official trail is located) is preferable to staying on the chaparral-covered ridge that includes some extra ups and downs. After the blue rock of Blue Rock Ridge there are still some sections of brush, poison oak and tall grass growing in the trail, but things improve as the fireroad becomes more defined. I took the Los Padres Usetrail down to the Los Padres Dam instead of the bottom part of the Big Pines Trail. In the winter the Los Padres Usetrail was deeply eroded after the winter rains, but heavy equipment recently graded the "usetrail" into a nice wide (albeit steep) dirt road, presumably to allow for quick access to the Blue Rock Ridge fire break in the event of a fire. Blue Rock Ridge is a pretty spot and the Big Pines Trail is an important link between Pat Springs/Ventana Double Cone Trail and Los Padres Dam. Hopefully it gets some more use to prevent some of the sections from disappearing.
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