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Big Pines Trail

Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby Steve B on Sat Nov 26, 2011 9:52 am

Date Hiked: November 18, 2011
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

November 23, 2011 – The Big Pines Trail has been repaired by the Ventana Wilderness Alliance and the American Conservation Experience (ACE) Trail Crew through a grant from the Regional Park District. The Big Pines Trail is in good condition and easy to follow from the junction of the Double Cone Trail at the top down to the dozer line on Blue Rock Ridge. The trail from Los Padres Dam to Blue Rock Ridge was worked in 2010 and is in fair condition, watch for red and yellow flagging where the trail leaves the dozer line on Blue Rock Ridge. The forest around Big Pines Camp burned very hot in the 2008 Basin Fire and there are many standing dead trees that would make this trail dangerous to hike during a storm. Big Pines Camp is completely over grown and is no longer a good campsite; the many dead trees around the camp will make this site unsafe for camping for many years. We did not clear the trail to Big Pines camp but I placed some pink flagging at the top of the Big Pines Camp Trail so I can come back later and put the camp and trail on GPS. The connector trail from Big Pines to Pat Springs was also repaired and in good condition. The trail signs at all the junctions burned in 2008 and need to be replaced so be sure to hike with a map. We left about eighteen trees across the Big Pines Trail that are mostly ‘step over’ trees but two are large, I am planning a VWA crosscut saw trip in the future.
Below are two photos of Big Pines Camp, one just after the Basin Fire and Big Pines Camp as it looks today.
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after fire.jpg
Big Pines Camp just after the Basin Fire
big pines now.jpg
Big Pines Camp today
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby Steve Davis on Fri Aug 05, 2011 2:21 pm

Date Hiked: August 5, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I would rate this trail difficult to impassable at this time. I hiked in from Botchers gap with an overnight at Pat Spring. I tried again without success to follow the "cut-off" trail to Big Pines trail. The cut-off trail is obliterated with overgrowth above Danish Creek more so than it was in June when I tried this. I went back up to the VDC trail up to Skinner Ridge Trail/Big Pines Trail junction which is marked with two burned sign posts on either side of the VDC trail. This section of Big Pines is completely burned with all trails obliterated and blocked by downed trees. I followed a rock-pile pointer and a few flaggings (no tread or footfalls could be seen) down the slope and over the stream to my west. Using a compass and USFS map I bushwhacked on a path to Los Padres Dam which should have placed me, eventually, on the Big Pines trail. Brush was head high in most places. Several very steep streams come west to east down the slope to Danish Creek. Each provided a challenge to cross due to the sheer drop.

At about 2 miles, based on my map, the Danish Creek and the Big Pines trail come closer together at a steep incline. As I descended the mountain I found a section of rocks layed in a straight line to shore up a trail. This was where I connected to Big Pines trail. From here west the trail was overgrown and/or nearly obliterated. It was slow going to carefully deduce and pick the trail out of the brush but it was discernable, barely. There are no more streams to cross and therefore no easy water until you near the dam.

In sections approaching Blue Rock Ridge the trail winds alternately through forest on the north side of the mountain and out to clearings on the ridge lines or saddles. It would be very easy to lose the trail in these in/out sections. At this time most of the forest sections of trail are buried in 3 to 6 inches of leaves making them a little hard to see and a lot slippery. Fortunately MOST of the entries into the forest are marked by flaggings. For the few that aren't, if you look long enough you'll find the trail into the forest again. As another poster mentioned, if you somehow failed to find the trail you could just ascend/descend the ridge to the next clearing and forest section and eventually you'd find a flagging.

At Blue Rock you follow a path through the forest that eventually widens into Blue Rock Ridge Road, an ancient, overgrown "jeep trail". Some flaggings exist along this "road". Primarily you look for dozer cut roadsides and/or faint wheel treads still discernible through the brush (in the clearings). Proceeding down towards Los Padres Dam the road heads to a slight right and the "foot path" goes left around a tree. Bearing right, about 100 yards up the road another dozer cut road runs left and right with several flaggings in the trees. To the left, down the hill, this road connects to another road almost parallel to the one I was on. This parallel road goes not to the dam but farther down to Cachaugua road. I continued on up the same road I was on, out into a clearing and then down the other side of the ridge in a series of switchbacks.

At one point I could see the dam and water below. As the road winds down there is a road to the left that is pretty clearly defined and it takes you nearer the dam (the route I took). The other road also goes to the reservoir but a bit further south. The remainder of this road was clear with horse hooves and even some ATV tire tracks evident. Some parts were muddy as springs on the south side weep onto the road.

At the bottom the road ends at the Carmel River Trail with a fence post on the southwest corner and another post with the word TRAIL pointing south along the Carmel River Trail. I turned north. At this point the Carmel River Trail is a wide well groomed dirt road which takes you up and over the Los Padres Dam and eventually to the parking lot. The trip from the Skinner Ridge-VDC/Big Pines Trail junction to the Los Padres Dam took from about 8:15am to 3:00pm.
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby acrews on Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:06 am

Date Hiked: July 8, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

We parked at Los Padres Dam, and hiked to Pat Springs for the first day of a 3 day camping trip. It was my first time on this trail. The trail was surprisingly shaded: maybe 60% shade, given that it is a ridge trail, but it stays just to the North of the ridge and there are lots of trees on that side. However, the shady parts of the trail are thick with poison oak. The trail was mostly easy to find: when it stays near the ridge, it's fairly obvious where it should go, but it's almost impossible not to touch poison oak here or there. One time around Blue Ridge Rock, we lost the trail which must have gone to the North side of the ridge in the trees again, but we managed to pick it up again but just charging down the hill.
There is about 3000 feet elevation gain on this trail, and there is no water from the Dam until just before Big Pines Camp. We were very thirsty. You can hear Danish Creek at times in the valley, and eventually near the top we foraged 100Yards down the hill side for water. There was a small creek just up the hill, too (with a tasty rattlesnake). The trail through Big Pines Camp seemed obliterated. Someone had very nicely flagged a route through it, but between flags, we just picked whatever looked best. Much less poison oak here. Without GPS coordinates of Big Pines, we would not have known we were there. We crossed cut-off up to Ventana Double Cone trail, and as other reports said, the trail was totally obliterated. Again, we picked up water at Danish Creek, and charged up the hill until we hit Ventana Double Cone trail and Pat Springs (again, thick with growth but much less poison oak at this altitude). Pat Springs camp was like heaven. At least 3 excellent camp sites (one was hidden behind the one we stayed at).
So in the end, we hike from 11am to 7pm on Big Pines + cutoff--probably averaging 1mph due to 3000+ foot climb and trail conditions at the top. Quite an adventure!
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby Steve Davis on Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:17 am

Date Hiked: June 14, 2011
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Hiking in from Botchers Gap I was unable to find the junction of Skinner ridge / VDC trail and Big Pines trail. Continuing on to Pats Spring I did find the "cutoff" marked by a small stack of rocks with a single ribbon flagging. I followed (very light tread) the cutoff down to and across Danish Creek and then up about 50 years to a large dead fall. There was no evidence that anyone had circumnavigated the deadfall. I climbed another tree and could not pick out where the trail continued up the hill to Big Pines. Perhaps I lost the trail earlier?
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby jack_glendening on Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:48 am

This report only covers the northern-most 3/4 mile of Big Pines Trail, from its intersection with the VDC Trail down to its intersection of the "cutoff" trail to Pat Spring Camp.

In my last report I considered this section "impassible" due to my inability to find any path leading out from the intersection of the "cutoff" and Big Pines trails. However Paul Danielson and I recently came down that section from the opposite direction and found it followable due to some flagging, with some additional help from my GPS. So that section is now merely "difficult".


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Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby jack_glendening on Thu Oct 28, 2010 1:47 pm

Date Hiked: October 27, 2010
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

This late in the season I found the tread generally well defined, with yellow/red ribbons helping to ensure that one was on-track. My only difficulty was once missing a turnoff from the firebreak to the contouring trail. However, just above Big Pines Camp there is a junction, marked by a blackened pole wrapped with ribbons, with one trail (officially, according to the USFS, the VDC Trail - I've also heard this called "the cutoff") heading South and the official Big Pines Trail continuing West (past historic Spaghetti Camp), both ending up on the Skinner Ridge Trail. That location had much vegetation and tread was obscured. I found two different flaggings which both led to the "cutoff" trail, which once found was easy to follow. I could not find a tread for the Westward official Big Pines Trail in the surrounding open area, despite wandering back and forth over its official location using a GPS - perhaps it is better marked on the upper end, where it meets the Skinner Ridge Trail. There was a good flow in the creek above that junction. As reported previously, there is much poison oak on the trail.

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Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby Noble on Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:24 am

Date Hiked: September 20, 2010
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Though the trail was inundated with poison oak, the tread was distinctly evident from Los Padres Dam to Big Pines Campsite. The trail alternated between shady sections on the North side of the ridge and exposed bits passing through the firebreak. Transitions between these segments were clearly marked with red and yellow tape. At Big Pines Camp, the trail seemed to disappear in the severely burned pines at Danish Creek, just before climbing up to the Ventana Trail. There was no water source from the Los Padres Dam to Danish Creek, but the creek was running strongly, even this late in the season. Overall, the trail was easy to follow and offered wonderful views of the Danish Creek watershed and Carmel Valley.
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby justinj14 on Tue Jun 29, 2010 10:38 pm

Date Hiked: June 27, 2010
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked out and back from Los Padres to Big Pines Camp. KV's trail report below is still very accurate but with some areas of heavy overgrowth that require pushing through chest high brush along the ridge line and the initial descent towards Big Pines Camp. Contact with poison oak is unavoidable and there is no water until Pat Springs.
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby KV on Sun Apr 25, 2010 9:45 pm

Date Hiked: April 25, 2010
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Los Padres Dam to Big Pines

I have to call this trail "Passable," rather than "Clear," because there are simply too many sections (mostly in the firebreak) where a lush growth of grass has obscured the tread to the point that it cannot be called "well-defined." If more people used the trail this problem would solve itself, but there was no sign of anyone having been over the trail recently. The previous report was probably from the last person to pass this way. There are ribbons marking the trail's every entrance and exit from the firebreak, though, so no one should have any difficulty staying on route. There are also some deadfalls - all of which are easily climbed over or bypassed.

If you have problems with poison oak, this trail would be best avoided. Poison oak is crowding the trail and vigorously growing over the trail, pretty much all the way from the dam to the pines. Regardless of your level of vigilance and your degree of acrobatic ability, you will find it impossible to walk this trail without coming into contact with a good deal of poison oak. On the bright side, an immense diversity of blooming plants and singing birds are currently to be found along the route.
KV
 

Re: Big Pines Trail

Postby frijoles on Mon Apr 12, 2010 10:21 pm

Date Hiked: April 8, 2010
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

With my son (15) and dog we hiked from Los Padres Dam out to Big Pines Camp area one day and back the next. We left the dam parking lot at 8:30am and arrived at the Big Pines Camp area by 2pm. Trip back was shorter by 1hour. We opted for the shorter, steeper horse trail up from the reservoir to the ridge. It was a bit steep at the top but shady the whole way and not bad. Saw numerous red salamanders in the wheel tracks where wet, so watch your step. Weather was clear an cool and it had rained prior weekend so water was everywhere we read that it would be. But you will want to carry plenty on the way up to Big Pines Camp, especially if it promises to be warm. Ticks were an issue in the grassy areas along the ridgetop firebreak that Big Pines trail cris-crosses. I'd leave the dog home next time or bring him later in the season when ticks are not so plentiful. We must have picked 50 off of him during the hike (and almost as many on ourselves) and at least a dozen once we got home.

As expected, poison oak lined some of the trail, so expect contact at the knees and lower when on the single track. You won't be petting your dog much on this route either. Bring soap. Once into the national forest there were a few fallen trees across the trail, but easy to get around. Ribbons or cairns mark the trail well but worst case you could follow the firebreak and pick up the trail again. You may want to walk the firebreak up to the tops of some of the knolls or to save time, but the marked trail keeps you in the shade and keeps the elevation changes manageable.

Up at Big Pines Camp area (we must have stopped just short of it) the big pines are burned and mostly dead though still standing. Plenty of water in Danish Creek and some contributing creeks. Morning temp was 37 degrees F. Liked the trail and the views it offered, weather was ideal (cool and sunny).
Attachments
charpines.JPG
former big pines near Big Pines Camp area.
lupine.JPG
View east from big pines trail.
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