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Black Cone Trail

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby js_radford on Mon Jul 18, 2011 11:29 am

Date Hiked: July 10, 2011
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Betsy will post a full report soon, I expect. I just wanted to add a week-later update to hers saying that all deadfalls that I know of between Black Cone Camp and Strawberry Camp are cut away. Near as I recall, there are no deadfalls of any significance from PRT junction to Strawberry Valley.

I cleared the first 0.6 miles of trail up from Strawberry. It is quite clear and fun to walk, at least in this year of good water with fine weather and a fresh, cold seasonal stream next to about half of it. I cleared all deadfalls past that to BCC as well, along with associated brush near these deadfalls and in other areas.

There is still maybe a mile (off and on) of thick to bad brush between where I quit and where the recent VWA crew (ending July 4) cleared some beautiful sections. But even when one cannot see the way, the tread is underfoot and fairly readily felt even at worst. It's sticky Wart-leaf-brushy, though, in this warm weather.
Last edited by Betsy M on Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby Betsy M on Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:59 pm

Date Hiked: May 30, 2011
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

As noted in the previous post, the upper sections of the Black Cone Trail are in good shape, with some minor sections of encroaching brush. It is not difficult to push through this brush in the first 3 miles. Past White Cone spring, just before the 4-mile point, the brush starts to get more serious. This is the realm of the warty-leaf ceanothus. You will find that your clothes become coated with a sticky resin from the ceanothus leaves. It wasn't so bad in May, but as the weather gets warmer, the stickiness gets worse. Because of the brush, the best direction to hike this trail is downhill, north to south. Hiking up from Strawberry would really be a grind.

This year has been wet enough that there is still lots of water on this trail. Many years, there is no water at all, and hikers may be very disappointed to hike the entire 8.6 miles without encountering water, beyond a small seep near Black Cone Camp. We hiked a quarter-mile down from Mosquito Saddle and found water before Mosquito Springs Camp. In fact, the trail peters out after making a switchback, and we ended up hiking straight down to the stream to get water. There is a pine snag very close to the stream, and a large fallen pine across the stream, which we walked along to get down there. Mosquito Springs Camp itself is not currently located, and the logical place to camp is right next to the main trail, where there are a couple of spots large enough to accommodate a tent.

White Cone spring is flowing well. The southernmost of the two water sources has the best flow, and the easiest access to the water, which is pouring down a vertical face.

There was water a half-mile past White Cone spring at "gneiss wash" although there were odd-looking wood chips all over the rocky area where the water flows over the gneiss outcrop. It looked like a miniature beaver had been chewing up a log up above.

There was also plenty of water in the North Fork headwaters, as well as in a spring just past Black Cone Camp. Most likely there is water in Black Cone Camp itself, though we did not go down to check.

There are awesome views, looking back towards the "ventana."
And at Strawberry Camp, a signpost marks the start of the Black Cone Trail, with the sign lying on the ground next to the post.
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Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby jscholz on Thu Jun 02, 2011 5:56 pm

Date Hiked: May 29, 2011
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

The black cone trail ranged mostly between passable and clear from where we apparently started on it in the burned out area on what we now believe was the PIne Ridge Trail going through what we assume was formerly bear basin campground to where we came across the trail crew near Venturi Camp led by Betsy.

On the Black Cone Trail, a small portion of the growth was taller than me (6'2") rendering those sections possibly Difficult, but most growth on the trail my wife and I just walked through, and it was ankle or knee or waist deep. No matter the depth of the growth we could find the trail so it was certainly passable and not what I would rate as difficult or impassable as we just plowed through it like swimming through reeds. Except for some of the very tall stuff, the growth just gave way or was crushed as we hiked/plowed/pushed through it along the trail.

I also isagree with the last review that the entire trail is on a slide slope. There was certainly a good portion of it that had the wall to one side and drop off to the other and was narrow, but there are portions that go along flat areas and areas which are wide enough to be flat even if they were on the side of the ridge.

In comparison, I found the 6 miles we covered on the Carmel River trail was Difficult due to the Brushy Overgrowth and steepness of the trail. We hiked from Pine Valley to just before Hiding Camp and back to Pine Valley the day before we covered the Bear Basin/Pine RIdge/Divide/Black Cone plus a lot more.

Despite the growth and steepness, I found the dirt ground overall in Ventana Wildnerness to be much easier to hike on for miles at a time than say in the Eastern Sierras or the Angeles National Forest, where the trails are much rockier, looser and slippery.

I thought the trail crew we found all has done a nice job of turning and shoring up the dirt to widen the path and clearing out sections of the trail.

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby bjmcdani on Thu May 19, 2011 3:02 pm

Date Hiked: May 14, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

As the last commmentor noted the first 1/2 to 2/3 or the trail is in decent condition with encroaching brush around waist level. The last third or the trail is nearly impassable with encroaching brush and down trees. The encroaching brush covers the entire trail in sections and is above head level, and I am 6'4". The entire trail is on a side slope which increases the difficulty of hiking. There hasn't been any trail maintenance in what looks like a few years. If possible I would suggest using an alternate route.

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby Rob on Sun Feb 13, 2011 5:28 pm

Date Hiked: February 12, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

As per the reports below, the trail is in great shape initially. I continued on to the southern end and was pleasantly surprised by conditions on the first 2/3rds or so. The area around White Cone (peak 4719') looked like a lot of work had been done, both on tread and brush. I would rate this section Clear to Passable. There were sections of brush, but nothing sustained. The views were magnificent.

As the trail descended the west slopes of Black Cone, I encountered more and more brush. There were some large downed trees as I descended towards Strawberry. I did some sawing on some of the smaller stuff, but much remains to be done. This last part I would call difficult because of all the brush and branches to push through. It was an adventure :twisted:

I also found two items of gear in the brush on this last section. Email me with a description and I will do my best to get them back to you.
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Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby mikesplain on Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:12 pm

Date Hiked: January 16, 2011
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Section- Pine Ridge to Lunch Rock (~ upper 2 miles)
Betsy's report pretty much sums it up,
just wanted to add that this stretch is in great shape
& not to be missed if you're in the area-
some of the finest views in the backcountry,
including some sneak-peaks into the no-man's land of upper Tassajara Creek.
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Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby Betsy M on Tue Jan 18, 2011 8:21 pm

Date Hiked: January 17, 2011
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)
This report is for THE FIRST MILE AND A HALF ONLY. Remainder of the Black Cone Trail varies from Wilderness Freeway (about a mile near Black Cone Camp) to Difficult (the two miles after Black Cone Camp)

A VWA trailwork trip on January 15-17 accomplished a huge amount of work on the start of the Black Cone Trail. We enjoyed probably the best weather you could ask for, daytime temperatures in the 70s, a steady breeze to keep us cool, and beautiful sunsets both nights, which were spent at Pine Ridge Camp.
Most of our crew Sunday morning at Pine Ridge Camp before starting work.

Nine volunteers cleared 1200 feet of the Black Cone Trail, removed a fire ring from a sloping site above Pine Ridge Camp, and hauled out one small bag of trash from Pine Ridge Camp.
Lynnelle has the tee shirt from the Cone Peak Trails Project, and the brushing skills to match.
Frank with Eric Brazil pose in front of the eastern slope of South Ventana Cone

On the hike in, we cleared 5 trees from the Pine Ridge Trail, including the huge splintered pine just before Divide Camp, and a dead oak that has been obstructing the trail near the Pine Ridge Camp trail for about a year. This brush clearing makes the first mile and a half, from the trailhead at Pine Ridge down to “lunch rock,” essentially clear. After our trip in May, 2010, when we battled cold rain and near-freezing temperatures, this trip with many VWA Trail Crew veterans gave us a chance to focus our effort on the especially difficult sections on the upper part of the trail. This section is now clear.
Dan, Mike, and Pepper take a break at Lunch Rock.
This section was especially difficult, with warty-leaf ceanothus growing together in the center of the trail.
One of the pleasures of trailwork is walking back to camp on the section you have cleared.
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Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby Betsy M on Sun May 16, 2010 7:00 pm

A VWA trail crew worked on the Black Cone Trail and made improvements in several areas, though unfortunately miles of brush remain. We focused on removing the dead wood that has blocked or impeded travel in many locations, including the small branches with poky sharp ends, and fallen logs up to 10 inches in diameter. In many areas we lopped back the brush enough to make it much more easily passable, though this trail is not by any means a wilderness freeway. We worked extensively to clear the section for about a half-mile around White Cone Springs, where blackberry sprawl has regularly covered the tread and made passage difficult.
may black cone 038.jpg
We did not do any work on the fallen trees at the south end of the trail, on the final section that is an old dozer cut, but these trees are easily negotiated by hikers.

After several trail crew members cleared out the access trail to Black Cone Camp, we re-flagged the start of this Camp trail and made it more obvious. There is currently water at Black Cone Camp, both in the small drainage that flows down from the main trail above, and at a spring located on the north slope above this small drainage. The hike down to Black Cone Camp is long and winding, with lots of warty-leaf ceanothus that will only become more resinous as the summer progresses. But if you decide to hike down to the Camp, you will find a large flat area with adequate space for several tents. The water is at the north side of the Camp, across a fallen tree and past some mint and other water-loving greenery. View of Black Cone from above the Camp:

We hiked downhill, from north to south, which is really the only way you want to do this trail, due to the difficulty of pushing through the brush. We found water in a couple of spots, starting with White Cone Spring at almost the 4-mile mark, at Black Cone Camp (just before 6 miles), and at the headwaters of the North Fork at about 6.5 miles. All distances are measured from the trailhead on the Pine Ridge Trail. There are fine views of the Ventana,
the North Fork of the Big Sur drainage, and you can see all the way to the ocean from many places.

The Black Cone trailhead at Strawberry Camp has a sign, with the Black Cone Trail continuing up the valley directly behind the sign, along the left side of the stream. Note: for those looking for the South Fork Trail, this is not it. The South Fork Trail continues to the left at Strawberry Camp, up a small rise behind the Camp, to enter the South Fork Drainage. It is reported to be impassable.
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Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby sugg on Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:16 pm

Date Hiked: April 17, 2010
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

This was a tough trail. I agree with the previous review on all accounts. I traveled this trail from Pine Ridge down to Marble Peak Trail at Strawberry Camp - all generally downhill. The photos in the previous review indicate the intersection with Pine Ridge. There are still some flags there - very helpful. I tried to scrounge some long sticks together to form the outline of a crude "chute" which hopefully helps indicate the beginning of the trail. I came across several little water drainings - one where I filtered - but I think these would dry up as the dryer season approaches. This trail has awesome views to the west and south west. Most of the brush on this trail is green, alive.... so when you push on it, it gives way. I thought everything was relatively smooth up 'till Ventruri Camp - only minor amounts of brush, not too tough. Venturi is not much of a "camp" - it's like a little clearing in the bushes... there's no trail heading down that way, stay left to keep progressing on Black Cone. After Venturi Camp, the trail has long lengths of clear path - runnable pace - and then, dread, long lengths of gnarly brush. I was wearing my Tilley hat, Oakley glasses, long fingered mountain bike gloves, long sleeves and long legs.... if you try to keep you momentum up, you'll want long fingered gloves. After awhile, it's almost like swimming! - The trail is there and clear, it's just that this flimsy brush pushes in. I didn't notice Black Cone Camp, but as the trail starts to drop down into Strawberry Camp, the brush backs off big time. The wild grass is high and there's some crashed trees, but the trail is followable. It's a relief to get away from that brush. Also, you can see the previous trailwork missions in the deep brush from all the old sawed off stumps, but I believe this stuff grows quickly. This is a bush type trail, no trees, except the last mile down into the canyon. If the temps are high and the season is further along, you should pack a lot of water. Here's some ref. pics, moving from Pine Ridge to Marble Peak, in sequential order..... Basically, tough trail because of the brush, but best views all day long.
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Black Cone Trail Brushy and Deteriorating

Postby Betsy M on Tue Jan 12, 2010 1:29 am

Date Hiked: December 29, 2009
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

The Black Cone Trail burned only at the trailhead on Pine Ridge and over a two-mile section between "lunch rock" and "Venturi Camp." This is in the upper section of the trail, about a mile and a half south of the trailhead on Pine Ridge.
Pine Ridge itself burned almost completely. You really have trouble even finding the Black Cone Trailhead. This first photo is taken at the junction of the Pine Ridge Trail, Black Cone Trail, and Bear Basin Trail, where several burned pine snags serve as landmarks. The Black Cone Trail is not visible, but it starts on the left side of the pine on the left.
BCT North End.JPG

This photo is taken from the same junction on the Pine Ridge Trail, looking down the Black Cone Trail. A large burned pine, on the left side of the photo, lies alongside the trail. You can walk either to the right or the left of this tree. From here on, the route is fairly clear. In the fist two miles, it is brushy but not overwhelmingly so.
Yerba Santa is sprouting profusely in the trail in the section which burned.
BCT Yerba Santa in Tread.JPG
BCT Burned Section.JPG
BCT Burned Section.JPG (32.31 KiB) Viewed 4156 times
After the burned section, brush which began growing after the 1999 Kirk Complex Fire is really becoming an obstacle.Lots of trees and branches have fallen in the trail, making progress slow. If you plan to hike the Black Cone, taking it from Pine Ridge to Strawberry, the downhill direction, would make it a bit easier to navigate the thickets of brush.
None of the springs around White Cone have water, and Black Cone Camp is also dry. The only water on the entire trail is the seep above Black Cone Camp, at the base of a Woodwardia fern.
BCT looking to big sur drainage.JPG
BCT looking to big sur drainage.JPG (22.46 KiB) Viewed 4156 times
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