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Church Creek Trail

Re: Church Creek Trail

Postby Jim Ringland on Sun May 06, 2012 8:13 pm

Date Hiked: May 5, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Section: Tassajara Road to Church Creek Ranch Road

The trail is essentially clear from Tassajara Road north to Wildcat Camp. The biggest problem is a washout just south of camp where one has jump 3-4 feet down into a dry gully and then climb back out. On this first section, I met two folks from the Zen Center who told me that the section from Wind Caves to the Church Creek Ranch Road was pretty bad. They told me that two of their folks had gotten lost there in April. Read on. The route finding issues that others have written about here – and that Schaffer described in his 1987 book – are still here.

Wildcat camp has a fire ring, a stove, a nice bedsite, plus lot of big logs to sit on where one can listen to the multitudes of sounds the stream makes as it runs by. The only down check is that many of the trees overhead have burned.

Immediately north from Wildcat, the trail remains good, but there's more brush to push aside than south of camp. Then the trail hits its first grassy meadow. Here, as was to be the case for the rest of this segment, the trail was either faint or invisible in the grass. Early on, the grassy sections are small and one can find the trail again pretty easily when it ducks back into the chaparral. About a half mile out from Wildcat, there's a chaparral-covered saddle with sandstone rising on each side – is this the Wind Caves? – which gives a view ahead to some much larger meadows and the Church Creek Ranch area. The next half mile is OK but then the route finding gets harder. There are deadfalls in generally grassy sections where it is hard to find the trail on the far side. I got sufficiently off the trail at one point that I pulled out the GPS (loaded with Jack Glendening's map) to find it again – not something I expect to do much. There was one creek crossing / deadfall combination that was a real mess. About 1-1/4 miles out from Wildcat, there was a dry stream bed where the trail is reassuringly marked by ducks, but then it was back to the grass-and-chaparral mix. After about 1/4 miles of that, I came to a quite large grassy meadow rising to another saddle. There was no trail I could see. I just headed up. From the top I could see over to the next big meadow where the Church Creek Road was. From here, the trail is mostly in grass over open ground or in scattered trees. There is one stream basin to cross, with some steep descents along the way. Then the fun concludes with the last ascent to the road, including one short but ridiculously steep pitch. My GPS recorded only about a mile of walking from that last grassy saddle to the Road, but it took an hour – 40 minutes if walking and a 20 minute break in the beautiful grassy/oakey stream basin bottom. I pulled out my GPS for guidance several times – a reliance on technology that I found a little disquieting – but it would probably have been quite possible to treat the section (heading northbound) as a cross-country traverse and not take a whole lot longer. Widely spaced flags help in spots. GPS in hand, my overall experience hiking this section was closer to "Passable" than "Difficult", but absent that guidance, the latter would definitely apply.

I then zoomed up the Church Creek Ranch Road and down Tassajara Road to my car at China Camp. That last 4+ miles, with just under 2000' of climbing, took just about the same amount of time – 2-1/2 hours (including breaks) – as it took to get from Wildcat to the Church Creek Ranch Road.
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Re: Church Creek Trail

Postby Salty fly on Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:59 am

Date Hiked: March 3, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Church creek trail is in good shape from the four way with Carmel river trail and pine ridge trail, down to the ranch.From church ranch road, the trail becomes hard to find.not to far after church ranch road turns away from church creek there is an old burned 4x4 post with some hunters tape tied on it,we missed it the first time had to back track a little to find the trail.Once we were back on the trail the tread was faint to gone, it was hard to tell the trail from deer trails.The pink hunters tape lead the way. The tail was this condition all the way to wild cat camp. the trail improved some what from wild camp to Tassajara road.the trail was still fun, not to bad.This part of the trail was really ripped up by the fire,lots of dead falls but not that hard to get around.All in all it is still great country,if we dont use it we lose it.

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Re: Church Creek Trail. Tassajara rd to the Wind Caves

Postby Akaleek on Mon Feb 06, 2012 11:57 am

Date Hiked: February 4, 2012
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Parked on Tassajara road and walked a couple of miles down to the trailhead heading North to the Wind Caves. Within a few minutes I came across a cluster of deadfalls which I was able to scramble over after breaking off a few of the burned branches. The remainder of the trail was ok with a little encroaching brush in some places and a couple of spots where the tread was faint or washed out. This end of the trail doesn't appear to have had much use in recent months. Crossed 2 or 3 creeks that were flowing and a couple that were totally dry. A beautiful day to be out on the trail :D
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Re: Church Creek Trail

Postby trolleypup on Wed Dec 21, 2011 11:01 am

Date Hiked: December 19, 2011
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Section: Tassajara Road to Wind Caves

Generally in decent condition. One large dead pine on the trail south of Lime Point, large sycamore across the camp area at Wildcat Camp (missed the fire ring). Brush and tread issue increase towards Wind Caves but are not major.
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Re: Church Creek Trail

Postby Akaleek on Sat Nov 26, 2011 9:12 pm

Date Hiked: November 26, 2011
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Left China Camp later than expected. The plan was to explore some of the rock formations on the west side of Church Creek but I didn't fancy driving back down Tassajara rd in the dark. It's bad enough in the daytime. Anyway, headed down Church Creek trail from the Divide. Lots of encroaching brush early on, wishing I'd packed my machete. Looked like Church Creek was flowing somewhat. Trail was easy to follow. Turned around after about 10 mins and headed back to China Camp. Beautiful day to be outside. Planning to go back again soon with tent, sleeping bag... and machete 8-)

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Re: Church Creek Trail

Postby mikesplain on Sun Oct 23, 2011 5:27 pm

Date Hiked: October 9, 2011
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

section- Church Ranch Road to Church Creek Divide-
wide open and easily travelled,
almost "wilderness freeway" but for a few detours around small deadfall
& a bit of encroaching brush.
This stretch of trail is much sunnier post-Basin Complex- lots of pine mortality
(watch for widow-maker branches if it's windy!)
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Re: Church Creek Trail

Postby trolleypup on Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:06 am

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

Trail is in very good condition from the Tassajara Road to just short of Lime Point with brush removed and most tread issues addressed. From there to Wind Caves, tread is decent, brush is much reduced. All logs removed except for one low hanging stub just south of Lime Point.

From Wind Caves to the Church Ranch Road, the trail has been flagged and some deadfall has been removed.
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Re: Church Creek Trail

Postby Rob on Sun Feb 13, 2011 5:37 pm

Date Hiked: February 11, 2011
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked from Tassajara Road to Pine Ridge Trail and found conditions to be much the same as below. There was some blowdown near the beginning, some requiring a little scrambling. Just before Wildcat Camp there is a spot where a gully has washed out the trail, but it isn't a showstopper for hikers yet.

As mentioned below, the trail is faint in some of the grassy areas north of the Wind Caves and south of Church Ranch Road. Some flags and cairns were present amid the game trails and use trails. Be wary around there.

Early-season wildflowers were blooming in places -- shooting stars, bush poppy and paintbrush, among them.
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Re: Church Creek Trail

Postby jack_glendening on Fri Nov 19, 2010 9:37 am

PS: have now put a panoramic photo (but not 360 degrees, due to sun glint problems) of the rocks at the "wind caves" region of the southern Church Creek Trail on the web, two different sizes - second image is twice as large as first one: http://www.drjack.info/HIKES/PANORAMAS/ ... ersize.jpg and http://www.drjack.info/HIKES/PANORAMAS/ ... lfsize.jpg

For GPS'd route information please consult my on-line Ventana Trailmap http://www.ventanahiking.net/ventana_trailmap.html

Jack Glendening
Big Sur Trailmap: http://bigsurtrailmap.net
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Re: Church Creek Trail

Postby jack_glendening on Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:30 pm

Date Hiked: November 17, 2010
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Paul Danielson and I hiked the entire Church Creek Trail, wanting in particular to GPS the route since the USFS official track was known to be badly in error. Previous VWA posts had indicated that while the northern segment above Church Ranch road was in good shape, the southern segment was not. So we started there with loppers and saws and thought we might not have time to do the northern segment, but to our pleasant surprise found that someone has worked on the southern section such that it was in generally good shape with good tread (except for a few puzzlements which were quickly resolved with the help of occasional flagging) -- EXCEPT for the segment between the ranch road and the meadow 0.4 mi south of it.

That segment has a history of problems, e.g. Schaffer's 1987 remark that it is in "disarray". We did find a flagged path through that section, but at one point the flags and tread turns southwest and follows an indirect route at a place Schaffer's track went northeast. I have now replaced the USFS Church Creek Trail on my "on-line Ventana Trail Map" with a "correct" version - it includes short "spurs" showing the locations and directions where Schaffer's trail departs from the current tread/flags. I've also included a few explanatory waypoints at those locations in the associated GPX file which can be downloaded.

The other point of note is that south of the ranch road the trail crosses a very steep slope (130 ft of elevation at a 60% slope) which one must ascend/descend. A burnt wooden post by the roadside indicates the expected trail/road intersection and Schaffer's map depicts a long cross-slope track at that point. But many hikers, probably ascending from below where the road junction point cannot be identified, have simply scrambled somewhat directly up the slope in several different spots, so there is no definite tread and much disturbed soil - in addition, some pink flagging encourages this route. The route depicted on the on-line trailmap instead depicts a more gradual cross-slope track ala Schaffer, but still steep (35% slope), and we have flagged that route with green ribbon - it is to be hoped that this route will be followed by more people and in time a better tread will result. Switchbacks would be even better. This slope is the only portion of the trail that I would describe as difficult, especially with a large backpack.

The southern portion of this trail is very scenic, with interesting rock formations not normally found on Ventana trails, so we hope that this report will inspire any who were reluctant to hike this trail based on previous reports. We thank whoever is responsible for the work put into restoring the southern portion of this trail to a usable condition.

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