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Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Postby jack_glendening on Tue Nov 14, 2017 10:11 pm

Date Hiked: November 12, 2017
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Sadly, the lower half of Rattlesnake Creek Trail, below Rattlesnake Camp, must now be rated impassable. This venerable trail was one of the oldest in the Ventana wilderness, having appeared on a 1921 quadrangle when few Ventana trails existed. The upper section of Rattlesnake Creek Trail had been "lost" since the 2008 Basin Complex fire - but the lower trail had still been "passable".

I had hoped that conditions now would be similar to what they were after the 2008 fire. Back then there was still tread which could be followed, the connections just needing to be found. But now there is very little tread to be followed - previous knowledge of the route or a GPS track is required to follow the path. Yet it's not worth following since there is just as much, if not more, brush and downfall there as elsewhere. If wanting to visit Rattlesnake Camp, I suggest you bushwhack.

For more details, see blog post: http://blog.bigsurtrailmap.net/bushwhac ... eek-trail/

Jack
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Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Postby RSIBryce on Mon Sep 25, 2017 6:25 pm

Date Hiked: August 22, 2017
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I have recently been out conducting B.A.E.R. Trail Surveys in the Soberanes Burn Area with Francisco "Franco" Guzman - assessing the trail conditions to help inform the forest re-opening and get an idea of what's out there after the burn and big rains this past winter. We began at the Los Padres Dam and ventured toward Danish Creek with the goal of surveying Rattlesnake Creek Trail to the camp, and additionally from the camp to Little Pines at the Ventana Double Cone Trail, a historic route that was declared a dead-end at Rattlesnake Camp way back in 1991, according to Monterey County Place Names. The idea being of course that the fire may have made this lost/historic trail more passable. As probably mentioned in other postings, this route was important in the mule packing days when the Ventana Double Cone Lookout was in service. Please note that my trail condition rating is based on the route to Rattlesnake Camp, the route to the VDC remains impassable, as the rest of my report will tell.

The section from Danish Creek to Rattlesnake Camp was quite miserable, especially once you leave Danish creek and begin climbing the ridge between Rattlesnake and Danish creeks. As one might expect it was overgrown considerably in many areas, and the tread was very difficult to follow. The metal McCracken trail markers are still intact as you make your ascent. The fire did some damage in this area and the dry ravel, as they call it, is considerable. Lots of downed trees to navigate and tremendous, thick growth of chaparral along the top of the little ridge in addition to the regrowth from the burned Madrones, which are numerous in this area.

Smashing through some of the thicker sections was quite a challenge, and a few times we were forced to go around them completely - the actual trail follows the ridge top but its become so overgrown its almost not possible anymore. I recall being able to crawl through some of the sections back in January of 2013, however it appeared thicker and more menacing than ever. Going down the side of the ridge a ways and around was feasible, but not without some teeth gnashing. Sometime around noon it dawned on me that August might possibly be the worst time to hike this trail - the heat and flies were almost unbearable, but were to be expected. We made it to Rattlesnake Camp in one piece but rather tired, and were glad to see that the old table still stands under the large live oaks and their cool shade. The register was in poor shape, the rains had really done a number on the notebook. I was pretty beat and did not look it over to finely - though I doubt it has seen much action since Jack Glendening made the hike in 2015. The creek (as most all creeks in this year of the great rains) was running beautifully, and had enough water to take a little cool down soak in the small pools. We took a long lunch break before continuing our journey toward the VDC, dreading what might await.

We followed the tread from Rattlesnake Camp for nearly an hour before it became too difficult and exhausting to go further. It was clear that the fire had done nothing to open the trail, but perhaps make it harder. Of the 1.9 miles from Rattlesnake Camp to Little Pines, roughly half follows the creek - as we found later, the fire tends not to burn as hot in the drainages, leaving a lot of dead and downed wood in addition to the regrowth. The only thing to do was climb the hillsides, which had been cleared of brush by the fire, but were steep and daunting, and also very hot in the afternoon sun. We managed to get to the ridge to the north and travelled westward toward the VDC as far as we could, but found sections that were unburned and very brushy, making travel difficult. Eventually night was approaching and we opted to make camp on a flat on the ridge in a little clearing. Another mile or so remained for our goal of Little Pines and we opted to try again in the morning. We had just enough water to hold us over until an early morning go of it when the sun rose.
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Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Postby jack_glendening on Sat Nov 14, 2015 3:24 am

Date Hiked: November 13, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Perhaps you read the last trail report and thought that the trail from Danish Creek to Rattlesnake Camp was impassable. We DIDN'T think that, so three of us (myself, Gene Anderson, and Jesse Cude in photo below) headed out to Rattlesnake Camp. All three returned. :D

For the 1.8 miles, going out took us 4 hours (0.45 mph) and return took 2.3 hours (0.8 mph), doing some lopping and flagging along the way. While not impassable, it IS difficult - a whole body sport - as the above times attest. The metal "McCracken markers" helped guide us, but we had to do much route searching and our GPS with accurate trail route was very helpful.

However, the trail _above_ Rattlesnake Camp must be considered impassable.

In 2013, Rattlesnake Camp was visited by 5 people, including my last visit and Bryce Winter for a VWA survey and notably by a father and son who finally made it on their _fourth_ attempt! In 2014 the camp was visited by 2 people, This year no one had visited, until our hike. So while not quite a lost camp, Rattlesnake Camp is on its way to becoming one. Quoting from the Sierra Club Trail Guide:
"By some miracle, Rattlesnake Camp and its immediate environs escaped the fire devastation of 1977. So it is one of the few areas that still give the sense of virgin forest, with handsome mature trees. H.J. McCracken, the grand old hiker who died later in Anderson Canyon, first reopened the trail to Rattlesnake Camp over 20 years ago [circa 1965 - jwg] and nailed the markers to the trees. The many friends who loved and admired him can think of peaceful, forgotten Rattlesnake Camp as his permanent memorial."

Jack Glendening

PS: water was flowing well at Rattlesnake Camp but Danish Creek was bone dry at the lower end of Rattlesnake Creek Trail (though likely it does have flowing water elsewhere along its route).
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Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Postby Bobby on Mon Oct 27, 2014 9:47 am

Date Hiked: October 24, 2014
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Maybe you've read some of the other trail reviews and thought they were written by sissies. Maybe you think your a real woodsman, and with map and compass this trail will pose no serious problem.

That's what we thought. Back when there were six of us...
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Rattlesnake Trail from Danish Creek to Rattlesnake Camp

Postby Paul David Tuff on Mon Apr 14, 2014 1:09 pm

Date Hiked: April 11, 2014
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Since my last day hike here from Los Padres Dam, the trail is marginally better in places, much worse in others. New and flourishing growth after the last fire, as well as minimal trail maintenance, guarantee this will remain a very difficult and underutilized route. The trail is easy to follow in places, but there are regions of dense growth and downed trees through which the trail used to pass that hikers avoid by hiking around them, resulting in various use trails. There are many more downed trees of varying sizes across the trail now (many that were burned in the last fire), but the ceanothus has grown tall enough in places to make it easier to push (and see) through where it grows on both sides of the trail (on this hike I moved through these areas in a half crouch, not a full crouch like last time). The vines are getting bigger and higher, too, so getting over/through them, and seeing the trail under them, is commensurately more difficult. Although getting to Rattlesnake Camp is a challenge, it's a lovely, peaceful, and quiet place that, as several editions of the Ventana Trail Guide state, "still give the sense of virgin forest, with handsome mature [and big!] trees."
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Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Postby Gotsu on Sun Feb 23, 2014 6:47 pm

Date Hiked: February 22, 2014
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Trail mostly walkable with significant overgrown patches of poison ivy and tall weeds. Sage and other plant branches sticking out on eye level is frequent. After decending into Danish creek camp meadow the trail tread disappeared. Some sign of trail to the right covered mostly by dead leaves and large amount of deer poops. Continued on showed barely visible yet tractable trail. A section of class 2 climb was necessary to negotiate before trail disappeared right before the creek crossing. Vines were covering the foresight and does not seem friendly to cross. An adventurous trekking to rattlesnake camp to base and summit double cone the next day therefore abandoned. It was late in the afternoon and the only viable campsite was only Danish camp. A trace back about 1/4 mile turned out to be easy but still omnipresence of overreaching poison ivy plants. However, it was later discovered that what were often detected as small spiders by an insect expert-less were ticks. Theses ticks were actually from the overgrown weeds sticking out on trail all the way from the dam to campsite.

It was not until 5am that ticking crawl through the arm freaked me off the tent. It was then time to pack and get out as soon as possible from already a failed mission to VDC. A keen alert of ticks from every moment of brushing through the weed created some nightmarish sight of tiny black dots under headlamp. A constant brushing off pants and sleeves all the way to the dam was my last time visiting this place. Not to mention that I was determined to give up backpacking with unsleepful nights. This experience puts nails to the coffin. Lucky it was only a few miles.
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Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Postby jack_glendening on Tue Nov 12, 2013 11:59 am

Date Hiked: November 10, 2013
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

The section from Little Pines Spring up to the VDC Trail is now completely impassable (the worst bushwacking I've ever experienced) with interlocking branches making progress slow and energy consuming. Ascending from Little Pines Spring (I bushwhacked into the spring from a different direction), after making only 375 feet in 25 minutes I moved over to the stream gully where I found less brush and faster progress. Total time was 50 minutes (and a lot of energy) to go 0.18 mile. No water was found at Little Pines Spring.
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Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Postby Rainer on Sun Feb 17, 2013 3:42 pm

Date Hiked: February 17, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Los Padres Dam to Rattlesnake Camp:
Doable with some determination. Be prepared to duck your head and
push through dense brush. I reached Rattlesnake Camp about 3 hours
after setting out from the parking lot at the dam.

Beyond Rattlesnake Camp:
I went on another hour, turning back about 1/2 mile from the camp.
The trail is completely obliterated in those sections where it is
most needed. While an occasional blue or pink flag indicates that
a trail had been there, the brush gives no such indication.
As I don't easily give up, I can fairly say that this is impassable.
Rainer
 

Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Postby RSIBryce on Tue Jan 22, 2013 1:57 pm

Date Hiked: January 17, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Section: from Danish Creek Camp to Rattlesnake Camp

I was out here this trip to continue the Rec-Site-Inventory project I've been fortunate to be helping with. Having hiked into Danish Creek the previous day where I made camp, I opted to leave my backpack behind and day hike to Rattlesnake, having heard the trail might be tough. Indeed it was! The initial start from Danish Creek can be a little tricky if you don't take a careful look at your map, as the faint tread leads you across Danish creek at the confluence with Rattlesnake and seems to continue up into the Rattlesnake watershed. However, this is not the actual trail, and you want to continue to the right along what is Danish Creek. You'll know your on the right path when you come across an old homestead site; lots of metal roofing and other rusted out whatnots. Crossing the creek, The trail then follows steeply up to the ridge between these two creeks, following metal trail markers nailed to the trees. The markers lead you true and its best to follow them, especially since all sort of animal trails and probably human too meander and criss cross you off course. There's also some flagging at various points to keep your eye out for. The further up the ridge the brushier it gets and as long as you take your time looking for the markers and stay true to the tread you'll be alright. This trail is quite difficult, however, and there was a few times where I got off course and found myself in a sea of chaparral walled in on all sides. Either way expect to be doing quite a bit of bushwhacking following the trail itself. It seems the growth really took off after the fire in 2008 and has gotten a little out of hand.

You'll notice on the previous post Jack Glendening hiked this trail recently and has made this a special project of his given the historical nature of this old route to the Ventana Double Cone. My hat is off to you sir. If you make it to Rattlesnake camp, be sure to sign the camp register and claim your fame, not too many people have made it there since Jack put the register there in 2010. The hike out was easier, as is often the case, and I didn't loose the trail like the first time. To continue on up to the VDC from Rattlesnake would be a courageous act, a sea of bramble awaits and a lot more brush.
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Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Postby jack_glendening on Mon Jan 07, 2013 1:32 am

A Brief History of Rattlesnake Creek Trail

Rattlesnake Creek Trail has a long history, having been one of the earliest Ventana trails. The 1924 Santa Barbara National Forest map [ http://bigsurtrailmap.net/MAPS/HISTORIC ... p-1924.jpg ] shows it connecting with Devils Peak and the Little Sur drainage prior to the existence of the current Danish Creek Trail, Big Pines Trail, Ventana Double Cone Trail, Puerto Suelo Trail, and even the Carmel River Trail. It is also shown on the 1921 Jamesburg Quadrangle [ http://bigsurtrailmap.net/MAPS/HISTORIC ... ersize.jpg ] essentially as it exists now, except at its western end where it headed NW from Little Pines Spring to connect to what is now the Ventana Double Cone (VDC) Trail, aka Ventana Trail. Currently (2013) a signpost still marks its original intersection with the VDC Trail but the Rattlesnake Creek Trail sign has been removed, though a bolt from it remains (see photo below). This was the route initially used to support construction and resupply of the VDC lookout tower and trail, via mule train (the later resupply route was via Bottchers Gap).

At some later time its uppermost end was rerouted, probably to make the VDC ascent more direct, to head SW from Little Pines Spring to intersect the VDC Trail. The original (black) and current (green) routes are depicted on the on-line Big Sur Trailmap [ http://bigsurtrailmap.net ].

"Little Pines Camp" used to exist along the trail about 150 feet below Little Pines Spring (not along the VDC Trail, as shown on some maps) - a basin up in a tree marks that location, near a tree blaze [at N36.35502,W121.72225 - see photo below]. However, fires led to erosion which filled its flat area after which its USFS icemaker stove were relocated to a large flat area 1/8 mile below Little Pines Spring, 50 ft south of the trail [at N36.35550,W121.72075]. But a huge pine (visible in Google Earth) later fell into that area, largely covering it.

Metal markers along the trail were placed by H.J. McCracken, who reopened the trail circa 1965. The markers can be found all the way up to Little Pines Camp, though sparser at the higher elevations, but to date none have been found above there so his route may have followed either the original or the current route. The metal signs found at the eastern trailhead near Danish Creek and at Rattlesnake Camp itself were placed circa 1990 (see photos below).

Jack Glendening
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RattlesnakeCampSign.jpg
Rattlesnake Camp sign
RattlesnakeCamp.jpg
Rattlesnake Camp - Rattlesnake Creek in background
RattlesnakeCamp_TrailheadSign.jpg
Rattlesnake Creek Trail - eastern trailhead sign
RattlesnakeCreekTrail_HistoricTrailheadSign.jpg
Rattlesnake Creek Trail - historic western trailhead sign
note bolt remaining from removed trail sign
LittlePinesCamp_VDCbackpack.sixthsize.jpg
Little Pines Camp - note basin up in tree
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