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Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Postby jack_glendening on Wed Oct 06, 2010 8:01 pm

Thanks to the trail knowledge of Jan Doelman, gained in his previous hikes, the Rattlesnake Creek Trail is now marked from Rattlesnake Camp up to the Ventana Double Cone Trail! Aiding in brushing the route from the base of the Rattlesnake Creek Trail were Rami Shihadeh, Paul Danielson, and Jack Glendening. Along the way the correct locations of Little Pines Spring and the now destroyed Little Pines Camp were noted. Those locations and a quick-and-dirty trail route (replacing the USFS official trail data, which ended 1/2 mile below the VDC Trail - when I have more time I will fine-tune my quick-and-dirty route) are now displayed in the on-line Ventana Trail Map at

http://www.drjack.info/ventana_trailmap.html

The condition of the trail is passable to difficult below Rattlesnake Camp, the tread often disappearing or being obscured by multiple treads, but is now marked by pink (and some blue) ribbons in addition to the old metal markers on trees (nailed by H.J. McCracken when he re-opened the trail in the 1960s). Much of the along-trail brush has been removed.

Above Rattlesnake Camp the trail is definitely difficult. The first 1.5 miles is brushy, mostly through fields of post-fire ceanothus. A narrow path has been cleared but with much winding back and forth, requiring attention to the blue and pink ribbons. Taking a large pack through this route would be difficult. The upper 0.5 mile is less brushy but has little tread for guidance, hence also relies on ribbons and metal markers.

A good supply of water was found at the Little Pines Spring. If needed, those following the VDC Trail can expect to get water there by following ribbons down 1/4 mile (200 vertical feet) to the spring.

For me it was gratifying to finally get up to the VDC Trail via the
Rattlesnake Creek Trail, having previously made two hikes attempting
but not succeeding.

The Rattlesnake Creek Trail predated the VDC Trail and the Big Pines Trail - based on a 1924 map, it originally went towards Devils Peak and ended near the North Fork of the Little Sur River. It was the first East-West passage through the Ventana mountains north of the Pine Ridge Trail. It later became the original route used to supply the VDC summit fire tower when the VDC Trail was created.

The ceanothus above Rattlesnake Camp will get larger and more difficult with time, so given the relatively small usage of this trail the current conditions may be the best that will be experienced for some time. Anyone who has thought about ascending to the VDC summit via the "historical" route should consider doing so now when conditions are propitious!

Historical Note: based on a 1939 map, the original post-VDC Trail route above Little Pines Spring route followed the historical track of the Rattlesnake Creek Trail by heading N-NW around the Little Pines to join the VDC Trail. Possibly to shorten the supply route to the VDC tower, that section was apparently re-routed to more directly connect to the VDC Trail, along the currently marked SW route (at the top of which is an old downed sign along the VDC Trail, marking that location as the top of the Rattlesnake Creek Trail). We did not find any metal markers above the spring, so it is possible that McCracken's route followed the 1939 route instead of the current route.

Jack Glendening
Big Sur Trailmap: http://bigsurtrailmap.net
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Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Postby jack_glendening on Sat May 22, 2010 11:34 am

Date Hiked: May 21, 2010
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Trail up to Rattlesnake Camp per previous post. Beyond camp, trail increasingly difficult to follow due to vegetative growth and lack of markers/tread. Went 0.75 miles beyond camp before running out of time and turning back. Last marker found 0.35 miles above camp and last cut branch at 0.5 miles. Final 0.25 mile segment was essentially bushwhacking along Forest Service trail route which had been very accurate from trail start to last markers/cuts and so should be accurate for entire length - but could not find any any markers, cut branches, or tread for last 0.25 mile (despite wide search around final hike point) so must be considered impassible above Rattlesnake Camp.
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Danish Creek to Rattlesnake Camp

Postby Paul David Tuff on Sun Nov 15, 2009 11:41 pm

Date Hiked: November 14, 2009
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

The trail from Danish Creek to Rattlesnake Camp is littered with scores of downed trees and branches, crowded by encroaching undergrowth and fire-warped chaparral, sometimes invisible due to lack of use and a layer of fall leaves, and in some places buried under one or more feet of vines. Never having hiked this trail before, I never would have made it to Rattlesnake Camp without the metal markers, which always appeared just when the trail seemed to disappear. The camp escaped unscathed from the recent fire, although everything on some surrounding hillsides was burned to the ground. Although it looks as if the fire swept through the area immediately around the camp, hardly anything burned. The large oaks and madrones offer pleasant shade, the picnic table is still intact (and nearly free of carvings), and the creek-side environs are quite lovely and peaceful. Thanks to whoever cut downed trees and brush on the trail up Danish Creek from Danish Camp. Sadly, both cabins on the creek have burned since my last visit, and the trail from the downstream cabin up to the Big Pines trail is pretty much abandoned. If anyone who knows the trail wouldn't mind company when attempting either a descent to Rattlesnake Camp from VDC trail or an ascent from Rattlesnake Camp, let me know since I've never been on that part of the trail and would love to see it. This is a perfect time of year for this area.
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Trail Conditions History 1999-2008

Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 8:57 am

Date Hiked: January 13, 2008
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers - Stevenson Wilderness Expedition
Survey date: 13-JANUARY-2008
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Stevenson Wilderness Expedition leaders took a training trip down the Rattlesnake Trail on January 13th with clippers and hand saws. We used both but did not need to do that much to open up a few brushy spots and remove a few low-hanging branches. The trail progresses through several ups and downs, as detailed in earlier posts, but is mostly easy to find due to the tin markers. Rattlesnake Camp must not be used very often because it has one of the more pristine back-country tables to complement a good deal of flat land. Once down at Danish Creek, the route down to Danish Creek Camp involved crossing the stream twice and navigating dense poison oak, but is otherwise uneventful.

This trail provides a good route OUT of the Wilderness, but should be undertaken up INTO the back country by hikers prepared for a steep and wandering trail that is not marked on most maps.
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Conditions reported by: Kimball Robinson
Survey date: 20-JUNE-2007
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Several entries here have covered the essentials of this trail, so I will address only one point in this report: how to find the beginning of the trail from the Danish Creek Campsite. The name "Rattlesnake Creek Trail" implies that it follows Rattlesnake Creek, and so it does at the upper end. But at the lower end it begins on the west side of Rattlesnake Ridge, while Rattlesnake Creek debouches into Danish Creek on the east side of the ridge. Obvious signs indicate that lots of people have tried to go up Rattlesnake Creek from the lower end, but I suspect that the only thing that lies that way is the road to Brigadoon.

The key to finding the real trail is to go westward along the north shore of Danish Creek about 0.4 miles from Danish Creek Camp. This involves some descending into the creek bed - not a problem in this dry year, but possibly a showstopper in a wetter season - until you reach the abandoned wreck of a cabin. Turn south and cross Danish Creek here, and you will notice that you are in a broad meadow lying along the west side of the ridge. Light tread is visible at this time showing where to go, and some helpful soul also has put up a stack of stones as a trail marker. In a short distance you come to a tree that has a much corroded metal sign affixed with "Rattlesnake Camp" and an arrow written on it by drilling holes through it. The age of this sign alone is enough to show that this is indeed the original trail that has been re-marked now with new tin markers. Just beyond this is a tree with the first of the new markers that I was able to notice. The tree with the old metal sign is located at UTM NAD27 10 S 617778 4026170. From this point on the trail is well marked with the tin blazes, but the initial climb up Rattlesnake Ridge is about 800 feet of elevation gain in quite strenuous going.

Downhill travelers from the Ventana Double Cone Trail need only go to Danish Creek from the bottom of the trail and turn right to reach Danish Creek Camp, but those going uphill may easily spend a lot of time and effort trying to find the trail. A nice project might be to complete the tin blaze trail from the old tree marker to Danish Creek Campsite.
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Conditions reported by: Adam Wachtel
Survey date: 14-MARCH-2007
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Section: Ventana Trail to 1 mile east - Clear

The junction of this trail and the Ventana Trail is located at Little Pines Camp (a mere flat area) and marked by a standing 4x4 post and a log with "Rattlesnake Trail" etched onto it.

The trail is in amazingly good shape. We went about a mile down to a nicely flowing water source about a foot deep. There was also a muddy creeklet about 1/4 mile down. The trail was clear and well marked. But, the trail up to Little Pines requires a very steep slog.
===========
Conditions reported by: Rami
Survey date: ?October?-2006
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

A recent trip revealed that some good samaritans have substantially cleared the trail and reworked the footbed in critical areas between Rattlesnake Camp and VDC Trail. Thankfully, much of the old flagging that blemished this portion of the trail has been removed. However, the original tin tree markings are still present. Most importantly, the upper portion from Rattlesnake Camp to Little Pines Camp through to the VDC Trail is clear of brush and relatively easy to follow for the first time in many years. There is still a little brush and faint tread to contend with between Danish Camp and Rattlesnake Camp. Happy trails.....
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Conditions reported by: Rami
Survey date: 13-AUGUST-2006
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Sadly, this gem of a trail is virtually nonexistant. The trail from Ventana Double Cone Trail down to Rattlesnake Camp is difficult to discern. There is no tread, very few trail markers, and plenty of deadfalls and brush throughout. Scattered remnants of old flagging are helpful but difficult to follow. I highly recommend this trail to experienced Ventana bushwackers who don't mind getting lost in the thick of it.
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Conditions reported by: J. Doelman
Survey date: 21-December-2004
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

The trail was in a worse-than-expected condition. It was difficult to follow from the Ventana Double Cone Trail to the Little Pines Camp post. After that point, for the next 0.5 mile the trail was extremely difficult to follow, even though I have been on this trail many times.
===========
Conditions reported by: R.Milby, J.Tsai, M.Ward
Survey date: 16-APRIL-2004
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Section: Danish Creek Trail to Ventana Double Cone Trail - Difficult

The Junction of Danish Creek Trail at the Big Pines Trail is clearly marked. We descended to Danish Creek and arrived at the unmarked camp - we were covered with ticks. The camp was in good condition with a fire-ring and grate. We followed the trail west, and crossed Danish Creek at the Rattlesnake Creek Junction. The trail we followed led us up Rattlesnake Creek; we should have gone west (we lost the true trail) and recrossed Danish Creek, as Schaffer described the route. Realizing we had lost the trail, and were about 400' up Rattlesnake creek, we climbed west up the ridge to re-join the trail. The Ventana Wilderness Map - U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service - wrongly shows Rattlesnake camp up on the ridge. (ED. note: another example of MAPS LIE) The trail descends to the creek, and Rattle Snake Camp is soon found on the creek. It was a wonderful spot; burbling creek, soft ground, no bugs, table and a fire ring with a grate. We were 6 hours on the trail to reach this point, about 4.5 mils from the Los Padres Damn Parking lot. I have the camp at UTM NAD27 10S,616598mE,4024543mN

In the morning we started up the recently trimmed trail toward Little Pines. The trail basically followed Rattlesnake Creek most of the way. There were aluminum tags in trees, cut branches, and, at the upper end, red and yellow plastic tags hanging from trees. Initially it was in moderately good condition, but we soon reached a section that had not been trimmed back, crossed the creek twice, and soon after encountered deadfalls, trail sections that went nowhere, and heavy underbrush. This piece was steep and difficult. We came upon what appeared to be the abandoned Little Pines Camp, but we are not certain, because all of the maps we have seen show Little Pines camp next to the Ventana Trail on the ridge! This camp was about 1/4 mile from the ridge, as the crow flies. It was overgrown and contained a signpost, but no sign, a stove, no water (could hear running water to the southeast?) and no good places to sleep. The trail was more obvious here, and after about .5 miles we came to the Ventana Trail Junction at Little Pines, 3 hours from Rattlesnake Camp, with only brief rests. The upper junction is well marked, as described here by J. Zimmerman 5/17/2003
===========
Conditions reported by: jdoelman
Survey date: 15-MARCH-2004
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Section: Danish Creek to Double Cone Trail jct.

Myself and two friends followed this trail from Danish creek to the Double Cone Trail. Overall the trail is in slightly better condition than 2 years ago as we did some trail clearing along the way. The upper portion of the trail continues to be quite brushy, but is followable in the uphill direction thanks to an anonymous flagger.

I believe someone with a careful eye towards flags could now follow the trail in the downward direction.
===========
Conditions reported by: Jeffrey Zimmerman
Survey date: 17-MAY-2003
General: IMPASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Ventana Double Cone Trail downwards

Starting from the saddle between Uncle Sam Mountain and the Little Pines Ridge (the VDC trail crosses the shoulder on the east side of the ridge) the trail at first appears very clear and passable. Thanks to some careful marking using deadfall aligned with the trails the intersection with the VDC trail is well marked. In the first quarter mile the Rattlesnake Trail passes through cuts in three large logs (and one smaller, much older deadfall) and then disappears. But look uphill from east of the last log cut and it reappears, as if the last two trees had fallen across it and forced the walker to swing downhill. Within the next twenty yards the trail disappears into very heavy brush, marked rarely by some pink flags. The tread is still visible, but the overgrowth will take more energy and time to hack through than I was able to muster. Earlier reports on this web page suggest this under story is difficult for less than a mile and then opens up again. More flagging and a day of clipping for a couple of energetic people just might re-open this route. The problem is the closest water (Rattlesnake Creek, Pat Spring or Puerto Suello) is some distance and elevation away. The close tree growth means that all landmarks are hidden so that all navigation is by compass.

[ED. NOTE, one hiker found Little Pines Camp from VDC trail down and another completed from LP dam to Double Cone this year]
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Conditions reported by: K Vandevere
Survey date: 8-JAN-2003
General: CLEAR to DIFFICULT
Specific:

From Danish Creek to Rattlesnake Camp the going is easy with only two or three minor deadfalls. From Rattlesnake Camp to Little Pines the tread gets fainter, the brush encroaches more and there are more deadfalls. The trail is still quite usable, though. From the old site of Little Pines Camp the trail is better than it was a few years ago, but it still gets very sketchy in the vicinity of the former Little Pines Camp.
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Conditions reported by: J Doelman
Survey date: 24-MARCH-01
General: CLEAR TO IMPASSABLE
Specific:

The rattlesnake camp is a fine lunch spot or camping spot, regardless of its reputation. I found that the red-ants were worse than the rattlers.

The real beauty of this trail is that it is not shown on any map in the known world. Ah, excitement and glory to be had via exploring the unknown.

The trail is delightful and easy to follow from Danish Creek to the Rattlesnake camp, but alas the trail waxes brushy and increasingly difficult to follow when continuing past Rattlesnake camp towards Little Pines Camp. In the vicinity of 'little pines camp' the trail becomes almost unidentifiable. Punching through this last half to one mile section is difficult because of the aforementioned bushiness and because the traveller will be uncomfortable and dusty from the uphill walk.

In the direction of Little Pines toward Danish creek (downhill) I have yet to hear of anyone who has negotiated this treacherous route. The trail is hideously difficult to follow (impossible to follow?) and is highly not recommended.

This coveted trail will likely be gone, only a fond memory of a few daring souls, in a few years.

I leave it up to the experience of the keepers of the ventana.
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Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 8:55 am

# USFS Trail # 2E01
# Parking: Los Padres Dam
# Watershed: Rattlesnake Creek
# Junctions: Danish Camp Trail, Ventana Double Cone Trail
# Connects: Danish Creek Camp with Ventana Double Cone Trail
# Camps: Danish Creek Camp, Rattlesnake Camp, Little Pines Ca
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