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Ojito Camp Trail

Re: Ojito Camp Trail

Postby Carl Mounteer on Sun May 23, 2010 8:17 am

Date Hiked: May 15, 2010
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

And I mean REALLY impassable.

When I hiked this trail six years ago there was a tiny meadow that had shoulder to head-high golden colored weeds on it and a trail through it that led to the edge of the south fork of Devil's Canyon. Then there was a beautifully manicured and clear trail that led to the unofficial camp right by the creek.

Boy, has that ever changed!!!

Now, that meadow has become completely clogged by a solid wall of impenetrable brush. This stuff was so dense that a ground squirrel couldn't get through it. This has been aggravated by lots of dead, gray brush that has been piled in front of this wall of vegetation. There are even a stand of 20 foot trees with 2-3 inch diameter trunks that stand about 4 inches apart that guard the threshold of this barrier. I tried three different approaches and confronted the same impregnable rampart of vegetation. If the Russians had had this at the Berlin Wall, they could have sent all their guards home with the comfortable certainty that no one was getting through.

This is a real pity. Of all the places I have visited in the Ventana Wilderness, Ojito Camp was my favorite: lovely, peaceful, and with an isolation conferring on the visitor a sublime and soothing solitude. I remember the beautiful Sugar Pine on the north side of the creek, just opposite the unofficial camp, that soared majestically over the canyon. When I looked at it, I was instantly reminded of the spire of Vienna's St. Stephen's cathedral.

One of the worst consequences of this is that it is going to take a lot more than clippers, shovels, and mcleods to open the Ojito Camp Trail again. A bulldozer might be equal to the task. More effective will probably be whatever technology is used to build logging roads through dense forests. But the task is so formidable, Ojito Camp might be lost forever. What a pity!!! What a loss!!!
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Ojito Camp Trail

Postby mikesplain on Sun May 31, 2009 10:34 am

Date Hiked: March 18, 2009
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)
Conditions Reported by: Mike Heard

Much of the ceanothus at the Ojito Saddle that traditionally makes it hard to find the beginning of this trail was cut down during the Chalk Fire suppression efforts. Unfortunately, the fire crew left a big pile of brush right where the trail starts plunging down off the saddle, so it's still a bit tricky to find your way. Once you are on the trail -- which is wide but excessively steep -- you'll have no problem following the tread but you will need to burrow through some brush and downed trees. The worst obstacle is a large (approx. 3' dia.) downed pine. Once you are at the upper (unofficial) camp at a bench above the creek you'll see a lot of trash (it looks the same stuff I saw and reported in November 2006 -- see below) and a large downed tree blocking the route to the official historic camp areas (also as noted in the November 2006 report). My companion and I did not attempt to boulder-hop down the creek to look at the historic camp areas, so I have no update on their condition. Note that this trail did not burn during the Chalk Fire; it was stopped at the Ojito Saddle.
Last edited by C M Heard on Sat Apr 03, 2010 10:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: correct some inaccurate historical information
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Trail Conditions History 1999-2007

Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 11:27 am

Date Hiked: May 25, 2007
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Conditions reported by: Jeff Wheelwright
Survey date: 25-MAY-2007
General: IMPASSABLE
Specific:

The trail from the saddle down to Ojito Camp is impassable and is one or two seasons away from being lost altogether.
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Conditions reported by: Mike Heard
Survey date: 25-NOVEMBER-2006
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

On Nov. 23-26 three VWA Trail Crew volunteers surveyed the upper Vicente Flat, Stone Ridge, Ojito, lower Gamboa, and Cone Peak trails. The information below is adapted from the report we sent to the Forest Service. Be aware that conditions may have changed since that time -- in particular, the recent storms may have resulted in significantly more downed trees.

The tread is in generally in good shape, surprisingly so for such a steep trail. Encroaching ceanothus needs to be cut back near the upper end of the trail at the Ojito saddle. There are fifteen small downed trees between the saddle and the upper (unofficial) camp, plus a large tan oak and two large madrones on the camp trail leading to the lower (official) camp. One of the downed madrones has the remains of the old sign on it, and covers up the old ice mold stove. The upper camp is littered with refuse left behind by previous campers or hunters.
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Conditions reported by: Carl A. Mounteer
Survey date: 16-JUNE-2004
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Section: Ojito saddle to Ojito Camp

There are two big challenges to hiking this trail. The second is hiking back up the trail from Ojito Camp. The first is finding it.

At Ojito Saddle at the end of the Gamboa Trail there is a sign posted to a burned and dead redwood tree that has an arrow pointing towards Ojito Camp. The trouble is that the arrow is pointing up the Gamboa Trail. To find Ojito Camp Trail you have to walk about 10 yards west from the Gamboa Trail past a hedge of brush that conceals the Ojito Camp Trial from sight when you come off the Gamboa Trail. But since I have now festooned the first 50 yards of the Ojito Camp Trail with lots of pink ribbons, it should be easy to find.

The most absolutely amazing thing about this trail is that, although it is in one of the most remote and inaccessible spots in the Ventana Wilderness, the trail is infinitely better maintained than other trails despite a tremendous amount of brush bordering it. How is that accounted for? It looks like a trail crew visits it once a week! It is also at least three times wider than the Coast Ridge, Cone Peak, and Gamboa Trails.

Schaffer suggests that, once you get to the creek, you not camp there at the unofficial site but go an additional 200 yards to the official campsite which he says is much nicer.

I disagree. First, the trail disappears and is essentially non-existent for the first 50 yards downstream. This requires boulder-hopping over the creek. Once you find the trail it is blocked at one point by a huge fallen tree. Once you get to the official camp it is gloomy, with little or no view of the sky or the surrounding canyon, and so far elevated from the creek it is difficult to reach it and it cannot be heard.

The unofficial site, on the contrary, is in a beautiful clearing among some majestic trees with lots of light and views of the surrounding canyon. The creek murmurs comfortingly nearby. Remember, Shaeffer's recommendation was made 17 years ago and it seems much has changed since then.

The only drawback to the unofficial site was a discarded orange, self-inflating mattress, a pair of cutoff jeans, a T-shirt, and a Levi shirt someone had left there, seemingly in a hurry.

Even the bugs weren't so bad here. The mesh face covering I needed all the way down was not needed at the camp. But it was 5:45 P.M. when I got there so they may have just retired for the night.

I would consider whether or not the effort to get into and out of Ojito Camp is worth the four-hour effort from the Coast Ridge Trailhead. Trail Springs Camp probably rates a B- against Ojito Camp's A+. But Trail Springs is 1/3 the distance of Ojito Camp and has a nice stream running in the winter.
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Conditions reported by: Mike Heard
Survey date: 20-Aug-2003
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Section: All

As noted in the previous report, the trail down to the creek was brushed last year (Aug 2002) by a USFS trail crew, and the work is holding up very well. The only significant obstacle is a fallen tree right at the bottom of the trail where it meets the creek, but this is easily detoured. If you decide to camp here, note that the first campsite is unofficial; the second, which is about 200 yds downstream, is a bit bigger and a lot nicer (there is even an old USFS ice mold stove still around, but unfortunately it's not in operating condition).
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Conditions reported by: Rob Yang
Survey date: 12-NOV-2002
General: CLEAR
Specific:

The trail down to the creek seems to have been recently brushed - it's now a nice wide thoroughfare. It's also quite steep - the Sierra Club guide says 700' in 0.6 miles, but the switchbacks help a lot.

I noted two sites on the south side of the creek (left bank): the first was small, but the second was larger, and centered around an old madrone. I may have missed something in the guide, because it says you have to cross the creek to get to the camp. I guess I didn't want to do any wading - the day wasn't that warm.

The locale struck me as chilly and damp, being in a steep canyon, but is graced by the presence of Santa Lucia fir, bigleaf maple, and sugar pine. I may stop in later when the weather warms (wonder how the creek's water supply holds up in the fall).
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Conditions reported by: Mike Heard
Survey date: 30-JULY-2002
General: DIFFICULT TO PASSABLE
Specific:

Encouraged by Chris Lorenc's report from last April, I made a day trip up from Goat Camp with a bow saw and pruning shears (and lots of drinking water) to clear what deadfall and brush I could. Not only was the trail fairly easy to find with the help of Chris's directions, but it was also well-flagged. I only got about half-way down to Ojito Camp before I had to turn back owing to running out of time and energy, but I was able to get rid of the worst of the deadfall up to that point. In order to get this trail completely open a lot of brush clipping still needs to be done at the top and the deadfall still needs to be removed from the lower part. In addition, I found the section immediately below the saddle where the route now follows the gully to be almost too steep to climb up even without a pack; some regrading of the tread at that point would be most helpful.
===========
Conditions reported by: Chris Lorenc
Survey date: 7-APRIL-2002
General: DIFFICULT TO PASSABLE
Specific:

I was remarkably surprised by how easy to find and follow the Ojito Camp trail was. True the Ojito saddle is quite overgrown with brush following the Kirk complex fire -- but after the first 100-200 feet, the Ojito Camp trail's tread becomes very evident and can be followed easily the half-mile or so down to the camp at Devil's Creek. I went to the lowest eastern point of the saddle and picked my way through brush until I began to follow the gully. Either I missed the trail's tread near the saddle, or very likely, the tread has been erased by the gully. Nonetheless after 100-200 feet or so, the gully crossed very evident tread, which I began to follow very easily. The tread is surprisingly wide and well contoured, 2-3' wide most of the switchbacking way down. True, there is one significant slide and a couple of more minor ones -- and there are requisite downfalls. But I picked my way through or around each of them (without a pack, however) without enormous trouble. In the case of each obstacle, the tread can still be easily picked up again. It would only take an afternoon or less of work with a bow-saw to open the way entirely. Most of the deadfalls are not huge trunks.

Ojito Camp itself is very pleasant. Because of the orientation of Devil's Creek at this point, it received full, excellent morning sun -- at least this time of year. There are, of course, deadfalls here, too -- but less than one might expect. There are two creek crossings, quite near one another, and at the lower one, there remains the posted board on which presumably a trail-sign once hung. Across (east of) the creek, tread can be picked up again which leads generally northeast past two or three fire-rings. Then there is a major deadfall. Beyond which the trail seems to (vaguely now) tend upslope. But I couldn't pick it up clearly in a quick perusal. Either the trail on the east side of the creek only leads to these campsites, or, what appears equally likely, this route could also have been the continuation of the "Old Mountain Trail" that was the route to the Coast Ridge before the trail that passes Trail Spring was constructed in the 1920's. I checked out the south end of Ojito Camp and didn't see any hint of a trail in that direction -- nor did the steepness of the slope there seem to invite one.

All in all, the trail to Ojito Camp is much more promising than the existing trail to Goat Camp. Not only is it shorter, but the tread is in much better condition -- again, very well contoured and 'engineered' for its steepness. Again, a few hours with a bow-saw (and shears at the top) would make it a model short, steep trail.
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Conditions reported by: Steve Bonds
Survey date: 29-MAY-99
General: DIFFICULT TO IMPASSABLE
Specific:

I turned back after about 100 yards, which took about 10 minutes. There was some faint tread up to that point which became a wall of deadfall. It looks like I was not the first to get that far and turn back.
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Ojito Camp Trail

Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 10:44 am

* USFS Trail #
* Parking: See Coast Ridge, Stone Ridge Trails
* Watershed: Devils Canyon Fork Big Creek
* Junctions: Gamboa Trail
* Connects: Ojito Camp with Gamboa and Stone Ridge Trails at Ojito Saddle
* Camps: Ojito Camp
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