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Ventana Double Cone Trail

Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby pantilat on Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:01 pm

Date Hiked: December 17, 2017
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

This report covers the entire length of the Ventana Double Cone Trail from the Big Pines JCT to the Ventana Double Cone summit.

From Big Pines JCT to Pat Springs: Clear. Somebody came through with a saw and cleared dozens blowdowns obstructing the trail. This was much appreciated for a long day trip to VDC with unknown conditions. There was one large oak over the trail where it cross the small stream immediately before the junction with the Big Pines Connector Trail. Fortunately most of the ponderosas along the trail before Pat Springs survived. Pat Springs is flowing well from both pipes.

From Pat Springs to Little Pines: Difficult. A faint trail departs from Pat Springs and one soon encounters several blowdowns in a section of pine forest that was mostly decimated in the fire (sad to see but we already noticed a lot of young pine saplings emerging from the ash). Some of these blowdowns are large diameter pines. Most of them are easy to get around but there are a few awkward ones. The tread through the meadows is mostly nonexistent as we weren't sure if we were on the former trail or deer paths. At Little Pines the majority of Ponderosas appear to have survived (thankfully) but there are still many blowdowns to navigate.

From Little Pines to Puerto Suello: Difficult. In the vicinity of Little Pines Camp the tread disappears in a section of nondescript ash and regrowth but it's important to use GPS or mico navigation to stay in the vicinity of the former trail as best as possible since it soon enters a section of thick brush and blowdowns that did not burn. Without this tunnel the section would be very difficult to impassable. There are a few blowdowns on this section, some of which are awkward or require crawling underneath. The trail emerges from the brush onto the west slopes of Uncle Sam Mountain that were severely burned. While portions of this traverse beneath Uncle Sam Mountain somewhat resemble what it looked like before the fire and winter storms, the majority of it is in very poor shape with sloping or totally eroded tread and lots of blowdowns. NOTE: The "Savior" spring mentioned in the prior post is totally dry so this is probably only a reliable "spring" into the summer during wet years.

From Puerto Suello to Ventana Double Cone Summit: Difficult. This section of trail is the most remote stretch and apparently hasn't seen many visitors (if any) in 18 months. Here you get the "best" of both worlds (or worst depending on your perspective) with impediments relating to sections that burned (blowdowns, lack of tread) and sections that didn't burn (very overgrown brush). The first part of the trail up from Puerto Suello Gap severely burned and did an effective job clearing out the thick brush that used to exist here but it also created new blowdowns and a lack of tread similar to what is encountered on the preceding section traversing beneath Uncle Sam Mountain. The fire did not burn as hot on the west side of the ridge and therefore there is more standing brush and blowdowns whenever the trail switchbacks to that side. There is a section that did not burn around point 4366 with some brush tunneling but the trail enters another burned section with skeleton blowdowns heading down to Lone Pine Camp. From Lone Pine Camp the remainder of the trail and surrounding terrain is unburned with some sections that have become very overgrown, particularly with sticky ceanothus that reaches 10+ ft tall. It used to be that the brush would gradually improve as one progressed closer to VDC, but some of the worst brush swims (or crawls) are now within a mile of the summit after Ventana Spring Camp. You clothing will feel like sticky ceanothus after passage! The trail finally emerges from the brush within a half mile to the summit where it passes through some beautiful Santa Lucia Firs. The summit register showed a lot of helicopter activity on the summit to install and then remove a radio repeater during the fire and then maintain the weather gauge that remotely measures precipitation for the flood alert system. Per the register, it had been 18 months since anybody stood on VDC arriving on foot and we were the first party of 2017 whether by air or foot. It's been a quiet time on VDC, but the summit view is as good as ever especially looking across the rugged cirque to the Window, Kandlbinder and Pico Blanco, one of the most inspiring and dramatic views in the Ventana.

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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby RSIBryce on Wed Sep 27, 2017 1:06 pm

Date Hiked: September 23, 2017
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Section: From Little Pines to the Puerto Suelo trail junction

We reached the Ventana Double Cone (VDC) trail hiking up from Rattlesnake camp, having attempted to survey the historic Rattlesnake trail. We were hiking a B.A.E.R Trail Survey assignment for the USFS in the Soberanes Burn area. We reached the VDC walking the ridge due north of the creek, at the area known as Little Pines (not to be confused with the camp of Little Pines). The fire created quite a bit of damage in this area and downed trees reigned. It was difficult discerning the tread as we navigated downed complexes of trees. Some of the pines survived, others burned outright. It will take a lot of work to clean up the trail in this area. (I hiked the section after the Big Pines Junction to Pat Spring in January, and this section is in bad shape as well- just piles on piles of downed trees and brush). As we continued it became much easier to follow the tread, as the trail leaves the ridge and begins to traverse Uncle Sam Mountain, there was less dry ravel in the trail and the tread was very easy to follow. I counted 16 downed trees in this section, the largest being a 28" Pine near Little Pines. A peculiar feature we found in this area, and later elsewhere- is grass and other herbacious plants growing directly out of the tread. I don't recall seeing this in past years. Perhaps its due to the fire? Or maybe the lack of foot traffic I began to think- but yet we know animals have been using these trails as evidenced by the abundant scat we came across and other markings. Speaking of scat, we saw what we are sure was bear scat, (large diameter, enormous volume-dinner plate size- berry and grass laden.) We saw at least a dozen of these between Little Pines, down Puetro Suelo and down the Carmel River. There was a slide along this trail as well that we gingerly crossed in one of the steeper sections as well, about 30 feet long.

Water was an issue for us -- having started at a dry makeshift camp out of necessity the night before (having attempted and failed at following Rattlesnake trail to Little Pines and opting not to go searching for the Little Pines Spring since the area had been devastated by the fire and travel was difficult) -- we were elated to come across an unexpected spring alongside Uncle Sam Mountain (that feeds Puerto Suelo Creek, which runs westerly, joining the Little Sur River below.) I dubbed it "savior spring" having finished my water early that morning and recalling the dubious nature of the spring along Puerto Suelo trail, had been hiking rather anxiously as my mind wandered toward a thirst quenching sip of H2O. I recall too that the morning began with heat almost immediately. But even in August in this year of the great rains, water was abundant. We were glad and grateful.

Editor [JG] note: The "Savior Spring" report is very interesting, particularly since found during the dry season. Obtaining water has always been a problem on the VDC Trail so has generated much interest, yet I don't recall anyone previously reporting water along that section - and I have never seen such on my 5 traverses. So one has to think it results from the massive rainfall and wonder whether it will repeat in succeeding years.
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby jack_glendening on Sun Jul 17, 2016 8:01 pm

Date Hiked: July 17, 2016
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Clear from Bottchers Gap to Pat Spring. Two 2.5 ft and one 1.5 ft diameter trees across the trail in the Big Pines area.

Correction to the previous trail report - PAT SPRING IS FLOWING
(FYI I have never known it to be dry, even through the summers of multiple drought years)

Folks, this what Pat Spring looks like. There is a sign pointing
to "Water" along the VDC Trail and usually a well-worn path to it,
as there was today (so well worn that it has often been mistaken
for the continuation of the VDC Trail, leading to the Double Cone
summit, which it is not)
Pat Spring - July 17, 2016

Jack Glendening
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby dmarangonisimonsen on Fri Jul 15, 2016 10:54 am

Date Hiked: July 9, 2016
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Day 1: Bottcher's Gap -> Pat Springs
Day 2: Pat Springs -> DoubleCone -> Pat Springs
Day 3: Pat Springs -> Bottcher's Gap

Pat Springs was not flowing. We found a small trickle near the Big Pines intersection, but I wouldn't be surprised if that dried up within a week. Lone Pine camp had water, and the hike would've been brutal if we didn't find the spring there. If I were to do this again I'd hike in more water just in case. Again, we did this hike in early July 2016.

The other reviews are pretty spot on. The trail from Puerto Suello to Double Cone was brushy almost all the way up. Completely doable, but this was no walk in the park. The trail was very well marked and although we went off it a few times, we quickly found it again due to the pink/orange ribbons. We estimated a 1.5 mile/hour pace through the brush+elevation.

Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby pantilat on Tue May 31, 2016 1:56 pm

Date Hiked: May 29, 2016
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

From the Puerto Suello Trail junction to the Double Cone summit: the trail is now "Passable" with substantial improvement from my last visit in 2015. There are still some brush push-throughs but virtually all deadfall/blowdowns (there were many) have been removed from the trail, the brushiest spots have been improved (in particular near Ventana Spring camp where the ceanothus was starting to interlock) and orange flagging has been put up in the tricky spots so following the trail is not an issue.

This year there is a beautiful bloom of Lupinus cervinus (Santa Lucia Lupine), approaching and on the summit of the Double Cone.

santa lucia lupine1.jpg

santa lucia lupine2.jpg

Note the Santa Lucia Fir (Abies bracteata) behind the Santa Lucia Lupine, both species endemic to the Santa Lucia Mountains.
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby Scot Miller on Mon Feb 15, 2016 9:06 pm

Date Hiked: February 15, 2016
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I (and two other people) hiked from Bottcher's Gap to Pat Springs and on to the Ventana Double Cone summit.

From Pat Springs to the Puerto Suelo trail junction: The trail was easy to follow and had been cleared of any downed trees/logs. There was some brush that encroached upon the trail, but it wasn't an major obstacle. There's a clearing at the Puerto Suelo trail junction where one could camp, but there was no water at that junction. We heard that the Puerto Suelo trail had recently been cleared, but we didn't explore this route at all.

From Puerto Suelo to Lone Pine Camp: The brush immediately became very thick once we left the Puerto Suelo junction (heading toward Lone Pine Camp). Upon leaving the junction, the trail immediately heads uphill, and this first uphill section had the worst brush. There were several downed trees/logs that we had to navigate over or under. In general, we were able to follow the trail without too much trouble. Lone Pine looked like a decent place to camp. The campsite area is clear of any brush or undergrowth. Unlike Pat Springs with its beautiful vistas, Lone Pine Camp does not have any views. One person in our party went to look for water at Lone Pine Camp. He found water but said it was difficult to access.

From Lone Pine Camp to Ventana Double Cone summit: This stretch was relatively similar to the previous stretch -- plenty of thick brush. We were usually able to follow the trail but briefly lost the trail 3 times. Someone has tied colored ribbon/tape onto the brush at some of the trickiest points on the trail, and those trail markers helped a lot. There were two or three instances when the brush was so thick that we had to crawl on hands and knees. There were also stretches where the trail was clear of brush. In particular, the trail becomes much clearer and easier as you get closer to the summit. After summiting, we tried to bushwhack over to the Kandelbinder summit, but the ridge between the two summits was completely impassible because of the brush. We turned around after about 45 minutes and returned to the Ventana Double Cone trail.

In summary, we had a great time on the trip (and the summit was stunning!). However, we "swam" through a lot of brush once we left the Puerto Suelo junction and all ended the hike relatively scratched up.
Scot Miller

Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby sboor on Mon Feb 15, 2016 12:00 pm

Date Hiked: February 13, 2016
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I hiked from Pat Springs to Lone Pine and then made a half-hearted attempt at the VDC summit but turned back. I would say the trail between Pat Springs and Little Pines is clear and thoroughly enjoyable. Between Little Pines and the junction of Puerto Suello the trail is passable, getting increasingly brushy with shoulder to above head high scrub. From the Puerto Suello Junction up to Lone Pine the trail is difficult with even more head high brush and plenty of dead-fall. The brush does a nice job of hiding the sharp dead-fall branches that want to poke you in the eye. I was army crawling more than I would like on a hike. I camped at Lone Pine which was nice, and there was water but you need to bush-whack a way down the stream bed to find it. From Lone Pine I admittedly only did about half a mile towards VDC summit before deciding to find a different adventure. In my opinion that section is impassable, or at least it seemed even denser than the previous stuff and I was unwilling to endure it for long. I never lost the trail, except I blazed right past the Puerto Suello turnoff without noticing it the first time.

Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby jack_glendening on Sat Jul 25, 2015 4:46 pm

Date Hiked: July 23, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Thanks to recent VWA trail crew work the section from Pat Springs Camp to Puerto Suelo junction to now clear-to-passable and the best I've experienced since my first ascent in 2010. At no time was there any question as to where the trail route was. Blessings to those trail crews!

On the other hand, the section from Puerto Suelo to VDC to now the worst I've experienced since my first ascent. Although there are clear-to-passable sections from recent trail work, the difficult ones dominate. Hoary (sticky) ceanothus is taking over in places before and after Ventana Spring Camp, head high and starting to interlock - you must put head down and push to get through. I lost the trail 3 times on the ascent, once on the descent.

On the positive side, someone has gone through with a hand saw and sawed many of the fallen limbs which had been obstructing the route. On the negative side, someone has removed all the flagging that existed and made the trail more difficult to follow.

From Jan 14, 2014 trail report: "The switchback that others have talked about is ridiculously well-marked at this point, there is almost no possible way of mistaking it"

In particular, the infamous switchback still lives - or perhaps I should say has been resurrected! I met a single day hiker and a group of three backpackers who were ahead of me who BOTH (separately) had missed that switchback! The branches I'd put there on my last hike to block it had been removed, leaving just stones easily taken for a waterbar and stepped over. I again put some branches there to block it and the single day hiker added more stones - but who knows how long it will be until someone removes those.

It was nice to read the VDC register and find 55 entries (some entries being for a group of people) over the past year, more than I've seen in some previous years. Perhaps the improvement of the trail to Puerto Suelo has helped!


SUMMIT HIKERS: The VDC register has only 13 blank pages remaining - 12 pages were used over the past year, so it likely will be filled about a year from now. It would be great if someone heading out there would take a spiral-bound 6x9 inch notebook to be the next register! If you do so, firstly thanks in advance and secondly please note in your VDC Trail Report that you did, so others will know. (Note: the previous register replacement was simply left there, resulting in people randomly writing in one or the other until finally the first register was full. For time-continuity when reading, it would be nice to prevent that from happening again by doing something like wrapping the replacement with string or non-adhesive tape with "Open after current register is full" on it.) People like me DO read the previous register entries.
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby christoph28 on Wed Jul 08, 2015 5:28 pm

Date Hiked: July 4, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

We hiked the section from Puerto Suelo junction to the top. I would put this trail somewhere between Difficult and Passable. From Puerto Suelo junction it starts off clear for a short while before running into brush. Many parts of the trail are in good shape and easy to follow, while other sections lead you through stretches of very thick and sticky brush, often extending well above head height. We momentarily lost the trail a few times, but had no trouble finding it again after backtracking. The new sign post pointing to lone pine camp was nice, and the camp itself was nice as well. Water was dribbling out of the creekbed a little ways down from the campsite, though we didn't walk down far enough to see where one could actually fill up. Views from the top were nice, but the hot and dry weather made us turn back quickly.
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby austin_modern on Mon Jun 22, 2015 8:41 am

Date Hiked: June 20, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Caught up with this trail from Puerto Suello to the peak. Overall it was much better than the complete nightmare that was Puerto Suello, but you're still pushing through brush 7-8' tall that leaves you quite literally green with sticky sap stuff. I had my glasses on, but if you don't wear any eye protection is a good idea. Overall the hiking is very slow going in parts, but the peak is worth it and the views along the way are great. The trail is moderately marked and while difficult at times to get your bearings whenever you feel sort of "am I on the trail?" you look around and see a little flag or stacked stones. Were I not completely beat down by Puerto Suello the hike would have been much more manageable. For those doing HC -> PS -> Peak, you really need a full water bladder (3-4l) of water to make the loop. You should bring a pump to catch the water from the waterfall pool about 1/2 way up (and down) PS. I did not check for water at the lone pine camp based on prior reports (and being too lazy to walk in/out).


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