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Ventana Double Cone Trail

Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby Tradtimbo on Tue Mar 23, 2010 10:31 am

Date Hiked: March 20, 2010
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Botchers Gap to Ventana Double Cone Trail Report - March 20, 2010

General
In general, the hike from Botchers Gap to VDC is passable with about 25% of the way at 1/2 speed due to tricky wayfinding, encroaching brush, and fallen trees across the trail. Poison oak was seen on 80% of the trail as either stems or very small baby leaves. The remaining trail signs are mostly legible, but there aren't many. The encroaching brush towards the end of the journey is easier to bear if pants and long sleeves are worn. Water was available from all shown streams and creeks and even some not shown on the USGS topo map. No water at Botchers Gap. Few ticks.

We left Botchers Gap at 8:50AM on Saturday, arrived at Lone Pine camp around 6:00PM the same day. We left camp at sunrise the next morning to summit the VDC. It took about an hour to get up and 45 minutes to get back to camp. We ate breakfast, began hiking back to Botchers around 9:30AM and arrived at Botchers Gap Camp before sundown.

Skinner Ridge Trail
Botchers Gap to Turner Creek Trail junction is clear and passable with encroaching poison oak. A few stream crossings if your in need of water already. The trail junction sign is intact.

Turner Creek Trail junction to San Clemente Trail junction is clear and passable. Some trail marking flags around. The trail thins out in a couple spots and is clearly less worn than the first section of trail. No water. The trail junction sign is intact, but broken.

Big Pines Trail

San Clemente Trail junction to Big Pines Trail junction is clear and passable. Some trail flagging, and faint spots but easy to navigate. Small spots of encroaching brush and trees. Big Pines trail past this junction is faint. Charred trail sign posts exist here with no signs. The hike continued on the Ventana Trail. No water.

Ventana Trail
Big Pines Trail junction to Pat Spring Trail, and Pat Springs Camp Trail junction is clear and passable with some large fallen trees. The headwaters of the Danish Creek come all the way up to the unnamed camp just before the Pat Springs junction. From the unnamed camp, the trail is faint, and clearly less traveled than the previous section. (Tip: The Ventana trail continues to the southeast from this point.) Pat Spring was flowing nicely. There was no sign at the Pat Spring four-way junction.

Pat Spring junction to Little Pines Camp was clear and passable with minimal encroaching brush. The trail is faint in some spots, but wayfinding is not a problem because of the dramatic changes in topography and occasional temporary flag marker. Little Pines Camp is covered in fallen trees and overgrowth. There is a small flat spot under a tree in the camps general vicinity that would be suitable if a camp was needed.

Little Pines to Puerto Suello junction is thin, but passable. Much of the trail is six inches wide along steep slopes. Some areas of encroaching brush, and a couple fallen trees cross the trail. There are temporary flags marking the trail in some spots. There is a sign just after LIttle Pines Camp still intact. People have been camping at the Puerto Suello junction. The Puerto Suello trail itself was faint and very overgrown at this location.

Puerto Suello junction to Lone Pine Camp was slow going due to encroaching brush, difficult, but passable. The way finding was tricky in spots, and brush was encroaching 80% of the trail. We moved at about half speed. Pants and long sleeves are recommended. After the trail high point before moving down the ridge to Lone Pine Camp the trail disappeared. Our group navigated the ridge line for about 200 yards until it met up with the trail. On the return trip we took the trail and it was difficult to pass with over 90% covered in encroaching brush, overgrowth, and fallen trees. This section of trail needs to be cleared, otherwise hikers will take the naturally bare, obvious line along the ridge. Lone Pine Camp is non-existent. Its location is covered in new growth and fallen trees. About 50 yards past this spot are two flat areas suitable for tents. One is close to the ridge, the other is on the same side of the trail as Lone Pine but is only a few yards off the trail. A more appropriate spot would be farther down the saddle towards Mesa Creek, but heavy overgrowth is discouraging. The trail leading to The Mesa Creek headwaters near Lone Pine Camp was non-exisent, but marked with a crude sign marked "H2O".

Lone Pine Camp to Ventana Double Cone was clear and passable with the help of a few temporary flags. The trail was faint in spots but follows the natural topography. One large downed tree was in a potentially hazardous area of the trail about 1/4mile from the summit, but was be overcome easily by the group. About 50% of the trail had encroaching brush, but nothing that required a significant reduction is pace.

The Summit Register was still there tucked away in a little cave.

Fantastic Trip!
Tradtimbo
 

Ventana Double Cone Trail to Pat Spring

Postby LindsayJeffers on Mon Nov 02, 2009 3:00 pm

Date Hiked: October 31, 2009
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Trail from Bottchers to the top of Skinner Ridge has been cleared recently but 5 new trees are down across it. Some are easily stepped over, some require straddling or ducking under. This section is Clear. From the Turner Creek junction to the top of Devil's Peak only one fallen tree trunk is across the trail. The top section has been scoured by the recent rain storm and requires attention to prevent slips.

There are now two possible routes to the junction with the Mt. Carmel trail; one goes directly over the top, the original goes around. Both are clear. Continuing on to the junction to Comings Cabin and Pine Creek, there are sections where grass is obscuring the foot bed, but the way is Clear. After that junction, the trail becomes more troublesome. After the fire, several spots where the trail originally skirted the top of the ridge have been re-routed to follow the dozer line along the top. This happened after the Marble Cone fire as well. It makes the trip a bit rougher and steeper, but it is probably best to follow the most obvious route now, because some of the older tracks disappear before regaining the main route. The section that drops down to the top of Danish Creek drainage and the cutoff to Big Pines is the most heavily burned along this trail, and the footbed has been denuded by rain and wind. It is a little tricky to make all the zig-zag turns at the correct points. Similarly, the start of the trail to Pat Spring has become indistinct for the first hundred yards but then becomes more obvious. It is interesting to note how much the ups and downs stand out when one can see the surrounding hillsides.

Pat Springs camp sites are clear and don't appear to be threatened by dangerous burned trees; these have already fallen or are still healthy. Some of the fallen material has been used by campers to construct wind shelters on top of the ridge where the pines closest to the top have burned. I did not visit the camp site part way up the ridge. However, the springs are flowing nicely and provide the only water I saw on this route. Trail signs in this area have burned but enough people have been this far along the trail to keep most of the footbed from disappearing.
LindsayJeffers
 

trail between pat spring and double cone

Postby neil on Mon Aug 10, 2009 1:22 pm

Date Hiked: August 8, 2009
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

leaving pat spring the trail is clear for a while until the non-existent little pines camp the trail is hard to follow and burned downfall etc make cross country travel the reality. then the trail has pretty good tread to the puerto suello trail junction,which has water maybe several hundred yards down the trail. then the trail to double cone is pretty clear but overgrown/deadfall almost all the way to the summit. well worth it but tough hike for sure
neil
 
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Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 2:32 pm

Date Hiked: May 3, 2009
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

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Conditions reported by: Piero
Survey date: 3-May-2009
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

From Bottcher's Gap to Devil's Peak: freeway

From Devil's Peak to Pat's Springs: very tall grass covers the trail but grooves made by hikers point the way; difficult to see the junctions with the Big Pines trail, so easy to get lost at Pat's Spring

From Pat's Springs to Double Cone: after one hour of good well-marked trail we lost the trail and the same happened on the way back in the same place (so i presume it's not just us); when we found it again we were shocked to realize that it was a very good trail, with the occasional overgrown vegetation but not much by Ventana's standards; brief sections of "difficult", no section that is "impassable"; the last 8kms were freeway except for three deadfalls; we were in disbelief that the last stretch was so easy.

The GPS says the whole way is 23.7 kms (campground to dead end at the lookout), so shorter than the maps show. It took us 8 hours with breakfast and lunch stops and a 30' stop at the top, so probably seven hours of actual hiking. This would be supersonic speed on most Ventana trails in remote regions (that are usually hard to follow and full of obstacles). So a real surprise.

Alas, on the way back we were tired so we ended the hike at midnight (6:30am-11:30pm to be precise).

Fire damage: a blessing for hikers. In many places we took shortcuts through what used to be forest because it was all clear. The main casualties (as far as hikers go) are the signs: we found only one junction with the sign in place, and it was unreadable. I guess all the others burned down.

In a day or two i will post pictures at www.scaruffi.com

Alas it was a very foggy/misty day and it was hard to take good pictures.
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Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 2:31 pm

Date Hiked: May 1, 2009
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Conditions reported by: K Vandevere
Survey date: 1-May-2009
General: PASSABLE
Specific:
From Bottcher's Gap to the top of Devil's Peak the trail has been worked on and is relatively clear (although some poison oak and other plants are beginning to encroach. The trail crews have created a potentially confusing situation at the top of Devil's Peak by directing the trail onto the Mt. Carmel Trail. To stay on the VDC Trail, one must now make an unsigned hard right onto an overgrown and potentially difficult to see trail.

Beyond the top of Devil's Peak the trail is quickly swallowed up by a lush growth of grass. From here to a bit past Little Pines (as far as I went) the trail is in very poor condition. Tread is usually very narrow, buried under new growth, and sometimes completely absent. There aren't an enormous number of trees across the trail, but there are still plenty of obstructions - especially in the vicinity of Pat Spring and Little Pines. If you are not familiar with this trail or good at following very sketchy trails, you will likely have difficulty following this trail past the summit of Devil's Peak.
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Trail Conditions History 2000-2008

Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 2:29 pm

Date Hiked: May 6, 2008
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

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Conditions reported by: Vickie Conte
Survey date: 6-MAY-2008
General: IMPASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Skinner Ridge to Puerto Suello Trail - Passable

The trail to Pat Spring Camp was passable, poison oak, madrones, coffee berry, oaks, and honeysuckle where growing onto the trail but not impeding the trail itself. There were a few large deadfalls that you had to go over. And in one area the trail skirted around other large deadfalls. The wildflowers were still in bloom but the grasses were starting to dry out. I ran into a couple of backpackers from the east coast and they were disappointed in how poorly the trails were marked.

Pat Spring Camp was very clean. The spring was running good, always a great thing to see. I am so impressed with the large oak-madrone-oak that grows by the spring. All three of their roots grow together, almost as if they were grafted together many years ago.

The trail to Double Cone was passable until about 1/2 mile beyond the Puerto Suello Trail, a bit of a slide around Uncle Sam Mountain, some encroaching manzanita, and all the trail signs are lying on the ground (Little Pines, Hiding Canyon-Carmel River Trail (Puerto Suello Trail) and Lone Pine).

Section: Puerto Suello Trail to

Then the trail became impassable. It was overgrown and you literally had to push yourself through. I meet 2 other backpackers from San Diego that had turned around because the brush was so thick. They were truly disappointed, they had read about the trail in a recent backpackers magazine and had driven up just to go to Double Cone Peak. Others had gone before me, so I could see the trail tread even though the ceanothus obscured it until you pushed through. And you literally have to duck under and push through at the same time, easier going downhill than up. The trail continues like this for short stretches that seem long and then it clears and then repeats itself even thicker.

Do not have anything in side pockets on your pack or you will lose it to the brush. Near the top the sandy trail widens and you wish the entire trail was like it, maybe someday. There were many backpackers with clippers. There was no water along the trail, you have to fill up at Pat Springs and carry enough for in and out. The log book at the top of Double Cone Peak had many names in it since Jan. 2008. People are going even though the trial conditions are impassable. [Ed: Merely "Difficult" then, not "Impassable"]
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Conditions reported by: Rob Yang
Survey date: 3-MAY-2008
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: (Skinner Ridge Trail) Bottchers Gap to Skinner Ridge - Wilderness Freeway

Section: Skinner Ridge to Little Pines Camp - Passable

A few deadfalls, but nothing difficult.

Section: Little Pines Camp to Puerto Suello Trail - Passable

Some brush is encroaching. Secondhand report that there was water at Little Pines, but didn't see it for myself.

Section: Puerto Suello to Ventana Double Cone - Difficult

Lots of brush to crouch through. Evidence of recent clipping / sawing. Tall people with big packs may find it impassable.

This was my third trip to Ventana Double Cone (previously in May 2001 and 2003) and for the most part the trail was better than I'd ever seen it. However, that one stretch south of Puerto Suello has always been harsh, and this year is no exception. Long pants / shirt mandatory, or else give some blood to the brush.

I was unable to locate Lone Pine on this trip (I'd previously visited it in 2003). Beautiful weather, wildflowers in bloom. The flies were definitely out though.
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Conditions reported by: Travis Perkins
Survey date: 29-MARCH-2008
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Section: (including Skinner Ridge Trail) Bottchers Gap to Puerto Suello Trail - Passable

Quite passable and very enjoyable.

Section: Puerto Suello Trail to Ventana Double Cone

The (rest of the trail to the summit) is difficult, to say the least, even when carrying just a hydration pack. Expect to crouch and crawl for at least 2 miles along this route as this year's snowfall has turned the thick brush along the trail into a rabbit run. The condensation on the encroaching scrub brush makes for a very wet hike, so be sure to prepare accordingly. A trip out of Bottchers Gap to the summit took our group 9 hours including short rests, the trip back took another 9 hours. I would love to do it again! Please bring clippers on your next trek and trim a few branches here and there; any daytrip longer than 18 hours is just plain no fun.
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Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers (Stevenson Wilderness Expedition)
Survey date: 2-MARCH-2008
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Skinner Ridge to Comings Camp - Passable

Skinners Ridge section has lots of new fallen timber and is becoming overgrown once again

Comings Camp water source may be compromised; it was muddy and hard to reach during heavy rains.

Section: Comings Camp to Pat Springs Camp - Passable

Some new fallen timber but is generally clear.

Section: Pat Springs Camp to Little Pines - Passable

A number of significant new tree trunks to negotiate and some fallen tree tops that require rerouting off the trail to avoid. At least one requires a significant straddle to negotiate the trunk: hard for those with short legs.

Section: Little Pines to Puerto Suello saddle - mostly clear

Just south of Little Pines the brush encroaches on the trail and hikers need to push through it. Although we did considerable clipping, it is still a scratchy section.

Section: Puerto Suello to the Ventana Cones - Impassable

The trail became impassible after less than a mile due to heavy brush and deadfalls.
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Conditions reported by: Adam Wachtel
Survey date: 4-FEBRUARY-2008
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Section: Comings Camp to Big Pines Junction - Clear

Clear and mostly wide open, but temporarily very snowy. Experienced about 3-6 inches of snow covering the ground in most places along the trail, causing it to be a bit difficult to follow in places. If snow is encountered up there, I would recommend folks be keen on route finding and/or familiar with the trail.

Other than that, no major blockages and noticed some recent clippings that were a few months old.
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Conditions reported by: Betsy MacGowan
Survey date: 18-AUGUST-2007
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

The trail is as described in other posts. Really the tread is excellent from Puerto Suello out to the Double Cone, but canted enough between Little Pines and Puerto Suello that it is difficult to walk easily.

There was good water below Lone Pine. It was a bit tricky to find the camp this time. The pink flags lead down from the main trail to a small meadow. It seems that the trail ends here, and in fact someone had constructed a fire ring in this meadow. But if you cross this meadow/open area and go through the gap in the trunk of a fallen pine, then cross the dry creekbed, the camp is just up the hill on the other side of the creek. To get to the water you still have to go to a point about 400 feet down from the camp, along this same dry creek. The creek is bone dry above this spot, and bone dry below, but there was a steady flow for about 5 feet . This location could fairly be described as a mud puddle, and there were a bunch of tan oak leaves imparting an interesting flavor, but it was delightfully cold and wet. It allowed an overnight on the Double Cone, as opposed to a desperate slog back to Puerto Suello in search of water. Look for the clump of thimbleberry bushes marking the spot.

After climbing out of the Lone Pine drainage, the next major drainage is the area indicated in Forum postings as the location of Ventana Springs Camp. There is no trail but the spot where you would leave the main trail is marked by a can of Red Bull on a dead bush. No water, and no good campsite, but interesting as an historic camp.

The Double Cone was awesome as usual. There are two register books, people are logging into one or the other, you can take your pick which one you prefer.

There has been a good bit of work on the trail, although it really needs some serious cutting, not just the clipping back a foot or two. It would be a huge project, there are miles that need work.
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Conditions reported by: Tony Romano
Survey date: 9-JUNE-2007
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

The trail was fairly clear for the first mile then I found I needed a long sleeve shirt and pants to push thru the encrouching brush. I found long pants especially useful when I hit my shins on the sharp cut of branches that I couldn't see but did feel. I did see some poison oak but it wasn't much of an issue. EDITOR'S NOTE: Folks who clip as they hike should cut ingrowth back to either the base or to the main stem, rather than leaving sharp stabbing branches that are hidden by the proliferation of new growth that this style of clipping encourages.

I found water at Lone Pine. I had to hike about 30 to 40 feet past the camp down the dry creeklet. There among some plants and mosquitoes the water was seeping out at a slow rate into a mud bottomed puddle. This is when I appreciate a preflilter and 1 micron ceramic filtration. I pumped a liter for the hike back to Pat Spring.

The trail down to Lone Pine was clear.
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Conditions reported by: Adam Wachtel
Survey date: 14-MARCH-2007
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Overall, it seems water availability will be a big issue this year. The other hiker told us there was no water at Lone Pine or 1/4 mile down the Puerto Suello Trail. Pat Spring may end up being the only convenient water source if we dont get any rain by summer.

Section: Devils Peak to Comings Camp Trail junction - Clear

Clear and open. Some pine and leaf rubbish causes the trail to be a little slippery in places, but the tread is very evident.

At Comings Camp Junction there is a downed tree that is new as of May last year. There is a decent path coing around it, and we did not work on it.

Section: Comings Camp Trail junction to Big Pines Trail junction - Passable

Mostly clear, with some trail erosion/ water damage.

Section: Big Pines Trail junction to Pat Springs trail junction - Passable

Some fallen/ rotting pine trunks that require climbing over or walking around.

To avoid confusion at Pat Springs, this is a 4- way junction. The most prominent trail goes seemingly straight ahead downhill to the spring. The trail beyond the spring dead ends and is NOT the Ventana Trail. A lighter trail, behind you to the right, goes uphill to the beautiful campsites on a knoll. The faintest trail, that goes uphill to the left through some fallen pines, is the Ventana Trail.

Section: Pat Springs to Little Pines - Passable

Several downed pines to negotiate.

Section: Little Pines to Puerto Suello Gap

Mostly clear, but with some trail erosion, mainly because it goes alongside the western slope of Uncle Sam Mountain.

Section: Puerto Suello Gap to Lone Pine Camp Trail junction - Passable

The first half between this section isnt very bad, and we were able to put a pretty good dent in clearing the trail. In the Lone Pine area, it is very brushy, and I dropped my saw in the area and wasnt able to do much.

We didn't have a chance to check out the water situation at Lone Pine camp, but another hiker told us there was no water there the next day.

Section: Lone Pine Camp to Ventana Double Cone - Clear

The trail becomes progressively more open, but also more rocky as it approaches the summit.
===========
Conditions reported by: NR Schmidt
Survey date: 6-JANUARY-2007
General: CLEAR
Specific:

General:

A beautiful and easy to follow trail. Section: Big Pines Junction to Pat Springs Camp - Clear

Clear without brush. At Pat Springs there is an incorrect sign stating the Carmel River is in the opposite direction than it is. Trail to Ventana Double cone is BEHIND this sign. Across from the trail is an hillside arching up from the campsite with crystal clear views of the sea and the vastness that is the Ventana Wilderness.

Section: Pat Springs Camp to Double Cone Summit - Clear

Fill water at Pat Spring! There is no water from here to the top of the Double Cone (closest water is down the Puerto Suello Trail approximately .5-1 mile). Lone Pine Camp is dry. Bushes encroach a bit upon the trail but well worth weathering for the exquisite 360 degree view of the everything from the top of the Double Cone.
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Conditions reported by: Greg Minter
Survey date: 25-NOVEMBER-2006
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Section: Pat Spring Camp to Puerto Suello Trail - Clear

After enduring a 37 degree night at Pat Spring Camp, the day cleared up to offer spectacular views of the Double Cones and Kandlebinder, and the entire Little Sur watershed. Tread was evident and well-defined. No deadfalls and little brush. Followed the Rattlesnake Trail from Little Pines down a few hundred yards just to check out the condition, and it has seen some great recent work, as another recent trail report indicates on this site.
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Conditions reported by: Greg Meyer
Survey date: 22-NOVEMBER-2006
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Section:

Wow, spent a great 5 days on the Double Cone Trail. The black oaks and madrone were incredibly colorful on Skinners Ridge and all way up to the peak. With the warm weather of the past week I bet they still look great! Best color I can remember.

The trail was as in as good of shape as anytime I have hiked it. Many thanks to the all the folks that have pruned their way to the top! The scrub oak would be intense without your efforts!

Water was an issue on the trail as this is the driest time of the year. However I had good luck at Lone Pine, about 3 minutes below the camp. Someone flagged the creek where the water is, so it wasn't hard to find. I also found water about 4 minutes walk below the Puerto Suello Trail junction in a small but beautiful spring just to the right of the trail as you head downhill - this is the spring marked on the topo maps in Schaffer's "Hiking the Big Sur Country".

What a great trip at a great time of year! The sunrise on top of the Double Cone was fantastic!
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Conditions reported by: Reed Thayer
Survey date: 29-OCTOBER-2006
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Turner Creek Trail to Comming's Cabin Trail - Wilderness Freeway

The trail is in excellent condition with only a few poison oak patches on the side near the top of Devil's Peak. The trail is a little rocky near the top of the climb, but isn't much of a problem. Be sure to take the right fork at the junction after the summit.

Section: Comming's Cabin Trail to Big Pines Trail - Clear

The trail is in good condition, but is covered with a thick blanket of pine needles and leaves which makes the trail slippery and sometimes hard to distinguish.

Section: Big Pines Trail to Pat Spring - Passable

The trail is in good condition and is not covered with leaves but is slightly brushy on both sides with some poison oak. There are several easily negotiable deadfalls. Pat Spring is running a little slow but will probably increase flow after a few storms.

Section: Pat Spring to Puerto Suello - Passable

The trail is covered with leaves which can make it slippery, which is somewhat scary when you are on a steep hillside. There are a few large deadfalls and many overhanging branches.

Section: Puerto Suello to Ventana Lone Pine - Difficult

Immediately after the junction, large manzanita bushes encroach the trail. You must push through the branches all the way to Lone Pine. There are also many overhanging branches. Definitely wear long sleeves and pants to avoid serious scratches. It may be almost impossible with a full pack. The tread though is very easy to spot.

Section: Lone Pine to Summit - Passable

Once you pass Lone Pine, the bushes immediately quit encroaching the trail except for a few short segments. The trail is in excellent condition, except for near the top where it gives way in a few places. Whenever you see a junction, always take the left fork. The right forks take you down old trails to nowhere. Enjoy the views and don't forget to sign the log.
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Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers
Survey date: 24-OCTOBER-2006
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Section: Bottchers Gap to Devil's Peak - Wilderness Freeway

Bottchers Gap to Devil's Peak is Wilderness Freeway. We cut a few low overhangs, but basically all is well. The Poison Oak is bright red and the Fall Colors are spectacular.

Section: Devil's Peak to the ridge between Puerto Suello and Lone Pine - Clear

From Devil's Peak, conditions go towards Clear: there are a couple of large pine trunks across the trail before the Commings Camp junction. All can be straddled or have good detours around them. Onward to Pat Spring, the old blowdowns remain but can be detoured around easily. Above Pats Spring on the route to the ridge above the camp, four large (2.5ft diameter) pines are across the trail and require stradling or in one case clambering through broken branches. From there to Puerto Suello the trails remains Clear. Up the next ridge there are intruding ceanothus and live-oak branches but the trail is Clear to the top.

Section: from the ridge between Puerto Suello and Lone Pine and Lone Pine - Passable

Coming down toward Lone Pine, the scratchy brush is a literal pain for a couple hundred yards. The footbed is visible but one is grabbed at by scrub from both sides.

Section: Lone Pine to Summit - Clear

Past Lone Pine, the trail becomes Clear once more to the summit. Old registers (and the Survey Marker) have vanished, unless I have gone blind (and the view was too spectacular for that.) However, there are new registers in an ammo can at the top. Spent a pleasant night on top. The only water source was at Pat Spring, where one pipe is flowing freely. We clipped and sawed almost all the point-problems that we could handle, but the major trail clean-up will require someone with more time and more water to tackle the section past Puerto Suello.
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Conditions reported by: Lee Kenyon
Survey date: 6-MAY-2006
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Section: Pat Spring to Puerto Suello Trail - Clear

Easy to navigate, with no serious obstructions.

Section: Puerto Suello Trail to Ventana Double Cone - Passable

As always, the brush was vigorously encroaching on the trail, but navigation is trivial. A long-sleeved shirt and long pants are essential if you wish to avoid being scratched.
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Conditions reported by: Eng-Shien Wu
Survey date: 23-APRIL-2006
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Bottcher's Gap to Ventana Double Cone - Passable to Clear

Could use some better signage, especially at Pat Springs and Puerto Suello Trail junction. Water currently available 1 mile before Puerto Suello Trail junction. Snow gone. Trail easy to follow. Long sections of brush--annoying but not bad enough to slow down a hiker wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirt.
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Conditions reported by: Don Brown
Survey date: 18-MARCH-2006
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Pat Springs to Puerto Suello Trail - Passable

This section was somewhat brushy, but otherwise fine. There were no significant deadfalls, and the tread was easy to follow. Still, I did find it quite tiring trodding along in the snow (!).

Section: Puerto Suello Trail junction to top of next mountain [Ed: Peak 4366'] - Difficult

The heavy snowfall has wreaked havoc on the trail. The brush is so bad you are forced to crawl through several sections. Coupled with 4-8 inches of snow, the going was miserable. The tread was mostly evident, however, pushing through all the brush was painful and hard on equipment. We had to turn around at the top of the next mountain because the brush slowed us up so much. On the bright side, there were no significant deadfalls or detours that I noticed.

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Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers - Stevenson Wilderness Program
Survey date: 7-JANUARY-2006
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Section: Skinner Ridge to Blue Rock Ridge Trail turnoff - Clear

One or two fallen trees had clear and easy paths around them. Poison oak was not bad.

Section: Blue Rock Ridge Trail turnoff to Pat Springs - Clear

There were no major obstacles; the old ones have good trails around them. Pat Spring Camp was clean and clear. Water in the spring is flowing strongly from the pipes.
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Conditions reported by: TreeProf
Survey date: 27-DECEMBER-2005
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Puerto Suello Trail junction to Ventana Double Cone summit - Passable

Be prepared to lose some blood on the scrub oak and other brush on the trail up to Ventana Double Cone, which is beginning to take over on many parts of that trail.
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Conditions reported by: Roland Piedrahita
Survey date: 9-OCTOBER-2005
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Section: Puerto Suello Trail to Lone Pine Camp - Difficult

The section from Puerto Suello to Lone Pine camp is severely overgrown but the tread remains evident in most parts. There were a couple of times when I thought I may be going the wrong way, but pushing through about 10 yards led to a semi open trail again. If you plough your way through for more than 10 or 15 yards and do not see the tread, you probably went the wrong way. Be careful not to follow a deer trail close to the beginning of the trail. It leads pretty steeply down the ridge.Very little poison oak.

Section: Lone Pine Camp to Ventana Double Cone - Passable

The trail improves and is generally good to the summit of Ventana Double Cone, though it too has some severely overgrown parts. No poison oak. No bug problem.
===========
Conditions reported by: William Salmon, Dave Butler
Survey date: 17-APRIL-2005
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Weather is beautiful this time of year, wildflowers everywhere, green grass with fields of lupine and poppy, trees budding in new bloom. Camped at Comings Camp, Little Pines Camp, then back to Pat Spring. Water was available east of Pat Spring, along Uncle Sam Mountain and a small stream at Lone Pine camp. Some brush encroaching on trail north of Lone Pine Camp. Spent an hour on the south Double Cone looking at the 'Window' with fog filling the valleys below and east of our perch. Most of trail from Bottcher's Gap was in good condition (but strenuous climbing). Took a side trip to visit Spaghetti Camp. That trail is not being used very much and the Spaghetti Camp table is one step above kindling wood.
===========
Conditions reported by: Richard Vassar
Survey date: 11-APRIL-2005
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

We did this hike as a backpack from Bottcher's Gap to Pat Springs then dayhiked from Pat Springs to Ventana Double Cone and back. The trail between Bottcher's Gap and Pat Springs is in generally good condition. There are a few downed trees but nothing that is difficult to cross with a pack. The section from Pat Springs to Puerto Suello is also in generally good condition. However, the 1.5 mile section from Puerto Suello to Lone Pine camp is severely overgrown with some significant bushwacking required but the tread remains evident. Beyond Lone Pine camp the trail improves again and is generally good to the summit of Ventana Double Cone. Wildflowers along the trail were spectacular. Water was flowing well at Pat Springs.
===========
Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers - Stevenson Wilderness Program
Survey date: 10-MARCH-2005
General: CLEAR
Specific:

The trail is clear to the top of Ventana Double Cone with the expected brush on the slopes past Puerto Suello. Assistance with hand clippers is always appreciated by those who follow you, and you on your way back down the trail.
===========
Conditions reported by: Lee Kenyon
Survey date: 14-NOVEMBER-2004
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Section: Bottchers Gap to Pat Springs : CLEAR

A few deadfalls now and then, but easy to follow and no bushwhacking. Pat Springs was flowing nicely.

Section: Pat Springs to Ventana Double Cone : CLEAR to PASSABLE

Most of it was clear, but brush was encroaching on a section of the trail. Route-finding was never a problem.
===========
Conditions reported by: Steven Waggoner
Survey date: 28-AUG-2004
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Section: Bottchers Gap to Mt. Carmel Trail jct.

A well traveled trail that is easy to follow. There are a couple of fallen trees across the path, but are navigable with pack. A couple spots there are branches you'll have to bob and weave for the pack, but overall not to bad. There is a short distance of underbrush encroaching the trail.

Turner Creek Trail Junction to Devils Peak summit:

Wilderness Freeway

This was a well worn path, though watch the loose dirt/gravel while traversing the 15+% grades. There is typically plenty of room to step off to the side to take a breather. If you are looking for shade, do it before you get to the viewpoint, or travel the 1/10 mile on down the trail towards the Mount Carmel Trail Junction.
===========
Conditions reported by: Mark Tyler
Survey date: 02-JULY-2004
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Bottcher¹s Gap trailhead to Pat Spring

Trail conditions pretty good. A couple of older deadfalls. Passed one cranky rattle snake between Botcher's Gap trailhead and Skinner Ridge summit. Lots of tight scrub brush going up Devil's Peak. Will not soon forget arriving at Devil's Peak summit at sunset with the June full moon rising over the Ventana Double Cone.

Water at Pat Springs VERY LOW this year. First hiked this route in 1968 and I can't recall when I've seen the Pat Spring's lower - tank up before you hike! Spring was early and so was summer on the ridge. Wildflowers are on their way out, ferns are starting to dry up. There was water in the creek where the Big Pine camp used to be... hard to find after 30 years of weather and no maintenance. Heard coyote or cat at night. Found lots of poison oak.
===========
Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers
Survey date: 30-MAY-2004
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Section: Bottchers to Ventana Double Cone

The trail from Bottchers to the Ventana Double Cone is in as good shape as I can remember it. I hiked up to Pat Spring the first day and up to the Double Cone to spend the second night.

There is not much water flow at Pat Spring. A liter bottle took nearly a minute to fill; this is not good for the beginning of summer. There are several step over tree trunks on the way to Pat Spring, and one that I slid over, rather than jump up and off with a pack. From Pat Spring to the top of the rise above Porto Suello, the trail remains clear, even the section just past Little Pines, which is often brushy. Down the trail to Lone Pine junction, the brush (ceanothus, scrub oak, and manzanita) is encroaching and prickly. I trimmed most of the rest of the trail up to the summit, but could not do much on this quarter mile. The rest is very clear. The warm winters have allowed poison oak to grow higher than I usually expect; there is isolated poison oak up to four thousand feet.

Aside from having to carry water from Pat Springs for the trip out and back, this is a wonderful excursion. The flies are biting, though! I found no ticks, but saw lizards, horny toads, squirrels, hawks, deer, one rattle snake, and a beautiful barn owl near the top of the Double Cone.
===========
Conditions reported by: josh and kristin
Survey date: 17-APRIL-2004
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY?
Specific:

Section: from Puerto Suello Trail Junction > Ventana Double Cone Trail > Pat Springs (6-7 miles, 4 hours) > Big Pines Camp (1 mile, 20 minutes).

This trail is in great condition. well defined, no bush overgrowth. Fantastic views in all directions, Ventana cones, pico blanco, and the pacific.

Could not find Little Pines campsite, poorly marked.

Junction at Pat Springs was confusing. From Ventana cones trail head towards Pat SPrings, you pass a small fire ring on your right. hit the juncture, with the springs to your left. walking 50 yards you hit another juncture with an old sign. uphill are the pat springs campsites with amazing views of the surrounding mountains. downhill will take you to the junction with the big pines/ventana double cone trail.
===========
Conditions reported by: Andrew McDavid
Survey date: 16-MAR-2004
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Puerto Suello jct. to Double Cone - back to Pat Spring

Hiked backwards from Puerto Suello saddle (coming from Carmel River.) Camped at the saddle. Hopefully that's allowed? Not a bad spot. Good water was five minutes down Puerto Suello trail.

From saddle to the summit of the double cone: PASSABLE/DIFFICULT Quite a bushwhack from the first summit you gain, to Lone Pines camp, although the tread was fairly obvious. The camp more or less exists, and there was some sort of side trail which I didn't investigate. To water perhaps? After that, it is passable, and gets better the higher you go. Almost feels like the Sierras at times. Awesome view at the top. Makes me glad I got up so early.

From Puerto Suello saddle, to Pat Springs: Clear. No deadfalls I can remember, well defined tread. Good views along the side of Uncle Sam Mountain. Came to Little Pines camp trail jct., but did not realize it, and missed our turn off to Rattlesnake Trail, our intended route. From what I read now, that trail hasn't been navigated in long time in that direction, so it was probably for the best. Got to Pat Springs, and got very confused for a long time, wondering where Lone Pine camp was. Pat Springs would make a nice camp site, though. The lesson: don't trust guidebooks. Or trail maps.
===========
Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers
Survey date: 8-NOV-2003
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Botchers Gap trailhead to south of Puerto Suello

A Stevenson School group hiked to Pat Spring and beyond, encountering some fresh deadfalls but clearing the one on Skinners Ridge and doing some more clearing on the way to Puerto Suelo. There are several fallen trees on the trail after the Blue Rock Ridge junction and before Pat Spring. The worst is about a quarter mile from the junction. It has a rough detour around it, but the trunk has come down along a significant length of the trail. We also cleared and flagged the shortcut between Pat Springs and Big Pine, which had become quite confusing near the junction with the Blue Rock Ridge Trail. We cleared the trail beyond Puerto Suelo up to the top of the first rise. Generally the trail is in good condition and Pat Springs has a good flow from two pipes.
===========
Conditions reported by: Matt Fiori
Survey date: 27-MAY-2003
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Puerto Suello jct. to Double Cone

There was considerable brush of the scratchy variety all throughout this trail. The tread was in pretty good shape, but it was hard to see at times due to encroaching brush. We encountered a 5 or 6 year old rattler on the way down who was as startled to see us as we were to see him! Though I rushed passed him after a few minutes of pondering, my hiking partner took the long (and seemingly painful) way around through THICK brush. She came out with a branch in her hair, but no snakebite, so she was happy. This trail is a prime candidate for some serious cutting next Spring.
===========
Conditions reported by: Rob Yang
Survey date: 30-APR-2003
General: VARIOUS
Specific:

From Big Pines to Pat Spring: Clear
I was amazed to see stems of poison oak sprouting over the trail in places between the Big Pines junction and the first creek crossing before Pat Spring (though it's nothing like stuff on the Big Pines trail coming up from the dam). Clipped it back a bit. Very pleasant otherwise.

Pat Spring to Puerto Suello: Clear to Passable
Pretty much as last report. I did some clipping of the chaparral along here. The perfume of the lupines is very enjoyable in warmer weather. Poppies, paintbrush, and baby blue eyes are also out.

Puerto Suello to Lone Pine: Passable to Difficult
I spent a while hacking away at the brush here, sawing and clipping. I think the part that needs most attention is from about 0.5 mile south of Puerto Suello to just before the junction with Lone Pine. Camping there would have allowed more time to work on the trail.

Lone Pine to summit: Passable
I did some clipping on the more difficult parts, but it could probably use more. Clouds hovered threateningly over Kandlbinder, but Double Cone was mostly in the sun, and enjoyed and incredible view, followed by the entertainment of the summit register entries (eg. "swam up Carmel River").

[Word to the wise: Something ran off with my cookpot (and the stove packed inside) while I was camped at Pat Spring. I'd hung my food though. Ate cold couscous that night, bleah]
===========
Conditions reported by: K Vandevere
Survey date: 8-JAN-2003
General: CLEAR to DIFFICULT
Specific:

The trail is pretty much a Wilderness Freeway from Pat Spring to the Little Pines junction. From Little Pines to Puerto Suello there is minor brush encroachment. Brush encroachment gets worse after Puerto Suello on the way to the summit, but still does not present a serious obstacle to travel.
===========
Conditions reported by: Ojai Valley School - "Las Papas Gigantescas"
Survey date: APRIL-MAY, 2002
General: CLEAR to PASSABLE
Specific:

Ventana Double Cone Trail: Pat Springs to Puerto Suello:
Five trails branch out from saddle near spring (light rain and wet from the previous day). The correct trail goes North and uphill from the junction before turning toward the East. Little Pines was unmarked and we did not see an established campsite. Past Little Pines there was a post and a spur trail descending to the North East. With no indications on the topo, we spent 45 minutes exploring before dismissing it and continuing on what we figured was the main trail. (Snow flurries) Beautiful hike along edge of drainage to Puerto Suello.
===========
Conditions reported by: Jeffrey Zimmerman
Survey date: 23-APRIL-2002
General: CLEAR TO DIFFICULT
Specific:

Craig House, Molly the dog and I hiked from Bottchers to Double Cone this weekend and enjoyed marvelous weather. However, a few comments about the trail are in order.

The first is the wildflowers. If you haven't had a chance to get to the Ventana lately get there now. The hills will be brown in a matter of weeks, but right now the meadows just east of Devils Peak and just south of Pat Spring are lush, alive and fragrant with lupin, paintbrush, poppies, clover, sweetpeas, and more.

(Aside: orchids appear to be pushing through the duff and humus in the shady areas along the Big Pines trial. Long, shiny, pointed, dark green leaves, many nibbled on, perhaps by deer. Is this indeed an orchid? If so, what?)

Secondly, the bugs are coming. Last week's cold spell probably delayed some of the hatches a bit but the smaller flies are already out in force. Get there before the big ones do. Ticks were a minor problem.

Pat Spring has been recently cleaned; the output from one of the pipes continues quite strong. It remains an attractive spot. The trail to the spring itself was explored for another hundred yards, and despite Jeffrey Schaffer's comment that it is a "misleading spur to nowhere" in fact it terminates in a fine and glorious meadow suitable for camping with a view, next to a large and sheltering oak for shade, along with a fire ring.

There is water a few hundred yards east of and below Puerto Suello and east of and below the trail at Lone Pine. The latter may disappear in a few weeks, but for now is running clear. The Lone Pine detour to water is just after the "knob" marking the first ascent from Puerto Suello, just as the trail bottoms out from climbing down from the shoulder of a ridge. As you descend from the eastbound ridge watch the foliage to the east of the southbound ridge and note the many deciduous trees in the draw; they mark the water. The trail junction is marked with (one of Boon's?) pink flags, a break in the brush, and a few rocks along side the Ventana Double Cone trail.

What appears to be the junction with Rattlesnake Creek Trial is marked by logs along side the trail a little south of Little Pines Campground. A square post has been inserted into the ground as well, but no signage appears on the post. Who has a router and good woodworking skills for a sign?

The Double Cone Trail between Puerto Suello and Lone Pine has major impediments to travel. While the grade is good, the brush has so encroached along almost the entire several miles of this stretch that passage is possible only with great effort. In several locales we were reduced to crawling on hands and knees to get beneath ceanothus, scrub live oak, or chemise. Our skin, clothing and packs were constantly clawed and frequently torn by the encroaching brush, for several miles. Trail repair work will require much more than a weekend volunteer crew. Above Lone Pine the trail is quite passable, perhaps secondarily due to the fire suppression efforts a few years ago.

There is a most remarkable entry in the summit log, dated late December 2000 and claiming to be the last entry of the old millennium. The author claims to have left Bottchers at 6:00 am that morning, been atop the summit at 11:30 (14 miles!) and planned to return to Bottchers by 5:00 pm (about sunset local time) the same day. Has anyone heard from this athlete since then? Or did fatigue overtake him and cause him to wander off into the chemise to die?

There is fine cell phone service from atop VDC. Five bars on a Verizon handheld, albeit only analog service connected.

The Skinner Ridge and the Big Pines trails remain readily passable. The Double Cone trail as far as Puerto Suello is also free of all but minor hindrances to passage. We chose not to call these trails "freeways," for they remain single-track footpaths despite the bulldozer damage from years past.
===========
Conditions reported by: Jim Yurchenco
Survey date: 14-21-APRIL-2002
General: CLEAR TO PASSABLE
Specific:

Bottchers Gap to Puerto Suello Trail:
Clear other than a couple of minor blowdowns.

Puerto Suello Trail to Double Cone summit:
Clear; I clipped most the section from Puerto Suello junction to the summit and aside from a few minor blowdowns and a couple of short overgrowths heavier than my clippers could handle, this trail is in now good shape.
===========
Conditions reported by: Stevenson School Wilderness Expedition
Survey date: FEB-2002
General: CLEAR TO PASSABLE W/ BRUSH
Specific:

Bottchers Gap to Pat Springs: This trail is in fine shape. It has been well maintained recently with nice work on the section down Skinner Ridge to the Turner Creek junction. Although the trail is clear, it should be noted that there is a lot of up and down, and some sections past Devil¹s Peak are rocky and require care. But the route is very pretty and the camp sites are well worth visiting.

Pat Spring to Puerto Suello: Trail is brushy after Little Pines but is generally clear. We did some clipping on the worst spots. The normal water source a quarter mile down the trail towards Hiding Canyon was dry. The nearest water was a mile down at the first major stream crossing.

Puerto Suello to Ventana Double Cone: First half of trail is heavily overgrown. The path is not hard to find but it is hard to follow because of the brush.
===========
Conditions reported by: Dennis Wilkinson
Survey date: 28-FEB-2002
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY TO DIFFICULT
Specific:

Weather: mid 60's, no snow cover at all
Bugs: not a problem. Heard 'em in the brushy sections, but they didn't bother me at all. Had no ticks at the end of the day.
Water: I refilled both ways at Pat Springs and didn't look for any elsewhere.

(Note: I'm not sure how to differentiate between "clear" and "wilderness freeway". Seems to me that what could pass for a freeway in Ventana might be substantially less than one elsewhere.)

Skinner Ridge Trail Junction to Devil's Peak: Clear to Wilderness Freeway

Trail is very clear and well marked by wooden posts where it leaves the bulldozed firebreak. In a few places it has become a bit of a water run, especially where the soil is sandy. Very pleasant above about 3500 feet. No poison oak.

Devil's Peak to Pat Spring: Clear to Wilderness Freeway

Slightly confusing unsigned junction just after Devil's Peak, where a use trail goes off north towards Mount Carmel and Ventana trail goes east down the ridge. Trail is quite clear through the fire break here. Extremely pleasant walking to Pat Springs. Several patches of poison oak (but very few leaves yet). No brush at all. The tread already circumvents all the significant deadfall, with one tricky place through pieces of a newly fallen pine. Confusing section at Pat Spring: Just after an old wooden sign, the Ventana trail (faint tread) veers off uphill and east, while a well-worn path goes down over the saddle about 40 yards to the spring.

Pat Spring to Puerto Suello Gap (Trail Junction): Passable to Clear

A few brushy spots in this section. Long blister creating section traversing a slight incline around Uncle Sam mountain. Tread is very clear. No poison oak.

Puerto Suello Gap to VDS Summit: first mile Difficult, then Clear to Wilderness Freeway

The first part of this section is really tough, with constant pushing through brush. In a few places I was almost on hands and knees. Beyond the first saddle, though, some wonderful people have cleared the trail and it's easy walking. The view at the top is spectacular in all directions, possibly due to still-evident fire damage.
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Conditions reported by: Robert Yang
Survey date: 28-APRIL-2001
General: CLEAR TO PASSABLE/BRUSHY
Specific:

Just got back from hiking the Ventana Double Cone Trail from Bottcher's Gap, to Pat Spring, to VDC, by the most direct route.

To say the view at the top is marvelous is trite understatement ! What an amazing place - I've enjoyed the Big Sur area car-camping, day-hiking, and cycling before, but this was my first backpack trip into the wilderness.

However, there are stretches of the trail from the Puerto Suello junction to VDC summit where the overgrowth sometimes necessitates crouching and crawling. Plenty of ceanothus and other scratchy stuff to remove the epidermis.

The flies are definitely out if it's warm. The last day of my 3-day trek was cooler and probably high 50's/low 60's, so the flies were blissfully absent. I used a spare bandana to wipe the sweat / salt from my face otherwise.

If there's a service trip organized to help clear out the brush to the summit, I'd be interested !

-Rob
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Conditions reported by: Jonathan Dirrenberger
Survey date: 21-APRIL-2001
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Turner Creek Trail junction to Devil's Peak

This part is all uphill, but there is absolutely no poison oak and the views are spectacular. It's supposed to be brutally hot during the summer here because you are quite exposed, but the temperature was perfect the day we were there. The trail stops following the dozer trail (which plows straight up to the summit of Devil's Peak) and goes to the north of it instead. There is very little overgrowth on the trail so it's pretty easy going, though some areas are a little eroded from water and could use runoff ditches. With the dozer trail having leveled all vegetation on the top, the views are outstanding from Devil's Peak.
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Conditions reported by: J. Doelman
Survey date: 24-MARCH-01
General: CLEAR to DIFFICULT
Specific:

The trail is very pleasant from Little Pines to the Puerto Suello trail intersection, with no obstacles to speak of. From this intersection to Double Cone Peak is very brushy. The trail is easily followable but the brush will leave your legs stripped of dead skin if you wear shorts. There are several spots on this section that require crawling. We encountered patches of snow. There is a fire break along the ridge for 2-3 miles between Puerto Suello and the Cone but it doesn't seem to have helped the trail. While spending the night on the peak we saw a large campfire that appeared to be in the vicinity of Pine Valley, this fire was blazing at 2:00 AM. From the peak you get a nice view of the ocean.
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Conditions reported by: Leo Wang
Survey date: 19-24MAR-2001
Ventana Double Cones and Turner Creek Trails = CLEAR with PASSABLE sections
Specific:

The people who say that mid-March to mid-April is the perfect time of year to visit this part of the Ventana aren't kidding! We had outstanding weather and great views all along our route. Thanks to Boon Hughey for the tip.

Bottcher's Gap (no water, parking $5/day, camping $10/day, adventure pass valid) : Larry keeps this place pretty well maintained. There's a bit of poison oak around, just starting to sprout new leaves. This is true for pretty much the entire trail from Bottcher's Gap to Apple Tree Camp (we didn't go to Turner). The only mildly confusing part is the posted sign reading "Trail" that points down the Skinner Ridge Trail where it crosses a relatively large (and not on any of the topo maps) creek. Coming up the trail, it is possible to convince yourself that the sign indicates that the trail progresses along the creekbed. It doesn't.

The trail to Devil's Peak is in excellent shape - if it doesn't qualify as a WILDERNESS FREEWAY, I'm not sure what would. Nice views from Skinner Ridge, Devil's Peak, and Mt. Carmel (and a nifty sign made out of rocks at the unsigned turnoff to Mt. Carmel - thanks to Matt and Casey). The trail crosses the 'dozer line a lot, but the tread is extremely clear and the trail well-marked with bits of orange tape tied to brush where necessary. Most of the deadfall has been cleared from the path, so the only caution is that the Mt. Carmel trail proper is extremely overgrown. No poison oak, but tough to push through (and scratchy). Stash your pack at Devil's Peak and trot out to Mt. Carmel wearing long sleeves and long pants and you'll probably be a lot happier.

The Turner Creek trail is also in great shape, with only one or two step-overs or step-arounds. Mind the poison oak, though - there's *tons* of it. We only went as far as Apple Tree Camp, where there is abundant water and a beautiful little waterfall just in back of the first (eastern most) campsite.

From the Devil's Peak to the Comings cabin junction, the trail is also in great shape. The tread is very clear, for the most part - there is I think one meadow where the trail gets lost but it's very easy to see where it should logically come out of the meadow. Lots of wildflowers blooming, a bit of coyote scat around, but the only other evidence was a howl we heard one night. We bypassed Comings cabin because we'd heard that there was no water there.

From the Comings Camp trail junction to Pat Spring is a little tougher. Initially, the path is well maintained and easy to follow, though it can get slippery with all those "acorns" underfoot. Unfortunately, the trail quickly disappears under a carpet of needles on a set of switchbacks through a pine forest. There were a couple of times when we inadvertently followed or created our own "shortcuts." There are places where branches have been dragged across the wrong trail, but perhaps the trail should be cleared or marked in some way as well. Exiting the pine forest, the trail opens up into a steep meadowy area which is clear except for a large downed pine that transects the trail as it cuts across a steep slope. Two guys with a bow or crosscut saw could make quick work of the deadwood, as it is quite dry and brittle. However, until that happens you have to go uphill or downhill of the tree - neither of which is fun - or go over/under, which means taking off your pack.

Further along, the trail hits a downed trunk that is at least 3.5' in diameter. Not a big deal to swing one leg up and over, straddle the log, and swing the other leg over. But I kind of feel guilty about all the ants that got squashed in the process. And it might be tough if you're shorter than about 5' 2".

Finally, there are a couple of other places on the trail to Pat Spring where deadfall or downed brush necessitates leaving the trail for a little while. The path on the other side is always visible, so that's not a concern. However, someone may want to go out and move that stuff. Our boots did a lot of damage to the hillsides when we were forced to walk around stuff, especially where it was steep.

Pat Spring was well worth the trip (and is an excellent source of water right now). The campsite is stunning, with remarkable views to the south/southwest (of Pico Blanco, with the ocean behind) and southeast (of Ventana Double Cones and La Ventana). Further along the V.D.C. trail (we only went about a mile and a half farther) one gets beautiful views to the north and northeast, and occasionally of the inhabited places (Carmel? Salinas?) to the north and northwest. As far as we went, the trail was in wonderful condition - well-trod and easily passable. Many thanks to the USFS and the VWA for helping to make our trip so pleasant and memorable. We'll definitely be back.

Leo Wang
Chicago IL
===========
Conditions reported by: Jeffrey Zimmerman
Survey date: 18-MAR-2001
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

The road to Bottchers Gap remains a little tricky. In parts there are still sand washes across the pavement making for uncertain traction; in others large amount of windfall make the useful pavement appear more narrow than it is. On Coast Route 1 watch for seasonal bicyclists enjoying the first breath of spring.

The only bugs in serious appearance in mid-March are the ticks. They were most apparent east and south of Pat Spring. However it is apparent that serious bug season is but a few weeks away.

Vegetation is (at long last) finally encroaching on the sandstone tread of the trail up out of Bottchers. With a little shelter from the nearby manzanita some grasses are arriving. What in parts had been a ten-foot wide jeep trial is now narrowing to human tread width.

At the same time the winter's overgrowth leads to a few problems. Between the first contact with running water and the top of Skinner Ridge there are multiple points where ceanothus in particular, but at times chemise and even young madrones can make for low overhead. Past Pat Spring someone has done some pruning but the problem remains. It is far from impassable but is a difficulty and can tear equipment.

Of more serious threat to safety are a number of deadfalls. One in particular, just before the last creek crossing before Skinner Ridge, can be treacherous. Two more, on the downhill switchbacks just west of the turnoff to Carmel River, can also push you off the trail. A fourth, in the last half mile before Pat Springs, is located across the trail where it edges past a steep section of hillside; climbing through the entangled and broken limbs is risky.

As mentioned elsewhere the trail through the bulldozer damage in the once-magnificent madrones wood atop Skinner Ridge is quite well worn and easy. Atop Devils Peak this is far from true, and careful foot placement is required. Similar care must be exercised in portions of the trail just east of the Comings Camp turnoff.

The Comings Camp pipe spring appears dry. This is anomalous as Pat Spring is flowing at its healthy seasonal rate.

While coyote scat is often seen, no sound or sight of the animals was detected.

Beyond Pat Spring snow lingers in the shade, from the first switchback to the summit. It also remains visible on the slopes of distant Double Cone. It is rapidly melting and should be gone in another week or two.

What appear to be thermal updrafts from Carmel Valley and the Little Sur basin accompany the ridgeline hiker; quality windbreaking clothing is
===========
Conditions reported by: Mike Splain
Survey date: 10-MARCH-01
General: CLEAR
Specific:

I started from Pat Spring the morning of 03/10/01- regrettably without loppers or saw. The trail crossed a few snowy patches with resultant downed brush (mostly ceanothus) on the way to Little Pines summit.

This trend was to continue on virtually all north facing slopes. From Little Pines camp to Puerto Suelo, the trail is essentially clear, with a little encroaching brush and several low-hanging bushes, especially near the heavily flowing creeklets along Uncle Sam Mountain.

After Puerto Suelo, the real work is needed- LOTS of brush has fallen across, or is pulled down by snow into the trail. A couple small springs on the way up the first climb made for a wet "hands and knees" crawl under overhanging thickets. Nearing the summit, snow was nearing 2 ft. in depth, and sometimes at a 45 degree angle over the trail, but not too difficult to negotiate.

I'm sure this will have significantly melted before the week is out, but that will likely leave behind even more downed brush. It would be a good idea to get a crew together to start at Pat Spring and clear out the 4 miles to the summit once the remaining snowpack is gone.
===========
Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers for Stevenson School Wilderness Expedition
Survey date: 28-JAN-2001
General: CLEAR with PASSABLE sections
Specific:

Ventana Cones trail over Devil's Peak and down to Bottcher's is in excellent shape. The traffic since last spring has made the trail much more distinct, and except for the climb up Skinner's Ridge, where one still picks one's own trail for the first section, a defined foot bed has appeared that avoids the worst of the downed wood on the firebreak.
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Conditions reported by: Andrew Ricciardi
Survey date: 04-JANUARY-2001
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

The trail is in relatively good condition all the way to Devils Peak. Great views of Pacific and Little Sur watershed. It crosses the dozer line several times. These parts could be dangerous because of all the branches thrown on the dozer line. Watch your step.
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Conditions reported by: Stevenson School Wilderness Expedition 2000
Survey date: APRIL-2000
General: PASSABLE TO DIFFICULT
Specific:



Pat Springs to Skinner Ridge

The trail is well cleared of brush. When it runs along the ridge tops, it intersects the new firebreak. In places the trail cuts south around hilltops, and these intersections are discreetly flagged. But when the trail is on the same level as the firebreak, it is hard to stay on the original foot bed. The passage of more hikers will probably create a new trail here by consensus. Missing the contouring side trails will entail a rougher ascent and descent of the ridge but should not cause anyone to become lost.

North and south of the Comings Camp Trail junction needs some attention. The trail north towards Pine Creek Camp and San Clemente is in better shape than it has been in recent years, a regular WILDERNESS FREEWAY. And with new grass and a wide firebreak obscuring the main trail towards Devil's Peak, it is possible to take it by mistake. The old signpost is still here, but has come out of the ground and the signs to Pine Creek and Comings are missing or on the ground. This junction should be re-signed.

Comins Camp Trail Junction to Bottcher's Gap=PASSABLE W/ DIFFICULT DOZER FIRELINE

The trail is wide, but not always clear where the new firebreak has overlaid it. The original trail where it avoids the steep ridges by going around the sides or on switchbacks up to Devils Peak still exists in good condition, but one needs to watch carefully for the spots where it leaves the firebreak. Most of the turnoffs are flagged, but wind has shortened those flags and made them inconspicuous.

The last climb up to Devil's Peak just beyond the junction to Mount Carmel goes through a tangle of bulldozed manzanita and other brush. There is no clear path through this, and hikers are still deciding on a consensus "best path". From the top, one makes a decision whether to go directly down the face of the mountain on the firebreak or to take the real trail, which cuts west through the chaparral. The firebreak is covered for most of its length by more flattened brush. The trail is both safer and environmentally sounder. It is well cleared until it comes back to the firebreak just above the Turner Creek Trail Junction where it meets the bulldozed brush and bare earth again. This obstacle continues up to and past the Skinner Ridge View Point and only returns to proper trail when the route leaves Skinner Ridge and turns west. Some sections of this route retain original trail segments, and other routes are being established through the broken wood; however, this section should be brought back into the normal trail system by people with axes, hoes, and saws who can plot a more rational passage than the dangerous one hikers must pick their way through now.
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Conditions reported by: Tom Hopkins
Survey date: 04-APRIL-2000
General: PASSABLE but BULLDOZED
Specific:

From the Turner Creek junction to the top of Devil's Peak, there are a couple of places where the trail encounters the bulldozed firebreak for fairly short stretches. Again, look for the flagging that marks the ends of these sections. The great majority of this leg of the trip follows the established trail, which is clear with only minor brush problems and a clear tread.
From the viewpoint on Devil's Peak to the junction above Comings Camp, there are a few more encounters with the bulldozed firebreak. In this area though, the downed brush is minimal and one must just deal instead with the steep and sometimes slippery gravel surface left by the dozer. Again, there are several sections of the original trail left intact that are flagged at each end. If you find any flagging that is down, please retie it to an appropriate branch to help others find the ends of the remaining sections of original trail.
Past the Comings junction and on to Pat Springs, there is no more dozer damage to deal with, just typical Ventana trail conditions. The trail is open with a clear tread, a few brushy areas and some minor down falls. Pat Springs was running strong with lots of water.
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Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 2:26 pm

* USFS Trail #1E04, 2E04
* Parking: Bottchers Gap ($5/day)
* Watershed: Little Sur River
* Junctions: Skinner Ridge Trail, Turner Creek Trail, Mount Carmel Trail, Pine Creek Trail, Comings Camp Trail, Big Pines Trail, Pat Springs Trail, Rattlesnake Trail, Puerto Suello Trail, Lone Pine Camp Trail
* Connects: Skinner Ridge Trail with Ventana Double Cone
* Camps: Comings Camp, Pat Springs Camp, Little Pines Camp, Lone Pine Cam
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