South Fork Trail

Wilderwill2

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by Wilderwill2 »

Date Hiked: April 21, 2019
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Bill Vogt and I worked Saturday with the trail crew on Marble Peak Trail and the hiked out via South Fork and Big Sur Trails.

Starting at Strawberry Camp, traveling west, the trail was excellent for a mile or so, thanks to Ace crew work 2 years ago. When we got down to the river, things got a lot wilder. We counted 30 or so trees down until we got to Rainbow Camp. Much of the trail is visible, and our thanks to trail crews for the flagging the overgrown sections, it made it a lot easier to find the trail.

We made an inventory for future trail work with narrative and photos. The worst was a 36" diam. tree down at the crossing of the river, we scrambled across on boulders only to lose the trail. We found it right at the waters edge, a few more flags would help.

Strawberry, South Fork, Rainbow and Mocho camps are in good shape, the difficult rating is due to all the trees down. Plenty of water in April and the weather was pleasant.
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Betsy M
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Re: SF Trail - Strawberry Valley to Second Creek Crossing

Post by Betsy M »

Date Hiked: December 29, 2018
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

There is water everywhere. Both in Strawberry Valley, at Strawberry Camp, and in the creek heading down the South Fork Drainage.

Section: Strawberry Valley junction with the Marble Peak Trail to Strawberry Camp
PASSABLE. There are lots of wild roses growing towards the trail and they can snag you pretty good. But the confusing section just before you reach Strawberry Camp has been cleaned up.

Section: Strawberry Camp to the second creek crossing on the way to South Fork Camp
WILDERNESS FREEWAY
While there are a couple of trees down, they are easy to negotiate. The major obstacles have been cleared and the deep gully filled in. We left flagging at a few locations just for reassurance. It is a pleasure to hike this section of the trail that stays up on the side hill and offers great views of the South Fork and Pick Creek drainages. We didn't go past the second crossing and assume there are probably more blowdowns downstream, after several wind events. Always a good idea to load Dr. Jack's map on your phone or GPS http://bigsurtrailmap.net/
Several Trees Cleared
Several Trees Cleared
Deep Gully Filled In
Deep Gully Filled In
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Betsy M
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Re: SF Trail Strawberry Valley to Second Creek Crossing

Post by Betsy M »

Date Hiked: August 25, 2018
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Section: Strawberry Valley junction with the Marble Peak Trail to Strawberry Camp
PASSABLE. There are lots of wild roses growing towards the trail and they can snag you pretty good.
WATER: there is no water anywhere in Strawberry Valley EXCEPT at Tan Oak Camp. No water at Strawberry Camp; none at Tan Oak use camp.

Section: Strawberry Camp to the second creek crossing on the way to South Fork Camp
DIFFICULT. Much of this section is clear and the tread is still in good shape thanks to the ACE crew which cleared a two-mile section in 2016. But with a couple of obscure sections so that the 2-mile section should be considered just a bit less than clear. There is one major gully that the rains scoured out, making it about 10 feet deep. It was hard getting across with a day pack. With a backpack, you need someone to give you a hand up or carry cord to lower/lift backpack separately. In a few spots riparian vegetation (this is just your standard Ventana vegetation - but growing about ten times as fast in the creek bottom as it normally would) has almost obscured the trail.
We worked to clear some of these jungle-like sections. And left plenty of flagging everywhere we thought a hiker might need some help. Because if anyone tries to hike this section they will need to look for the flagging or have a GPS or both. And that is a GPS/map with Dr. Jack's map, not the other maps. http://bigsurtrailmap.net/
WATER: There were murky pools below the first creek crossing. There was abundant water flowing well at the second creek crossing and there is water everywhere downstream of there.

Section: The second creek crossing to South Fork Camp and Rainbow Camp
CLEAR. VWA volunteer trail crews devoted several trips to locating and clearing the section above South Fork Camp. VWA volunteer trail crews had previously cleared from Rainbow to South Fork Camp.

Note: the two ends of the South Fork Trail are now connected. A careful backpacker should be able to get from one end to the other relatively easily. Just use extreme caution when negotiating the gully and check for flagging in several overgrown sections as you head up the hill to Strawberry Camp.
jboning
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Re: South Fork Trail

Post by jboning »

Date Hiked: June 16, 2018
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

This is for the section of trail west of Strawberry toward South Fork Camp.

The trail leaving Strawberry up to the saddle was in good condition. Continuing down the other side, the trail became fainter, but still possible to pick out, before disappearing completely (a total of about half a mile from Strawberry Camp).

A light-to-moderate effort to forge ahead through the brush didn't lead me to find the trail again, so I gave up and turned around.

My GPS track, alongside reference tracks from hikelospadres and bigsurtrailmap, can be seen at https://caltopo.com/m/KAJ9. (You'll notice that I had a similarly abortive attempt to take the Black Cone Trail north; maybe the problem is me, not the trail, so take this report with a grain of salt!)

ED(jg): that end of the South Fork Trail is definitely impassable, as attested by several recent attempts. But the Black Cone Trail exists and has been taken by several people in past months, from both directions - there is much of plant growth on the south end, as you no doubt discovered, and several sharp turns can be hard to follow (see: Jim Ringland's recent Black Cone Trail report).
js_radford
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Re: South Fork Trail

Post by js_radford »

Date Hiked: June 12, 2018
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I stayed behind after Betsy's trail crew left Sunday and surveyed and did work on the South Fork Trail onward from SF Camp towards Strawberry. I got about 3/4 of the way to the ridge above Strawberry (perhaps 1.5 miles out of maybe 2.5 total) and did some clearing so one could step over logs or step through patches of deadfall. Brush was not much problem at all; but keeping to the route was a problem at times. I think I was on track up until the route twice crossed the side stream flowing into South Fork of the Big Sur. There are supposed to be maybe 9 more crossings but I did not proceed.

As far as I got, the forest was very healthy and beautiful with little burn damage, all on the north side. It is a nice section. Once the trail climbs away from the creek (saw one 12" trout in what is supposed to be an "intermittent" stream), I expect it gets exposed to burned and scrubby areas.

The part I worked (minimally) for about 8 hours Sunday-Monday is quite passable just requiring about 23 step-overs, a crawl-under (large log 4 feet off ground), no appreciable brush in one's face, lots (normal abundance) of Poison Oak but almost all avoidable. I was able to make the route MUCH easier just with hands (lots of rotten Oak and tossable and/or breakable branches), my large loppers and a little pruning saw work.

The tread is hard to follow at times (I had only 6 flags) but I made it much more obvious and deduced it's location by several indicators including old saw cuts, some few slash piles, beaten down linear areas. Maybe 2/3 the route is obvious, some I trod under foot to make obvious (for rest of this season perhaps), some I cut nearby brush to indicate a "worked" route. If I found it, so can you even more easily!

So ambitious persons could easily follow my lead as far as I went and perhaps scout out beyond on to Strawberry. I stopped at crossing #2 which had an old wooden sign board dangling above the stream from metal strapping attached to a half broken vertical pole-like dead trunk. By chance, that crossing is maybe 50 yards upstream of a very obvious cut log. I did not immediately see where the tread continued from there. So the climb up to the saddle above Strawberry could be hard to follow.

I greatly regret not having Jack Glendening's map sources [ http://bigsurtrailmap.net/ ] to use when trying to figure out where I was. The USGS/USFS topo has seriously erroneous route finding - zero correspondence to reality! Jack's maps are actually close to reality.
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Betsy M
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Re: South Fork Trail

Post by Betsy M »

Date Hiked: June 10, 2018
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

This report is for the section from Rainbow Camp to South Fork Camp ONLY. Thanks to the work of VWA volunteer trail crews and other volunteers, this 1.9-mile section is clear of brush and fallen trees. Except for a few step-over trees near South Fork Camp. There are still tread issues in several places, and additional work trips will be required to repair the tread.

The biting flies were out, and a few mosquitoes in the evenings. But temperatures down in the canyon were pleasant and we had a great weekend sawing logs.
Megan Sebay

South Fork Trail Marble Peak Junction to Black Cone Junction

Post by Megan Sebay »

Date Hiked: May 26, 2018
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

We hiked ONLY the section between Marble Peak Trail and Strawberry Camp. The trail was quite brushy near the (many) creek crossings, but passable and has been flagged with pink tape. I walked a few hundred yards up past the Black Cone junction to the top of the hill and it looked a lot better up there, although it was a bit slide-y on the way up.
wilderwill2

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by wilderwill2 »

Date Hiked: May 23, 2018
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked to South Fork Camp via CRR, Big Sur Trail through Rainbow Camp with Alan R. I have been wanting to do this trail for a long time. The trail as described by others is passable and the old trail is evident in many places. Once we got to camp we back-tracked and cut /cleared the small blow-down obstacles (4-5" diam.) and cleared brush for two hundred yards or so. We left some larger obstacles for the saw crew.

On the other side of camp about 1/4 mile away, heading to Strawberry camp we hacked our way through a dense maze of small blow-down trees and brush about 200 ft. long, so that area is now passable. The trail beyond looked pretty rough so we didn't attempt to go further.

South Fork Camp is spacious and shady with a rock stepped path down to the river access. (Big Sur River and North and South Forks are "Wild and Scenic River" designations down to Pfeiffer State Park boundary, very beautiful).

Alan repaired the table with 4" diam. branches for legs. There were some old wood and metal National Forest still signs intact.

Hiking back on the road to Post's Ventana Inn we passed the VWA trail crew coming the opposite way for the weekend trail work. I agree with Pantilat, a very pleasant hike. We also saw a mother Grouse with her chicks!

Wilderwill
pantilat
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Re: South Fork Trail

Post by pantilat »

Date Hiked: May 19, 2018
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

This report and rating are from Rainbow Camp to South Fork Camp:

Thanks to the work of volunteer trail crews the South Fork Trail from Rainbow Camp to South Fork Camp is mostly clear except for about a dozen logs over the trail, hence the "Passable" rating. The Soberanes Fire came through this canyon, but it was relatively low intensity near the river so most of the trees survived. However, the brush under these trees did burn so the forest has a more open feel than it did before the fire. The brush skeletons have been pulled back, the five river crossings are marked and/or obvious and the tread is easy to follow throughout, particularly through the marshy sections of Woodwardia ferns that are prone to getting overgrown. With removal of a few last logs over the trail, the section from Rainbow Camp to South Fork CAmp will be "Clear." When combined with the "Clear" condition of the Big Sur Trail from Cold Springs to Rainbow Camp, it's a very pleasant hike down from Cold Springs/Coast Ridge to South Fork Camp.

The South Fork Trail is one of the best forest hikes in the Ventana with wonderful tree diversity. Conifers include redwood, incense cedar, Santa Lucia Fir, Ponderosa Pine and Coulter Pine. In addition, there are several species of oak, California laurel, sycamore, alder and big leaf maple. South Fork Camp is situated on a nice flat bench beside the South Fork Big River and includes Santa Lucia Firs, some big oaks and Coulter Pines. The shade of the forest and the cool waters of the South Fork Big Sur River are welcomed on a warm day.
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Jim Ringland
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Location: Oakland, CA

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by Jim Ringland »

Date Hiked: May 9, 2018
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I did a short exploration after breakfast, heading west from Strawberry Valley Camp to the saddle dividing the Zigzag Creek and South Fork Big Sur watersheds, then down not quite a half mile. Afterwards, I packed up and headed out to the Marble Peak Trail.

Strawberry Valley Camp west to first water: Difficult

It’s clear from Strawberry up to the saddle. The section with the slide is considerably narrower than it was when I saw it, freshly reconstructed, in 2016, but it was still safe if walked attentively.

Heading down, the trail bed is in pretty good shape, even if there are plenty of small plants growing right in it. Those cute little wartleaf Ceanothus saplings are going to be a whole lot larger soon though, so the sooner this trail gets reworked, the better. There is enough growth overall that switchbacks can be easy to miss. I consulted my GPS several times and still went off the trail occasionally. There are a few deadfalls but nothing onerous.

300 feet down I reached a gully with the first water. I don’t think it was the gully that stopped RSIBryce. This one was only 5-6 feet deep and would have been crossable with effort (and some contact with poison oak). What really stopped me was the denser growth ahead now that I was down in a better-watered stream valley. What had been easy maneuvering looked about to end. This seemed a good enough place to turn around.

As was the case in much of the burned area, flowers were plentiful. Perhaps most interesting were the vast fields of chaparral snapdragon (Antirrhinum multiflorum), just coming into bloom.

Strawberry Valley Camp south to the Marble Peak Trail: Passable

(Note that reports on this trail section often appear in Marble Peak Trail entries. See, for example, the December 2017 reports by Betsy M and pantilat under that heading.)

I was warned this short section of the South Fork Trail was in bad shape, but I didn’t really have *that* much of a problem. Easy enough through the meadow just south of the Strawberry Valley Camp. The entry into the “wild rose area” seemed straightforward: there’s a big washed-out trough that is indeed the path, as reported by Betsy M. in December. It does get a little sketchier beyond that, but there was mostly a trail to follow. Have enough people come and gone to have created a workable route through the roses? When I did get off the trail, flagging really did help me return. At one point I knew I was off the trail to the west and just followed a streambed (with at most a few inches of water) back a clearly identifiable trail/stream crossing. I didn’t find maneuvering through the roses as difficult as pantilat suggests. The roses themselves are still young so it’s possible to nudge canes out of the way without receiving too much damage, at least wearing, as I was, stiff long pants.

So is this Passable or Difficult? It’s right on the edge. The sketchiness of the trail pushes one way. The relative ease of returning to the trail once off pushes the other. Subjectively, I found this easier than the last approach to the Strawberry Valley Camp on the Black Cone Trail.

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The Strawberry Valley Campsite itself is in one way unchanged by the fire. The big oaks, grill, and sitting area are as before. The view out, however, is radically different. The lower branches of the pines in the meadow burned, as has most of the hillside of east of camp. On the plus side, the frogs in the creek still provide a soothing bedtime chorus.
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