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Alta Vista - Overstrom Usetrail trail report

PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2021 7:08 pm
by jack_glendening
Tuesday I attempted to climb up to "Alta Vista", the Overstrom homestead atop Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, to see what might have changed since the Dolan Wildfire.

A small "Trail" sign along the Tanbark Trail used to mark the lower end of the usetrail leading to it, keeping Tanbark Trail hikers on the correct path, but that is now gone and the usetrail not obvious from the park trail. Still, the usetrail entry is marked by some broken branches for those aware of its existence. At first I found the tread very passable, except for a short section necessitating crawling under some branches, until I reached the ridgeline.

There I entered a firebreak put in for the Dolan fire, one which extends up to South Coast Ridge Road. I've often used firebreaks for hikes, usually finding them a welcome path through surrounding dense brush. But those have all been in chaparral country - this one went through a tree-filled area and was a different beast. Firebreaks are supposed to have after-fire brush strewn over them to help mitigate erosion - those who have seen such "erosion mitigation" elsewhere, as on the Arroyo Seco Camp Cawatre Trail, know this is often minimal - possibly reflecting a paucity of suitable material. But here the erosion control was extraordinary, with mounds of downed branches completely covering the trail and making progress very slow and cumbersome. I am also nursing a bum knee so progress was slow - after 0.6 hour I had only gone 1000 feet (0.3mph!) and decided to turn around.

Afterwards I used GoogleEarth to try to ascertain conditions along the rest of the firebreak. It's hard to assess, but likely conditions along the firebreak improve brush-wise closer to Alta Vista. In any case, anyone attempting to reach Alta Vista should expect a struggle. I've been up to Alta Vista five times along the usually overgrown usetrail, but find current conditions make Alta Vista less accessible than ever.

For those who don't know where Alta Vista is
https://bigsurtrailmap.net/cgi-bin/googlemaps_display.cgi?icon=Alta_Vista&map=36.18325,-121.67087,15

For those who would like more background on Alta Vista
https://xasauantoday.com/2009/11/24/remembering-alta-vista/