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South Fork Trail

Re: South Fork Trail

Postby pantilat on Tue May 22, 2018 10:40 am

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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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby Jim Ringland on Sat May 12, 2018 9:02 pm

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.

-----

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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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby RSIBryce on Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:20 am

Date Hiked: September 20, 2017
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

We took a peek at the South Fork trail, after having spent the night at Strawberry camp and before heading to Willow Spring.

DSCN1143.JPG
View from the top, looking out to South Fork


DSCN1144.JPG
Heading down


DSCN1145.JPG
Downed tree


This trail had recently seen hard work by VWA stalwarts, so much curiosity surrounds its present condition after the fire and heavy rainy season. It seemed like this past year made a mess of things. We hiked down for about a half hour, and ended up turning around at a gully that was massively cut. About 5-6 feet across, some 15 feet deep, soil was all pretty loose.

DSCN1148.JPG
Looked difficult to cross
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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby Betsy M on Fri Jun 24, 2016 5:59 pm

Date Hiked: May 28, 2016
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Adding to Jack and Trevor's reports. An additional part of this project was the effort by Jack Glendening to scout and flag the the entire South Fork Trail, including the 2.7+ mile section between Strawberry and South Fork Camps, that was really, truly impassible. Reports for the last 5 years have been calling this section impassable, and they were right! Some hikers were getting through but often by simply walking down the creek or the river. Even this was becoming more difficult with the passage of time and more trees falling.

In addition to Jack's mapping the impassable section, Jack and Maria Ferdin similarly explored the section between Rainbow and South Fork Camp. This section had been clear as recently as 6 years ago, but fallen trees and brush can do a lot of damage and there was one particularly difficult 400-foot section where the trail was just a mass of ceanothus and fallen trees, and it was impossible to even find the tread.

After our second trip, I would say the entire trail is clear. Some sections are more like freeway. Even the section Jack considers "passable to difficult" seems "clear" to me, after brush and fallen logs have been removed. [JG: this report includes additional work done after my report]

Some photos from the first VWA work trip showing mostly the trees blocking the trail. A couple shots show the brush, but honestly, photos don't do justice to the level of brush obstruction.

Part of the 400-foot section with fallen trees, before:
BeforeLookingUphill.jpg
and after:
AfterUphill.jpg

Another view of the 400-foot section with fallen trees, before:
BigTreeBefore.jpg
, during:
tree mess before.jpeg
and after:
BigTreeWithRootballAfter.jpg


Crawling in the brush before we could even start clearing logs.
ClaireCrawling.jpg

One way we knew we were on the original tread was the rockwork at this switchback.
rock wall.jpeg

lynn.jpg

Sawyers got to work as soon as there was room in the brush.
large log.jpeg


Enjoying Rainbow Camp
rainbow camp.jpeg
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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby jack_glendening on Wed Jun 22, 2016 11:34 pm

Date Hiked: May 4, 2016
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

A short report because a more complete trail clearing report is at
http://www.ventanawild.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=1582#1582

The entire South Fork Trail (which for many years has been impassible) is now mostly clear, thanks to work spearheaded by Betsy MacGowan, VWA volunteers, and 2 ACE crew hitches. Much clearing, sawing, and brushing was needed to accomplish this feat. With Big Sur Trail now clear from Cold Spring Camp to the north end of the trail and the Marble Peak Trail clear from the south end of the trail to Arroyo Seco, now is a good time to experience the long lost South Fork Trail for yourself (or perhaps come autumn, when flies are fewer).

All crossings are marked. The one "passable to difficult" section, where some watchfulness is needed to follow the trail, lies between the two river crossings north of South Fork Camp - there tread is difficult to establish in an often swampy area with downfall, so the primary trail indication is flagging.

Jack
Big Sur Trailmap: https://bigsurtrailmap.net
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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby pantilat on Mon May 09, 2016 1:52 pm

Date Hiked: May 8, 2016
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

The South Fork Trail is "Clear" with the exception of a ~1 mile stretch north of South Fork Camp that is "Passable" to "Difficult" with some blowdowns and faint tread but prior and new (thank you Dr. Jack) flagging to guide the way.

Thanks to the VWA volunteer group that recently cleared out the massive compound blowdown near Rainbow Falls and reestablished the tread descending to the river. The trail is now clear and brush-free for ~1 mile south of Rainbow Camp.

Thanks to the ACE crew that did an amazing job restoring the trail from Strawberry Camp to South Fork Camp making for a very pleasant stretch of trail in this remote and beautiful part of the wilderness. It's evident that a tremendous amount of work went into this project. Excellent vistas at the rock outcropping about 1 mile from Strawberry Camp.

One of my favorite aspects of the South Fork Trail is the unique conifer biodiversity including redwood, incense cedar, Santa Lucia Fir, ponderosa pine and coulter pine.
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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby jack_glendening on Thu Mar 10, 2016 5:01 pm

Date Hiked: March 2, 2016
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

THIS REPORT IS FOR THE NORTHERN 1.3 MILE, SOUTH TO THE THIRD CROSSING.

I did a dayhike to assess the possibility of backpacking from Rainbow Camp to South Fork Camp. I found the tread generally in good shape and followable, requiring searching at only a few places, with pink flags indicating river crossings.

HOWEVER the BIG exception is an apparent windstorm blowdown section roughly 400 ft in length, almost immediately south of "Rainbow Falls", where the trail descends down to the northern-most river crossing. Many, many large trees cover the tread, sometimes across one another - with ceanothus in between. Climbing up and over each tree was effort and time consuming - sometimes it was best to walk atop a tree to make progress. The northern (upper) 150 ft is especially bad - that took me 15 minutes to navigate. While almost anything can be done with enough effort, taking a large backpack across that section would be a time consuming and unpleasant experience.

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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby pantilat on Thu Feb 19, 2015 1:58 pm

Date Hiked: February 14, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

This report only covers the section from South Fork Camp to Rainbow Camp since I accessed the trail by creek walking down Pick Creek, which meets the South Fork Big Sur River near South Fork Camp. This stretch of trail is in ok shape if you can find and stay on it. I lost the trail a couple times but was able to regain it. The most confusing parts are where the trail crosses the river at broad points in the canyon since recent flood events have rearranged sand bars making it difficult to see where the trail continues on the other side and flagging was absent (I will bring some flagging tape next time for these spots). Just upstream of the large mudslide area, there is flagging - flow the flags down to the river and across gravel bars to rejoin the trail (part of which was obliterated in this landslide). The point where the trail ascends above the river floor to Rainbow Falls is also difficult to spot. It seems that the trail used to make a gradual ascent across steep slopes but there has been a wash-out. At any rate, I missed this point where the trail leaves the river floor and instead climbed a steep slope to intersect the trail at a point when it was already about 100 feet above the river floor. Just before Rainbow Falls there is a section of many blowdowns that requires some crawling. The trail passes very close to the top of Rainbow Falls, but you have to go off the trail a few steps to really appreciate the beauty of this 55 ft falls in an extremely lush fern amphitheater. Beyond Rainbow Falls the trail is in great shape to Rainbow Camp. I also saw the infamous South Fork Wild Boar which has dug up portions of the trail and created other misleading trails. This section of the South Fork trail requires some navigation skills and also has its fair share of obstructions, but it is certainly passable. I really enjoyed the forest of incense cedars and Santa Lucia Firs in this beautiful canyon!

south fork camp.jpg
South Fork Camp
South Fork.jpg
A particularly pointy Santa Lucia Fir
Rainbow Falls.jpg
Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls3.jpg
Rainbow Falls from below
Rainbow Falls2.jpg
Rainbow Falls from above
incense cedar.jpg
Large incense cedar
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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby SCrachelm on Mon Sep 30, 2013 7:18 pm

Date Hiked: September 27, 2013
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Lost the trail often between Strawberry and Rainbow camp. Fallen trees, hillslides, overgrown brush, hog trails...especially easy to lose the trail at side creek crossings overgrown with ferns, fallen trees, etc. I hiked at less than one mile per hour this 4-5 mile section. It was very frustrating and even freaked me out enough to think like a SAR team... Fortunately, the route parallels the creek for the most part (and often was easier to just hike in the creek), so you can't get too lost, but the trail is still in severe need of some TLC. Came across an abandoned tent and pink sleeping bag at one point when I was pretty sure I was lost. Can imagine someone set up camp, then couldn't figure out where it was on their way back from a trip to get water or something... looked as if the ground hogs had definitely had a field day with the gear (hopefully the hiker made it out okay).
Last edited by Betsy M on Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby RSIBryce on Wed Apr 17, 2013 4:34 pm

Date Hiked: April 12, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Section: From Strawberry to South Fork camp

The trail beings directly out of the Strawberry Camp and is good going initially until you begin dropping once cresting the divide and entering the South Fork river valley. The narrow valley is eroding away the old traces of trail and abundant overgrowth and deadfall makes the trail rather intolerable, esp. with abundant ticks now in the spring. After making our way to the other side of the valley and traveling a while on this difficult trail, we reasoned that travel along the creek itself was the most feasible. With low water flows we were successful in mostly walking rock to rock with occasional excursions out and around for deadfall or too narrow of sections. My trail partner Sam and I really enjoy this style of hiking, and with only daypacks, had a blast walking the gorgeous river and made it to South Fork Camp, a rather nice place despite some disturbance from Wild Boar.
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