The Double Cone Quarterly
Window to the Wilderness
Summer Solstice 1999 || Volume II, Number 2


by Steve Chambers

Abundant inches to feet of rain fell on the Northern Santa Lucia, in mid-March 1995. The Salinas River flooded Castroville and many other places. Ten days after the floods, during a short dry period, I took a loop backpack trip from Indians Station - Cwalakam along the closed Indians - Arroyo Seco Road and returned via the Santa Lucia Trail.

Many examples of the tremendous water flows were evident along the closed road. A boulder 15 feet in diameter sat in the middle of the road south of Escondido Camp. Many small slides, with vegetation intact, covered the road. Culverts had plugged. One six feet in diameter had eroded large amounts of dirt and deposited debris along the overflow paths. Small waterfalls and cascades falling from steep road cuts had never been seen before. I slowly picked my way through the 200 foot wide slide covering the road at "Second Saddle", very near the beginning of the Santa Lucia Trail. The landslide at Jackhammer Spring had not yet occurred, but would slide within a month.

On the trail, signs of unusual water flows did not begin showing until the creek crossing south of Last Chance Camp. There the trail is on southwest- facing slopes, rather than the previous northeast facing slopes. As I crossed small creeklets, now dry, I found them scoured deep with cobbles lining both edges. Continuing southeast along the trail above and a few hundred feet from the mainstem Santa Lucia, I came to a granite boulder wall five to six feet high blocking the path. Climbing on top of this granite boulder jumble, I found a bare sixty foot wide channel gouged and scoured into what had previously been a 24 inch wide creekbed. Another boulder wall lined the far side. The only vegetation remaining was a few stout Canyon Live Oaks, their bark abraded off on the upstream side. A small trickle of water meandered along the bottom of the bare scour.
I didn't spend much time there that year, but have returned each year since. This year Dave Nelson and I explored upstream a few hundred feet, and I wandered downstream of the trail crossing, on top of the huge granite cobble pile, ten to fifteen feet thick, and hundreds of feet long and wide. It is a place of immense power.

Further along this trail, south of the spur to Pimkolam summit, it passes though a long section with many very old granite boulder walls with smooth channels between. Recent and ancient examples of sudden, swift large water flows. Local landform re-creations.

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