View down to Cuyama Valley and Lockwood Valley

 

Pine Mountain and Reyes Peak

... or Kirby's (not very) close encounter with a lion (or a small bear or a large dog) ...

-- click on thumbnails for larger image --

Pine Mountain Summit on Highway 33

Highway 33 leads north from Ojai over the San Rafael Mountains to the Cuyama and Lockwood Valleys. The road was constructed in the 1930s ... and is still lightly trafficked today.

The trail for Pine Mountain

Some 20 miles north of Ojai the highway reaches its highest point ... Pine Mountain Summit at 5,160 feet (1,573 m).

One of the minibuses heading up hill

This trail ... also known as 6N06 ... starts from the saddle and climbs along the slopes of Pine Mountain to reach Reyes Peak which rises to 7,514 feet (2,290 m).

One of the few sections of tarmac on the trail

At the start a couple of minibuses were ferrying a group of Korean Students from a San Diego church up to one of the camp grounds above.

It was quite chilly when I set off ... but the effort of climbing soon got my circulation going.

Tree covered mountain sides and scrubby verges
Highway 33 far below

The track was originally constructed in the 1930s by Shell to allow the Hattie Russell Well to be sunk near Reyes Peak ... but economic quantities of oil were not found.

It is now used mainly by campers and walkers to gain access to a number of camping sites near the top of the ridge.

Looking back down the trail
View north from the saddle
Highway 33

For a kilometre the trail climbs continuously up the scrub-covered mountain side ... before levelling out briefly and crossing a saddle.

Looking down at serpentine bends near Pine Mountain Summit

From this point stunning views open up to the north.

Highway 33 can be seen winding its way down towards the Cuyama Valley.

Highway 33

After stopping I soon realised how keen the wind was ... and after snatching a few photographs I pressed on.

Looking back down the trail

From the saddle onward the trail maintains an almost constant slope of 7.5% to the top ... although in the thin air it seemed considerably steeper.

The trail carving its way up the mountainside
One of the many loops in the trail

I continued to climb ... and the San Diego minibuses overtook again with another load ... leaving clouds of dust behind.

Exposed rocks Exposed rocks Exposed rocks
Exposed rocks Exposed rocks Exposed rocks

The road surface alternates between tarmac, dirt and rock ... and as I climbed the mountainside became increasingly rocky.

The road surface deteriorates
View south
The Cuyama River disappearing northwestward

On the far side of Lockwood Valley lies the San Emigdio Mountain Range which stretches along the border between Ventura and Kern Counties.

Rough section of road

The range includes Mount Pinos .. which at 8,831 feet (2,692 m) is the highest peak in the southern Los Padres National Forest.

Patchwork of fields in the Lockwood Valley

Mount Pinos ... or Iwihinmu in the native Chumash language ... was believed by the Chumash Indians to be the center of the world (Liyikshup) ... the point where everything is in balance.

View across the Lockwood Valley with the San Emigdio Mountain Range beyond
Entering the trees View over the trees to Lockwood Valley

Climbing further I entered the forest which covers much of Pine Mountain.

I was taken aback to find light snow blowing horizontally towards me ... the sky above was bright blue ... I eventually realised that it was being picked up from road-side drifts by the strong wind.

The white bed of Cuyama River More rocks and trees

River Cuyama starts on the northern slopes of Pine Mountain below me and its near white river bed catches your eye as it flows away to the northwest.

For much of the year the river dries up but in winter storms it can readily flood.

Just over ten years ago it flooded and took away part of Highway 166 ... sadly two police officers were washed away in the swollen river and drowned.

Northern facing slopes of ...

The trail enters a valley .. but still manages to continue to climb.

Pine Mountain Campground

Soon after I reach the first of the campgrounds ... Pine Mountain.

The minivans were parked nearby ... but all was quiet so the occupants must have hiked off someway.

The Boulder Canyon Trail heads north from here to descend into the Cuyama Valley.

Forest Service News Release Boulder Canyon Trail
180 degree bend above Pine Mountain Campsite

At the campsite a notice posted in June 2006 warned of the dangers of open fires and smoking.

Reyes Peak Campground

Sadly only a few months later the Day Fire destroyed 160,000 acres (650 sq km) of forest and scrub to the east of Pine Mountain.

Reyes Peak

The road then climbed steeply out of the valley and around a 180 bend.

View south

I then passed the Reyes Peak Campground ... where individual pitches are surrounded by giant boulders.

Turn off for the Chorro Grande Trail

I stopped to eat ... hiding behind a large rock to gain some shelter from the wind.

Chorro Grande Trail leaves to the right ... descending steeply 3,000 feet down Pine Mountain's southern face to emerge on Highway 33.

View south to the Pacific and the Channel Islands
Plants Plants Plants Plants
The Pacific visible in the far distance Sandy track

Beyond the campgrounds the trail peaks and starts to wind its way around a succession of peaks.

it was now possible to see further to the east ... in the distance I could make out the Pacific shore line and the Santa Monica Mountains both over 60 kilometres away.

Paw print

Normally I cycle along in a rather a trance like state somewhat oblivious to my surroundings ... however I was quickly roused when I noticed a line of paw prints in the sandy surface stretching off into the distance.

Sandy portion of the trail .. shared with dogs, bears or lions?

The prints were about 3 inches across and larger than any I had seen before.

Bank of snow by the trail

One of the possibilities suggested by my guide book was ... a mountain lion.

Reyes Peak trailhead

At the trailhead I met a walker from Ventura who was staying at the Reyes Peak Campground.

He had measured the temperature at 34F ... so no wonder I was feeling distinctly chilly in the wind.

Trees and rocks

He too had seen the paw prints ... and thought that they were probably from a small black bear or a large dog ... well that was comforting (I think).

Cuyama River

It is possible to continue for some 10 kilometres along the ridgeline to Haddock Mountain ... but in view of the perishing wind I decided to turn round and descend back to Highway 33. Haddock Mountain will have to wait for another day.

I put on all my spare clothing and rapidly descended back down the way I'd come up. In no time at all I was back in Ojai having a warming coffee.

On the way down ... considerably quicker .. but much colder

Postscript

After completing this ride I learnt that mining companies have applied for permits to mine sand and gravel in the Cuyama Valley ... which will more than treble the truck traffic on Highway 33 ... I hope they don't succeed.

 

Kirby James