Squaw Valley Road Drive and Hike
Last Sunday I drove up to the Sespe and hiked a few miles. The doctors said I needed to walk, so I walked. Plus my tennis elbow is much less painful after a cortisone shot. The orthopedic guy said no restrictions on the arm and I take him at his word.
You drive out to Filmore and then take A Street north until it becomes Goodenough Road. Follow it north until it appears to end with a narrow track heading up into the mountains to the right. It is potholed and intermittantly paved. Eventually this becomes Squaw Valley Road. Continue until you come to a gate or your car can’t handle the road, whichever comes first.
At this point, you leave your car and walk until you feel like turning around and going back. To me, that sounds like a wonderful way to spend the entire day.
Our hillsides locally don’t always have poppies. Sometimes it wild mustard that gives it yellow. Or it could be sunflowers or fiddlenecks.
The road up is lined with orchards and the scent of orange blossoms pleases the palate.
Wild California sunflowers prefer sunny hillsides. They like to grow right up to the edge of the pavement.
This is Goodenough Road as it climbs precariously up into the mountains where at some unspecified point it becomes Squaw Valley Road. It is an oilfield road cut many decades ago and the fields are still active. It is subject to closure at any time for landslides, washouts, and accidents. The lower section is kept in pretty good shape for the oil trucks and the workers
Not going all the way to the top. I’m just heading up to about 3000 ft. That big plateau to the left is Bear Heaven, not legally accessible to the general public as it is part of the Sespe Condor Preserve. The mountain range is the Topatopa Mountains, maxing out at about 5200 ft.
With my window rolled down I can hear the bees buzzing in the flowers along the way. Honey is a significant product out here and the producers have set out hives to take advantage of the bloom and the unique taste of our mixture of wildflowers. Elsewhere the hives service many orchards. Wild and domestic bees are in decline due to fungal and parasite infection. Some say it is due to insecticides but it is happening in wilderness areas as well.
The electric fence is to keep the bears out. (Bears hate electricity and are extremely sensitive to it.) That nearby plateau wasn’t named “Bear Heaven” without reason.
I’m about ten miles in here. The road up to this point has been surprisingly smooth. The oil company grades the road to keep it passable for its trucks. Slides have been cleared out and it has been long enough since rain for it to dry out.
At the trailhead, we see a Toyota pickup, a Mustang and a Prius. Probably not a good day for nude hiking. The trailhead is here and not a couple miles further because the road is gated off. Along the way, there are a few creek crossings. Just beyond the gate is Spring Canyon Creek. In a couple of months, it will be a tiny trickle, if not completely dry. Here on in I am hiking a dirt road.
We have two different varieties of Ceonathus up here, the white (hoary ceanothus) and the purple (hairy ceanothus). Aside from the color, the difference is in their leaves. Both are California lilacs and extremely common in the local chaparral. The humming of the bees was even louder here than by their hives.
You can see both white and purple ceanothus in the foreground. In the far background is Hopper Mountain. Nearby at Hopper Ranch is a facility for the study of the California condor. You can also see signs of the wildfire that came through here decades ago.
And of course, there are the many wildflowers. Some I can identify and others I cannot for sure. They are there in enough profusion to decorate the landscape but none like the vast fields of poppies and goldfield to the north.
This lovely waterfall and creek don’t even have a name on the USGS topo map. The hillsides and cliffs are dotted with springs and little waterfalls this time of the year. Ordinarily, I would scamper up the creek to the small pool at the falls and enjoy the water but it is much more difficult than it looks. My recent surgery would not like it.
The road went from bad to worse. Nothing I couldn’t get thru in my trusty Suzuki but the winter had taken a toll. They will open the gate I was parked at after the chances of further rain approach zero.
This is as far as I go today. Even the trivial effort of heading up this bit of trail was more than I wanted. (That is a years-old photo of the Dough Flats parking area. The road is here decommissioned as a vehicle route and becomes the Alder Creek foot trail. I talk about it in a different post.) My incision is telling me to rest so I found a nearby oak with a bed of grass beneath, looked thoroughly for snakes and the lay down to rest. Snack was Spam, cheese balls and rice pudding.
I also dug into my first aid kit for some badly needed Vicodin and some Ibuprofin. My FAK has some of every med I have a prescription for that could conceivably be needed in the field. There’s also an assortment of bandages, antibiotic wound dressings, a knee brace, and some other items. It is oriented towards fixing trauma, not minor cuts and bug bites.
On the way out, I’d passed three mountain bikers heading back to the trailhead. On the way back I met a couple of middle-aged ladies on their way out, near that waterfall I mentioned earlier. Finally, I was passed by the three backpackers you see here. They’d gone all the way out to the Sespe River, which was another seven miles beyond on some very steep terrain. Their objective has been Sespe Hot Springs but they were stopped by the same combination of dense brush and nonexistent trail that had frustrated me a couple years ago.
They easily outpaced me and I was left alone. It had been a nearly perfect – if crowded – hike.