I just enjoyed a cold and rainy spring backpack in Pine Valley in the Ventana Wilderness of Los Padres National Forest. We accessed Pine Valley via the Pine Ridge Trail, starting at the China Camp trail head.
On Friday evening we drove out to the small campground at the trail head and enjoyed a warm campfire and dinner. The road from pavement is long, steep, rutted, and twisty, but we had no problem getting in (and neither did the several sedans at the trail head, clearly, though I wouldn’t bring a low clearance car on that road). We were surprised to be joined by several other people that night – the place feels so remote that I imagined we would have it to ourselves.
Friday night was clear and cold but we awoke to a foggy and damp Saturday morning. Luckily I had packed car camping gear separate from my backpacking kit so everything was dry for the hike. By 10 am we hit the Pine Ridge trail, climbing steadily from the trail head parking to the ridge 400 feet above. This first stretch passes through an obvious burn zone from the Big Basin Complex fire last year.
Mother Nature has had some kind of grudge against me lately. It seems that every time I plan on getting out to the snow or backpacking conditions are anything but favorable. The trend continued last weekend, with a massive storm pounding the Sierra on yet another weekend I had planned on going out on a snow camping overnighter. But no worries – Mother Nature had other plans for me. We decided to head to Carrizo Plain National Monument, a seemingly boring open plain situated in the open undeveloped land between San Luis Obispo and Highway 5.
Carrizo’s shining glory is its massive spring wildflower display. Back in January, this year was shaping up to be a dud in terms of wildflowers, but the February rains have led to ideal conditions. The wildflowers of Carrizo are just starting to peak and we were treated to a long list of them.
Wildflowers sighted include:
Cat’s Ear, False Dandelion
Baby Blue Eyes
Farewell to Spring
Purple Owl’s Clover
White Fiesta Flower
Silver Bush Lupine
The photos here are a sample of what we saw. For the entire album of nearly 100 photos, check out my Carrizo Plain Wildflowers Photo album.