Tuesday I went on another one of my nakie hikes. So be warned, there’s some slightly NSFW stuff up ahead!
The featured photo is the tracking record made by my SPoT Communicator. Every 10 minutes it makes a record of my GPS position and sends it over the internet to my online account.
This hike is in the Los Padres, maybe a few miles from my Cedar Creek hike. Total distance was about 5 miles. Total time hiked was about 6 hours. Well… I spent a lot of time doing photography. And clambering up hillsides and over logs and through the brush. I also spent a lot of time resting and feeling miserable. More on that later.
OTOH, CalTopo seems to think that 1 mph is about right for bushwhacking.
To get there, You head north of LA on I-5 and get off at Frazier Park Road. Head west about seven miles to Lockwood Valley Road (and the small community of Lake of the Woods that has no actual lake) and hang a left. Proceed about eleven miles until you come to the turn-off to Grade Valley/Mutau Flats Road. You’re now entering one of my favorite hiking areas. Head south 2 or 3 miles and you get to the Piano Box Loop turnoff and hang a left. The turn is obvious and there is a sign.
If you aren’t already in 4WD, this would be a real good time to do it. Most of the time you could make it in 2WD – if you go very slow in your lowest gear – but there are rough patches waiting to punish people who would drive this faster than a human can run. Just keep going until you can’t go anymore. There will be a barrier preventing autos from going any further.
Ahead of you is the Yellowjacket motorcycle trail. One could get nakie right there but Yellowjacket is a pretty popular trail for the dirt bike crowd. During the day I’d keep my clothes on until I get to the foot trail. Later in the day, especially mid-week, it becomes a safe bet.
This was not a high elevation hike, like hiking around Mt. Pinos. It ranged from a high of 5635 to a low of 5225 ft. That’s high enough your lungs will notice but not high enough that altitude becomes a concern. The day’s high was in the mid-80s, I don’t like doing demanding exercise over 90F (32C) so this is within tolerances but I sure wish there were more shade.
I cross San Guillermo Creek. It still has water in it, disappearing into the ground and reemerging when underground rock formations force it back up. Soon it will be a dry as everything else. I wouldn’t drink it unless it were an emergency and then I’d do everything I possibly could to filter it. This is cattle country with regular cow patties to remind me. And the green in the embankment suggests to me there are low levels of copper in the soil. So, in addition to filtering or boiling to sterilize, I’d want an activated charcoal filter to pull the heavy metals out.
Of course, if it is a survival situation and you don’t have a fire or a filter, you drink what you have. Better to be sick later than dead now.
To your right, about a half-mile in is where the foot trail begins. There is a barrier designed to stop dirt bikes but allow foot traffic through. This trail used to be a road (as are most of our trails) about a million years ago but it has been gated off for so long it is only intermittently discernible as such. At one time, this trail had a Forest Service designation but I cannot find it named on any maps. I believe it was 20W18 from a bullet-ridden and fallen sign I encountered a couple of miles in. Ninety percent of the traffic on it is during either quail or deer hunting season.
I’ve said before that the best part of a nude hike is when you forget you are nude. I am finding that the more nude hiking I do, the more quickly I achieve that state. This time it was almost immediate. Years ago it would only be after miles of hiking. Of course, I know I’m nude on some level but it isn’t a conscious thought. Something I’d have to be reminded of.
I’m not thinking, “Good golly, Miss Molly. I’m nakie!” (Decades ago I might have done so.) Does a textile hiker constantly think about how they are wearing clothing?
Instead, I’m focused on other things like flowers and wildlife and watching for snakes, and avoiding loose rocks, or being immersed in the intricacies of doing a photo or a video. Encountering someone or approaching a busy trail or just a sudden cool breeze still reminds me that I might want to cover up but who knows? Maybe someday I’ll even forget about that.
I pass thru the barrier, tuck my annoying clothing into the backpack, and head uphill to a saddle. Straight ahead there’s a knob from with you can get a lovely view of the surrounding landscape. Turn left and you follow a dry creekbed. Most of it is eroded away but occasionally one still finds level spots that were obviously cut into the slope of the land. A fair amount of time you’re just heading in a general direction, parallel to a dry wash. I follow it down until it opens up in a broader valley. I haven’t found a name for the valley or the dry creek on any map.
Ordinarily, there ought to be flowers all over the place this time of year. Due to the extreme drought condition, They were few and scattered. I saw some poppies and lupines and brittlebush and golden yarrow and scarlet buglers. There were some tiny yellow flowers and some even tinier white ones.
At first, the valley is pretty easy hiking. I saw a couple of hunting camps hidden in the few bushes along the way. This isn’t an official wilderness area, though it ought to be. Despite the fence and gate, I see a motorcycle track in areas where I can’t imagine how it got down there. There are also footprints, one set going out and another returning. Looks like someone came down here over the last weekend. Nothing I’m going to worry about.
One particular “camp” seems pretty elaborate. There’s a plastic tarp and several unopened cans of food. A frying pan and some drinking cups. A couple of gallon water bottles were buried up to their necks in the sand. This had to be recent because the plastic in those jugs will not survive long out there. I briefly thought about cleaning up the site but decided against it. It isn’t legal wilderness. Littering is illegal but caching supplies for future use may not be. And I thought about a hiker who might come down here expecting to find supplies – only to find nothing. It could leave them in a dicey position. This is also near where the footprints stop.
Once you get to the point on the map where it indicates there is a spring, the plant life changes. Willows start growing thickly. Each tree seems like it emits a powerful hum as honeybees work hard to collect nectar. The trail becomes impassible and I have to climb up the northern side of the valley and clamber through deep ravines to get around it. I set my sights on a distant Coulter pine as my destination for today.
I am not going to get nearly as far as I had hoped. The trail goes on for many miles on the map but the thick brush forces difficult hillside traverses and much bushwhacking. With my current physical condition, my unfamiliarity with the area, and my time constraints. I’m as far as I can reasonably get. I didn’t get to the trailhead until 1:00 pm and I do want to get back to my car with a reasonable amount of light. I set myself up in the shade of the tree’s trunk and had lunch. Today’s menu was a cheese ball, apple sauce, diced peaches, and a couple of Fiber One soft bars. (I had more food in reserve, should I need it.) I lay in the shade of that tree for about 15 minutes and headed back.
This is where I ran into trouble. I noticed I was weak, significantly so. Moving just a few yards left me exhausted. My stomach had rejected the food. In fact, my body was rejecting everything from my esophagus to my colon and was urgently trying to empty out from both ends. Well, I simply refused to throw up and as for the other aspect, I quickly ran out of TP and had to improvise. Yerba Santa branches covered with leaves left things smelling like sage down there.
So, what hit me? My wife thinks it was food poisoning – it would explain all the symptoms – but I’m not feeling it. There was no funny taste or smell, the packages were sealed and the cheese was fresh from the fridge. I’ve eaten these things many times before. It occurred to me that I might have gotten overheated. Heat stress could explain some of it. It was in the mid-80s and I’d been working hard – but why did it hit after a long rest in the shade and drinking lots of water and not before? It remains a mystery.
To make things perfect, I shot a video, didn’t like it, and then went to delete it. Must have pushed the wrong button – it deleted every image in the camera. 🙁 But not one to fret, I just continued taking pictures and shooting videos. When I got home I stuck the card in a reader and used a utility, Active@ Uneraser, to unerase the images. Managed to recover the stills but the deleted videos were corrupted and could not be saved.
I did put my shirt on for while. In hot weather, a light-colored loose-fitting shirt reflects heat, traps moisture, and keeps your skin in the shade. I may be a nudist but I am not stupid.
So I slowly ambled back, taking refuge in what little shade I could find, moving a few yards and stopping. I was still sweating, so I knew I wasn’t in dire straits, but I squirted a bit of drinking water on my head and body to help with evaporative cooling. The effort of scrambling up hillsides and down through gullies was really draining. I found myself hiding under scrub oaks and junipers along the way – after checking for snakes. Snakes do not like the mid-day heat either.
I was tempted to take some water from that camp I’d seen along the way but the terrain was easy again and I was feeling much better. After a bit, the spell passed completely. It had also cooled off a bit – the hottest part of the day is around 3 pm – so I got nakie again and got back to my car just fine. This time there was no need to dress for the motorcycle path. It was late afternoon on a weekday and nobody rides their bike on the trail then.
The adventure was not over yet. Mutau Flats Road climbs a hill before descending down into Lockwood Valley. By now it was sunset, with only dusky light available. There’s a nice view from the top of that hill. I stopped to admire it. However… in the distance, I see a column of smoke. When I go on a hike my biggest worry isn’t about snakes or injury or heat. It is the risk of a wildfire. So along with everything else, I frequently scan the horizon for smoke.
That’s bad news. Smoke means fire. We have fires out here that burn hundreds of thousands of acres every summer. This year, due to the drought, fire season started very early. Should I call 911?
I have not had the best experiences with 911. And about all I could say is, “I see smoke in the hills somewhere west of Lockwood Valley Road.” a pretty vague description. But there is a sheriff’s substation about 5 minutes away. I’ll drive there and explain everything to them.
As I turn onto the road to the station, I see a police car flying down the road at me, full lights and sirens. That would be the deputy from the station. I pull over to let him pass and then do a U to follow him. He’s heading towards the fire and turns onto a dirt road. I guess I don’t need to call it in. I go a little further up the road and in the opposite direction comes a fire truck, just as fast and just as flashy and loud. I definitely don’t need to call it in.
The next day I check the news and there were no reports about it. I looked on InciWeb- Incident Information System to see if anything was reported and there’s nothing there. Next, I go to the Southern California Geographic Area Coordination Center to see what they have. They have more information on smaller local fires but there’s nothing showing there. Then I visited the SCV Emergency Now Facebook page. Nothing there either.
Whatever it was, thankfully it didn’t turn out to be important. I’ve gone about as far as I can go on this trail without turning it into an overnight trip. Maybe again in the late fall when it cools off again.