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13 hikers carpooled to the Piedra Blanca Trail [aka Gene Marshall National Recreation Trail] (22W03) trailhead at the east end of Rose Valley Road (6N31 off Hwy 33) in the Los Padres National Forest north of Ojai, CA. It was a beautiful morning as we began the hike by descending to and crossing the Sespe Creek/River, the main watercourse in the southern Los Padres National Forest; it empties into the Santa Clara River in Fillmore.

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While admiring the brilliant fall colors (mostly yellow) along the creek, we followed the trail as it entered the Sespe Wilderness and climbed the chaparral-covered slope to the magnificent Piedra Blanca (white rock) Formations — huge white rounded sandstone outcroppings sculpted by wind and water. After correcting a missed turn in the sometimes-hard-to-follow-across-the rocky-landscape trail, we descended to Piedra Blanca Creek and followed it upstream to Twin Forks Camp (the turnaround point) where large conifers provided shade along the nearby creek which provided sounds of flowing water at times. After a leisurely lunch/rest break we retraced our route, stopping along the way at the large shady Piedra Blanca Camp where we viewed pictographs created by Chumash Indians on some of the boulders. We then returned to the trailhead for the drive home, having competed a pleasant 7.5-mile hike with about 1,400′ of elevation gain/loss (which includes the “bonus” part of our hike among the huge white boulders caused by missing a turn in the trail). NOTE: Recent wildfires have so far spared the landscape through which we hiked.

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November 24th – Devil’s Punchbowl to Devil’s Chair

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Twelve hikers met near the Nature Center in the Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area a few miles southeast of Pearblossom, CA on a pleasant late autumn morning to hike the Devil’s Punchbowl Trail to the Devil’s Chair. Our hike began by climbing uphill on the Burkhart Trail for about a mile to a junction with the Devil’s Punchbowl Trail.

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We followed the partially pine-shaded Devil’s Punchbowl Trail as it wound along the north slope of the San Gabriel Mountains overlooking the Antelope Valley; there was good visibility to the north including ever-changing views of spectacular rock formations.

The Devil’s Punchbowl is the point at which the San Andreas Fault and the Punchbowl Fault meet; it’s part of the San Andreas Rift Zone. The trail eventually descended to a junction with the spur trail leading out to the Devil’s Chair which provided excellent “up-close” awe-inspiring views of the colorful geologic formations created by the friction between the two earthquake faults. After taking lots of photos and enjoying a rest/lunch break under some nearby pine trees, we retraced our route to the Nature Center where we looked at specimens of desert fauna, particularly various kinds of snakes and a cute small live owl perched behind the counter (it was rescued after one if its eyes was permanently injured). We returned home having hiked 8 miles with about 1,600′ of elevation gain/loss in a unique geologic area.

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November 3rd – Horn Canyon

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Prologue: 12 hikers carpooled toward the Sisar Canyon trailhead on Sisar Road just north of the Summit Community on Hwy 150 between Santa Paula and Ojai in the Los Padres National Forest on a cool autumn morning. However, after driving a short distance on Sisar Road we encountered a locked gate that prevented us from driving to the trailhead for Forest Service Road 4N15. We decided to substitute the “Horn Canyon to Pines Trail Camp” hike for our planned hike.

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The 12 hikers then carpooled to the Horn Canyon trailhead adjacent to the Thacher School a few miles east of downtown Ojai. As our hike began, the trail rose gradually upward to the north along a dirt road. The route soon became a shady trail that followed a pleasant creek (with flowing water in it) as it continued up toward the Nordhoff Ridge. After an easy stream crossing in a beautiful shaded riparian setting, the trail began to rise inexorably via narrow switchbacks toward our destination and we were rewarded for enduring the increasing heat of the day with great views of the Ojai Valley and onward to the ocean and Santa Cruz Island plus a view of a small slice of Lake Casitas. Eventually most of us reached the Pines Trail Camp which has been decimated by wildfire and is now quite barren; it appears that none of the pine trees survived (there was no shade). We returned the way we came and reached our vehicles having completed a sometimes demanding 5.5-mile hike with over 1,800’ of elevation gain/loss.

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