Thursday, July 06, 2006
A week ago Saturday, I decided to make a quick overnight camping trip up in the Los Padres National Forest. I hadn't been out in a while (too much work) and I enjoy taking regular campouts, just car-camping. I'm fortunate in that there are some beautiful campgrounds along the Santa Ynez River about 15 - 20 minutes from my house. The downside to this is that they are the same distance from lots of other people's houses, so when the weather is nice you have to get there early to get a spot.
Sure enough, I got skunked along the river, and decided to go to the north side of the Santa Ynez Valley to a campground north of the town of Los Olivos. This site was farther in on a marginal road and I thought it would keep the crowds down. It turned out I was right. The campground at Figeroa Mountain had 36 spots and there was only me and three other parties there.
As you drive north to the campground from Los Olivos, you gain altitude as you enter the foothills of the San Rafael Mountains. You go from the Oak Savannah grasslands, through Oak Chaparral marked by brush and Digger Pines, to end in Foothill Woodlands at 3000 ft at the campground. The Foothill Woodhills are marked by beautiful stands of Manzanita and Jeffrey Pines.
This shot shows a large Manzanita with Jeffrey Pines in the background. Jeffrey Pines look much like the Ponderosa Pines I was familiar with from the Rockies. A key way to tell them apart is by smelling the bark - Jeffrey Pine bark smells like vanilla. I much admire the red smooth bark of Manzanita, set off by the deep green leaves.
This is a pretty spot and it was fun exploring a little to find it. This time of year, however, it was a little too warm and buggy for my taste. It will be a great place to return to this Fall, when the bugs have died off and it cools a little. I spent the evening in my mesh tent (didn't need the fly) reading and writing away from bugs and it was so warm I didn't use the sleeping bag, just laying on my pad.