Second backpack trip of the year, this time with Linda and Holly. Bumped our way up past the summit on Tassajara’s dirt road our of Carmel Valley and parked at China Camp on a Friday, half dozen other cars (or should I say high clearance 4WD trucks?) at the trailhead. After checking the car a few times to ensure we weren’t leaking fluids and hadn’t lost any underparts to the rocks on the way up, we headed out on Pine Ridge trail for the 5.2 mostly downhill miles to camp. Up top the meadows were crazy with lupine and owls clover, scenting the air so heavy I almost didn’t need to eat lunch it was so rich.
Stopped for a rest at the Church Creek Divide, where years earlier I’d met Calipidder and Paige and their crew headed right to where we were going today. That day I headed east instead, with Robert, down through Church Creek drainage thicker with wildflowers than any place I’d ever seen, it being a wet February and just two years post fire. Today just a few lupine remained in the divide meadow under the live oaks leafing out chartreuse and we headed west, walking until the first trickle of the Carmel River headwaters appeared and led us fully into Pine Valley. Lovely.
Pine Valley opened up all sweetness and meadow and rock walled scrambly goodness. Linda and I met Richard, a wanderer back in there 16 days so far, wildharvesting nettles. We heard a kids group up valley past Jack’s cabin so we set up camp east of there, with a lovely meadow view, under a sweet pine right next to the creek-like River.
We set up camp and ambled around a bit. As we finished up dinner Richard showed up in a ruffled polkadotted button down shirt and took us up a side drainage to perch for sunset and fascinating conversation. We watched a Great Horned Owl swoop in for some who-who who who perch calls as the stars came out. As the evening went on I could feel my breath slowing down, my shoulders dropping, and a sweet relaxation replacing a stress level I hadn’t been aware I carried in. No fire that night for us, just to bed in the cold. Despite being up a lot with my not-warm-enough sleeping situation, I awoke rested. Linda too, having slept out under the stars. Hot breakfast to birdsong and then we headed out or shall we say up-up-up toward and around Bear Basin (center of the recent fires) on the Pine Ridge trail (thank you trail builders!).
Fantastic views west to Ventana Cone, Double Cone, Mount Carmel, Uncle Sam Mountain and northwest to civilization and the ocean from Bear Basin’s rim. The trail pulled over a saddle and down into dry brushy south facing Ventana slopes. Pushed our way through brush to Pine Ridge camp where we found the miracle of water in the desert. Crossing the creek met the confounding False Lupin and ate lunch with her overlooking the wild and scenic Big Sur River drainage and over it to Cone Peak. Met a Ring Necked Snake, a Blue Tailed Skink and many other wildflower friends that day on our 9.2 mile route. I flushed a bobcat drinking from the headwaters of the Carmel on the way back too. Sweet gifts.
Baby Blue Eyes
Holly and her pooch Jud were waiting for us at camp when we got back.
Too cold to hike down and jump into the falls pool we shivered our way into a sit-dunk near camp then sunned naked in the meadow til toasty. Linda cooked a fab meal of Thai peanut sauce, couscous and veggies and we blanched some wildharvested nettles ourselves to round out the meal.
That evening Holly and I went and explored the main valley where I clambered up, heart thumping, to the top rocks above the valley and Jack’s cabin. I tracked the Great Horned that evening and saw him calling from a bare branch, the evening still young enough to see his coloration, the white breast feathers, and how he stretched himself out in the calling. Next time I must bring binocs - there were so many birds in Pine Valley to see! We came back to a fire in camp and sweet conversation as the night fell, the beauty of the shimmering coals as we broke apart the fire at the end.
Before we left the next day Richard made a surprise visit and took us to the rocks again, Linda had not been, and we softly scrambled up into the north facing cave with grinding holes in the wind sculpted ledge. Easy to imagine the valley’s past guests gathering the live oak acorns and gathering themselves here in the cool shade, looking out over the sweet pocket meadow of shooting stars and shooting the shit while they ground the poison out, working their harvest into edible acorn mash.
Hiking out we said farewell to our interesting Pine Valley companion Richard and moseyed our way toward home. Resting at Church Creek Divide some kids pulled up and I recognized one from our Camp Tequilla Mockingbird crew. Turned out it was a Gateway school group and Dave (our fiddle player) was there too with travel guitar on his pack - too bad we did not visit their camp earlier in our trip! The hike up and out was hot and long but offered amazing views of Church Creek Divide. Linda was ahead, me having chatted up the gents for a bit, and she wisely stopped again in our wildflowered meadow for lunch.
We never did get a pic of the three of us. :) Full set of pics here.
Thanks for a great trip ladies.