Monday, January 21, 2013

Los Padres National Forest

I recently spent a rough four days in the Los Padrea National Forest, fighting my way through thick brush, muddy trails, and snow, ending in getting rescued by Santa Barbara Search and Rescue.

The first day we started from East Camino Cielo and hiked to the Cold Spring Trail, through the Mono Jungle to Mono Camp. The next day we hiked up the Mono to Upper Mono then continued on to a trail junction with the Alamar Hill Trail. We then followed the Alamar Hill Trail to the top of Alamar Hill, however it had been raining and the trail was nothing but thick mud all the way up to the top. Hiking, or should I say sliding, down the back side to Alamar Creek was exhausting and very painful! I slipped and fell butt first about four times during the duration of our decent down this incredibly muddy hill. After making it down and rejoining with James and Sierra, who we got separated from on the way down, we took a nice long break before continuing on to Rollins where we camped for the night. The next day we awoke to our tents covered in a blanket of snow, not my favorite thing to hike in when you're not prepared for it! Eric and I decided to get an early start and hike toward Dutch Oven where we made plans to wait for James and Sierra to catch up with us before continuing on. After three hours of both rain and snow along with pushing our way through thick wet brush we made it to Dutch Oven! Eric and quickly set up our tent and crawled inside to get warm while we waited. After two extremely long and painful days of bushwhacking we were both tired and cold, not to mention I re-injured my ankle and after assessing our situation we determined I couldn't take 11 more miles of bushwhacking we turned on the PLB and waited to be rescued. :(

Note on Being Rescued: Although the experience of being rescued was new and an exciting one at that! I am and have always been against being rescued unless it is a life and death situation. In the past I have been hurt on the trail but refused rescue and hiked, limped, out on my own. In this situation both Eric and I felt being rescued was the only way we were going to make it out of the Los Padres. I want to give a huge THANK YOU to the team who came to our rescue <3

Things I think you Should Know Before Hiking in Los Padres:
  • Always wear long pants- I suggest wearing long pants made from a think material like jean, even in the summer! I made the mistake of wearing a short sleeve shirt one of the days and my hands and arms are still covered in cuts, I can't imagine what my legs would have looked like if I wore shorts like I usually do.
  • If it rains there will be mud- We did this trip right after it rained for a few days, it then proceeded to rain on us throughout the hike. At one point we had to hike up a steep slope to a ridge line then down the even steeper back side, in the mud, my shoes had to weigh 10 pounds each! It was not easy hiking in mud, I even slipped butt first into the mud a few times.
  • It gets cold when it snows- It snows in the Los Padres. On the last night we were camped at 5,000 feet and woke in the morning to a blanket of fresh snow. Be prepared for the snow and cold weather, pack warm clothing and a rain jacket to keep you and your clothes dry. Know the signs of hypothermia and how to prevent it.
  • Know how to follow a trail that isn't there- Most of the four days consisted of following unmaintained trails covered with overgrown brush. This can be extremely hard to do, if you get lost with directions, some of the trails in the Los Padres are not for you. The trails are sometimes market with tiny colored flags tied to trees and bushes. However, they can be spaced far apart or placed in the wrong spot leading you somewhere else. 
  • Always carry a PLB- Personal Locator Beacon or PLB are small devices designed to give out a signal to local search and rescue so they can come save you. You should always have one in your pack whenever you hike. We always carry one on us, hoping we never have to use it. On a past trip we came close to using it when I sprained my ankle, I refused to use it and instead I slowly limped 10 miles in three days back to the trailhead. This past trip in Los Padres we were not so lucky, because I didn't let my ankle heal properly I re-injured it and we ended up having to be rescued. Normally I would have hiked out on it but because the brush was so thick it would have been impossible and would have taken longer than we had food to do so.
Eric and I with the search and rescue crew hiking back to the helicopter
A huge Thank You! to the Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue crew that saved us! The crew of six men were all very professional, they clearly knew what they were doing and were very well trained. I am sad I forgot to ask for a group shot in front of the brand new helicopter once we landed, oh well :( Thank You guys again you guys are amazing! Here is a video someone took of us in the helicopter landing at Santa Ynez Airport:


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