Friday, January 06, 2017

Hot Springs Trail ~ Part 2 ~ Ojai to Sespe Hot Springs

The Pratt Trail down into Ojai was busy and filled with day hikers going in both directions. A local vineyard eventually bordered our route to the trailhead and eventually we walked into town on city streets.  A veteran PCT hiker from 1976 cornered us and was excited to see us and told us how hiking the PCT saved his life. Arriving downtown, we walked a mile or so to reach Von's Supermarket. It was early afternoon and so we planned to hike late in the afternoon to Valley View Camp about 4.5 miles up the mountain in Los Padres National Forest. After a good meal and some library time, we gathered up some water and made our way up the mountain.

Ojai and the valley that its nestled in definitely felt up-scale.  The views were breathtaking and the region seemed to be filled with wineries.  When we arrived at Valley View Camp... there were no views to be found, but instead, we became excited about scaring a bear up the hill and away from our sleeping grounds. The guide didn't mention water, but there was a trickle flowing just below the campsite through the brush. However, be aware, that on the actually trails and in the situation where this water was, poison oak is plentiful.  Sometimes one has to brush through stalks of poison oak while hiking throughout this coastal region. But to this point it really shouldn't be an issue if you do happen to fear it.

The next morning we climbed the rest of the trail up to the remote Nordhoff Jeep Road. The views were spectacular. 

Canyon Wrens sang their descending songs as if they were sneezing and the Thrashers called from the chaparral brush. We were definitely in Condor Country. Look High and stay High to become one with them as they soar freely where no boundaries exist.

A wonderful fire tower or viewing platform allowed us to see for hundreds of miles.  This area reminded me a little bit of Big Sur.  

However, the coastal fog quickly rolled in and took away that which connected us to everything. So instead we focused on the macro world and enjoyed flowers and brush such as Pickeringia as well as Yucca's towering high into sky for insects and hummingbirds to easily access them.  

Ceanothus was blooming everywhere heavily and even got a sneeze or two out of me.

Pockets of Coulter Pines contrasted the diversity of the chaparral.  Black Chinned Hummingbirds often flew right to my face to inspect me whereas the black headed grosbeaks minded their own business in their personal matters of singing from their hearts. Fields of death camas brought additional life to the journey along the crest. Nordhoff Ridge held many stealth camping opportunities as well as a 40 mile biking loop that several valley residents were pedaling. 

Descending the picture perfect ridgeline on the Red Reef Trail... we entered into the aptly named Ladybug Camp with thousands of ladybugs having a convention of sorts. Douglas Fir and Western White Pine trees were our newest tall timbers.

The trail was overall in good shape until we entered the bottom part of a narrow canyon where many sycamore trees were downed and over the trail. Some poison oak was to be dodged. We arrived to a sandy beach campground spot at dusk on Sespe Creek.

The next morning we were in the Sespe Wilderness... a true California paradise where you can truly feel the wildness in your own higher self. As we made our way to Willet's Hot Spring, we did see a few camps set up... but the hot spring we had to ourselves.  I'd say this was the oddest hot spring of the trip with its milky white warm water which made me feel as if I were in some sort of broth for a giants soup.

There is something primitive and essential to this kind of full immersion into nature.

It would be easy to spend a week or more in this valley and greater region. There is so much life along with the abundance of water. And yet after Willet's hot spring, we didn't see another person until we reached the I-5 corridor.

A snake called a Racer sped past us and three different kinds of lizards were seen basking in the sun.

But whatever you do, be sure not to miss the 3 mile round-trip to Sespe Hot Springs. This place is a natural wonder and a must for any nature lover.  There is no real pool to soak in per se, but instead, the entire creek is boiling hot.  At its source... its almost impossible to soak fully within it.  

We probed the creek all the way back to the trail crossing and found that the best and most relaxing place to soak was at the crossing its self.

This was probably the most enjoyable hot soaking of the entire trail for me.  The energy is high and vibrant coming in from all directions.

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