Friday, January 06, 2017

Hot Springs Trail ~ Part 3 ~ Sespe Hot Springs to Canton Canyon

After soaking for half the day at Sespe Hot Springs, we merrily returned to Sespe Creek to see what we would encounter next in these often unnoticed mountains.

If I were a hippy in the 70's I would probably live here for stretches at a time.

Continuing down Sespe Creek one finds cairns to follow as the trail crosses over the creek a few times.  There is a little bit of hide and seek going on here.  After reaching Alder Creek on the Alder Creek Trail one finds that the trail runs out and one simply follows the creek bed for a while eventualy finding water... our liquid gold once again seeping out of the sand. However, there were also some cairns in this drainage and they actually led us into the wrong canyon temporarily. 

Then it was up up and away to a place where the jack rabbits were at play.  We ended up camping high above the morning fog having listened to a great horned owl hooting throughout the night. It's nice not having to put up the tarp so that we can be swallowed up whole by the night sky.

It was now time to descend into the Agua Blanca Creek Drainage, but we spent several minutes trying to figure out where the trail actually went. It doesn't look like very many people make it out this way anymore. Once we were on it, it was easy to follow all the way down to Ant Camp.  At Ant Camp... the trail sort of runs out.. but you can see an ancient picnic table off in the distance through the tall grass and to the right of the trail.

Agua Blanca Creek is a wild, and beautiful, and yet very primitive route.  It is definitely not a trail for everyone but well worth any effort you may endure.  Its like where there is water in a waterless place... there is pure magic to be found and felt and taken to heart.  It wasn't necessarily hard for us... but i know that it could freak out some people... so i will be eagerly watching to hear what others think of it.  

The agua blanca trail has not been maintained for sometime now.  It actually turns back into a more well used route once you reach the log cabin campground site.  This area is also a paradise to hike through so i am not quite sure why it is not maintained except for the fact that hikers would have to hike in the water through the Big Narrows.

The official trail often meanders back and forth across the creek, however there is often downfall on the trail and the trail is also often choked with poison oak.  We have trekking poles and so we would often just push it aside, but sometimes its so thick that it swats you right back in the face.  Seriously, i do not know why we did not get a rash at all from all the poison oak that there was. It turns out that Zoner didn't get a rash either.  

Often you could discern where the trail went by following countless years of wear and tear created by bears using the trail. You can actually see the prints in the ground of where the bear went next over and over again. Its as if they never diverted from the same steps they made the time they were there before... and so there are bear print depressions for much of the route.  However, we often would get tired of the downfall and would just end up walking through the creek which i would advise at this point for most others to do as well.  And then at times the creek would get all choked up with downfall and we would end up back on the alleged trail once again.  One time we were forced back on the trail because the creek dropped off as a small waterfall. 

However, we lost the trail all together at one point and just had to assume that it was meant to be in the creek for a while as it descended into the canyon of the Big Narrows.  This was especially beautiful.  At one point we came across this snake swimming through the water directly towards us.

There were birds calling, foraging, and nesting everywhere.

It was fairly hot out so the water was rather refreshing to wade through. When we came out of the Big Narrows we couldn't find the actual trail initially. Several hundred meters and downstream to the right of the creek we finally found an actual trail just before Cove Camp and in much better shape than before we entered the Big Narrows.

After Cove Camp there was even flagging at the creek crossings. We spent the night at the Old Cabin Campsite just before Devils Gateway. The guidebook insinuates climbing out of the canyon before Devil's Gateway, but the obvious traffic... with even some new trail work having been done... was to walk through the creek and through the gorge of the Gateway. We found the trail to the right of the creek not too long after passing through this natural carving created by the inner stirrings and inspiration of Mother Nature herself.  

A great blue heron escorted us further down canyon on a trail that was now easy to travel upon until we reached Kester's Camp which is apparently on private property. The road from this historic campsite and cabin was private property until you reached the deteriorating primitive Blue Point Campground at the end of the public road system.  I am assuming that there must be an easement to walk on the dirt roads to the trailhead we just exited from.


  1. Nice page Bernie! FYI - Dreams just completed a Sobo hike thru this area and said he had no problem finding the route. Also, the HST has just been updated and now leaves from Devils Gateway and follows the Pothole Spring Trail to Piru Creek, avoiding Kester Camp altogether. Although there is an easement to get past it and Whitaker Ranch, Pothole Trail is much more scenic, legal for camping, and was redone just this past future hikers should use that trail instead.

    1. This region is a major highlight of California for me. Makes one redefine the type of wilderness adventure one can have outside of the Sierra's.


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