May 20-22 we did a trail working trip with the Forest Service. We began on the Judell Trail at the Santa Barbara Potrero, which you see here.
One of the things I really love about our back country are these potreros. This one is used for cattle grazing.
The potrero still had a little green and some carpets of Tidy Tips.
Our trip included two goat packers, both named Mike. This is Mike Smith and his goats. Mike Lopez and his goats were already waiting at Cottonwood Camp. 'Pez's goats hauled in the chuck wagon.
This goat has a severe underbite.
Judell Canyon is in the Wilderness.
There's Tony taking pictures of wildflowers. The trail starts in the potrero but quickly leaves it, descending into a lush canyon.
There were about 15 workers along for the trip. Tony and I hiked with Peter, Tracy, Chris, and Bob...Until we got left behind. We take too many pictures.
Judell Canyon was still green, with a tiny babbling brook and lots of oaks.
Tiny little wildflowers covered the canyon floor.
Cheery little salsify flowers peeked out from the oak woodlands.
Carpets of tiny wildflowers.
I saw a rattler, too, the next day, but was too scared to stick around and take a picture.
Although things were drying out, the canyon was still a riot of blues and yellows. Every corner turned was another scene of immense beauty.
After a period of dry exposure, the trail finds some shade under the oaks.
It's hard to show how pretty and lush this is. It looks drier than it was.
Finally, at the bottom of the canyon we reach the junction with the Sisquoc River trail.
We were lucky to park our cars at the potrero, so we had only hiked 5.5 miles, according to this sign. Most of the time you'll have to slog up the road from the Cuyama valley. It was a bleak-looking road.
Close-up of one of the signs.
Close-up of the other sign.
This junction is here, at Heath camp. Heath is a nice camp. I found the owners of these backpacks swimming and having lunch in the creek.
As I relaxed, the goats arrived. When the goats arrive it's time to go. They are pretty slow.
After another mile or two we arrived out our destination: Cottonwood camp. It was a bit overgrown with bunch grass, alfalfa and foxtails...
...but our campsite was nice.
The creek at Cottonwood camp was really pretty, with bear grass and inviting water. I wonder how long the water lasts before it dries up completely?
There's another campsite across the creek from where the sign is posted. The goats and their handlers stayed over here to keep the goats from bothering us.
These goats are called "the twins" and they were really sweet, having been raised by 4-H girls.
Mike Lopez says he's done the goat thing completely wrong, buying his goats from the meat auction, buying many different varieties, having females and males (you're supposed to have only castrated males) and having some with horns and some without. But he clearly loved his goats and they seemed to do a good job.
This poor tree was rubbed raw.
Goats are pretty strange animals. As pack animals they are great. They follow, they carry a decent load, and they don't have the problems that mules or llamas can have (I'm not sure what those are.)
What makes them strange is they look so cute but they aren't very friendly. They aren't pets. You can see why it wouldn't break your heart to eat one for dinner.
Later in the afternoon we took a day hike to see Rattlesnake Falls.
Tony climbed up next to the falls. Now you can see how big they really were!
After visiting the falls, we headed back and took a little detour here.
We went to see these paintings...
...and go swimming in this great swimming hole.
The next morning we headed to Mansfield and beyond to do our trail work.
Past Mansfield is this no-name falls.
After Mansfield comes Skunk.
It was pretty warm while we worked. I thought I'd take a dip in this nice pool, but it was really cold.
While waiting to dry off, I spotted this dragonfly emerging from its shell.
Tony and I went ahead of the group and cut some nasty purple sage that had made the trail nearly impossible to see. We merely made the trail visible again, and hikable without having to push through.
Past that patch of purple sage, the trail climbs high and eventually descends back to the creek.
About 2 years ago Tony and I tried to hike to Skunk from here, at this little campsite a few hundred yards from South Fork Station. We totally missed the trail, and here it was, plain as can be, right across the creek from the campsite we stayed at!
Now on the return trip, here's the valley we have hiked through.
Did anybody lose these tennis shoes? They were spotted tangled in some branches in the Sisquoc creek downstream from Skunk.
Here I am in front of those no-name falls. How could they not have a name?
I gotta admit I'm pretty darned tired here. We hiked about 14 miles this day, crossing the creek about a million times. I was being clawed at by wild roses, poison oak and most of all, foxtails, with every step. I gave up trying not to fall in the creek. Some hikes are illylic, but this time it felt like a horror movie.
After a huge tri-tip feast and ice cold Coors Light (delicious in the backcountry for some reason) we slept like babies despite a full moon. The next morning we hiked up Judell canyon. Much easier than yesterday's creekside horror show, as this idyllic scene hopefully conveys.
There's Tony hiking up the canyon.
It was sad to leave this oak woodland for the return to the horrors of civilization. How can we all live like we do when places like this beckon?
Finally, the trip ends at the potrero again, visibly drier and browner than just two days ago.