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Old Man Mountain, Monte Arido

29 February 1992

By: Alan Coles

Alan Coles & Frank Goodykoontz

This was one of those trips which almost didn't make it. The harsh floods of February had wrecked havoc over Ventura County and made many areas inaccessible. Fortunately for us, we were going in from the bottom using the old 22 mile route and we had 2 dry, warm weeks for things to settle down before the trip.

Our meeting time was 6:30 am at the Matilija Ck Trailhead but it wasn't until 7 when everyone arrived. The road in from Hwy 33 was passable but in poor shape (local residents have to use it). Still 12 hearty hikers showed up and shortly began the march. I warned everyone that we would have a major stream crossing about 1/2 mile up the road. There is a little more distance now as the gate has been moved back about 1/4 mile and you have to walk through the newly acquired wildlife sanctuary (no bicycles allowed).

After a few minutes of walking we came to the stream and easily forded the 80' width with its icy clear water. Most of us waded in the knee deep swift current but a few managed to cross the precarious rocks piled by a road grader that cleared the road to the houses further up the canyon. We followed the road out of the canyon and past the private property. There were many landslides over it and several sections were undercut making it impassable for vehicles (only the Forest Service is allowed to drive this portion). Water was seeping out everywhere and the roar of the stream below could be heard all the way to Murietta Divide. There are some nice sections along the way through thick groves of oaks recovering well from the devastating fire of 1986. Several cascading streams were crossed with giant ferns covered overhead by budding alders. The ceanothus was in bloom and we could smell the fragrant white flowers as we ascended. Bright yellow bush poppies were also beginning to show and we saw another bright yellow flower we guessed to be a primrose.

After the divide, we began the long and tiring climb along the ridge. The road, unlike the hiking trail that preceded it, makes no effort to go around the bumps. It sole purpose was to maintain the firebreak that separates the Matilija and Santa Ynez stream basins, the effectiveness of which is dubious given the relative easy the '86 fire had crossing it. Still there are superb views along the way out over the ocean to the Channel Islands. High clouds and a cool breeze on top of ridges made nearly perfect hiking weather and the long walk more enjoyable.

Five and a half hours and 11 miles since the start, we finally ascended the seemingly endless ridge to the top of Monte Arido. Small patches of snow were found among the very few shady places. We grouped around the scrub oak to stay out of the chilly wind and enjoyed our well deserved lunch. A half hour later, it was time to get moving again.

We descended the long ridge and everyone went up to Old Man which we reached around 3. From there, we followed the route back about 100 yards, then took a short cut due south to the road which worked out well. Then it was a long, long walk back to the divide with those several hills to climb on the way down that are so easy to forget. I allowed the 4 front runners to go ahead as a group from there while the rest of us took a more leisurely walk down and back to the cars. We had to make the cold stream crossing in total darkness but the water felt nice. We were all out by 7.

Nearly everyone had had enough and went home. Only Bob was interested in camping out while 2 others were spending the night in Ventura and planned to join us on Sunday. However, the weather report was for an 80% chance of rain on Sunday and the storm was due that night. I waffled for a while trying to decide what to do. The thought of spending a night in an area hard hit by floods with little chance of hiking the next day did not seem appealing (we would only be able to do Chief). So we copped out and went home. Everyone got what I promised, a good winter workout.

Participants: Greg Gerlach, Bob Beach, Ron Zappen, George Schroedter, Liz Varnhagen, Peter Sjolander, Rosina Mueller, Cesar and Bonnie Robinson and Janet.

As for the storm, it didn't arrive until Sunday night. Oh well, next time (sorry Frank).

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