FEB 20

Not wanting to let winter slow me down, I decided to do a solo trip to the Sespe Wilderness.  I previously hiked the Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail from Rose Valley through the Piedra Blancas.  This time however, I started at Reyes Creek Campground, with a goal of getting to Haddock camp, 10 miles away.  I arrived at the parking lot around noon, which gave me about 6 hours before sunset.  

The initial part of the trail is fairly established and looks as if it receives a fair amount of use.  The area consists of a few trees and a lot of brush.  Right away you catch glimpses of the snow covered mountain tops that lie ahead and the badlands behind you.  The 2.5 mile hike to Upper Reyes camp was not too strenuous with only 500 feet of elevation gain.  There were a few small patches of snow but nothing difficult.  Once I arrived at Upper Reyes, there were 3 other campers setting up camp at the main camp location and gave me a warning that the snow ahead was a lot worse.  Perfect, exactly what I wanted!

I continued towards Bear Camp, which requires you to hike over into a different canyon.  The snow never really amounted to much more than a few patches covering the trail.  With the warning from the other campers, I was expecting a little more extreme.  The trail being overgrown was proving to be the bigger challenge.  At some points, it felt as if I was in an automatic car wash.  The snowy patches actually helped since it allowed me to see tracks from recent hikers, which appeared to be a handful of people and a dog.  As I neared BearTrap (which evidently was -sadly- named for the Reyes family killing Grizzlies at this spot), the number of tracks dwindled and now only consisted of one set of human and one set of dog tracks. 

Bear Camp looked like a nice area with several campsites scattered around the stream.  I'm sure this would have been an ideal spot to throw down camp, but I had my sites set on Haddock, another 3 miles away.  Checking the time, I had three hours of light left so I decided I would go for it.  After passing Bear Trap, the trail follows the stream and starts to climb in elevation.  As I started to ascend, the temperature started to drop and the amount of snow finally started to pose a challenge.  It was difficult to keep track of the trail since there were no more tracks to follow.  Well, almost none. I did encounter a set of mountain lion tracks with paws as big as my fists.  And I have big fists.  Lucky for me, they were headed in the other direction.  

At this point, the trail is completely covered with snow.  Since I'm still hiking along side the stream, I started to trying to hike along the banks since the rushing water is keeping the snow at bay.  Obstacles would frequently force me back onto the snow covered trail, and with heavy hiking boots, I consistently was dropping a foot down when i stepped.  I must have tried every technique of stepping "gently" but nothing was going to help.  To make matters worse, snow is ending up in my shoe.  Next time I plan on being in snow, I'll bring some gaiters.  

Somewhere along this area, I did encounter one of the most unusual sites I've seen in the wild - ladybugs.  Millions and millions of ladybugs.  At first I didn't notice them, but then I realized the ground was covered with red things.  With a closer inspection, I realized they were moving.  It was strange, they would form large groups at the base of dead plants, so everywhere there were dead plants, there was a huge group of ladybugs.  Further along the hike, I would see them in the trees, in acorns, everywhere there wasn't snow.  After being amazed and taking a ton ofpictures, I decided I was wasting precious time so time to concentrate on hiking!

As I slowly progressed, a check of the GPS showed that I was nowhere close to Haddock.  I have about an hour left of light and need to go over a mile. Typically, I would just push on with a headlamp, but being by myself, I decided I should instead play it safe.  My GPS was showing a Bear Trap #2, so I decided to back track to find it.  As the light started to fade and not being able to find anything that looked like a campsite, I found a flat(ish) area and pitched my tent.  And in no time, I was asleep.

The next morning, I woke up to a thick fog settling onto my campsite.  I thought, "I guess it's better than snow", at which point it began to snow.  I packed up my camp, threw on my snow jacket and headed down the mountain.  After about a mile, the snow turned into a light mist and then eventually dissipated.  The sun never showed, but I still enjoyed the return trip. 

Type: Out-and-back
Trailhead: Google
Trail Map: link
Vertical Profile: link

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