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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Day 628: Little Mutau Trailhead - Lost to McDonald Cabin

Overlooking Alder Creek from the Little Matau Trail

Day #628 * Hike #740 * New Track #611
Saturday August 4, 2012
Little Mutau Trailhead - Gorman, CA

McDonald Cabin - Getting Lost Again!
My Tripometer: 2 Hours  * 3.25 Mile * +625 Feet

Directions:
 From the 126, take the I 5 North 31 miles. Exit 202 - Gorman
(about an hour from Ventura)

Turn left off the freeway and then turn right on Peace Valley Road (the very first light - McDonalds on the right).  About a mile down, turn left into Hungary Valley.  This comes up fast and there are no traffic signals.  There is a small yellow Hungary Valley sign by the entrance.  If you reach Tejon Pass that means you went too far.

Once you enter Hungary Valley, set your odometer.  The road you are on is known as Gold Hill Road.  You will reach a gate about an eighth of a mile into the park and you will need to pay a $5.00 daily fee, unless you have a California Adventure Pass.

At 2.2 miles down Gold Hill road I took a quick break at Edison Campgrounds:

 Edison Campgrounds

Continue down Gold Hill Road.  You will pass many off ride vehicles and low lying dirt campgrounds.  These may be good if you are hauling a toy trailer but our destination today is up top...

 At 5.3 miles, turn right to stay on Gold Hill Road

At 13.4 miles in, the paved road becomes a dirt road.  As you wind up the mountain, there are a few sketchy spots on the road but as long as you're careful, mostly any car should be able to make it up.  It's one of the better dirt roads that I have driven on...

 At 17.9 Miles, turn left toward Little Mutau
(This road loops around the entire top up here)

 At 21.3 Miles, turn left off the main loop

Little Mutau Trailhead - Park your car
21.9 Miles from Park Entrance ~1 Hour
(2 Hours total drive time from Ventura)

 The map in Spanish on the sign

 On my very first hike in Southern California, I trekked from the Dough Flat in Filmore and had no idea where the trail would take us.  I was with my buddy and he wanted to turn back after an hour or so but I said, just a little bit further.  Extending the journey we found a dilapidated sign which read McDonald Cabin.  It was shortly after that where I bought a map of the Los Padres and then took the 21+ mile hike from Johnston Ridge, camped at Sespe Hot Springs, and hiked passed Alder Creek and Cow Spring all the way back to Dough Flat.  That was one exhausting hike and we all ran out of water.  On the 2000+ foot climb up from Alder Creek, I ditched my heavy backpack.  I was in real bad shape.  Fortunately, Domino figured a way through it...

I revisited the area two weeks later for a two night trip.  The plan was to reclaim my backpack, which I did and then camp at Alder.  From there, take a day hike to find McDonald Cabin.  It was hard finding the trail at first, but we did.  We found an amazing cold spring on the other side!  However, there was no trail.  We hiked for a couple of hours and never did find McDonald.  Moreover, I read that there is an Indian Cave with pictographs back here.  Never found it and for nearly 10 years, I've been waiting to revisit the area.  Here we go...

 Approx 6300 foot elevation

 I lost the trail, but hiked to the ridge; my destination is below

 The map that I left in my car!

I am an idiot!  I've had this route memorized for years.  I knew it was 0.4 miles to the first junction but for some odd reason, I thought that I would be turning left at this junction to take the trail down to McDonald.  Well, I lost the trail almost immediately but I saw a track which split right through a fallen tree to the left so I took my chances.  This area was devastated by a fire and it doesn't appear that many people trek back here.

 No trail, so I began descending this way

 oops, the road - this leads to Buck Creek

I was basically hiking toward McDonald Peak until I ventured down here.  I was sooo far off my destination.  Sammi wanted to hike the road but I was determined to make it right so I turned around and climbed back up.  The footing was bad because there was no trail.  The air was thin which wore me out real fast.  I even fell on my back at one point!

 An old Trail sign?

Pretty cool.  I'm lost but I found this.  I bet not too many people come across this sign these days...

Hey, I finally found the trail!

There were no footprints on it.  No abandoned water bottles.  This spot is way cool!

Okay, here we go, my destination is below!

 Looking back, lost again?!

 Did I miss a switchback?

When I used to hike with Domino, she always seemed to lead me the right way.  Following behind Sammi is like being lead by the blind.  I end up hiking up to the top of those rocks...

 30 Times Zoomed in, I see the switchback trail

 I hiked all the way down and then forced myself up!

I had enough!  I reached the trail again but I was empty!  I wasted this visit.  I clearly saw the trail going up and down.  Rather than follow it down, I began heading back up...

 Switchback: hard to see, right?

In fact, when I was coming back up I ended up heading back to the very same rocks that I just scrambled down.  I fell off the trail again by missing the switchback!  It felt like one of those movies where you keep going in circles to nowhere.  This time, I traced back and found the way.  Unbelievable.  I hiked a bit slower and made sure to find the right way back to the car...

 The trail must be under the growth, but I am nearly back...

 The trail is up there, somewhere.  Sammi seems to know...

She found it and we are just about back

Well, I obviously made it but I wasted my time up here.  Two hours and at no point was I more than a mile from my car.  I had to beg my wife to allow me to drive two hours to reach this trailhead, which happens to still be in Ventura County.  I now feel like I know my way up here so maybe this is something that I had to go through.  My intention today was to take my son and we were going to camp out.  I guess it's a good thing that did not happen but I would like to plan for real that scenario some time real soon.  I will be back!

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