Reyes Peak and Haddock Mountain - Peaks 10 and 11 - A rolling hike over 7,000'
Agency: Los Padres National Forest
The quail was a blur as it flew into the road. I heard it thump against my bumper and knew it was a goner. It happened too fast for me to even react. I slowed and looked behind me, but there was no sign. I had been going about 40MPH just before the turnoff to Pine Mountain. I felt sad that I had killed a beautiful creature, but knew there was nothing I could have done about it. I resolved to make the best of the hike.
I continued up Pine Mountain Ridge Road, a rough mountain road that leads to some campsites at the top and the trail head to Reyes Peak. I rounded a corner and started two deer that were crossing the road. Luckily, this time I was going slow enough to stop and watch them a bit. It lifted my spirits a bit to see such healthy animals and counted myself lucky.
After passing campers waking up and warming themselves by their fires, I emerged from my car at the trail head and was surprised to be instantly chilled. Last week, I was roasting near Lockwood Peak. This week, I had to add a jacket to stay warm. I was comfortable, though and started up the trail.
My goal was to summit Reyes Peak and Haddock Mountain in one loop. This hike was to be another hike to train in elevation for my backpacking trip to New Mexico. It wasn't long until I started to feel the effects of being near 7,000'. Which was the idea, I guess. The trail to Reyes Peak was just a light use trail leading nearly straight upward through the pines trees on a bed of pine needles. I saw all sorts of tracks and even saw some bear scat.
The sun was shining on the occasional clearing and I continued to climb. As I neared the peak, I saw a bear bag hanging in a tree. In it were some provisions, including beer. I looked around and did not see a camp site. I scrambled up to the top and enjoyed the view. I hadn't taken me very long, but I still had another peak to summit today.
I decided to follow a use trail that traveled east along the ridge, sloping downward back toward the trail. Only a few hundred feet away, I found the small tent that undoubtedly belonged to the bag. I would camp at the exact same spot next year.
The trail grew fainter until I finally lost it, so I ended up doing some light bushwhacking. Just then, a head popped up out of the thick brush. A deer was staring at me. I stood there, admiring it, and finally decided to walk around the heavy brush. On the other side, the deer had walked over to an opening in the brush to continue to stare at me. I sat down in the silence and enjoyed some time with the deer, until it finally walked slowly away.
Recharged, I continued down the slope until I reached the trail again. It followed the north side of the Pine Mountain Ridge, occasionally offering me spectacular views to the south. The trail lost and gained elevation over the next few miles, slowly wearing me down. I felt good, though. I had the mountain to myself and it smelled great.
Checking my GPS and seeing a cairn on the right, I scrambled to the top of Haddock Mountain. Having walked the entire morning without a break, I sat down and ate my lunch. The wind was a little quieter and I could see for miles. I had a nice moment of pure wilderness. I enjoyed the warm sun on me and listened to the birds and squirrels in the trees.
It's times like these that make the early mornings and long drives and time away from the family worth it.
One the way back, I met several people, including a group on horseback. I saw a guy on a mountain bike, who was in violation of the sign just behind him that clearly indicated that mountain bikes were prohibited in the wilderness. Behind him hiked another guy with a RED camera. Perhaps they were there to shoot some exciting action videos.
Overall it was a pleasant hike in an area where I'd like to return.