Hiking, backpacking, and camping throughout Southern California and beyond

Matilija Meander - Not even close to White Ledge Peak

Matilija Meander - Not even close to White Ledge Peak


A motley, but effective bunch White Ledge Peak? Well, we weren't really expecting to get very far. And we definitely met our expectations. You see, I work in Carpinteria, and many of the meeting rooms in my company's buildings have north-facing windows. And ever since I started there in October 2011, I've been staring at what my co-worker calls "Half Peak."

Intrigued by this peak, I did some research and quickly found that the peak is called White Ledge Peak. This seems to be a fitting name for a peak that will likely become Moby Dick to my Ahab. After doing some additional research, I couldn't find a single report of someone who had summited the peak. I was certain it had been summited before, especially when the Ocean View Trail was maintained, but wanted to be the first in the modern day of hiking bloggers. Well, a year or so passed and the brave David Stillman successfully summited White Ledge Peak from the south. I was a little bummed, but there remained a flicker of hope, since he had summited using a way that crossed private land.

As many of you know, I don't like to trespass on my way to peaks. So, I am still determined to be the first to summit legally in the modern internet era. I am not exactly breaking my back to get there, and I hope that statement doesn't come back to haunt me, but it is still on my mind, as the peak is so visible almost every day.

Craig Carey was aware of my fascination with White Ledge Peak and decided to plan an exploratory trip from the north. I hadn't yet been hiking in that area, so was excited to check it out.

Those of you who know me, or read this blog regularly, understand that I like to get up early to go hiking. One of the main reasons I do this is so I can return home after hiking and still have a part of a day with my family. The second reason is that the cold morning is invigorating and minimizes the heat to which I am exposed along the trail. The third reason is to avoid crowds on the trail.

When I agreed to meet at the trailhead at 5AM, I thought it was pretty early, but doable. When I calculated it would take me about an hour to get to the trailhead, it really started to feel early. When I realized that I have to wake up at least a little bit before I start driving, I was staring at 3:30AM in the face. Well, some things are worth it.

It was still very dark when we met at the trailhead. It wasn't very cold and the stars were amazing. Craig Carey and the Los Padres Expat were assembling their gear and Lego-lass arrived shortly. Craig's friend, the RSO, was perhaps going to meet us at the trailhead, but we weren't to wait for him if he didn't show.

Headlamps strapped to our heads, we shuffled up the dirt road that would lead us to the trail. This was new territory for me, so I really didn't have a sense of where we were, other than my memorization of Google Earth, like I typically do. I frequently checked the GPS app on my iPhone and started to get a sense of how long this hike could be.

We quickly made it to the north fork of Matilija Creek, walking between much poison oak that wouldn't be visible until after the sun rose on the way back. We also passed a couple of people camping under the stars at Murrieta Camp. After some minor backtracking, we left the trail and descended into the Matilija Creek drainage. Hearing what I was told sounded like a moose call, the RSO scrambled up the creek and joined us. Warming us up to the idea of what the rest of the day might be like, we hopped from rock to rock, clutched onto tree trunks, and tried our hardest to keep our feet dry. Some of us were more successful at this than others.

The area is pretty lush

Before long, we arrived at the tributary drainage that could possibly lead us up to the ridge that could possibly lead us to White Ledge Peak. The sun was starting to rise and I was ready to ditch my trekking poles and my headlamp. I also put on my gloves. Everyone was in great spirits, as this was a pretty good departure from the type of hiking to which we were accustomed.

The drainage was the trail

As we ascended the drainage, I was pleasantly surprised at how clear it was. There was very little bushwhacking and a lot of rock hopping. I felt great and strong and ready to go for hours. Hiking with others tends to highlight hiking differences. I realized that I typically rarely ever stop for more that 20 seconds or so while I hike. I usually have my eyes on the prize, which is the peak, and drink a lot of water from my bladder, but usually only snack when I reach the summit. What we lost in time by stopping to snack here and there was made up by the incredible camaraderie being generated by being on the trail together. It's a shift in my style and expectations, since I normally hike alone.

As we shuffled along, occasionally ducking through brush, but mostly staying to the drainage proper, we encountered evidence of illegal agriculture of the smokable kind. No crops were seen, but pesticide, tarps, a small stove, and fertilizer were discovered, complete with bear bite-marks.

Not long after, I was hiking behind Craig when I saw his ankle roll and heard the expletive.

Craig, surveying the way

We would try to go a little further, but it was obvious we were pretty much done for the day. The peakbagger in me was wondering how far I could have gotten had I hiked this alone, but the human in me appreciated the wonderful company I had on the hike. We stopped for lunch and spent some time chatting about everything. It was a great group with a great sense of humor.

Enjoying our lunch

Los Padres Expat owning the trail

The Los Padres Expat set up the camera and took a group shot (seen at the top of this post). We headed quickly back down the drainage, met the trail, passed the camping couple that were still asleep, and made it back to the trailhead. It was nice to be able to see the surrounding mountains that were shrouded in darkness on the way in.

Heading back to the trailhead, back on the trail

On the trail

Water Crossing

Another Water Crossing

Back at the car, Lego-lass brought out some beer and we toasted the hike. It was still pretty early in the morning and other people were just getting started on the trail. Craig iced his ankle and we told and heard trail stories from our varied experiences.

Now he can really do the crane, properly

While we didn't get to a peak, or even near one, it was an adventure and a change of pace. I'd be lying if I didn't admit I was thinking about how I could come back and see if I could at least make it to the top of the ridge. Perhaps with a bivy and a stove. And bear spray. We'll see.

If you get a chance, please read the hike from other perspectives:

Craig Carey: Murrieta Mosey

Los Padres Expat: Back to Matilija, 2013-03-17: the Murietta Five

Beyond the Mountain - By Steve House - A book review

Beyond the Mountain - By Steve House - A book review

Point Mugu State Park - Camping with Another Old Friend