Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Unwintery Winter's Hike In The Shadow of Black Mt.

The last time I bothered to capture any images along the Friis Trail in the Santa Lucia District of the Los Padres National Forest in San Luis Obispo County was back in Spring 2009 when I was somebody else and living another life both of which have since ended. Today I elected to capture the following images of the place now in a different time both in my life as well as in the context of the time of year as this is the Dead of Winter when that other visit was in the Fullness of Spring. I took my little monster Tequila with me and hiked with my buddy Mike. This time we decided to park at the top of the trail and hike down to Friis Campground, the inverse of how we usually conduct this hike. We felt Friis Trail was too short a hike so we elected to hike a significant section of the Fernandez Trail for the first time. The trail intrigued us so next time we plan to park in Friis Campground and hike Fernandez Trail all the way to Fernandez Road in the Red Hill area south of Highway 58. For reference and comparison purposes please check out my previous posting about that other visit here nearly three years ago.

View from the upper trailhead for Friis Trail on a saddle upon which Black Mountain Road wends in route to the top.
View from Friis Trail of the start of the switchbacks as Black Mountain Road commences the steepest part of its ascent.
Above is Black Mountain Road and below it in the foreground is Friis Trail.
A Santa Ana Wind engendered gorgeous warm and windy weather for our trek.
The trail wends its way beneath the trees on the lee side of a long spur ridge off the south flank of Black Mt.
Digger Pines (Gray Pines) abound.
View of the saddle at the head of the canyon from about halfway down the canyon on the south flank of Black Mt.
Granitic southeast rampart of Black Mountain.
Friis Trail passes through a mix of oak woodland and chaparral.
Oaks become more abundant along this trail with decreasing elevation.
There was much evidence of wild pigs along particular stretches of the trail in an area of the forest known for them.
At this section the oak woodland disappears and chaparral becomes dominant.
The trail wends its way through fuel beds I would not wish to be caught in when fire ultimately revisits this area.
Evidence of the last time fire was here (Highway 58 Fire in 1996) abounds.
Mature trees like this did fine in the Highway 58 Fire 16 years ago.
Normally this waterfall is active this time of year... but not this year.
The lower trailhead of Friis Trail in Friis Campground.
If I didn't know better I'd say this was a mistletoe tree.
This oak acts like an archway inviting the hiker to enter Fernandez Trail.
The upper trailhead of Fernandez Trail looking back into Friis Campground.
This eastern rampart of Black Mt. looms over the upper section of Fernandez Trail.
The trail starts out in a mix of oak woodland and chaparral...
.... but soon becomes just chaparral.
More evidence of the 1996 Highway 58 Fire that consumed 106,668 acres.
View west towards Black Mt. with the main peak being the one that appears lower to the right of the cone-shaped peak.
More headstones of the Highway 58 Fire.
The far distant ridgeline contains Black Mountain Road so we are never far from where we started
We stopped for lunch at this bench/tool depot used for trail maintenance... and then turned back.
In the center of this image running vertically is what appears to be a faultline.
This part of the trail wends through heavy 16 year-old fuel beds of chaparral.
Granitic rocks dominant this region otherwise dominated by sedimentary rock formations.
 Digger Pines are generally viewed as ugly but they are one of my favorite coniferous trees.
A local mountain biking club placed numerous jumps like this one along Friis Trail.
By the time we neared the end of our trek the shadows were getting longer.
View from back where we started when we were done.

All photos by Kim Patrick Noyes (all rights reserved)

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