On my way up Highway 33 to Pine Mountain I came around a corner and was flagged down by Los Padres Fire whose engine was stopped in the northbound lane. Half of a motorcycle lay in the gravel on the shoulder, its rear end somewhere not within sight. Several firemen knelt at the side of the road tending to a man laying somewhere in the bushes.
I was the first vehicle to come upon the scene just after LPF got there. I sat in my car, front row, watching the highly tuned, well-oiled rescue machine comprised of various first responders rapidly converging on the scene topped by the helicopter thumping up the canyon and landing beside the road. They had the victim secured, stabilized and in route via airlift to the hospital in relatively short order and traffic once again moving.
After seeing that, it would take a lot for the short hike I had planned to turn out any other way but just fine. A terrible day hiking always beats being airlifted to the trauma center.
The Reyes Peak Trail along the spine of Pine Mountain Ridge out to Haddock Mountain must rate as one of the finest four mile stretches of hiking trail anywhere in the southern Los Padres National Forest.
That’s my impression, anyhow, based on my own limited experience. Thinking I may be overstating it, however, I checked what Craig R. Carey had to say in his recent trail guide book, “Hiking and Backpacking Santa Barbara & Ventura.” According to Carey, the Reyes Peak Trail along the northern slope of the peak is “quite simply one of the most beautiful stretches in the southern Los Padres.”
The area is exceptional for its elevation of around 7000′, its clear trail through wide-open conifer forest, large rosy orange sandstone boulders and expansive views of Cuyama Badlands to the north, and the Sespe Creek watershed, Pacific Ocean and Santa Barbara Channel Islands to the south.
Here off-trail wandering and exploration is not just possible but easy, the open and sparse understory of the pine forest invites it. This stands in stark contrast to so much of the chaparral country that dominates the lower elevations in the LPNF, which is mostly impenetrable and where even official trails themselves are often overgrown and hard to follow.
The upper reaches of Pine Mountain also offers a cooler locale for summer hiking. When the lower elevations are broiling in 90 degree heat the ridge at elevation can be in the mid 70s and there is always a tall tree nearby providing a shady place to rest.
Ice can stove on Reyes. (The Ice Can Stove: A Brief History)
Dwarf mistletoe. The globules are liquid-filled and contain seeds which are sent flying at up to 60 miles an hour when they burst. The seeds stick to nearby trees within range, germinate and then root into the new host.
Haddock Mountain summit (7,431′).