I stopped in Salinas on Saturday night the 30th to finally collect my "2 free ales" geo swag at Monterey Coast Brewing. Charles, the owner was there. He said that this was the only cache he had ever done. He and Lucy did not realize they would have to drop something in, so they used the only thing they had, their business card. Besides that, he said it had been 3 years ago! That would mean the card sat in the cache for a year and a half before I retrieved it. Think he was greatly surprised to see it ever turned in :').
A very early start on Sunday had me into Fort Hunter Liggett (an Army training reserve) by 8. I cached my way to the main gate. On the second cache, I spotted a herd of 8 Tule Elk moseying along a service road. A volley of shots and they made their way out of sight. I do not know if the shots were military or hunters. They were not close enough to be aimed at the elk. Once in the gate, I realized that the reserve was opened to hunters, which there were quite a number of.
I made my way to Mission San Antonio. Did a quick tour here. Quite an extensive mission, well preserved (established 1771) housing an interesting museum. I did not see anything to such effect, but I am sure I have seen this mission used in Movies. Hearst was heavily involved in the area and evidently renovated one of the mission outposts into a retreat. Very nice. On the way out of the mission road, I spotted a coyote, who was in stalk mode. I stopped and got the camera, and was able to get a shot of him just prior to his plunge into a gopher hole and then one of him retrieving his prey! I am not for sure of the species, as I think he has grass or sod along with it. As soon as he was sure he had it in his grasp, he scrambled out of there to dine in peace. Pretty cool moment.
On to Del Venturi road. After two river crossings (who needs bridges?) and a dozen miles, I crossed out of the reserve and into Los Padres National Forest. What an immediate change of contrast! For one thing, I was now able to leave the paved road. But there was also a stark change in topography. Where there was not forest, there was rolling hills, meadows and rock outcroppings.
Within a half mile of the gate, I had a cache to find, named "wagon cave" (gcmozx). The "cave" is a shelf in a rock butte or mesa, if you will. It rises a hundred feet or so, a third of a mile deep and three quarters of a mile long. The cave was used by both pioneers and the local salinas tribe. A group coming down noted that there are brackets inbedded in the ceiling that the pioneers used to hang their stores out of animals reach. I was much more taken with the rock formations of the butte than I was with the cave. At the north end was a coned shape rock. I checked that out, but there was no way to scale it w/o gear. I checked my gps map, and sure enough, two more caches were on top of the butte. I had to walk nearly the entire length before finding a suitable way up top. Even so, rock climbing/scrambling was the name of the game. Both cahes had 4 stars for terrain, and they earned it. The topside was multi leveled and of different textures. Sand traps, bolders and sheathed layers of surface rock. That made the trip across to the first cache, "high point micro" (gcrbrb), twice the length of the distance. Zigzag all of the way... Finding the safe passage up to the top of the final outcropping was a chore, but I had beautiful vistas of the meadow and creek on the west side of the butte, and the ridges of the Santa Lucia range. This is an absolutely gorgeous location!! After making my way to the cache, I headed to the north end to take a look at "The Ledge of Insanity" (gcrbrq). The intro to the cache description is SUCH an understatement!
WARNING! THIS CACHE CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH. MUST HAVE A SENSE OF BALANCE AND BE ABLE TO SCRAMBLE UP AND DOWN ROCKS.
You would not get me onto that ledge, if you had a rope tied to me and a gun to my head!! I was 10' from the cache (it's under that rock outcrop above the ledge), and that was plenty close enough. I will gladly log the DNF, and put a smilely face on it, since this point provided such an awesome vista. I am getting chills, sitting here typing this out, because I was foolish enough to walk through the steps of how to get down there in my head at the time. Probably will have a couple of nightmares over that :').
Realizing that I had burned up most of the afternoon here, I made my way down and worked towards camp. At the end of the paved portion of Del Venturi is Memorial park, a Forest Service camp. Nice enough camp for "no fee" camping. Several trailheads close by, and I was going to spend several days here, decompressing and getting into my new mode. New Years eve, there were two other sites occupied, but by afternoon of new years day, I had it all to myself. Even the rangers station is vacant.
January 1 was a laid back day. I did do two exploratory hikes, but was not too motivated to do much of anything. I think the stress of finishing up at home and getting on the road finally caught up with me today.
On the 2nd, I hiked out Arroryo Seca trail, into the Ventana Wilderness. There is a cache at 3 miles, Ventana View Tube, but I struck out on that. Still, the view into the range is awesome, so I did not mind at all. I noted two caves across from this point. I had been told by a soldier back on base of some "indian caves" out here, but she did not give me specifics. Perhaps these are the ones. The trail shadows the creek, and the cascades and possibly a falls provide a nice backdrop to the hike. The trail forked shortly thereafter, and I found that both forks went rugged and narrow quickly. Could have gone all the way to Big Sur or to Coned Peak. On the return hike, I chased a Bobcat off of the trail. He saw me first, so my view was one of retreat. I believe I saw a few of the Santa Lucia Firs on the hike. I am loving the synch of the sun and moon. Seems like the moon rise is just behind the sunset and vice versa. Looks pretty close to a full moon too.