Into the Chalk Fire Burn: Vicente Flat Trail

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The Vicente Flat Trail is in excellent condition as it leaves Highway 1 and begins its initial 1600 ft. climb. Immense quantities of Coast Paintbrush (Castilleja affinis) are blooming along the lower sections of the trail together with Windmill Pinks (Silene gallica), Sticky Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus), California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and much, much more (including, unfortunately, large amounts of Pampas Grass and French Broom).

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Coast Paintbrush with a backdrop of Ceanothus.

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Crimson Columbine (Aquilegia formosa)

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Entering the fire zone: Thanks to recent work the trail, if anything, gets even better.

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Chia (Salvia columbariae) is abundant on the fire denuded slopes.

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As the trail enters the first patch of woods, the ground is carpeted with Fairy Lanterns (Calochortus albus).

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And here’s one of the major reasons why this trail is in such good shape. A Ventana Wilderness Alliance trail crew.

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California Poppies give way to Tufted Poppies (Eschscholzia caespitosa) as the ascent continues.

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Silver Lupine (Lupinus albifrons) becomes more common.

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Coast Paintbrush shares a shady spot with Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum).

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A closer look at the Blue Dicks.

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Crossing the grassy shoulder into Hare Canyon, Cone Peak comes into view for the first time.

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Purple Fiesta Flower (Pholistoma auritum) seems to be having a big year everywhere.

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Fairy Lanterns with a backdrop of Chinesehouses (Collinsia heterophylla).

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Hill Star (Lithophragma heterophyllum)

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A Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana) is the first plant to reappear on this well-scorched slope.

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Cone Peak getting closer. If you click through to the larger image, you’ll be able to see the Stone Ridge Trail crossing the lower slopes. If it can be seen all the way across Hare Canyon, it’s probably not too hard to follow.

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Starflower (Trientalis latifolia)

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A field of Larkspur (Delphinium sp.) and Owl’s Clover (Castilleja exserta). And just look at that trail! It’s sure a far cry from conditions on the Ventana Double Cone Trail.

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Entering lower Vicente Flat. The fire only burned along the ground here, so things are in pretty good shape. There appeared to be at least two groups of people in camp but, in spite of the heat, they were all holed up in their tents. It probably had something to do with the swarms of biting flies. There’d been nothing but face flies on the way in, and not even excessive numbers of those, but the flies hanging around Vicente Flat itself were exceptionally bloodthirsty.

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The Stone Ridge Trail junction sign is a bit of a patchwork. Deadfalls were apparently cleared from the first half mile or so of the Stone Ridge Trail by the BAER Teams and it is easy to follow – although lack of use means things are starting to grow in the tread.

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Someone (or something) has been using the Stone Ridge Trail. The trampled grass makes the trail easy to follow.

Returning to Vicente Flat, I tried to head to the upper campsites, but a truly immense ladybug swarm had taken to the air and was moving down canyon en masse. They were in my shirt, in my pants, flying into my ears, mouth and eyes, and even trying to crawl up my nose. It was hard to breathe without inhaling them. And, to make matters worse, the biting flies were using them as cover and nailing me. I plunged up the canyon a few hundred yards, but the further I went, the thicker the ladybugs got. I don’t know whether the fairy queen was holding a May dance in upper Hare Canyon or the Dark Watchers were having a convention, but the Ladybugs definitely seemed determined to prevent me from going there. I took the hint and left.

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20 minutes later I was still carrying quite a few hitchhikers.

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In the five miles from the Highway to Vicente Flat, this is about as bad as the trail gets. The trail is obvious the whole way, there isn’t a single stick, let alone log, to step across and, with the exception of some mildly encroaching poison oak near Vicente Flat, there’s pretty much nothing to worry about.

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Other than maybe heat stroke. It was scorching up in that canyon! The flowers in the foreground are Larkspur.

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Espinoza Camp. Its advantages are that it’s only 3.3 miles from the Highway, that its got fewer bugs than Vicente Flat and that its got an ocean view. Its disadvantages are that it’s only 3.3 miles from the Highway and that the nearest water is a quarter mile further up the trail. Some dehydrated day-hikers were hanging around wondering if this was Vicente Flat.

Considering the forest has been open for only two weeks, it was surprising how much fresh garbage was already strewn along the trail. There were candy wrappers, bottle caps, toilet paper, and even a Greyhound bus luggage tag (belonging to John of Long Beach). Pathetic.

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Leaving Hare Canyon

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La Costa del Sur

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The trail crew at work in the grueling sun. They’re doing a fantastic job, but there simply aren’t enough volunteers or funds available for paid crews to keep up with the Ventana’s deteriorating trails. If you want an obvious, easy to follow, Ventana Wilderness trail, the Vicente Flat Trail is a good choice (but bring plenty of water!!).

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2 Responses to Into the Chalk Fire Burn: Vicente Flat Trail

  1. coastroad says:

    Thanks for the vicarious hike!

  2. bigsurkate says:

    Nice reporting on the trails, the flowers, and the BUGS. Yes, quite hot and buggy lately, and a little early. At least it is cooling down at night, unlike July and August!! Thanks for posting all these trail updates, XT. Very valuable.

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