Veteran’s Day at Mt. Carmel & Pine Creek

Bottcher’s Gap

Skinner Ridge

Massive canyon oak (Quercus chrysolepis) on the slopes of Devil’s Peak

The Ventana Double Cone, The Window, and Kandlbinder Peak.

A little snow still lingers from last week’s storms

The brushy summit of Mt. Carmel

The Monterey Peninsula and Monterey Bay as seen from Mt. Carmel

Palo Corona as viewed from Mt. Carmel. A corridor of public land now stretches from Mt. Carmel across Palo Corona and all the way to the mouth of the Carmel River. How long will we have to wait for a trail linking Garrapata State Park and Palo Corona Regional Park to the Ventana Wilderness?

Heading for Pine Creek

Sirxinta, the black oak (Quercus kelloggii). For how many seasons has this veteran stood watch over the Little Sur basin?

A large shelf fungus fruits on a broken limb

Edge of the forest

Yellowing big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) leaves shine brightly in the shadowy forest along Pine Creek

An old campsite, complete with fire ring and rock wall. This would be a nicer place to camp than the official Pine Creek Camp, except that it’s too far upstream for water to be reliable.

There isn’t a pine woods along Pine Creek, but huge ponderosas (Pinus ponderosa) are scattered about in the hardwood forest. We were surprised to see large healthy stands of old tanbark oaks (Notholithocarpus densiflorus – that’s right, they’ve been moved to a new genus. Just weren’t closely enough related to the other Lithocarpuses, or something). Thanks to Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum) infestation, healthy tanbark forests are now a rare sight in the Santa Lucia Mountains.

The fire grate at the official Pine Creek Camp was crushed long ago by a falling madroño.

It’s been replaced by this fire ring, but Pine Creek Camp is far too dark and dank to be an attractive place to camp this time of year. It might be nicer in late spring or summer.

Downstream from Pine Creek Camp we began to encounter dead and dying tanbark oaks. It looks like Sudden Oak Death is working its way up toward the big tanbark woods around the headwaters. Better go and see them soon.

The trail soon leaves the creek and climbs to the top of Ponciano Ridge. The ridge is too heavily forested to provide much view, but this sign still survives in the gap. It’s only 3 miles out to the Robinson Canyon Rd. at White Rock from here, but the White Rock people shut down public access ages ago and are known to be quite unwelcoming to confused hikers who wander out of the Wilderness along this trail.

Returning over Devil’s Peak

Evening light

Skinner Ridge madroños (Arbutus menziesii) at sunset

The trail to Bottcher’s Gap

Click here to see this territory during wildflower season

9 Responses to Veteran’s Day at Mt. Carmel & Pine Creek

  1. Chris L says:

    Beautiful photos and account. But, dammit, XT, give me a holler next time you’re in the neighborhood :)

  2. gayle says:

    Lovely pictures. Lovely story, it is so nice to be able to take a trip home to the mountains, even if it’s thru others pictures. Thank you.

  3. craig says:

    Lovely photos; thanks for sharing these. Hoping to see this trail myself sometime soon.

  4. Georgia says:

    It is possible to loop from Pine creek back to Mt. Carmel via the jeep road which travels through the wilderness NNE of mt carmel. From that jeep roads highest point there is a trail directly to Mt Carmel. It appears that this route never enters white-rock private property.

  5. Sam says:

    hi – awesome pics of one of my favorite trails! i’ve been really interested in attempting to trek from the end of robinson canyon rd. to mount carmel – but judging from the latest reply and the post above, i would need to access the trail from the jeep road in order to avoid trespassing on the white rock gun club’s land – looking at my wilderness press map of ventana it appears that there’s a trailhead at the end of one of the jeep roads. has anyone made this trek? is it possible to get to said jeep road? ANY REPLIES APPRECIATED : )

    sam .

  6. xasauan says:

    Close though it may be, you can’t currently access the Ventana Wilderness from the Robinson Canyon Rd. without crossing private property. Georgia’s loop stays within the National Forest and does not reach the Robinson Canyon Rd.

  7. Sam says:

    thanks for the reply.

    just to be clarify – the 4wd jeep road that travels along ‘white rock ridge’ westward from the end of robinson canyon rd (and almost reaching garapata park) is all on private land? sorry if that seems like a no brainer.

    you can reply too at my email if you’d rather

  8. xasauan says:

    Actually, a lot of that road is now on public land. Where it reaches Robinson Canyon Rd., however, it is on private land.

  9. Sam says:

    thanks for the reply, appreciated – if you (or anyone) happen to know of a point of public access to said jeep road that doesn’t cross private property – or alternately if you know of some way access could be arranged for a day hike from that road to Mt. Carmel please let me know. otherwise – i’ll just enjoy it from the botcher’s gap side : )


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