|The Gorge of Willow Creek|
Date: April 19-21 2019
Place: Arroyo Seco at Ventana Wilderness, Soledad, California
Coordinates: 36.234113, -121.487442
Length: 10.4 miles in and out
|Our Day 1 3.7 miles hike as Captured by Pappa Quail's GPS. We did the same route, going back on Day 3.|
|The Gorge of Arroyo Seco|
|Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla|
|Creek Clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia|
|Sticky Monkeyflower (orange) and Paintbrush (red)|
The dirt road we were walking on was mostly sunny but parts of it were shaded by large oak trees that grew song its sides. The shaded undergrowth displayed very different flora.
|Common Pacific Pea, Lathyrus vestitus|
We were going steadily downhill at a mild pace. Papa Quail and the other dad were at the lead, chatting cheerfully. All three kids were together, enjoying their own conversation, and I was bringing up the rear, snapping shots left and right of the gorge view and the wildflowers that adorned the trail.
This time we settled for a short breather brake near the creek, after which we moved on along the dirt road again, this time going up and around the hillside.
|Santa Lucia Creek|
|Arroyo Seco Gorge|
|Silver bush Lupine and Ceanothus near Willow Creek Trail.|
The trail was much narrower now, clearly less traveled. The vegetation often grew over the trail itself and we had to be much more careful about not brushing against poison oak. In places where the trail followed the hill couture it was so narrow that we feared it would collapse under our feet and into the creek. In a few places we had to carefully tread around points where it had collapsed. In short, that last mile of the day we moved very very slowly.
|San Bernardino Larkspur, Delphinium parryi|
We set up our camp, collected driftwood, cooked dinner and goofed by the campfire. We had a lovely evening and a peaceful night.
Day 2, April 20, 2019
We woke up to an overcast day and a promise of drizzle (that didn't materialize). The night before we had already decided to camp at the same place on the second night and do just an in-and-out day hike west along Willow Creek as far as we felt like.
At first it was al good. The trail was narrow but clear and easy to walk. We enjoyed the cool morning air and the lush green vegetation, dotted with wildflowers.
|Willow Creek Trail|
|Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum|
|Fiesta Flower, Pholistoma auritum|
It was also a relief whenever the smooth and shiny poison oak was replaced by the prickly blackberry. I only regretted not being there during fruit season.
|California Blackberry, Rubus ursinus|
|Thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorus|
In a few segments the trail separated from the creek, but that didn't make it easier - the vegetation grew into the trail and there were fallen trees on it in places. The canyon walls were made of flaking rock held by vegetation and covered by soft, wet soil, pasted on the rocks with moss and ferns. Ot was really pretty, almost tropically-looking. But it was also unstable. Luckily no rocks fell down while we were hiking there but freshly fallen rocks strewn all over the place were silent evidence that rock fall was common there.
|The canyon wall|
|Silver-bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons|
And then, as we came to the first crossing on our way back Pappa Quail slipped and fell into the water as well, heroically saving his camera. He too was unharmed but his shoes, the only pair he brought, were completely drenched.
He too didn't bother balancing on rocks anymore.
Good thing the camera wasn't damaged on the fall because on our way back we saw a couple of lizards that Pappa Quail promptly documented.
|Granite Spiny Lizard|
|Southern Alligator Lizard|
|Variable Linanthus, Leptosiphon parviflorus|
We retired early that evening and had another peaceful night.
Day 3, April 21, 2019
We woke up to a sunny morning. All energized we had breakfast and broke camp. Our friends were eager to get going on the way back - they would have a 6-hours drive after that to get back home. We got our backpacks all packed, snapped a few more selfies, and hit the trail.
|Leaving Adobe Camp|
The was no sign of a cloud and the blue sky gave a perfect backdrop to the gorgeous views of the canyon below. I inhaled the fresh air and imbibed on the view before me.
|Willow Creek Canyon|
|The beach at Arroyo Seco|
While I was down returning the raft seat my company had spotted some fairy lanterns for me. (My camera settings was off so the photo is dark.)
|White Fairy Lantern, Calochortus albus|
|Hummingbird Sage, Salvia spathacea|
|Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum|
|Morning Glory, Calystegia sp.|
|Hairy Sun Cup, Camissoniopsis hirtella|
|Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum|
Behind the last curve were the wood pegs that marked the beginning (or the end) of Arroyo Seco dirt road. Behind that was the pavement and the parking lot and picnic area.
|The finish curve|