In February last year, I laid out a series of caches in Las Llajas Canyon and along Rocky Peak Road. I was hoping to encourage visits to this very nice area. The caches have attracted attention; most have been found at least 40 times. Today, I hiked the loop to do some cache maintenance and to pick up the caches that have been placed in the last 15 months.
Because the day was supposed to get into the 80’s, I wanted to get an early start. I parked where Evening Sky dead ends on the east, then walked back to the Las Llajas trailhead. I began hiking about 6:00 AM. The morning was cool and clear, with hardly a breeze–perfect hiking conditions. I made good time up the canyon, stopping at a few of my caches to make sure they were in good shape and swapping in new logs on a few.
There were a lot of birds active in the morning. I spotted several small coveys of quail and quite a few doves. They must like the morning because as the day got warming I didn’t see anymore quail and only a few doves.
There are still a lot of wildflowers blooming. I enjoyed them and so did the bees and an occasionally hummingbird. I saw one hummingbird that was really going to town on the blossoms on an oak. That was a first for me.
When I first hiked this trail and put out my original caches, it was February. All the grasses were green and new. In late May, it was a different story; most of the grasses have dried up and they were much taller and denser. That made for tougher searches for some of the caches.
I saw lots of lizards today, but only this one gopher snake. He was lying along the road, holding still for the photo.
When I reached the location of Jackpot, I decided to take a 4-mile RT detour to pick up a couple of caches in Devil Canyon. It was a steep descent on a freshly graded road. I immediately wondered if this was the best idea; every step down meant a step up on the return trip. Even with the second thoughts, I kept going.
Don’s He Made Me Do It! was my first stop. The cache hasn’t been visited since 2009 and I couldn’t find it. I placed a replacement cache, so if you want to give Devil Canyon a try, this cache at the top of the canyon is available.
Devil Canyon was a nice visit. I’d only visited once before on a clockwise hike up the canyon, then down Rocky Peak Motorway. That was almost 5 years ago. Things had changed quite a bit. There have been at least 2 fires in the area. There were a lot of very large oaks that have split in half and have been felled by either winds or by being off balanced.
The other cache that I wanted to visit is Elin’s Daniel Webster. This cache has seen better days. I found it in a hole created when the oak toppled over. It appears to have been baked in a fire, then rusted out by the rains. Here are a couple of photos of poor Daniel Webster.
After finding Daniel Webster, it was time to head back UP the hill to continue my loop. It was now midday and the sun was a lot warmer that it was on the downhill leg. This is when I really started to question the wisdom of the side trip. I just took it slow and returned to the main trail so I could climb another steep pitch.
Why is it when the trail is the steepest, it’s usually blocking the cooling breezes? That was the case today–too many times.
Once back on the main route, I picked up several more caches. Some of them were a lot harder than I wanted. I was tired and while stopping for a cache is usually a welcome rest, today it was hard because whenever I stopped, my leg would start to cramp. It was easier to just keep going.
The last cache of the day, Make-Up your mind Retro Fit’s, was a particularly hard one for me. It was hidden under a SPOR–Suspicious Pile of Rocks. My problem was that I didn’t see any pile of rocks, suspicious or not. I kept looking because I didn’t want to come back just for this single cache. Finally I gave up. As soon as I said, “OK, I quit,” I looked up and saw the cache. No DNFs today!
It was a very nice hike, even with the climbs. Total elevation gained on the 14-mile hike was about 3000 feet. I recommend the Las Llaja-Chumash loop, but probably wouldn’t recommend the extra 4-mile excursion down into Devil Canyon. At least not a round trip.
I’ve included two photos of today’s track. The first one below shows the track and the caches that I found. The second one adds a couple of graphs. The pink line is the elevation profile. The spiky, purple graph shows my hike speed. You can easily see where I stopped to search for a cache and also for a rest.
If you haven’t done this loop, or haven’t done it in a while, come on up before the weather gets too warm. It’s a great hike.