Section Hiking The Condor Trail: Lower Rancho Nuevo to Piedra Blanca

April 22nd to 26th, 2020
48 miles, 7,000'
[Pics] [Caltopo]

I'd now been  backpacking the Condor Trail since April 9th. I'd started at the northern terminus doing 85 miles Section Hiking The Condor Trail: Bottchers Gap to Kirk Creek and then when they closed some of those trails I jumped south for another 58 miles Section Hiking The Condor Trail: Cuesta Pass on the 101 to Adobe TH on the 166.

Now I only had about 5 days left before my Pacific Crest Trail plans were starting. Jen and I had booked an Airbnb for a week starting on April 27th so that I would have a chance to recover before kicking off  what was potentially 5+ months of nonstop hiking on May 5th.

I'd originally eyed continuing the last section and coming out at Manazan but Brian Sarvis had described the trail as involving some significant bushwhacking and as much as I was enjoying the solitude I was really hoping to get in more hiking and less manual tick removal to better prepare for the PCT.

I also debated doing Piedra Blanca to Lake Piru allowing me to see the southern end of the trail but that also reportedly had some  bad sections.

I decided to do the section from Tina / Lower Rancho Nuevo along the 33 down to Piedra Blanca aka the trailhead most people use for Sespe & Willett Hot Springs.

So this time I did the yellow section of the map above and while there was still some significant brush and an ungodly amount of ticks it was another enjoyable section of the Condor Trail.

Section Hiking The Condor Trail: Cuesta Pass on the 101 to Adobe TH on the 166

April 18th to 22nd
Condor Trail
58 miles, 8,800'
[Pics] [Caltopo]

This is the second of three sections I backpacked along the Condor Trail during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on the trail itself please see the first post Section Hiking The Condor Trail: Bottchers Gap to Kirk Creek. It covers the first 85 miles along the northern end to the point where I was forced to exit at Kirk Creek due to county trail and road closures.

Since then my girlfriend and spent two nights in an Airbnb. This mostly involved sitting in bed researching options on my laptop, taking some very well deserved showers, and resting up my feet while eating everything in sight.

So why did I settle on the the section between the 101 and 166? I'd originally intended to continue the trail south from Vicente Flat but I didn't want to flagrantly violate a trail closure even if the chances of getting caught where I'd be spending most of my time were slim.

Also near the area marked Ragged Point on Google Maps there's a somewhat unfortunate 50 ish mile section of "trail" which involves walking along the beach / PCH. If I had a shot at doing the entire 400 miles then I would have powered through that section but considering I had a hard stop date when I needed to pivot to the PCT I was inclined to spend what time I had along the more wilderness-y section.

Talking to the always informative Brian Sarvis I settled on starting at the 101 near Cuesta Pass and heading south. He said the trail was likely to be in better shape than what I'd been through and he said it was a spectacular section where he'd seen more bears than anywhere else along the trail.

So the morning of April 18th I threw everything back in my pack and I was off for another round of tick infested bushwhacking.

Section Hiking The Condor Trail: Bottchers Gap to Kirk Creek

April 9th to 16th, 2020
Condor Trail
85.5 miles, 15,000'
[Pics] [CalTopo]

Life has been rather interesting the last few months. In February my girlfriend and I gave up our apartment in favor of living out of a conversion van in a local campground. It seemed like the perfect fit for our lifestyle which rarely involves sitting around at home these days and would hopefully allow us extra flexibility when it came to travel.

With all the planning that went into downsizing and the move itself I felt like I'd considered everything. Except, oh I don't know, a worldwide virus pandemic causing mass closures of campgrounds, businesses, ect.

And so here we are in the times of COVID-19. The campgrounds we used are all closed. An issue with our vans solar system left us without reliable power and forced us to throw it in storage and temporarily move into an Airbnb so we could meet our teaching commitments. And then I got sick.

I don't have confirmation what I had thanks to the testing situation but I had all sorts of potential exposure thanks to a public transportation trip a few weeks ago, campground living, and contact with a friend who did test positive for COVID-19. I ended up having a rough few weeks health wise.

Meanwhile the shutdown forced us to end the Wilderness Travel Course early without the snow travel or snow camp outings and then I had to cancel the Spring Advanced Mountaineering Program course completely. And without a home to shelter in per the state orders I started to look at options to get on a long trail as soon as possible.

Amongst the other issues the virus caused shutdowns of local trailheads and so I wanted something relatively obscure that would get me away from any crowds. Starting the Pacific Crest Trail early was an option but that situation has been fluid with more closures potentially on their way and reports from people on the trail of getting doxxed or even death threats from slightly obsessive Facebook keyboard warriors. All of which left me inclined to stay away until my May permit date.

The end result was that I found myself taking a hard look at the Condor Trail.

The Condor Trail is 400-ish mile thru hiking route that runs the length of Los Padres and promises a remote wilderness experience. It first came onto my radar after my Hot Spring Trail trip back in February and had the advantage of going through a lot of areas I've yet to visit.

The dashed black line is the entire trail. I ended up doing three sections and this write up covers the northern red section which I did across 8 days before a local road and trail closure caused me to skip south.