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Hiking: Ojai

Wilderness' Beauty Is Up a Creek

September 29, 1996|JOHN McKINNEY

The midsection of Sespe Creek, about 17 miles north of Ojai, is wild and scenic but not officially designated as "wild and scenic" like the lower Sespe is. The reason for this is the intense lobbying efforts of dam proponents who long to construct Cold Springs Reservoir a few miles down-creek from California 33.

In the meantime, Middle Sespe Trail is a bit of a tease. After the first mile, the path leaves the Sespe and does not return to it until it approaches Lion Campground. Compensating for the lack of proximity to swimming holes are the views of the rugged wilderness.

Directions to trail head: From Ojai, follow California 33 north 17 1/2 miles to Beaver Campground. (The campground entry is two miles past the Rose Valley turnoff to Lion Campground.)

Middle Sespe Trail begins at the start of the campground loop. If the creek is low, you can walk 100 yards downstream and look left (across the creek) for the trail on the opposite bank. Alternatively, you can follow sketchy paths downstream for about 100 yards and look for a crossing and the trail on the opposite bank.

The hike: Once you've crossed Sespe Creek and located the trail, the path heads down creek, tunneling through thick riparian growth. The creek is close by, but hidden by dense vegetation. For the first mile, the trail is a fairly flat, retiring road.

About a mile out, the path reaches the base of a hill and begins to switchback steeply away from the creek. The trail descends and crosses a seasonal creek, then rises again and crests a minor ridge that affords an impressive view of Sespe's gorge. Way below the trail, the canyon tapers to a narrows; not surprisingly, this is where dam builders want to pour concrete.

Near the end of your journey you'll pass a signed junction with the trail leading to Piedra Blanca and into the Sespe Wilderness. Stay with Middle Sespe Trail, which continues along the river and drops to Sespe Road No. 6N31. Cross Sespe Creek to Lion Campground and trail's end.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Middle Sespe Trail

WHERE: Ojai back country, Los Padres National Forest.

DISTANCE: From Beaver Campgrounds to Lion Campground is 6 miles one way with a 500-foot elevation loss.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Moderate.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Ojai Ranger District, 1190 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, CA 93023: tel. (805) 646-4348

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