02 September 2008

The Wild[er] West End of Soquel Canyon

As a followup to my early July hike in rustic Soquel Canyon (the photo at the right was taken in July from a fire road), I decided to make another trek back this past Labor Day and explore the western end. Taking a route from Sleepy Hollow up a steep road to the ridge and then descending steeply down into the canyon, I turned toward Brea. Quickly, I realized that, unlike points east, the dirt road going west was not maintained and hadn't been cleared for quite a long time. At first, the roadbed was clear, just filled with weeds six feet tall or so. Not long after starting, I came across an old horse trailer with some wooden trellis work attached to it--which I had seen on my first trip in the canyon some three years ago. It was a good location with access down to the creek where some water was still located. Unfortunately, along the creek, on the embankment beside it and up near the trailer there was plenty of debris and trash, such as tin roofing, old tires, and others. Clearly, this area had been used to keep horses, but it had evidently been along time. Although I didn't climb up there, the hillside to the south had an old collapsed trailer and other debris, perhaps from the same period and owner, but long abandoned. The isolated area of Soquel Canyon provides some nice ambience, but also is a graveyard for decades-old detritus, sight unseen.

Soon after this dilapidated spot, the road becomes much less discernible. In fact, for most of the rest of the way, it was hard to track the road, except for the fact that the growth consisted of brown weeds, in contrast to the more defined green areas of brush and trees on either side. Sometimes, I was able to follow the very narrow cattle track that passed along the roadbed. There were several stream crossings, but most were dry, although in a couple of places water was still in the creek. At one point, I came to an area with a very spongy, low-lying grass and the area contained some water. Off to the left it appeared that a road climbed to the south, although it, too, wasn't maintained and had tall weeds covering it. This might be the Soquel spur trail that connects the small portion of Soquel Canyon that actually falls within Chino Hills State Park with the rest of the park. Obviously, the difference is that the Soquel Canyon section of the park has been left undisturbed and no one has probably had much access to it since it became part of the park. At least that's the impression one gets when passing through.

After about an hour or so of wandering, sometimes with false forays onto what I thought was the road or the right stream crossing, I finally came to the end of the formal road within the canyon at the base of Hollydale Mobile Home Estates in Olinda Village. There was a strong flow of water coming down along Carbon [Canyon] Creek, undoubtedly signifcantly supplied from runoff in the area. The road crossed this creek where it meets up with Soquel Canyon Creek, but was almost completely overgrown. I encountered a few cattle grazing amongst the very thick brush but was able to trace the road to a point. Finally, though, I had to give up and simply scramble up to an area recently graded in preparation for sale as residential land. Although Google, Yahoo and Thomas Guide maps show Soquel Canyon Road emerging from the canyon and climbing up to Carbon Canyon Road, you wouldn't know it now. The grading has also destroyed any indication of a road there, though if there was residential development on this parcel it would be directly across from Olinda Drive.

From there, I decided to make my way home by walking along Carbon Canyon Road and there is actually a pretty good flow of water along it, although it is hard to tell what is runoff from further upstream and what actually might be from springs that were much more in evidence in years past. In my recent post on oral histories from Olinda, one interviewee had noted that water was flowing in Carbon [Canyon] Creek year-round, all or nearly all spring-fed. I would venture to guess that runoff is probably a significant contributor to whatever is in there now. In the 1940s and before, that water was probably relatively clean, but I wouldn't touch the stuff now!

At one point, after climbing up to Carbon Canyon Road, I was tempted to turn back and follow what I thought was the Soquel spur trail up to the State Park. Some other time, perhaps.

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