Big Sur – Carmel River Trail


February 15-16,2015

Testing out some new equipment on a quick overnighter in Big Sur with Tikka.
»jump to the pics & details

our trail
Tikka and I parked at the Los Padres dam and hiked around the water to pick up the Carmel River trail which we took to Bluff Camp.



Total distance: 5.72 mi
Max elevation: 1453 ft
Min elevation: 1086 ft
Total climbing: 1430 ft

the way in – Day 1
After skirting the main reservoir, I decided against following the sign that said “<– TRAIL” since it didn’t jive with both the GPS on my watch or my phone.  According to both, it looked like I was at the fork with the Big Pines trail.  Not intending to go that way, I continued on the path that I’d been on even though it started to look overgrown and underused.  That path soon petered out in a mess of poison oak.  According to where I was on the gps, I was right on top of the trail.  After circling around for what turned out to be a mile, I decided to go see what this “Trail” sign had in store for me.  Sure enough not far after that sign, there was a real sign marking the way for both the Carmel River trail and the Big Pines trail.  Lesson learned: don’t always trust gps. Or, more accurately in this case, don’t always trust the base map for gps or the even paper map. Both show the trail in a different place than it was.  They both also showed several river crossings that were inaccurate.  After getting home, I downloaded the Big Sur-specific base map for Basecamp that proved to be much more accurate than any of the maps I had, both paper and digital (including the one embedded on this page).

After sorting my error, I continued on the few miles to Bluff Camp.  I’d planned on going to Carmel River Camp or even Sulphur Springs Camp, but Tikka was tired (great excuse!) and we decided we’d call it a day when we got to Bluff.

the campsite
We picked a great spot on the south side of the river.  The crossing was almost knee-deep, so Tikka got carried across. Lucky dog! Some guys had set up camp on the north side and there were some folks vacating the spot just past the river crossing.  We went a tad further and took the next spot.  Its a great location with lots of flat areas for tents, plenty of rocks and logs to sit on, a decent fire pit, and easy access to the river.

new equipment
One of the motivations for this trip was to test out some new equipment I’ve gotten my hands on.  My folks gave me a pair of super light Gossamer Gear LT4 trekking poles. At 9.3oz for the pair, they’re great! They held up perfectly well both for hiking and supporting my tent, exactly what I need them for. My brother and sister-in-law gifted me a new Leatherman Skeletool CX. It served its duty cutting off excess length from my polycro groundsheet that I’ve been meaning to get rid of as well as helping remove a nasty tick from Tikka’s belly. Also, this was my first night with my new Enlightened Equipment Revelation quilt. I opted for the 30º model in an attempt to shave a little weight and space and since most of my nights are well above that. This night dropped to about 45º and I was plenty warm and comfy under this quilt. About half way through the night, Tikka decided that curling up on top of my down puffy wasn’t cutting it and she dove in underneath. We both slept comfortably warm for the rest of the night. That would have been tough or even impossible had I been in a traditional mummy bag. Lastly, Carlos gave me a Petzl e+lite that shone its first beams when the sun dropped.  It’s incredibly light and small, but provided plenty of light, both with its white LEDs and the softer-on-the-eyes red mode.  Thanks everyone for the awesome gear gifts!!

the pics

the details
No permits other than the standard California campfire permit are required for backcountry camping in Big Sur.
Dog friendly!
Ventana Wilderness Alliance is a great resource for trip planning





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