At the end of the last post, Kelly, Marshall, Michael, Joni, and I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway (hwy 1) from Santa Monica to Point Mugu State Park in Malibu, CA for a night. An expensive camping option, but one that gets us close to the ocean.
Feb 22, Thursday
This morning I awake and cross Highway 1 on foot to the beach.
Today is my birthday, and I can think of no better way to start it than with some time watching the waves roll in. It may be unusually cold for Malibu, but I’m bundled up and the chill in the air doesn’t bother me.
I see at least two dolphins, one other marine mammal – it was swimming in the water and hard to see clearly – and numerous water birds. This is a day use area, but this early there’s no one else on the beach. It’s the perfect place to reflect on where I’ve been and dream of adventures ahead.
Noon is check-out time, and I pull out without much time to spare. All five of us are continuing on to the same destination, but we don’t leave all together. We pull out when we feel like and get there when we get there. I continue up 1 to Ventura, then turn east onto 126. This road goes past a lot of vineyards and orchards with rolling mountains behind, it’s pretty country.
126 ends at I5 near Castaic. I turn north and go up.
This part of I5 is known as the Grapevine, not named for the once-winding road that use to climb the steep pass in years gone by, but for the canyon it passes through which is still home to wild grapes. I don’t go too far though, taking exit 183 onto Golden State Highway. This four lane road has seen better days and is quite rough, drive slow – especially with an RV.
We’re all headed to Oak Flat Campground, where I stayed in the spring of 2016 for two nights to wait out a windstorm. This time we’re waiting for the fifth member of our caravan, who needed to stay one more night at Point Mugu SP to take care of some things.
For once I’m the first to arrive. I’m excited to see that only a couple tenters are here, that’s good because technically the sites here are rated for trailers no longer than 18′, and Kelly and Marshall both have trailers a bit longer than that. From memory I recall a couple spots that would work for bigger rigs and I’ve been banking on them being open – I’m the only one with personal experience of this cheap campground tucked into the side of the mountains so everything is riding on my decision.
I leave the two longest spots open (one of which is the site I had last visit) and wedge Bertha and Cas into the third longest. And it’s a chore with the big boulders along the sides of the road making turns tough! Before I get all the way in Marshall arrives and easily slides into one of the better spots. Then, just as I fiiiiinally get in and level, a car pulls out of the prime spot on the top of the hill. Do I undo all of my hard work and take it? You bet I do! This was the site I’d drooled over two years ago. Happy birthday to me.
The rest of our party trickles in and gets situated. It’s a cold night in the mountains at 2,800 feet, but my Little Buddy propane heater keeps me warm.
Feb 23, Friday
Kelly catches up to us in the afternoon and we do a site swap, I take the spot I had last visit and give her the spot on the top of the hill as her rig is the longest and when we all hang out together we tend to hang out there – this way we all get to enjoy the view.
We celebrate my birthday in the evening with rice krispy treats. Don’t laugh, they’re delicious!
We also decide not to continue on our way tomorrow, as the cold weather is about to become cold and wet weather. There’s winter weather advisories out for the Tehachapi Mountains (which is where we are), and it looks even worse at our next destination. The Verizon signal is blazing fast here, so we decide to stay a few more days and focus on our respective work.
Feb 27, Tuesday
If you look on Google Maps, there’s a trail labeled Oak Flat Trail that comes off the other fork of the road into the campground. This trail is located inside a boy scout camp and last time I was here it was gated off. This visit the gate is open, and today the five of us finally get around to hiking it together.
Tomorrow is the open day in the forecast, the one clear sunny day this week, the day that will provide the safest travel conditions. So tomorrow, we’re leaving. Today, it’s snowing. But we’re going hiking anyway.
Michael, Joni, and I did part of this hike on the 23rd and turned back because it was just so windy and cold that day. On another day the two of them made it to the top. The hike is 3 miles roundtrip (about 3.5 if you walk from the campground) it’s an out and back trail. There’s about 900 feet of elevation gain and it’s quite exposed to the elements – you’re climbing up a mountain. But the views are worth it.
Have you ever walked when it’s snowing out? It’s more pleasant than rain because you aren’t getting wet. As long as you dress for the cold it’s actually quite fun. Today the snow showers come and go, with blue sky between isolated cells.
The trail ends at Whitaker Ridge Road, which is a dirt forest road that forks off of 6N53 (Whitaker Peak Road). It’s in rough shape and closed right now, but it’s just fine for walking on. We walk the loop at the end, adding more distance onto the hike. I can’t think of a better thing to be doing on a Tuesday.
The north side of the road has accumulated snow! It’s more like snow pellets than snow flakes, and isvery crunchy to walk on. We’re at about 3,700 feet here.
You also get a great view of I5 from up here. Traffic is moving at a good clip despite the weather.
Whitaker Ridge Road drops us back at the end of the trail, and we hike back down and get back to work. When you work in an office you may be able to take a stroll around the local park on your lunch break. When you’re an RVer, the strolls you can take on your breaks get much more interesting.
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