Hike: Strenuous day hike past Twin Forks Camp after crossing Sespe River
Mileage: Nine miles, ascending to approximately 5,000 feet
Time: Seven hours on the trail, including an hour lunch break
Maps: Tom Harrison’s Sespe Wilderness Trail Map
Last week, I decided to check out the water flow in the upper Sespe River and continue on past Twin Forks Camp for a more demanding day hike deeper into the Sespe Wilderness and up to 6,000-foot Pine Mountain Lodge Camp. When my hiking companion, Chris, and I traversed the Sespe after parking at the signed Piedra Blanca Trailhead, we weren’t surprised to see water running, but we were surprised to have to cross three different channels, getting our boots all wet. Our wet feet made the next six hours of hiking more difficult.
Before we left the large parking lot, we had some interesting encounters with other hikers. We met four young guys decked out for a very long jog down the Sespe, aiming for the well-known hot springs. At 9 a.m., the temperature was still around 40°F, and all they had on were shorts, light running shoes, and T-shirts — very happy and laughing loudly as they set off on a fine Saturday adventure after significant rain. It’s about a 24-mile round trip, and we admired them hugely.
We also met a backpacking couple who had just returned from attempting to ford the Sespe (about 400 yards below the parking lot). They said they had managed to get over two of the Sespe’s channels, but they told us the third one required removing boots, so they backed off.
When a third man got out of his truck while I chatted with the discouraged couple, we all immediately noticed he was in full camo — dark slashes beneath his eyes — and he quickly removed a very long, military-looking rifle, complete with curving banana clip. Not an AK-47, but a very powerful weapon. I hailed him carefully, but he just looked at the four of us for a bit, stated “I don’t like people,” and then, “I’m here for some solitude.”
Well, okay then. Carelessly, I asked him where he was hiking, and he stated, “Upriver. A bear there has been bothering me, snapping at me, so I’m gonna kill it.”
End of conversation.
As he slouched off, Chris and I were glad we would be leaving the river behind as we headed inland and up to Piedra Blanca, Twin Forks, and, hopefully, Pine Mountain Lodge Camp if time permitted. Bear hunting season in California runs until December 28, and as of December 12, hunters had “harvested” 1,268 bears. This gentleman did not have his bear tags showing, but I certainly wouldn’t challenge him about it since I’m not crazy.