For a great summer weekend backpacking trip in our southern Los Padres National Forest, consider a trip up the North Fork Lockwood Trail to Sheep Camp on the flanks of the San Emigdio Mountains. While much of our area backcountry heats up scarily in the summer months, this trail, which takes you through the sacred Chumash Wilderness, offers somewhat milder temperatures, sweeping views, and spiritual replenishment.
You begin at 5,400 feet above sea level at Camp Three Falls along Boy Scout Camp Road in Lockwood Valley, underneath the peaceful watch of Iwihinmu (today called Mt. Pinos) and Toshololo (Frazier Mountain), to whose almost 9,000-foot heights you will ascend. Now a trail that annually aids in the coming of age and soul seeking of young men, this same land also served as a place where Chumash shamans would derive their wisdom, being close to their divine higher realms and the center of their universe. Whatever the time or epoch, the high desert of the Chumash Wilderness, from its badlands to mountain peaks, is an especially peaceful place.
After a quarter-mile stroll through the private property of BSA Camp Three Falls, you walk a little more than two miles toward seasonal North Falls. Here, the terrain is typical Los Padres high desert, awash in the muted blues and sage-y greens of chaparral and juniper with curious boulders and eroding earth. In the summer, you will, no doubt, be hot in this often shadeless stretch. Thankfully, it’s not too long until you come to the small but inviting North Falls on a small side trail to the left. After our winter rains, the falls should have some life to them for weeks to come.
By Richie DeMaria