Monday, August 3, 2020

North Fork Trail, 22W02, Boy Scout Camp Road to Lilly Meadow, Los Padres National Forest, CA

I wanted to take this hike last year, after a visit to the Iris meadow, up near Mount Pinos. I chatted with a ranger at the Chuchupate station, and asked of any moderate-length hikes she might recommend. She suggested Lilly Meadow.

Didn't make it last year. Intended to go earlier this year, to coincide with the iris bloom but didn't manage that, either. This weekend, after pretty much wasting my Saturday, I decided I would not let another day get away from me. I waited until a little after noon to leave home, so I would not hike with the sun at its highest, and the morning "rush" of hikers would be gone.
This trailhead is at the end of the public section of Boy Scout Camp Road. Exit I-5 in Lebec, Exit 205, Frazier Mountain Park Road. Turn left at the bottom of the ramp, and drive under the freeway. Continue straight at the stop sign, pass the gas station/Subway on your right, and the Pilot/Flying J truck stop and Motel 6, on your left. After 7 miles, turn left at Lockwood Valley Road. 8.2 miles later, Boy Scout Camp Road will be on your right.

Drive to the end of the public road, and park somewhere outside the gate to the camp. Do not block the gate, or any of the side drives outside the gate. It's a pretty narrow fit between the white limit line of the road and the fences on either side. Park carefully. The passenger side person (if any) may want to get out before you park.
There's an opening in the fencing on the left side of the gate. Pass through, and walk straight along the road. Do not cross the ditch on the bridge. The angled trail sign may suggest you should head left, but ignore that suggestion. Just walk on straight. About a half mile later, you'll reach the end of the pavement.
Now, you're walking on dirt. A nice, smooth, wide dirt road. Nice, if you want to socially distance. It continues as a wide dirt road for approximately two miles. Interesting mountain features on both sides. Some things look pretty volcanic. Other stuff just looks like conglomerate. Some flowers were in bloom on both sides.
At the roughly two-mile point, there's a sign saying it's one more mile to Lilly Meadow Campground. At this point, I have to admit, I said to myself, "I've only gone two miles?"

A narrow trail (which will also prove steep, with significant drop offs) heads up and to your right. You may wish to continue up that way.

But first, continue straight for just a bit. It initially seems like your nice wide trail continues that way, anyways. Looks like people have camped up ahead there in the past, as well. As you approach the corner, you may hear water, falling. Or, if it's earlier in the season, I imagine the roar is quite loud and the running water continues in the riverbed, on your left. But, when I was hiking, no water continued past the small diversion "dam." Water was being diverted, via a metal pipe, to a storage area down in the camp, for possible fire fighting purposes.
The waterfall was a pleasant surprise. I wasn't sure exactly where it would be, and how far the detour would be to see it, and it turned out to be a lot closer, taller, and with more water than I would have expected, for early August.

I took lots of pictures, then returned to the trail.
The steep and narrow trail switch backed its way upward, eventually leading you back to the creek upstream of the falls (far enough upstream, and with enough overgrowth, that I was not tempted to track my way to the top of the falls). After what seemed like a long mile, I was there: A picnic bench, a large fire ring surrounded by logs for sitting, and lots of flattish areas for camping.

On my return walk, I turned on the "record" function in the All Trails app. It measured my way back as 3.7 miles, and a descent of about 1200 feet. So just under 7.5 miles for the day, and a reasonable altitude gain. I felt more tired than the distance should have made me feel, however, as I have not been able to do much hiking since the whole COVID thing began.

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