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pass on the right

Joined: 30 May 2023
Posts: 10 | TRs | Pics
Location: San Francisco
pass on the right
PostWed May 31, 2023 6:30 pm 
Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA May 24-28, 2023 Last week I went on a short trip with my school's small outdoors club. Originally we had planned to backpack in the Emigrant Wilderness, just north of Yosemite, but lingering snow forced us to change our plans and go to Big Sur instead. We stayed the first night of our trip in Pfeiffer campground so that we could organize and distribute gear and food. After an early-ish wake up and a breakfast of pop-tarts and bagels, we left for the trail at around 9 or 10 in the morning on Thursday. (At the trailhead, we found this amazing bumper sticker, which we felt obligated to take many pictures of:)
We got lucky with weather for the majority of the trip, and our first day on the trail started out cool overcast, with some parts of the trail giving us views of the ocean every once in a while.
After eight and a bit miles of walking, we reached Barlow Flat Camp, the first of two options for that night's stay (the other being Sykes Camp, four and a half miles away). Most of us didn't feel like pushing any further along, and so we decided to stay at Barlow and chill for the rest of the day. Every site we stayed at was by the Big Sur River, which gave us a very reliable water source and a place to swim.
We took advantage of this, initially wading and then either jumping (like most) or falling (like me) into a full-body soak, which took a little bit of getting used to after spending the last couple of hours sweating through our clothes. Thankfully we were able to dry off pretty quickly afterwards, and we spent the rest of the night building a fire (dubbed the Chris Evans fire for its good looks) and making dinner. Because we hadn't decided to stay at Sykes the night before, and we wanted a day to chill, my group decided to just day hike to Sykes and back on Friday, partly for the hot springs that we had heard about beforehand. It was a short but difficult hike, with 9 miles full of steep ascents and descents as we rose from the river and went back down again. We were all pretty glad we had decided to stay at Barlow instead of pushing ourselves further, especially with one of our members having some pretty nasty blisters.
We headed back from Sykes at around three, the trail starting to get unusually busy with hikers and backpackers coming in for Memorial Day weekend. This theme continued back at Barlow, where many more tents had popped up over the course of the day; not enough to be overwhelming, but still a substantial number. Dinner was quesadillas made from the massive block of Tillamook that we'd brought, as well as obligatory onions (one member of the group had brought six onions, and we didn't wanna have to carry them for much longer). On Saturday morning we woke up early (well, as early as a group of teenagers can do) and started on the way back. We planned to spend that night at Ventana Camp, another camp by the river and around five miles away from the trailhead. The trail to Ventana splits off from the main path and heads down, losing around 1000 feet of elevation over a mile of switchbacks as it moves down to the river. The hike to the split was the easiest we'd had so far, but the final stretch to the campground took way longer than anticipated, and my knees were still having a bit of a rough time four or so days later.
Once we reached Ventana, relieved at the coolness brought on by the nearby river, we took some time to relax and hang out by the empty firepit. We all had a great time, and though the camp was getting full quickly (Memorial Day once again), it still felt isolated enough to be calming. As it began to get dark, we met Andrew, another hiker who we had seen briefly on the first day. He'd set up his tent before our arrival, and was just coming back for the night, probably from a short day hike. Andrew looked to be around 70 years old, wearing a sage-colored fleece with a Highway 1 patch velcroed onto the breast. He carried a big canvas back, the same color as his jacket, and structured around a steel or aluminum frame. After building us the "best fire I've probably ever made," he told the group stories about his repeated trips to Big Sur, and how he had found Ventana Camp in 1969 after walking aimlessly into the woods on two tabs of acid. He passed out a song praising Smokey Bear, which we all sang off-tune and with the occasional laugh as we lost the rhythm. Eventually, though, we had to get to sleep, reluctantly putting out the fire and walking away from Andrew's stories of Grateful Dead concerts and hiking Big Sur with his daughters.
We woke up early again the next morning, feeling a little bittersweet about the bonds that we had been able to form in only four days (having not known each other before the trip), and how we would have to leave that evening. We gave a warm goodbye to Andrew before going up towards the main trail more easily than we had come down. We reached the van again in what seemed like no time, opening a box of Oreos that we had saved in the trunk and eating almost as quickly as Cookie Monster. The sense of bittersweetness was gone for the moment as we took our packs off and sat on the ground, discussing what we'd do when we got home and checking our phones for signal. The van ride back went quickly too, and we said our goodbyes upon getting back to school, sore and stinking within probably a ten mile radius. I felt then, and still feel now, insanely fortunate to be able to go on trips like that, and to be able to enjoy them. I had so much fun, and would definitely recommend Big Sur and the Pine Ridge Trail to anyone looking for a short-ish trip (the route is a variable length, so it's easy to change how long you're there). And, of course, thank you so much to HayShea, Green Shirt, Baby Jay, and Lei for taking most of the pictures you saw here, and for being awesome people to hang out and hike with!

jaysway, uww, zimmertr, John Mac, Tom, Route Loser
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