Thirsty Mt. Pinos

Towering pines on Mt. Pinos, near the Chula Vista parking area.

A couple leaving the camp saw that I was trying to collect drips of water from the nearly dry spring. I told them I was OK, and had water in my pack — I was just using a makeshift cup to get a couple of mouthfuls of cool water from the slowly dripping spring.

I had stopped at Sheep Camp (8300′) in the Chumash Wilderness, in Los Padres National Forest. The day was warm and the spring at the camp is usually a refreshing stop on the way back to Mt. Pinos and the trailhead at the Chula Vista parking area. Earlier, I’d talked to a runner training for the Kodiak 100, and he’d mentioned that the spring was a key source of water for his dog.

Trying to collect a mouthful of water from the spring at Sheep Camp. July 2022.
Trying to collect a mouthful of water from the spring at Sheep Camp

In recent years water has sometimes been an issue at the Sheep Camp spring. In July 2018, six out of the past seven Rain Years had been dry, and the flow of the spring was just a trickle. But it had been enough to slowly refill my Camelbak (TM) and get me down to Lily Camp (6600′) and back. Not so today.

Even without the water, Sheep Camp is a pleasant and worthwhile detour. Old growth pines tower above and bright yellow sneezeweed and other flowers are sprinkled about the forest floor. In the Spring large patches of iris bloom in the damp areas.

Today, I was returning from Mt. Abel, after having done Mt. Pinos, Sawmill Mountain, and Grouse Mountain on the way to Mt. Abel from the Chula Vista parking area. Here is an elevation profile of the run/hike. The cumulative elevation gain on the 15.5 mile run is about 3700′.

North summit of Grouse Mountain, west of Mt. Pinos.
North summit of Grouse Mountain.

The short side trips to the summits of Mt. Pinos and Sawmill require almost no extra effort, and the view from Sawmill — if it’s not too smoky or hazy — is wide-ranging. Getting to the twin summits of Grouse takes a bit more work, but it’s fun to follow the short use trail up the south summit and then to wander through the pines to the slightly taller north summit.

The descent that follows — down the use trail from Grouse and then down the Vincent Tumamait Trail to Puerto del Suelo, drops about 1000′ in elevation over 1.6 miles. This, of course, must be repaid on the way back!

When you reach the road at the end of the Vincent Tumamait Trail, you might remark, “But there’s no trail to Abel!” And you would be correct. It’s fairly straightforward to trek up through the forest from the road, though care is required due to the debris from forestry work in the area.

Rabbitbrush and paintbrush along the Vincent Tumamait Trail, northwest of Mt. Pinos.
Rabbitbrush and paintbrush along the Vincent Tumamait Trail, northwest of Mt. Pinos.

Here’s an interactive, 3D terrain view of the run/hike from Mt. Pinos to Mt. Abel, with side trips to Sawmill Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Sheep Camp. The map can be zoomed, tilted, rotated, and panned. To change the view, use the control on the upper right side of the screen. Track and placename locations are approximate and subject to errors. Poor weather, snow, ice, and other conditions may make this route unsuitable for this activity.

More photos and info can be found in the related posts and in this post from a 2019 run/hike of this route.

Some related posts: Mt. Pinos Adventure Run to Mesa Spring; Up, Down and Around on Mt. Pinos’ Tumamait and North Fork Trails; Thunderstorm