Gaviota Caves Sierra Club Hike
By Robert Bernstein
We had a record crowd of 34 people on our Sierra Club hike Sunday to the Gaviota Caves! Here are all of my photos and a short video.
Huge thanks to Brad for offering to be the "sweep" for the hike! With such a large group it was essential to have someone at the back of the group to be sure no one got left behind. Our new Outings Chair Kristi Kirkpatrick provided us with walkie-talkies which turned out to be very helpful!
Two people turned back early after the first cave because one of them realized she needed to get in better condition to go further. I very much appreciate when people know their limits!
Another ten people left the group in order to go ahead much faster. Again, this is the responsible thing to do. We want to keep the group together, so if people want to go much faster or if they really can't keep up with most of the group it is best to sign out and do your own thing.
As it was, that left 22 people on this wonderful hike all the way out to the Lookout above Gaviota Pass! The weather was absolutely perfect. It was in the upper 60s with clear skies. At times it felt warmer than that with the sun and the reflection off the light sandstone rocks.
We had plenty of totally new people and many came from quite far away: Ventura, Ojai, Santa Clarita and even Glendale and other parts of Los Angeles. We had some from almost as far away coming from the north. I am happy to know that everyone said they were glad they made the trip!
There were plenty of circling turkey vultures waiting for one of us to drop from exhaustion! Here was one at our first stop:
Here was the view from that spot up the Gaviota Pass near the tunnel:
And here is a short video clip of two turkey vultures circling at our lunch stop at the overlook above the Gaviota Pass:
We did our best to get a group photo at the first overlook spot, but it was hard to get everyone in!
The first cave is not the famous "Wind Cave" but in many ways it is the most beautiful one. So, even if you are only up for a short hike you will be rewarded with this experience:
From that first cave we got an excellent view of the Wind Cave with the perfect blue sky shining through! Notice the brave person perched on top! I have never made to that spot.
The climb from the first cave to the Wind Cave is not very far, but it can be brutal. It is very exposed and it is very easy to get dehydrated. I have had some unpleasant cases of hikers who became dehydrated here. They became disoriented, confused and combative. It is essential not only to bring water but to actually drink it! It is much better to drink your water than to ration it. Here we are making that climb!
The lead person behind me is Kenny Learned. He was an official for the Mosquito and Vector Management District for many years, so you may recognize him from TV coverage of mosquitos and ticks and other disease carriers. He is a biologist and he actually knows the names of the plants and animals that we see on our hikes.
Just below the Wind Cave are some other caves. We paused there to cool off before the final climb to the Wind Cave. These caves are less visited and there is something interesting to notice inside. The rocks here are sandstone. As they decay they leave a fine dust. That dust displays the tracks of little animals that come to visit.
Here is a group photo from below the Wind Cave looking up at the group gathered above:
Our much-valued "sweep" for the hike, Brad, is the guy in the back row near the left with the big white hat.
While we were there, a video crew was waiting to record a video. They had a heavy load of equipment. They were with a company associated with REI sporting equipment.
Many of us posed in the Wind Cave window for the mandatory photo op. These two women Karla and Ana have been friends since high school in Guadalajara, Mexico! They are looking forward to more hikes with the Sierra Club and we are looking forward to having them along.
Most people turn back after visiting the Wind Cave. But for us, it was not even the halfway point. We continued on the trail for some beautiful views out to the Channel and down to the railroad trestle.
And then on through an area of dense brush with some spectacular oak trees like this:
Since it is winter we don't expect too many flowers. But we did see a few. Thanks to Kenny the biologist for identifying them for us: Brittlebush (the yellow daisy-like flowers), Indian Paintbrush, Blue Dick, Milkmaid, Ceanothus, Prickly Phlox and even a lone California Poppy!
This is Blue Dick:
We had lunch at the overlook near the antenna high above the Gaviota Tunnel. It got a bit windy so I had to hold onto my hat for this photo!
On the way back through the brushy pass, my wife Merlie picked up a "Hiker's Badge" to display on her chest:
Be sure to check out the rest of the photos from this outing!