San Rafael Wilderness
Mansfield Camp is located at a midpoint between Heath and South Fork camps on the upper Sisquoc River. The Fall Canyon Trail ends at the camp and provides additional opportunites for exploration or another way to reach Mission Pine Basin.
Elevation: Google Earth says the elevation is 3,044'
Distance: Mansfield Camp is located at the northern end of the Fall Canyon Trail and is 4.17 miles upstream from the South Fork and 1.24 miles below Cottonwood Camp.
Facilities: Several metal fire grates; no table or other amenities.
Notes: Mansfield is located in just the right place: at the base of the Fall Canyon Trail, an enjoyable 4+ mile hike up from the South Fork and about the right distance to hike in from the Sierra Madre Road via the Judell Trail if you are heading down the Sisquoc. The camp is small but capable of housing a group of 6-8 people without crowding.
Though the Fall Canyon Trail is technically not on the Forest Service inventory, it is a great trail to hike up, especially after the Zaca Fire opened up the brush and people are using it regularly. I can remember a December 1975 trip that I took my students on as clearly as if it were last year. Our trip was over the Deck via White Ledge and up the Sisquoc. We spent the night at Mansfield and a bit before dark explored the first quarter mile of the Fall Canyon Trail.
The next morning, on the spur of the moment rather than continuing up to Bear Camp and then around via West Big Pine we decided to see whether we could make it up Fall Canyon or not. The tread was in pretty good condition but the scrub oak and ceanothus was really grown over and we had a tough time pushing through it. Finally we formed a train with me at the front and the other six behind pushing each other from the back. It worked! As we got higher the brsuh thinned out and finally when we hit the pine forests not too far from the crest we were ecstatic.
Today, if you have the opportunity, take a few hours and exlpore the lower part of the Fall Canyon Trail. I went up it a few years ago with Rik Christensen while we were scouting the impacts of the Zaca Fire. Forty-five minutes of hiking will get you up to a point where the trail begins to level out and you can spot Fall Canyon slightly below you off to the west. Rik and I worked our way down a mellow ridge and then into the bottom of the canyon itself. Before we knew it we were looking over the edge of Sisquoc Falls and straight down 300' to the pool below. Wow!
I was so excited I ended up leaving my sunglasses on a rock near the edge of the falls. Amazingly I got them back a few weeks later. Turns out Bryan Conant had the same idea as Rik and I did, saw the glasses and brought them back. Thanks Bryan!
One note: though the Fall Canyon Trail is now passable, because it is not maintained regularly, route finding could be difficult. I would suggest you don't attempt it unless you bring a GPS with the route embedded in it.
Jim Blakley Notes
Established in 1971 the camp is named after retired Assistant Forest Fire Controller Office Howard W. "Stubby" Mansfield. The camp is at the north end of the Falls Creek Trail (Santa Cruz Trail). After the Sisquoc Condor Sanctuary was established in 1937, the Falls Creek Trail was no longer maintained because it formed the eastern edge of the sanctuary and the condor watchers thought people using the trail would bother the condors.