San Rafael Wilderness
Middle of three camps (Falls, Lower & Upper Bear) established during the CCC days. Very pretty meadow with camps on either side.
Elevation: Google Earth says the elevation is 5,103
Distance: It is .52 miles up the trail to Upper Bear and .4 down to the Falls Camp.
Facilities: No amenities.
It never failed that when we'd head up the Sisquoc that we'd stay at Lower Bear. Falls Camp was enticing but we always wanted to be up in the pines, sitting aorund the campfire and enjoying the views out over the small meadow across the creek and knowing that the climb up the Devil's Slide was behind us. Often there'd be an owl in one of the firs and it would screech, the sound echoing throught the trees. We hope to see a bear here, a bit worried too that we might actually have one come into camp, but it never happened. Instead we just dreamed good dreams, thinking of oursevles as pioneers of a sort, forging through the outback like the real ones did a hundred years ago. A place like Bear Camp can do that to you.
Then one year huge winds ripped thoruigh the area, toppling a number of the trees the owls used to perch on and with the trees downed the camp never was quite the same again. There is, however, a very nice small camp across the meadow, just inside a grove of trees on the north side of the creek. Perhaps one day it will serve for others what Lower Bear did for us in those earlier years.
Jim Blakley Notes
Bear Camp is divided into three parts; Upper Bear, Middle Bear, and Lower Bear. The original camp was on the west side of the meadow. Because of the distance from water and dense shade, it was moved to the northeast end of the meadow. Surrounding the meadow are several species of very large conifer trees. Below the trail, down in the creek canyon is one of the most beautiful parts of the forest. In this area is a triple water fall .
Northeast of the meadow Hiram Wells, a Sisquac homesteader, had a tent with pole sides which was used as a hunting camp in the early 1900's. A story is told of James Ord who was cutting shakes for his cabin on Loma Pelona when he was snowbound from a heavy snow on top of the pass on Big Pine Mountain. He shot a bear and lived on the meat until the snow melted and he could get his pack burros and shakes over the mountain.
In the 1920's the Hartman brothes who were from Ventura, established a hunting camp and built a stone and concrete stove with a chimney of oil well pipe and an iron oven on top of the stove. In 1939 the site was used as a camp for the CCC when they were building the Big Pine Road and trails in the area. This area is one of the most beautiful in the forest with several species of very large coniferous trees that grow along the creek.
Bob Burtness Notes
Administration: Los Padres National Forest, Santa Lucia District
Access: Forest Road 9N I I from Santa Barbara Canyon (beyond the locked gate) to the junction of the Sisquoc Trail (27WO7) and then about a mile down to the camp.
U.S. Forest Service map coordinates: K-17 Topographical map: Big Pine Mountain
Elevation: 5,525 feet (1,685 meters)
Vegetation: White fir, Incense cedar, Big Cone Douglas fir (or spruce), Jeffrey pine, and Sugar pine
Tables: none Stoves: 2 (at the lower unit)
Water: headwaters of Sisquoc River (reliable at the upper site)
Special features: This picturesque site is divided into 2 units nearly half a mile apart.
Historical Highlights: The area was used by James Ord to cut shakes for his adobe at Loma Pelona. It is said that he was once trapped by a snow storm there and lived on bear meat until the snow melted. The original camp, now commonly referred to as "Lower Bear," is the one across from the meadow. It was at the bottom of the Devil's Slide Trail which linked Big Pine with the Sisquoc. The upper unit was built by the Hartman brothers as a hunting retreat. In 1939 it was used by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the reconstruction of the Big Pine Road, but it was abandoned when a water well was established at . The upper camp was destroyed by flooding in 1969. All that remains is the large cement and iron stove built by the Hartmans. A large fallen tree trunk mercifully rested a few inches above the top of the stove, but has rotted into small chunks of wood which could be used to feed the stove once again.