San Rafael Wilderness
Large camp in an oak-covered meadow along the side of the Sisquoc River 6.6 miles downstream from South Fork and 4.78 miles above Cliff Camp. A beautiful spot to spend the night.
Elevation: Google Earth says the elevation is 2,007'
Distance: It is 5.6 miles from South Fork downstream to Sycamore. Cliff Camp is 3.9 miles further downstream.
Facilities: No facilities but a beautiful place to spend the night.
On most all of my trips down the Sisquoc I spend the night at Sycamore Camp. The typical for the Sisquoc Loop would be to hike to Fish Camp in the later day, spend the first full day heading up to White Ledge and then going from there to Sycamore Camp the next day. The hike from South Fork to Sycamore Camp is one of the most enjoyable in the forest. The river canyon is deep for a number of miles, there are plenty of pools and incredible views. When it is hot you'll be stopping and cooling off at most every one of the creek crossings. Along the way you'll pass by Forrester's Leap Canyon and for equestrians one of the most challenging section of trail where the dropoff is almost 300 feet and there are a number of blind corners with no real possibility of turning around if you meet another group of equestrians coming from the other direction. Fortunately that is a rare possibility.
Below Sycamore Camp the Sisquoc River canyon begins to widen out and over the next 5+ miles begins to turn more into a river valley with more of the mesa and river meadow areas that attracted the pioneer homesteadets like the Wellmans, the Davises and the Montgomery's in the 1880s. The next five miles or so below Sycamore Camp can also be some of the most difficult to navigate. In 1969 most of the river trail and a good part of the old homestead road were washed out and in the early 1970s when FS crews rebuilt the trail, both along the Sisquoc and the Manzana, they cut quite a few high routes in the places where the river routes had been destroyed.
Unfortunately, many of the higher routes along the Sisquoc haven't always been maintained well and it is easy to miss the places where the trail heads away from the river and up onto the hillside. There is nothing more frustrating that to take one of these high routes that lead you several hundred feet above the river only to spot an easy-to-use route right down by the river. But it can also be just as frustrating to lose the river trail and find yourself wandering through creekbed cobblestones.
Special Note: Sections of the trail at Forrester's Leap and the steeper sections were re-worked after the 2007 Zaca Fire, with a crew capable of using explosives from the Sierra Forest. The drilled and dynamited in a number of spots and CC crews worked some of the most dangerous sections. It was pretty amazing to hear the explosions shake the canyon walls when they went off.
Jim Blakley Notes
The original camp was located under a large sycamore tree behind the barn on the Ed Montgomery's homestead. This was the end of the wagon road up the river some 35 miles from Santa Maria. The sycamore tree died and the camp was on private property so it was moved up stream under some oak trees. At the old homestead there is just a pile of rocks that remains of the chimney. It is at this point that the Jackson Trail 27W05 starts. It climbs to Montgomery Potrero where Josiah Montgomery, Ed's father, had his homestead. At one time there were 3 grated stvl throne. Water is available from Sisquoc River.
Bob Burtness Notes
Administration: Los Padres National Forest, Santa Lucia District
Access: 17 miles above Nira Camp via the Manzana (30WI3) and Sisquoc (27WO7) trails. Access is also possible via the Jackson Trail (27WO5), just below camp, which descends from the Sierra Madre ridge for 6 miles. Parts of this trail are very steep. This latter route is a 13 mile hike from the locked gate near McPherson Peak.
U.S. Forest Service map coordinates: J-16
Topographical map: Hurricane DeckElevation: 2,000 feet (610 meters)Terrain: canyon|
Vegetation: oaks, sycamores Tables: none
Stoves: 3 (grated)
Water: Sisquoc River
Historical Highlights: This camp was originally located under a large sycamore tree near the old barn on the Ed Montgomery homestead. All that remains is a pile of rock, the chimney of the house. Sycamore camp was the end of a wagon road which extended for about 35 miles up the Sisquoc River Valley so that the homesteaders had access to Santa Maria. Since the camp was on private property, it was later moved a half mile upstream to its present location under some oaks. The nearby Jackson Trail ascends to Montgomery Potrero which was named after Ed's father, Josiah T. Montgomery.