1995 Arroyo Seco Hike

We found out about this trek from friends of ours that get the South Bay Naturists monthly newsletter. We talked to the person in charge of it who informed us that he had enjoyed doing the hike a couple of years earlier. He then sent us a letter about the previous hike and a list of things to take. As anyone who backpacks knows, things add up quickly as far as space and weight. Besides it all has to be packed over a river/creek with no definitive trail. The problems he had noted in the earlier trip were several cars not in good working order, and time was expended on them. Also, a few people tried to do this with regular packs wrapped in plastic garbage bags (Big mistake). They were very wet and cold because their sleeping bags had gotten soaked. There were a few other minor problems, but we decided this sounded like fun anyway.

We met everyone at the Arroyo Seco campground southwest of Greenfield off of Hwy. 101 via G16 at 3PM on a Friday. We then had a long discussion on who was going to leave their vehicle and who was going to take everyone else and their gear around to the trailhead campground at Escondido. Everyone wanted to take their vehicle. In the end, the people who ended up leaving theirs where the lucky ones. Finally we had everything settled and started off to Escondido via G14, through Fort Hunter Liggett. About three miles from the campground we stopped at a wide place in the road and had a quick skinny dip to refresh us as it had been a hot day, and some of us had come a long way. The first night was a sort of pot-luck which worked out OK. There was more than enough.

The next morning got off to a very slow start as we cooked a big breakfast and split up the various meals, snacks, and gear to carry. This sounded great, but it took up way too much time. As it turned out, we did not get down to the creek until noon. It was slow going at first while we all found our best pace for rock hopping and creek wading. After a couple hours, we had lunch at a beautiful spot where a waterfall cascaded down to the creek. At this point one of the couples decided to stop and go back. This meant that we now had to redistribute the load.

Even so, the break was over too soon and regretfully, we headed back down the creek. There were several areas that we had to just throw our packs into the water and jump in after them, and float our way. This was nice as it was a warm day, water was not near as cold as expected. We pushed on this way until dusk begin to fall. We found that this was to long to wait, and should have stopped much earlier. The late start had hurt us.

Fortunately the drysacks had kept almost all of the water out. We were also glad that we had wrapped our sleeping bags in large garbage bags also, as this keep out the little bit of water that did get into the outer bags. After dinner, we all slept very well that night.

The next day came bright and warm. We all had breakfast and packed up. The best, and the worst, parts of the hike were the last day. There were water slides, long canyons to float through, and many other areas to enjoy. Two days were not enough, that's why we are doing it in three this year. The only major problem we had was caused by the preceding winter having so much rain. This made the creek higher than normal which was OK for most of the way, but about a mile from our coming out point, we ran into our only serious problem. There is a pretty good waterfall that leads into a gorge that is a mini Grand Canyon. It is only about 6-8 foot wide. The previous winter's rains had washed out the ropes along side the waterfall used for letting people use the ledge along side of it to sneak around the falls to the calm area below. Fortunately we had more rope with us. However it couldn't be used for the easy route because of the depth and speed of the water. It had to be used to lower us, one at a time, to a ledge far above the pool. From there we jumped.

The rest of the hike was more leisurely, but it was already getting dark We all finally got to the Horse Bridge where we all got out. The couple that had returned the previous day met us there and drove us back to the vehicles. The original plan had been to float the last mile(s) into Arroyo Seco. Had that couple not decided to return early, we would have arrived there after dark!

From there some headed home while we had to be driven back to Escondido to retrieve our van. All in all, it was a great trip, just too hurried for ten miles of creek hiking. This is why we are planning three days on the creek instead.

We plan to take a better rope to get down to the ledge with this year (we even have a climbing harness now). The only other real problem was for the people who tried to make the trip in sneakers. One man had feet that looked like raw hamburger by the end of the trip. The June issue of Backpacker Magazine has an article on boots/foot problems that may be of interest. We definitely agree that good boots with good tread and really good socks, including "liners" make the trip more pleasurable.

Michael & Beth
POB 652
San Luis Obispo, CA 93406
(805) 541-1340