Lizard Head, Cuyama Peak (LO), Fox Mountain #1
13 February 1988
By: Lou Brecheen
Leaders: Lou Brecheen, Ron Jones
The success of this trip hinged on the weather and the cooperation of the Ranger at Ojai. The weather was fine, but the Ranger said there was too much snow along Potrero Seco Road and would not allow us to drive it. That alone made it impossible for us to get all the peaks but then when we opted to drive up to Santa Barbara Canyon and climb those peaks, we found that the gate at Cox Flat (the entrance into Dry Canyon and the roadhead for Cuyama and Lizard Head) was now permanently locked, making Cuyama Peak a 14.5 mile roundtrip along a road. So we had a really nice hike up the trail to Fox Mtn #1 from the Peak Guide starting point. Seventeen hikers enjoyed the climb and the fine views. Originally, 34 had signed up for the weekend, but the prospect of hiking Monte Arido and Old Man via the "normal" route discouraged almost half the party.
Norm Rohn knew a property owner (an old hiking buddy) who owned the ridge which runs up to Cuyama Peak Lookout from the east. He led us across the property after lunch on Saturday and we tried for the peak that way. A combination of thick brush along the lower portions of the route and slick snow at the last mile and a half prompted the Leader to turn back before attaining the summit. This allowed us to return to the cars in the daylight and drive on to the Rancho Nuevo Campground which would be camp for the night and allow us a very early start along the "alternate route" for Lizard Head.
It was cold in the canyon and the wind was fierce, still, we had a nice campfire using wood we had scrounged before leaving the Cuyama area. Norm thought it would be damp that night, and it was damp and cold. The people who slept out had frost on their sleeping bags on Sunday morning, but this didn't deter us from setting up the canyon by 7:00AM. It is a beautiful canyon. There is an excellent trail leading six miles to Upper Rancho Campground. Well, excellent for the first two miles to Deal Junction, then pretty good from there, if you select the correct trail options. There is a need for brushing out some parts of the trail, and I'm pretty sure this will be done if this route becomes the primary route for Lizard Head as seems likely with the year-round closing of Dry Canyon. Frozen stream crossings (numerous) were no problem, but they were muddy upon our afternoon return.
We followed Luella's description as closely as possible and I believe we went up the ridge she described, but there was plenty of dissenting opinion about that. The ridge was disagreeably brushy, but the other ridges we viewed looked much worse. There is a ridge which leads directly from Upper Rancho Nuevo Campground to Lizard Head, but when we tried the upper section of that ridge on the way down, we found it to be impenetrable. Of course, a trail can be cut by a determined band, and possibly should be.
The summit of Lizard Head is a slanted rock outcrop-an interesting final 30 feet. Everyone climbed it and we had a slightly late lunch there, among the birddung. When we reached Upper Rancho Nuevo Campground we found Charlotte Ekback, Karen Fiore and a friend who had elected to attend a Patagonia sale. The balance of the return was uneventful and a nice weekend was completed. We didn't get all the peaks, but we really hadn't expected to without a miracle. Some were disappointed about our not trying for Monte Arido and Old Man but we had to forego some and they were the hardest. Trip participants were Roy Stewart, Karen Nikisher, Mike Fredette, Gerry Van Deene, Cindy Okine, Pete Yamagata (from Sacramento), Dick and Shirley Akawie (it's nice to have the legends along), Karen Leonard, Bob Wyka, Jim Raiford, Tom Momblow, together with Frank James, Betty and Austin Stirratt. Thank you all for a nice trip and to Ron Jones for the assist.
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