By: Gabriele Rau
I wanted to climb Nordhoff Peak for a long time, then Erik Siering suggested it as an addition for the Lower Peaks. Finally we hiked it, Mark was not enthusiastic about this peak. We left Irvine at 6:15 AM, drove 405, then 101, took Hwy. 33 to Ojai. At the main intersection stay right and pass through town past the Ranger Station. ½ miles past the RS, turn left on Gridley Road and follow it 1.7 miles to the end. Park in the turnaround. The trail starts just a few feet on the left side of the road, it is signed. We started hiking at 8:45. We hiked through high chaparral for about ½ mile, then the trail meets a road. Continue right on the road through Avocado Groves. Then we came to a 5-way crossing. There is an arrow trail sign 2. road to the left. This turns into a trail and continues up the mountain. In 3 miles (10:00 AM) we had reached Gridley Springs, marked by an old water trough and a horse tether rail. We took a break here and continued up the trail. The trail is generally well graded, clipped and goes on and on. Near the road it is leveling out. I reached the road (Nordhoff Ridge Road) at 11:45 and figure the distance 2.5 miles from the springs. Turn left on the road, a steady uphill to the peak for one mile. A spur road leads directly to the peak which has a Lookout Platform on it and a Picnic Table underneath the Lookout. The views were great: Anacapa and Santa Cruz Island, Ojai Valley and Topotopa Mountains and the Sespe Wilderness.
Mark decided to go down the way we went up, I wanted to try the Pratt trail. So on the main road I turned west, after 1 mile I came to a sign: 23W09 Nordhoff Peak 1 mile, 22W05 2 miles (I assume that’s the number of the Gridley Trail, but I never saw it), 23W26 4 miles, 22W09 5 miles, Signal Street 5 miles. I took this Pratt Trail down, also in good condition. The trail comes to a road, and strangely the sign 23W09 turn to the left. I stayed on the road to the right and came to a house, there a trail went steeply up on the right and had a new sign: Pratte trail 22W09. The road was shorter. There is another road turning to the left (east) which in hindsight I should have taken to get to the Gridley TH. But I followed the signs west to the Foothill Trail, marked with several signs and arrows. It leads close to houses and through beautiful gardens, then through chaparral. It is very curvy and rocky. I missed the continuation of the Foothill trail to the Gridley Road, which is on the topo, but I did not see a sign. The Trail ends at the Pratt TH. I walked past the reservoir and a water tank to a city street, Signal Street. It was 4:00 PM. I asked a gardening resident if there was a connector trail to the Gridley TH, he said, yes, a little up the street to the right, it climbs and then leads to Gridley TH, about 2 miles. He thought it would be easier to walk down to Grand Ave, left on Grand, then to Gridley Road and back to the TH. Since I was tired I hoped Mark would be down and called him, but he was not down yet. Finally I talked to him, he was still in the Avocado Grove, but when he arrived at the car, he called me. I was at the corner of Grand/Gridley, he came down and picked me up. I showed him the Pratte Trailhead, I had walked 2 miles to the corner where he had picked me up. By now it was 4:40 We stopped at the Deli, Mark got a Sandwich, I got an ice cream and we drove home. There was a lot of traffic on Sepulveda Pass and we were home shortly before 8:00 AM.
Mark was very tired, I went on a Plant Walk in Evey Canyon the next day (Sunday), but this is a long hike. I would say 6.5 miles one way on the Gridley Trail, 15 miles the loop. I would recommend to have a second car at the Pratte TH.
I had called the Ranger the day before (Ojai RS is closed Sat/Sun), the guy had never heard of the Pratt Trail or another trail to reach Nordhoff Peak!!
This was not a good year for flowers, but we saw poppies, prickly phlox, wild hyacinth, a few more.
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