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2021-10: Plan - Santa Rosa Island

My plans to tackle the 2-week Oregon challenge followed by Lowest-to-Highest (L2H) have officially been waylaid. While I was hoping for the smoke to clear and the Oregon PCT to reopen while the weather window remained decent, it was not to be. Without Oregon, my chances of being in shape for L2H without dedicated training are also very slim, and god knows I lack the ability to actually prepare. So, that brings us to the less fun half of the year: winter and fall.

Backpacking opportunities become scarce as the water dries up and the Sierra weather becomes dangerous. Later in the season, even the modest & local Angeles National Forest becomes cold and snowy. The backpacking is mostly limited to shoreline, where something like the Lost Coast Trail comes into play, or in the southeast-- I may make a trip to try the Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas in March. Perhaps it would even set me up for a PCT desert bid in April. For now, unwilling to buy a plane ticket, that brings us to the current idea: a circumnavigation of Santa Rosa Island, off the coast of Ventura. This is somewhat the opposite of my usual plans: while the dates are set, the route is not. In place of landmarks to visit, there are instead water sources that limit accessibility to distant parts of the island, and should I miss the boat, it's a long 2-3 days with rather little extra food before the next ferry arrives. No such thing as stumbling out of the mountains a little late for this trip.

In the vaguest sense of the word, here's the plan. First up, the goals:

  • Walk as many of the island trails as I can

  • Bag Soledad Peak and Black Mt.

  • Visit Lobo Cyn.

  • Camp on the beach

  • Don't miss the ferry back

  • Don't die of thirst

There are 2 water sources that are certain: aptly named Water Canyon, near where the ferry drops you, and Clapp Spring, a trough on the south-east portion of the island. There is intermittent water at 9 other canyons scattered around the island, though with the timing and the dry year, they're unlikely to be flowing. Even if they were likely, it would be irresponsible to plan for them. This situation requires a few adaptations:

  • I can ask the ranger at the ferry if they have any info about water activity. Most likely, they won't, but it's worth a shot.

  • I need to scout out water without committing to a location. If I can camp near Jolla Vieja the first night, I can filter at Clapp on my way over, and establish a water source further along my loop should Jolla be flowing. Due to the canyon length, it seems more likely to be flowing than San Augustin or Wreck.

  • Whether or not I find water at Jolla, I should fill up where I can (including Clapp) and circle up to the northwest side of the island. This plan should support requiring pushing all the way back to Water Canyon if need be. Should any of the 4 sources on the northern shore be flowing, that greatly expands the site options, including pushing toward the northwest corner.

  • Upon further inspection I have absolutely no plan and will ad lib this trip. I'm sure this won't end up like the time I nearly died of thirst in Big Sur.

There's one last wrinkle: gear. Rule of thumb requires 1L of water for every 2 hours of hiking. This comes out to 6L per day, plus water for cooking. With each L of water weighing 2.2 lbs, that's 13.2 lbs of water alone. My backpack's "comfort carry" is around 20 lbs, though some folks have taken it to 25 without complaint. With 3 days of food at 1.5 lb/day, consumables come nearly to the comfort limit alone.

I've pared down the gear list by a good amount, so we're looking at closer to an 8.6lb base weight, or a max carry of 27 lbs, which might be asking for a bit much for my pack. That said, after a few liters of water or a day of food go, it'll be much more palatable.

So that just leaves food planning. I'll be recycling my JMT recipes with a few alterations:

  • I need a break from the usual suspects for lunches: tortillas, tuna, and nut butters.

  • If I'm packing a lot of bars, I need savory food to counterbalance the sweet.

  • I always over-pack fats, so planning on some more snacky carbs.

  • Shorter trip means I just get to pick favorites for dinner: Crab Curry & Chili.

  • Snacks for breakfasts, for a few reasons: speed, lack of water, gas shortage, etc.

  • 2800 calories was pretty spot-on. The altitude messed with my appetite a bit but I ended up evening out after 9 days, so maybe bring a few extra snacks.

Monday: L, D

Tuesday: all meals

Wednesday: all meals

Thursday: all meals

Friday: B, L

Before I close this out, I've thought of another idea. If I use the first day to scout out water at the 4 northern canyons, I could much more easily commit to high mileage on the other days should I find said water. It could be 1) scout, loop through Black/Soledad if water, come straight back or hit Lobo if not. 2) Water to Jolla. 3) Jolla to water @ north. 4) north side back via Lobo/mtns. That just might be the plan. It's also extremely tempting to see if Orrs Camp and Arlington Spring trails link up. The link seems feasible, as the canyon is not that steep there, and the trails abut on either side, but Google Earth makes it seem like no trace of Orrs is left at all.

Tl;dr I have no plan but I do have boundless enthusiasm. Will report back!



Hey, thanks for stopping by!

I appreciate you reading! I hope it was fun, useful, or interesting.


The dream is that by running this blog, I can give those I care about a way to keep up to date with what I'm doing. Bonus points if someone stumbles across this and it helps them plan a trip or get into the outdoors. Always feel free to drop me a line if you've got questions about anything posted here!

Much love,


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