Less than thirty miles from one of the most populous areas in North America, lies the remote eastern reaches of the Los Padres National Forest. With its seemingly endless layers of pinyon, ponderosa and fir-studded peaks that stand sentinel over a tangled labyrinth of deep, rugged valleys, it’s hard to believe that such a wild oasis exists merely a stone’s throw from the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area and its nineteen million residence. And, in unbelievably stark contrast to the concrete-laden hustle and bustle of neighboring LA, this portion of the Los Padres remains almost entirely devoid of human presence for much of the year. For the months that motorized access is prohibited, one must hike or pedal their way into these wild and untamed canyons. Getting back there can be a rigorous effort indeed, but more than worth it for the unhampered solitude one can find.
April is typically a shoulder season here; heavy snow years and lallygagging winters can render the month bitterly cold, the trails can remain unrideable, and the streams too cold and icy for any desirable form of fishing. This winter was different however…the snow never really fell, and unseasonably warm and dry weather persisted through the once-rainy winter season and on into spring. So here we were, the first weekend in April, baking under an angry sun as we loaded bikes and prepared to set off deep into the Los Padres in search of wild campsites and native fish.