View up Villa Creek near camp

7-21 & 7-22-2017 Backpacking the Buckeye Trail to Villa Creek Camp

Jeff and I planned this trip to be a loop trip. We were going to do the famous Buckeye-Cruikshank-Salmon Creek loop which is 27 miles starting at Cruikshank Trailhead or 25 miles I think it is if you start at the Buckeye Trailhead or the Salmon Creek Trailhead, which are very close to each other on Highway 1. The Buckeye Trailhead begins at the Salmon Creek Ranger Station. Go up the driveway to the place and you’ll see the trailhead on the left.  There’s usually plenty of parking spaces there, whereas Salmon Creek Trailhead is difficult to find a parking space since the Salmon Creek Waterfall is so popular and so close to the highway.

We started around 10:30 AM on the trail. It was warm already. The initial climb up the Buckeye Trail to Salmon Head saddle is a bit steep and in the past was littered with around 4 or 5 deadfalls, two of them ones you must take your packs off for. This trip they were nowhere to be found. Apparently there was a VWA crew or LPFA crew that came in and cleared the Buckeye Trail all the way up to the Soda Springs trail confluence. So we had an easier time up but the warmth of the day had kicked in and the open sun areas it was a bit too warm for comfort hiking.

As a result, I didn’t dig my camera out until we got into some higher altitude and where we had more shade opportunities.  Here is the first shot I took on this trip and looking south from a point between Soda Springs and Buckeye Camp. A trained eye can see the Buckeye Trail in the distant lower right as it passes around three prominent ribs of Silver Peak away from this location (we are on another rib here).

Looking south from high up on Buckeye Trail
Looking south from high up on Buckeye Trail

Due to the heat of the open sun and desire to get to Villa Creek, my next shot is after we got to Villa Creek Camp. It was so cool and shady there and the sound of the rushing water in the creek was such a fantastic sound. I had bargained with Jeff to overnight here. He had never been here before, but had done the Salmon Creek, Buckeye, Cruikshank loop before several times. So he didn’t know just how good it was. Jeff and I are both usually hammock campers. But this trip I bargained with him because I knew in advance despite the sheer number of redwood trees there is only really one hammock spot in this camp, and I let him have it.

Jeff setting up his hammock at Villa Creek Camp
Jeff setting up his hammock at Villa Creek Camp

I decided to let him have the only hammock spot while I would sleep on the ground with only this padding here…

This is where I will sleep on the ground
This is where I will sleep on the ground
Bigger view of Villa Creek Camp
Bigger view of Villa Creek Camp

Villa Creek Camp is a lush redwood forest. There is so much green here. Thimbleberries still going super strong and green even in late July. And there’s lots and lots of water. The water is aerated and tastes really good compared to other locations. And there’s a big swimming hole adjacent to the camp…

Nice sized swimming hole in Villa Creek
Nice sized swimming hole in Villa Creek

After arriving and deciding where I was going to set up my sleeping area, I stripped off my wet clothes and set them out to dry on the warm rocks being sunned in the creek. It was a hard hike and my base layer and microfleece were soaked along with my sun hat and bandana.

Set my clothes and things out to dry on warm rocks in sun
Set my clothes and things out to dry on warm rocks in sun

Walking around the creek, you can do a little bouldering almost going down the creek. Lots of nice views. This one right next to camp though.

View up Villa Creek near camp
View up Villa Creek near camp
Tall view up Villa Creek near camp
Tall view up Villa Creek near camp

Going downstream involves a bit of gymnastics as there are huge boulders downstream for quite a distance.

View down Villa Creek near camp
View down Villa Creek near camp

After resting about an hour, I got up and made some dinner. I am a mostly-raw-vegan. I am a vegan yes, but mostly raw. I do cook some things, and I do eat some things prepared which are already cooked like white bean chips with my guacamole (avoiding corn chips).  I also eat a lot of organic tofu which obviously is cooked even though you buy it in the refrigerated section in the market and usually eat it cold in salads. I also do eat steamed veggies often enough. And soups. I make fresh split pea soup in the winter time quite often. It’s one of my favorites. Anyway I have struggled with my diet being backpackable. I usually can only do overnighters because I exist in day to day from half my diet being liquid (green juice). I freeze the green juice and carry in an insulated carrier that keeps it still a little frozen the next morning. But I would have no green juice on day three, so that keeps me on two day trips at the moment. I have struggled with how to make things fresh on the trail and it’s very difficult while being a raw vegan, so my next best option is to use dried foods that have some decent nutrition to them. Enter dried split pea soup mix. It’s organic and it’s available very cheaply too at Whole Foods Market in the bulk section in San Luis Obispo where I live. I think this would be an item available in other Whole Foods Markets but not sure. Look for it. It is the bomb! It is so good! Tasty! And hearty! And while it’s not as good as my own home made soup (nothing ever is really, because I pay attention to the small details on even the most simplest recipes like split pea soup) it is a very good tasting soup. I could not tell it was dried after preparing according to the directions on the bulk bin. Basically the directions were a little more than 1-1 water to soup mix based on your desire. Boil the water first, then add the soup mix, stir, cover, let sit for 5 minutes, then ready. And boy I tell you, so easy, and so tasty. I always add pine nuts to my split pea soups. Always. They belong there. I use raw pine nuts. In fact I never eat any roasted nut. Every nut I eat is raw. I also have been adding pistachios to split pea soup but they are a little crunchy by comparison to pine nuts, and have a large bite to them. Though once you chew them they do add another creamy dimension to the soup like how pine nuts do.

Dinner time, split pea soup with pine nuts and pistachios
Dinner time, split pea soup with pine nuts and pistachios
Jeff already finished his dinner
Jeff already finished his dinner

Dinner came and went. And then came sleep. And I slept wrong. I am generally a side sleeper. And I was having a hard time even getting to sleep on my back so I started attempting side sleeping but I got a super tight muscle from doing that on such thin cushioning and woke up in the morning unable to move my leg very much. It was so painful, I had to massage and stretch and it made me actually cry from the pain as I stretched it. So Jeff and I decided instead of finishing the loop, that we would go back on the Buckeye Trail.

We started out quite early in the day, just before 8 am. We are both into starting early as possible but it was a bit of a late start for us. The hike went reasonably well for me all the way up to the 2300 foot elevation saddle that crosses over the northwest most rib of Silver Peak. This saddle is one that Jeff and I also cross when we bushwhack Silver Peak from the bottom. It is quite a hike and I recommend it only in the rainy or cooler seasons. Not during summer, since it is quite off the grid so to speak and is a huge elevation gain to Silver Peak which is 3590 foot elevation.

We took our first break on the saddle and enjoyed the views for a few minutes while I drank my green juice and Jeff had some snacks.

Me on Buckeye saddle on northwest most rib of Silver Peak
Me on Buckeye saddle on northwest most rib of Silver Peak
Snack time on our first break back on the trail
Snack time on our first break back on the trail

The next photo the trained eye can see the Buckeye Trail in the distant upper right as it passes over the saddle. San Martin Top is the distant left peak. Alder Peak distant right peak.

View north through foliage on Buckeye Trail looking towards San Martin Top
View north through foliage on Buckeye Trail looking towards San Martin Top

There is quite an abundance of variety on the Buckeye Trail. Not only is it the best and longest ocean view trail in all of Big Sur, there are grass lands, allowing so much view, and piney-oak-bay laurel woodlands. The pines here are predominately Grey Pines which give Silver Peak its colorful name. In addition there are also some sections of nothing but redwoods and still other sections with pines and spruce predominately.

Buckeye Trail
Buckeye Trail

My camera has a built-in sweeping panorama option and decided to illustrate how easy it is to have one person in the same photo twice.

Jeff points to the view, twice! 180 degree panorama on Buckeye Trail
Jeff points to the view, twice! 180 degree panorama on Buckeye Trail
Buckeye Trail looking south
Buckeye Trail looking south

Looking back on our journey back south, we glanced at San Martin Top the last time and disappeared into the lower altitudes.

Jeff on Buckeye Trail looking north towards San Martin
Jeff on Buckeye Trail looking north towards San Martin

A little further south and more familiar mountains came into view. Mt. Mars, Bald Top and Pine Top Mountains. The coastal layer was still so thick though that we could not make out Piedras Blancas very well, but you can see it jutting out on the right

Looking south on the southern Buckeye Trail with Mt. Mars in distant left then Bald Top then Pine Top
Looking south on the southern Buckeye Trail with Mt. Mars in distant left then Bald Top then Pine Top
Jeff on Buckeye Trail
Jeff on Buckeye Trail

Almost back, we got to the confluence of the Soda Springs Trail and the Buckeye Trail, and looked back at our very recent memory and adventure along this beautiful stretch of Big Sur.

Trail confluence, Soda Springs and Buckeye Trails
Trail confluence, Soda Springs and Buckeye Trails
Final stretch towards Salmon Creek on the Buckeye Trail
Final stretch towards Salmon Creek on the Buckeye Trail
Looking south from Buckeye/Soda Springs Trail confluence
Looking south from Buckeye/Soda Springs Trail confluence