The Southern California resurgence of backpacking

Too long ago our local master of the backcountry Bill Slaughter and his rock and roller partner Rain Perry led a group of mostly Ojains into the wilderness to a popular camp by the Sespe, Bear Creek, an easy but pleasant walk, well documented by Modern Hiker. We had a great time and, having sent scouts ahead on Thursday with mules to secure and supply the campsite, no trouble occupying this central spot. But people came through on the trail almost continually during the day and evening, and when we ventured deeper into the Sespe, near a good hot spring, the river became downright crowded. College kids, couples, small groups of adventurous guys, even familes — the backpackers kept coming, and filled up nearly every shady spot.  

All this to verify a comment from Craig Carey, who just published a new book on backpacking in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. This is what he said to the editor of the Santa Barbara Independent, re: backpacking in this area:

Do you think there’s a resurgence in backpacking?

I do. It’s a combination of things. 

One, a lot of not just parents but people in general are feeling what Richard Louv calls the “nature deficit disorder.” They realize that they’re not getting out enough, and the easiest place to go, Adventure Pass or not, is the Los Padres National Forest. It’s accessible to all of us.

Plus, it’s extremely inexpensive. Despite all the budget cuts and some of these darker corners being brushed in and hard to hike, most of the frontcountry trails are in fantastic shape. It’s an easy way to get out, and get your kids out especially. Kids remember this stuff forever, and they may even write a book about it one day!

It's hot country, too hot in summer, but the oases are fantastic in the spring:

Bear creek

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

3 thoughts on “The Southern California resurgence of backpacking

  1. My first thought was, “It’s cheap”. I sometimes work for a bus company that offers budget camping tours. Their business is booming. I’ve still go to say, that in my experience in Northern California, when you get a mile from the parking lot, 90% of the people and 100% of the trailside garbage disappear.


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