Sunday, April 13, 2014

Rinconada Trail outing and overnight campout

On April 4-5, I went on a solo overnight campout on the Rinconada Trail, about 9 miles east of Santa Margarita, CA. Santa Margarita is one of the oldest communities in this county [San Luis Obispo County, CA]. It started as an "Assistencia" outlying assistance center for Mission San Luis Obispo, which was founded in 1772. Basically, the livestock that fed the Mission were raised there. It's an area of beautiful scenery.

I started out from the trailhead a little after noon, using a FOX TACTICAL rucksack to carry my kit and 3 quarts of water, a load of about 35 pounds total weight. The trail would peak at about 1200' gain and the campsite I planned to use was about 1.6 miles distance. It was a cool day with clouds; good weather for hiking elevation with a heavy load. Here's the view looking east towards back country:

After hiking for about an hour, I came across this cattle gate which was a landmark for the unmapped campsite I was seeking:

Unfortunately, the campsite was located beneath a group of Oak trees on a hill to my right and behind my field of vision, so I walked past it. I walked as far as Hi Mountain Road and realized I'd missed the campsite. I knew I had to turn around and go back. On the return pass, I spotted the fire ring on the hill, partially hidden beneath the trees, as it was now within my field of view; A good lesson to always check behind you! I set up my camp and settled in:

The camp had a very nice fire ring. Unfortunately, high winds and strong gusts made it unsafe to make a campfire, so it was to be a cold camp. I hung my ruck from a limb with a paracord loop and snap carabiner. This is a great way to keep gear off the ground and not have to bend over to access pack pockets:

For supper, I used my MSR Pocket Rocket stove. The fare that evening was buttery mashed potato's with chicken breast chunks mixed in:
Mmmm, hot, tasty, filling and loaded with carbs. The only meal I needed that day and the next morning as well:

After dinner I bagged my trash and suspended it and my food from a high branch in an Oak tree away from camp:
I hung my Tomahawk and Bolo Knife off a broken branch on the old Oak tree next to my campsite, where it was safely off the ground and readily available to me. I made the leather sheaths and wood burned the creeping vine on the `hawk handle myself:
For added grip, I covered the handle of my Bolo knife with suede Buckskin. This knife is a great chopper and will perform many camp tasks well:
I've always been a bit of a Rock hound, and was stunned at the amount of Quartz and other interesting rocks in this area, in which there were Cinnabar [Mercury] mining operations:
It was a beautiful evening as the sun went down:
...and the sunset was to die for:
The wind howled all night long and shook the tent. Fortunately, I'd correctly oriented it toe-end into the wind, thus it remained upright throughout the gale. I had a pleasant [if noisy] evening. The next morning I wasn't hungry and skipped breakfast. As the sun rose, I loaded my pack:
Once the sun was fully up, I started out on the hike back to the trailhead by 8 a.m. It was an equally beautiful morning to be a-trail:
The morning sun was warm and cast a long shadow:

As I descended the trail, the whole Pozo Valley opened up before me:


On the way out, I made it a point to open a plastic bag and gather litter. As always, "Pack it in, pack it out" and if you can, bring a little extra with you. I managed to round up a couple of pounds of beer bottles, aluminum cans, cigarette butts, a hubcap, and other trash. It's a small way we can show our respect for our outdoors and encourage others to do the same by modeling good trail practices:

If you are visiting the area and are interested in hiking this trail, here are the GPS coordinates for the Rinconada trail head:  N35-17.396, W120-28.490. Elevation 1740′.
Happy Hiking!
Goblin Ranger


  1. nice update, thank you
    Cal Gunther

  2. I'm serious buddy, next time I'm in yer neck 'o the woods I want to do an overnighter as long as weather and timing permits. It's been a long time since I did a minimalist campout so it will be fun.