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Sean "Miner" Nordeen
Begins: Mar 19, 2016
Date: Mon, Apr 3rd, 2017
Trip Distance: 408.9
Entry Visits: 479
Journal Visits: 15,387
Guestbook Views: 308
Guestbook Entrys: 2
Post trip conclusion
I was able to completely hike the Condor Trail in a southbound direction in 2 chunks in 2016; one trip in spring and the other in fall. I chose to return the following spring to hike a fire closure that I had to hike around in fall, but the miles were mostly just bonus ones. I found spring to be more scenic with all the wild flowers and the fresh green growth. Water was also more abundant. However, navigating was much simpler in fall with all the grass trampled down on the trail and the temperature was cooler. The mostly yellow fall colors along some of the canyons were also nice to behold. When I ran into Bryan of the CTA at Rancho Nuevo, he informed me that I would be the third to complete the trail as I had thought.
It took me 26 days of hiking to complete the Condor Trail (not counting what I hiked to quit the trail in Spring). I obviously took a few months off in the middle as I ran out of vacation time in spring when I developed some health issues. Two of those hiking days were only half days (the day I started at Botchers Gap and the half day I took off at Hwy 33). A third hiking day was a nero (near zero) day where I only hiked 5 miles in about 2 hours. Given that, it shouldn't be hard to knock off another day or two for someone with a similar pace. The short days I encountered for the fall section also limited my daily mileage below what I would normally have accomplished in the warmer months. There was also the time I lost looking for my GPS device in Spring and some time wasted taking the wrong trail in both Spring and Fall. Given these factors, I think a hike taking only 23 days (which I had originally planned) is very possible. Back in spring, I felt pretty beat up by the time I left Monterey County after a week of hiking, so some time off in Morro Bay was welcomed and I think is the reason I was able to start doing some pretty big miles across the rest of San Luis Obispo County. In fall, my legs were feeling weak by the time I made it to Hwy 33 after a week of hiking, so the half day off there did reinvigorate them for the remainder of the trail. So taking a few days off during the hike I think would be a good idea to anyone trying to complete the entire trail; particularly, if they aren't starting in thru-hiker condition from the very beginning.
I've never had as many health issues as I had hiking the Condor Trail. In particular, for both parts of my hike, I picked up an infection from a cut that started to spread in my body requiring antibiotics. I've never had that problem on any other hike I've done. So I spent some time thinking about the cause. Due to the often poor trail conditions, I encountered far more bushwhacking than any other trail I've done thus far, meaning I had numerous scratches and cuts on my legs. I've often had cuts on hikes that I just allowed to scab up without issues. But never the amount of cuts I got on the Condor Trail. For both parts of my hike, I also hiked in water along canyon bottoms around the time the infection likely happened. Water that likely was contaminated by animals. I don't know if this was a deciding factor, but it is something to consider. I did wonder if wearing crew socks instead of ankle length socks might have helped protect me better as it was cuts along the ankle area, just above my socks, that were the source of my infections.
This was also the first hike that I thought gaiters would have been worth using due to how much prickly grass seeds got in my socks and shoes. Though I carried shorts for both parts of my hike, I found very few places where I could actually wear them without getting scratched up. Long pants and shirt sleeves for protection just make more sense for hiking this trail. My ULA CDT backpack either needs repairs or replacement after this hike. Normally a ULA brand backpack is tough enough that you could hike the Triple Crown of backpacking (AT, PCT, and CDT for almost 8000 miles) without needing replacment. This 400 mile trail did a good job wearing through the fabric as I had to push through brush for miles at a time. The pack started off with a little wear on the bottom from sliding down boulders on the AT and a few small holes in the rear mesh pocket. Despite my attempts at repairing the enlarging holes (from my spring hike) before resuming in November, the rear mesh pocket now has very large holes that will only hold very large objects the size of my tarp or larger. Meaning it is almost useless for anything other than carrying my jacket as anything small will fall out. The side water bottle pockets have dime size holes and the hipbelt pockets are fuzzy with tiny holes the diameter just larger than a toothpick. My shirt sleeves are a bit fuzzy from the constant pushing through the brush. In spring, my rain jacket had a small tear on the sleeve and my pants seat was completely torn. This fall my heavier pants got a hole torn around the ankle and I got a few small holes in my very lightweight wind jacket. This trail is tough on clothing and gear so I don't recommend buying new gear for this trail.
I took over 800 photos of the the Condor Trail. They can be found at the following links:
1) Condor Trail Monterey County Section Photos (Spring 2016)
2) Condor Trail San Luis Obispo County Section Photos (Spring 2016)
3) Condor Trail Santa Barbara County Section Photos (Fall 2016)
4) Condor Trail Ventura County Section Photos (Fall 2016)
5) Condor Trail Pine Fire Closure Alternative Route Photos (Fall 2016)
As I know there are no other trail blogs that cover the entire Condor Trail (Brittney only covered part of her hike), I'm working on typing up a summary of the Condor trail geared towards those who may be thinking of hiking it. I'll get it posted in the next few days.
Condor Trail - 2016
The Condor Trail (CT) travels 410 miles through Central Coastal California in the prime habitat of the endangered California Condor. It runs the length of the Los Padres National Forest from Botchers Gap in Big Sur to Lake Piru near Los Angeles. This scenic trail extends through 4 counties and 7 designated wilderness areas.
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