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Sespe Wilderness Part III

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Our last day in the wilderness was on Memorial Day.

The plan was to wake up, hike to the waterfalls, chill for a bit and then go eat Korean BBQ and then make it home by 7pm. Too bad that was all wishful thinking…

Here’s the crazy last day our our trip:

We woke up at 8AM and ate a nice breakfast. After breakfast, we packed up and took turns finding secluded spots away from the river to export cigars to Cuba. We filled our water bladders and bottles and set out for the last stretch of our trip.

We headed down the last mile of the creek and then went up the steep face of the mountain.

Bouldering all the way…

Here are some views near the top:

The views were amazing at the top. We were excited and happy to be out of the valley and once we got a little further, we had views of the waterfall. It was about 11AM when we first saw the waterfall and the sun was just about to peak in the day.

We walked on and the scenery changed instantly. The green lush shrubs and growth from inside the valley became dry hot brushes. We entered a wide open space a few miles across with absolutely no sun cover. Not only that, the trail disappeared. We spent the next two and half hours powering through dry brush and getting scratched up like crazy. We doubled back on our trail about seven times. We found wide open flat rock to hike across but turned back because our water was running low and we were walking away from the waterfalls…

It seemed like a long time and we tried many paths but none of them worked out. The sun was beating down on us. Morgan was ducking for shade every single minute. It was about 1:30PM. This situation was turning into a bad one quickly. At this point we had about 1.5 liters of water between the three of us and the dog. I decided that the best thing to do was to hike back down to the river and refill because we definitely would not be able to make it anywhere with the sun out in full force.

We started back on the path down the valley again. Then it got to a place where it got really steep with bolders and it looked extremely dangerous. We stopped to see if we remembered this path but none of us did. Then we heard people having fun at the waterfall. I decided to take a gamble and try to reach the waterfall through this steep gorge. We hopped down from rock to rock and handed Morgan off to each other until we went about 100 yards down the narrow gorge. We got to a point where it was too hot and we all found a small shady area. At this point, Morgan was on the verge of overheating. This was becoming a very dangerous situation and we stopped to rest while A went off to scout the last portion of the gorge.

The people at the waterfall were screaming and having fun. They sounded so very close. We shouted for help and called out to them for a while but they definitely did not hear us. After about ten minutes, A shouted back.

“There’s a thirty foot drop to the waterfall! We can’t make it!”


We just spent an hour climbing down about a hundred yards and now we had to go back up the boulders.

With no water.

In the direct sunlight.

We were screwed.

While it was a good decision on my part to head back down for water, it was a bad decision to risk the gorge and reach the waterfall.

At this point we had about 300 mL of water left among the four of us. The sun was directly overhead and we were in big trouble. A finally came back extremely tired and JW was concerned that he was dehydrated. I felt he was on the verge of a heat stroke and if that happens out here… you’re pretty much dead because we had no water to cool him off. JW got out his iPhone and we had one bar of service. Should we call for a helicopter? At this point, I thought we didn’t need to but were getting really close. JW thought we needed to but we didn’t for now.

Then JW started unpacking his gear. Me and A started unpacking our bags as well. If we were going to make it out of this gorge, we had to lighten our load and ditch our gear for the sake of survival. I cut Morgan’s pack off but left the harness around her body because we still needed the handle to lift her if she couldn’t make a climb.

I decided that two people needed to hike out of the gorge and back down the river. They would leave their gear while one person stayed with Morgan. I figured the two people would be me and JW but A was very adamant about being able to do it. I was reluctant to allow this but at the same time, I did not want to leave Morgan here in case she started panicking.

We finally decided that JW and A would hike out and down to the river. I held onto the last 100 mL of water for me and Morgan (I knew it would all be going to Morgan) and they took the rest of the water with all the bladders and bottles. JW handed me his iPhone. I told him to shout and let me know when they made the top and if they were not back in 3 hours, I would be phoning 911.

They set out and I found a shady spot with Morgan.

With absolutely no shade, I took out a towel and made shelter for Morgan.

I waited and prayed for about 45 minutes. I went through my bag again to see if there was anything else I could ditch. Being a cheap-ass, I ditched very little the first round through. Then I heard them shout out that they made the top. I was relieved. Things were going to plan.

I prayed and thanked God that they made it to the top safely. I was really concerned for A and whether or not he was okay after such a climb. I sat there for about ten minutes thinking things were going to be okay until I heard some worrying words.


Oh crap.

Was A okay? Did something bad happen?

I shouted back, “…ARE…YOU…OKAY…?”



I grabbed the iPhone and powered it up. It seemed like it took forever. Okay. It’s up. I made sure we had one bar and dialed 911. It rang.

And rang.

And rang.

And then cut out.

Okay this was NOT good. I tried again.

Same thing.

I tried a total of six times with no luck.

I shouted back. “…NO…SIGNAL…!!”

But they kept shouting back. “…USE…THE…PHONE…!”

And I kept shouting that we had no signal. Then I heard a different shouting.


Ahh… finally good news. I shouted back to remind them that they had about two more hours to make it down to refill our water and get back. They understood and then took off.

I waited another 15 minutes and then decided that sitting around was completely pointless. I was not dehydrated and I wasn’t at risk for a heat stroke (at least not at the moment). Morgan looked better and I decided that we were going to start climbing back out. We started moving up slowly through the boulders. I had to push Morgan at a few places because I think she was just over the whole idea of bouldering.

We climbed for about ten minutes when I heard someone shouting really close by, “JOHNNY!”

Hmm…that did not sound like JW or A.




He popped his head over a ledge about 30 yards away. What the… he was so close! 

“Hey Johnny. You alright?”

“Yea I’m good. We’re not hurt or anything but I could use a little bit of water but my dog may need quite a bit.”

“Alright, don’t move I’ll head down there.”

“No just stay up there. We’ll come up to you. If you can, move to a spot where you can see us to help us navigate up through these rocks.”

So he helped us find the best spots to climb through the boulders and when we finally reached him, we sat in the shade and drank lots of water. And we chat for a bit and got the update on my buddies.

He said that they were well on their way down the right path and the other hikers gave them a lot of water to rehydrate. Great news. He said that A did not look like he was in great shape and that bumping into the hikers probably saved him. Morgan ducked into the shade next to me and we rested for a bit.  A few minutes later, the rest of the hikers showed up and gave us some more water. They also gave Morgan a few pieces of turkey jerky which was really good for her because I ran out of snacks for her. George explained to me the route to take to get out of the region and I told him that we were there, but just couldn’t find it. He promised to tie pieces of plastic to the trail so we could follow.

They took off and I sat there for about 30 minutes before JW and A turned up. They got down there and back up really quick! We rested a few minutes and then took off. We hiked back through the exact same place we got lost earlier…and then lost their trail. Crap! We looked out on the ridge a mile away and they were walking along the ridge. We decided to power through a section of thick brush and found a well walked path.

Are you kidding me?

For two and a half hours we were searching for a trail only to have it about 20 yards North of us the entire time. But whatever, we found the trail and started hiking again at a fast pace out of there. The trail took us another couple hours to get out. The views looking back were beautiful yet somewhat eerie with the situation we found ourselves in earlier that day.

We caught up to the other hikers about an hour into the hike out and thanked them. Then we hiked out together at an easy pace and made some good friends.

Our rescuers

Looking back on our adventure

We made it!

Victory beer!

What an adventure.

I suffered a bad sunburn, 10 blisters, two broken toes, contact with poison ivy, and hundreds of scrapes, cuts and bruises. We went over thirty miles which 70% had no trail and was mostly boulders and even though we got into a bad situation on the last day, everybody was safe and that just makes for a good story. On the drive home, we passed LA around 11PM and decided to get Korean BBQ anyway. Ha! We showed up all dirty and smelling like ass but we didn’t care…the food was delicious and it was worth it.

I may be playing it safe and just sticking to day hikes for the near future.

But you never know…

Until the next adventure, Cheers!

Hiking out of the Sespe

Written by jonewantsm3

June 20, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Adventures

2 Responses

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  1. […] this post about me and a couple buddies getting in trouble while backpacking a couple months […]

  2. Thanks for the nice read and glad you made it safe. I am going for a day hike this Sunday with some friends and my dog. If you have any info for dog hike in Fishbowl loop, plz let me know. Peace. Ella 😉


    May 30, 2013 at 1:37 pm

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