A photo Journey on Tar Water Creek "Loop." A 7 Miles and 800 feet hike. A down and "up" hike. A hike with several curious and interesting places to explore and photograph: Tar Water Creek, an abandoned San Mateo County "Sheriff's" Honor Camp, and a historic Shingle Mill site.
To get to the hiking trail head for this fun hike, starting from Sky Line Blvd. (Hwy 35), go W on Alpine Rd. At the junction to Portola State Park, bear right staying on Alpine Rd. and then at the next intersection go straight onto Camp Pomponio Rd. There may be an "Honor Camp" sign at this intersection. Go to the end of the road and park at the trail head on the left. If you start at the Tar Water Trail Head, there are two ways to go to find Tar Water Creek. The peculiar thing is, neither trail takes you to Tar Water Creek. Go figure. After finding the trail head parking lot,
you walk across the road to find the first "Tar Water" loop trail head, and your starting point for this hike. After you get to the bottom of this trail, there is a sign for the Canyon trail. You follow it for about 1/4 mile until you come to the actual Tar Water Creek as shown in the following photos.
Tar water Creek at the Canyon Trail crossing.
The source of the "Tar" in Tar Water Creek. It's not a prolific producer however it was sending small globs of tar maybe an inch long, down stream about every 30-45 seconds. Somebody told me that this site was investigated for commercial value and it was determined not to have any value. In researching this, the exploration failed to hit a producing pocket of crude. So, bubbling crude, but no apparent "Mother Lode." I suspect that if the price of oil skyrockets again, that maybe this bubbling pot of crude will be explored again. My GF gave me a plastic spoon and a small 1 oz container to save a sample of the black goo, in. Unimaginably sticky and runny and black as, guess what? Tar. No surprise there.
A couple of Roschert Ink Blot Test photos, within feet of the source of the bubbling crude pot. Tar or oil will eventually evaporate so even the rocks that were covered with it, will appear untouched except for the minerals left behind. Personally, I see a big bad head of the wolf after he has bitten Little Red Riding Hood. How about you? What do you see?
Yumm, appears to me to be the topping on one fine Mocha after the whip cream has melted.
Upstream of the tar source, the creek is perfectly clear and normal. Downstream, it's a gooey black mess from centuries of bubbling crude, aka Texas Tea.
Now, continuing back up the Canyon Trail the same way you got to the creek, back up to the Tar Water Loop trail head that you came down on, you proceed past that trail head and go towards the Honor Camp. You eventually come to an asphalt road leading to the Sheriffs Honor Camp with a bridge crossing Pescadero Creek. After walking about 1/2 mile West on the Honor Camp road, you will come to the actual ghost town of an abandoned "Honor" camp. A detention camp where low risk offenders were sent to serve out sentences for drunk driving, domestic violence and other minor stuff. No barbed wire or fence of any kind. Just a Redwoods resort for low risk offenders.
This is the entrance to the "Honor" camp and a fleeing resident taking a picnic break. Some of you may recognise her from her recent photo postings in most any Post Office. Lucky for her, the entry Kiosk had a bed and the gate guard was sound asleep, at the time of her departure.
Yes, the facility is abandoned but they wisely installed cameras to identify and prosecute would be vandals.
A remotely controlled camera, not being remotely controlled, at the moment.
One of three barracks.
What you see walking around. Lots of buildings void of most tangible items that could have been used to furnish and occupy the camp.
You get the idea that the occupants had lots of manual tasks to do. Weed abatement, trail clearing, Softball Field maintenance, etc.
The fine print says "No Smoking."
A fueling station.
A shed showing evidence of California Conservation Corp activity, at one time or another.
The obvious use for this camp is converting it to a resort. It's in the middle of a pristine Redwood forest. More then likely, it would be better to return it to nature then to develop it. It is sure in a pretty area.
To return back, leave the Honor Camp the same way you came in, go back across the bridge and bear right continuing on the Pomponio Trail until you get to the return Tar Water Loop trail number 2. It's not marked number 2, but it is the return trail back to the parking lot, passing by an abandoned Shingle Mill site, which is also nice to explore. The Shingle Mill site is unmarked so you have to keep an eye out for side trails leading off into the woods and into the actual site of the mill. Why a shingle mill? I read that since milling the trees in a normal way in a remote location such as it were, it would be impossible to transport the timber out using mules and wagons. The alternative was to make shingles which were easier to transport. What a shame, to make shingles out of these sturdy enduring Redwood trees. An insult to a tree centuries of years old.
All the above photos were taken with a Canon EOS 5D MKii camera body and a wide angle zoom: 24-105mm L IS 1:4 USM lens.