An 80-mile trek through the San Rafael Wilderness

By Chuck Graham

Twelve miles into an eighty mile backcountry trek, swaying meadows swept across the rugged horizon of the Sierra Madre Mountains. This was the San Rafael Wilderness, a small part of the Los Padres National Forest.

The rolling meadows were surrounded by sandstone rock outcroppings and draped in a colorful display of lupine and other native flowers.

Earlier in the day my wife kindly dropped me off in a shady grove of oak trees at Aliso Park in Cuyama, straddling the border of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. From the trailhead I headed west following steep switchbacks ascending a range cloaked in chaparral to the crest of the Sierra Madres.

Later in the afternoon I hiked west to Lamar Johnson’s rustic, weather-beaten cabin. Built in the early 1900s, over the years it has served as a safe …