Remote Campground Has Distinct Pleasures

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July 24, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

Davy Brown Creek that flows through Dave Brown Campground in California. Photo from Flickr.

Editor's Note: The following story appeared in the Lompoc (Calif.) Record. It was written by Sally Cappon and was part of Roadside Attractions, a weekly chronicle of sights along the Central Coast’s highways and byways. Sally Cappon can be reached at

It’s hard to get to. It’s not for everyone. But Davy Brown Campground has its allures.

Buried deep in Los Padres National Forest on the northeast side of Figueroa Mountain, it’s not quite the end of the line, but it’s close. The end of the line is Nira Campground, two miles farther down Sunset Valley Road. Nira, on the Manzana River, is the jumping off point for adventures into the San Rafael Wilderness.

Back to Davy Brown. A dozen shaded campsites are sequestered along prettily flowing Davy Brown Creek, not far from where mountain man and John Muir contemporary Davy Brown built a log cabin in the 1800s. The cabin no longer stands but his name lives.

We camped there many times when our kids were young. Nothing much there by today’s standards — some hiking, fishing, s’mores over a campfire, seeing more stars than you imagined possible.

On a recent visit, only two of the campsites were occupied, by tent campers, neither of them local. There were a man and boy from San Diego who kept to themselves and two friendly women from San Fernando, setting up at what we privately considered the best campsite, alongside the rippling creek.

Did we mention this place is hard to get to? From Highway 154, over 20 miles away, there are two choices, neither recommended. One leads up Figueroa Mountain Road, a twisty, often one-lane road with steep grades and incredible views. The second choice is worse — Armour Ranch Road to Happy Canyon Road.

Once Happy Canyon ascends, the road, pocked with pot holes, clings to the side of the mountain for some 10 miles, including a two-mile stretch of rough gravel. It leads to 3,000-foot Cachuma Saddle, a conspicuous landmark where it meets Figueroa Mountain Road. From there it’s nearly 4 miles down the oak-canopied Sunset Valley Road to Davy Brown Campground.

The campground lies alongside the road on your left, though there’s no identifying entrance sign. But there’s no fee either, except for the Forest Service’s required and universally hated Adventure Pass.

How did you find this place, we asked the otherwise uncommunicative boy.

“I don’t know,” mumbled the boy. “We just did.”

The women, a couple campsites down, were more talkative. “This is our first time here,” said Jackie Mellado. She pointed to her partner, Lydia Mellado. “She came here when she was young. She remembered how nice it was.”

The two planned to stay a couple days, Lydia said, maybe do some hiking.

“So far, so good,” she said. “We’re just here to relax and roast some marshmallows.”

It brought back memories.



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