The light is clear, the air soft and warm as we set out for Manzana Schoolhouse. The trail crosses and recrosses the creek, but the water levels are low which makes the crossings effortless.
October rains have kept the water flowing nicely - new grass is brilliantly green against golden Sycamores and delicate grey pines shimmer in the sun.
Manzana Camp is soon reached and we climb the bluff up to the Schoolhouse. Traces of the 2007 Zaca Fire are still visible around the edges of the clearing - but concentrated efforts by fire crews saved both the Schoolhouse and the nearby Dabney Cabin from the conflagration. Built in the early 1900's, it served both as schoolhouse and meeting hall for the 100 or so homesteaders in the area.
Drowsing in the late morning sunlight, the clearing is utterly deserted and silent. The front door yields, we venture a few steps inside but are greeted with the overpowering scent of dust, mildew - the sight of field mice droppings forces a hasty retreat.
Resting in the cool shade of Manzana Camp and gazing out across the beautiful Sisquoc River delta, the idea of returning via the Hurricane Deck is considered. We check our supplies: (short on water, but still do-able since the day is relatively mild) headlamps, fleece.... we are ready!
The trail begins by cutting steeply up the backside of the Hurricane Deck - shaded by ancient oaks, it is cool, verdant - a striking contrast to what follows.