First off, I love the lyrical sound of so many towns in California. No, not Oxnard. Today it’s Montecito where we will climb a mountain. In the days ahead we will hike in Sausalito and Mendocino. The romantic lives in California.
It’s not news that the Cali (FYI, the hip name for California) is quite diverse compared with Maine. We hear Spanish on the streets and yearn to speak Español. I taught Chicano kids in Anaheim, Cali and Tempe, Ari who only spoke English at school. Though I took a course at Arizona State in Spanish, it was “conjugating verb” Spanish, not conversational Spanish. I learned very little and vow to learn Spanish in my next lifetime.
Yesterday while hiking the Tunnel Trail above Santa Barbara (see blog for January 31. 2015 under California), we met a hiking surfer dude on the trail. Nodding his approval of our nearly completed hike on the Tunnel Trail, he said, The Tunnel is “legit.” That was cool. Asking for a hiking recommendation, we saw him look across the valley and he said, That mountain (which by the way was nearly vertical) across the way is a gnarly hike. We demurred and said, We just don’t do gnarly. Got anything else? He responded, Romero Canyon is just south of here and it’s another “legit” hike. Without a hiking plan for our second day in Santa Barbara, we venture seven miles south to Montecito to challenge another mountain.
Wanting to take advantage of poolside sunshine mid-afternoon, we leave our Quality Inn by 9A by way of the 101. (Don’t you love how Californians use an article in front of their highways to elevate their status (another e.g., the 405)? Taking the Sheffield exit in Montecito, we find Romero Canyon Road, then Bella Vista Road to the trailhead, thanks to Great Day Hikes in Santa Barbara (2008).
Like yesterday in Santa Barbara, parking for the Romero Canyon Trail is street side in an upscale neighborhood. Montecito is home to Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah. In looking through the Real Estate site Zillow.com, there is not a house below a million; many 3M and a bunch north of $10M. There is one for $125M! Replacing our sandals with hiking boots this mid-January day, we head for a trail rated 4 of 5 for difficulty by our trail guide.
Walking through an iron cattle gate, we cross a concrete bridge a quarter of a mile later and then step across the stream a quarter mile after that. The trail begins with a steady climb under shade trees over rutted and grooved trails littered with stones. Though a popular weekend trail for mountain bikers, we will see only one this Thursday. To our left, the creek winds its way to the Pacific Ocean.
As the trail narrows, Hannah and I walk single file over rocky terrain on a day when we will climb more than 2000 feet. The water pools below rock dams and provides us with a “picture taking for the blog” break. There’s not a cloud in the sky with temps in the 60s. Having just been in Maine two days ago, we know our neighbors on Chases Pond Road will be lucky to hit 15F today.
Second days on the trail can be transitions from living in the death grip of winter to starting to feel that this daily sunshine could be habit forming. As a full time resident of Arizona in the 1970s, I acted so damn superior to the snowbirds that wintered in our Cactus State. I’m starting to feel a little like a snowbird myself.
It’s two miles of rocky trail up and down the hillside above the creek. No steep elevation gain yet; the trail is shaded, but the incline has me shedding my sweatshirt for my ever present VCU tee shirt. Crossing the running stream bed a number of times, we can only imagine the torrent it was in December after the heavy rains of the Pineapple Express came through.
While we hike we refer to a crinkled, folded sheet of paper with Arthur Aron’s 36 questions. Recently the NY Sunday Times had a lead story “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This” (click on this link). To do that, couples share the answers to his 36 questions. As a lucky in love couple, we pick and choose the ones that are grist for our hiking mill. #14 is cool. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible. On that trail we don’t abide to the time limit and this leads to many tangents as the hiking miles fly by.
At the two mile point, we cross what appears to be a fire road and take to the steeper Ocean View Trail up into the Santa Ynez Mountains. The edges of the cliff are steep and the sun reemerges after miles of shaded canyon hiking. We know we are in for a battle, but it’s a just such a cool challenge under the California sun. The below video provides a feel for the steepness of the climb.
Near the summit we spot a mesa to climb for its 360 degree views. The final assault of the summit takes all we have, but again it’s a day in the 70s. That said, how tough can such a climb be in this weather in January? Check out the summit video.
Coming down is no bargain for our knees as we both side saddle down the loose rock sandstone trail. We do realize how well matched we are as hikers. We both are not “stop and smell the roses” hikers. With Hannah in the lead, we keep up a good pace and gets us the workout we yearn for.
After taking the Ocean View Trail back to the shaded Romero Canyon Trail, we have reached our limits of three to four hours of hiking. It’s twenty minutes back to Santa Barbara by the 101. Dos Equis on ice by the poolside awaits. Maine seems so far away.