Dan and Hannah Pickle, then Hike the Rattlesnake Trail in Santa Barbara

Pickling

Newbie!  It’s a word that shouts outsider, who’s the new kid, let’s see what you got.  I am not a fan of being the newbie – the fish out of water when everyone else knows the ins and outs; has their circle of friends, knows what’s up.  It’s the antithesis of Cheers – Nobody knows your name.

Today has all the awkwardness of a first week at college or a new job or moving to a new town.  You see, Hannah and I have come to southern California to take a February bite out of winter in New England to play pickleball in Santa Barbara.

Fact is, many of the best things that have ever happened to me were because I had the courage to step past the fear of being the new kid – transferring to Arizona State University as a college senior, not knowing a soul, 2500 miles from home; taking my first teaching position in Anaheim, California without a friend or family in the area; moving to Maine with Hannah and our preschool daughters Molly and Robyn with no job, basically sight unseen.

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The four dedicated pickleball courts in Santa Barbara

So today, Hannah and I buck up, put on our big boy and big girl pants, drive four miles, and just show up at the courts of the Municipal Tennis Center in Santa Barbara.  Showing up! which you fans of the Woodman (Woody Allen) know the truth that 90% of life is just showing up.  To our newness, today we’ll add playing pickleball outside, something we don’t do as indoor players of the pickle throughout the year in Maine.

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The woman with the dynamite overhead smash

Arriving early to get used to playing outside on this first Wednesday in February, Hannah and I soon meet up with Brent and Wayne.  In quick succession, we hold our own and play games two and three; funny how no one seems to be paying much attention to us now, which they likely never were anyway.

Playing on a doubles team with Wayne, he turns to me and asks, Is that your wife, referring to Hannah?  What else can I say but, Yes, I’m the lucky guy.  He says, She’s good.  Something I’ve known for 50 since years since we first met as a first year students on the tennis courts at the College of Wooster in Ohio in 1967.

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With the sun setting, Hannah moves in for the kill

After playing for an hour, I take a break and watch Hannah work her paddle magic.  Across the way, I can see three very good players in need of a fourth.  And soon of a gun, if my body just doesn’t elevate by itself and move over to their court to be their fourth.  Playing to 11,  I succeed in not embarrassing every pickleballer in the state of Maine.  Courage comes in many forms.

Rattlesnake Canyon hiking

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The next morning, our plan is to figuratively go rattlesnake hunting in the San Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara itself.  Click here for excellent directions from the website, Santa Barbara Hikes, to the Rattlesnake Trail as well as details of the hike itself.  We learn that our chances of seeing a slithering, scaly reptile rattling its way up the trail are lower than, well, a snake’s belly.

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Driving from our cottage in Summerland, we jump on the four-lane 101 highway, exit Olive Road, eventually driving via Canoas Road to Skofield Park.  Here in the Front Country, tucked among the multi-multi-million dollar homes is an open area park for youth groups.  A group of mostly Hispanic-American middle school kids are seated in a circle and calling out the gratitudes in their lives, as three of American’s saints – public school teachers – encourage them and add their positive energy.

In the overcast, we walk 200 yards along the Canoas Road, and then cross a stone bridge over Rattlesnake Canyon Creek.  On our climb of 1000′ feet of elevation gain, our mission is to see the creek waterfall on our way to a meadow beneath the San Ynez mountaintops.

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With Hannah in the lead, the rocky trail is easy to navigate with switchbacks taking us up the mountainside.  Soon we easily step stone across the flowing creek.  After six years of drought throughout California, and especially in Santa Barbara County, any flowing water is a victory of hydroponic-proportions.  The bubbling sound makes it seem everything is right in the world, despite the turmoil across the country along the turbulent Potomac.

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Many times we see side trails that could be the main trail but aren’t.  Keeping the creek’s gurgling within earshot, we are unlikely to get lost.  Rating the hike moderate plus, we climb steadily, giving us the excellent workout we had hoped.

Creek crossings are easy as we climb into the mountain.  Seeing cascading water falling three feet over the rocks, we wonder does this pass for a waterfall in parched California?  It can’t.  That’s embarrassing.  We hike on.

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Bombing along the Rattlesnake Trail

With the 2000+ foot mountains high above us we hope for some big time falls, but clearly to think that, we must be on that now legal California weed.   With the trail skirting the Rattlesnake Canyon Creek, we, weedless, see more rapids, a cascade or two, but definitely no waterfalls.

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Our little buddy, the pocket gopher

Soon, high above the creek switchbacking on to the mountain meadow, we spot a rattlesnake snack sticking its head out of its recently excavated tunnel.  It’s a pocket gopher, maybe four inches long who checks us out, stays put, and decides today is not the day he will push his luck.

At the meadow, we know that we can take the Rattlesnake Connector trail, another ¾ miles to the Tunnel Trail.  Click here for our hike of the Tunnel Trail during the Great drought of 2014.  But that’s a steep and rocky climb.  Why ruin a fine day of hiking by being rock climbing idiots?   Hiking for us is for the enjoyment of a good workout among nature’s playground, not battling the mountain into submission.

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The meadow at Rattlesnake Canyon

Taking a water and granola break at the meadow, we realize that we, in fact, have totally missed the waterfall, thinking it was a mere cascade.

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The quote waterfall

Upon our hike down the mountain, we spot the quote waterfall, walk down to the water’s edge, where I find a fetching woman to model our discovery.   See my 17 second video below.

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