Earlier this past February, Hannah and I had hiked the San Ysidro Trail in Montecito, just south of Santa Barbara, California. With the relentless rains of the winter of 2017, the waterfalls at the end of the trail had grown from a trickle to a thunderous applause of water. That waterfall trail jumped it to the top of our list of favorite hikes in Santa Barbara. Click here for that blog.
Five days ago, our daughter Molly, her hubby Tip, and our grandsons, Owen (4.5) and Max (nearly 3) flew from Massachusetts to spend their school vacation week with us at our rented cottage in nearby Summerland. On Molly and Tip’s first full day in California, they hiked this very trail while we took Owen and Max to Carpinteria Beach. Molly and Tip got sidetracked onto other trails and never ended up at the San Ysidro Falls.
So, with sunny weather this last Thursday in February, we all decide to hit the San Ysidro Trail for the ideal “family” hike. “Ideal” if you have two athletic, vigilant, and relentlessly encouraging parents like Molly and Tip to deal with the challenges of hiking with preschoolers; who begin the hike moving and grooving, then get tired, and finally want to be carried.
Driving in two rental cars, we six arrive at the trailhead on East Mountain Drive and park beside the hedges of five to ten million dollar houses of Montecito, home to Oprah, Kenny Loggins, and Ellen. Thankfully, long ago the Montecito Trail Foundation established trails up the mountain so the public can enjoy the same scenery as do the landed gentry.
When you hike with preschoolers, you are in for a “stop and smell the roses” kind of hike. Not wanting to control the boys’ enthusiasm, Molly and Tip watch Owen and Max explore, run, sometimes fall, and then they are there to help Owen and Max throw away their “ouchies.” At the end of the hike, Max will need three band-aids on his knees.
The boys race, we follow while Molly and Tip remain alert. Trees with hollowed trunks are favorite stopping points for the boys as is the storm-fueled river where they watch their thrown sticks follow the current past stones and boulders in the stream.
A six to eight-inch rain storm fell just six days ago, so the trail has puddles and mud that Molly and Tip swing their boys over. The trail is rocky with side creeks that require careful stone-stepping to cross. Having Tip’s strength and agility makes all the difference.
After a mile of the two to the falls, Max finally turns around, raises his arms up, the signal that he is ready for the backpack. Interestingly twenty minutes later he wants to get down; but Tip has seen this show before on other hikes. First down, then literally 30 seconds later Max wants to go back up in the backpack.
Along the way, we see boulders from mudslides that block the trail that we step around and over; not impenetrable, but testament to the power of the recent storm.
Within two hundred yards of the waterfall, we come upon the widest side creek, where seven days ago, Hannah and I easily stone-stepped across. Today, Tip climbs atop the larger boulder (see below) mid-creek and extends his arm to each of us, all the time having 40-pound Max on his back.
And then, just around the bend is the San Ysidro Falls in all its storm-fueled glory. Hannah and I see that the trail in front of the falls has narrowed to 18”, due to the erosion caused by the storm. The force of the water over the headwaters is double what it was just ten days ago.
It’s been two hours for two miles; about par when hiking with preschoolers on a trail into the mountains. Older brother Owen has impressively walked the entire two rocky miles with 1150’ of elevation gain – a chip off his mom and dad’s block.
A little after 1230P, we head back for the trailhead on East Mountain Drive, which requires Tip’s strength and balance to support us again over the side creek torrent that we just negotiated twenty minutes before.
… with Molly in front with Max, Owen on Tip’s shoulders, Hannah following them, and me just behind her on the trail, the trail above the forty-foot ravine suddenly gives way beneath Hannah’s feet. One minute Hannah is there, the next she is feet-first, rock surfing down the vertical cliff side towards the ravine 40′ below.