My first go-round with California was as a brand new fifth/sixth grade social studies/science/Spanish teacher in Anaheim in 1970. Renting an efficiency apartment in town at the South Bay Club, I had a fifteen-minute commute to Patrick Henry Elementary School that took me under the Garden Grove and Santa Ana Freeways in Orange County.
My point is that living 25 miles south of Los Angeles, I was part of the 120-mile top to bottom metroplex of sprawl from Ventura in the north to Mission Viejo in the south. I had no idea that just 15 miles north of Ventura was the little town of Carpinteria. Finding this “small town Maine” here in California, I continue my love affair with the Golden State.
In addition to winter highs in the mid-60s and the summer highs in the mid-70s, Carpinteria has the beaches of the Pacific as well as the small town feel on Linden Street with its low-key shops and restaurants.
With their own local Indivisible Carpinteria chapter challenging Trump, I’m at home with the progressive politics of California with its fighting Governor Jerry Brown; he has taken on Republican Washington and the Climate Change Deniers. Click here for reporting on the governor’s assertion that the recent executive order on climate change is a colossal mistake.
And then there is the civic pride of Carpinteria which has manifested itself in the three-phase creation of the Franklin Trail into the Santa Ynez Mountains. Phase I begins at the Carpinteria High School where the trailhead begins at the base of Franklin Canyon. (If school is in session, park on the neighborhood streets across from the high school.)
I emailed a local Carpinteria historian about the trail name. He replied: The Franklins first came to the Santa Barbara area in the late 1800s. The Franklin trail is named after Franklin Canyon which was the access to back country from Carpinteria. The original Franklin Trail was completed in 1913 through the National Forest section. This portion now known as phase 3 of the current project will be reopened sometime this year.
Taking the trail to the west of the high school, we pass the high school campus with some of the greenest baseball and football fields known to man or woman. While chain link fences bracket us on either side, we hike the straight and narrow past green houses and fields of avocados. Following the well-placed brown trail signs, we walk with very little elevation gain out of town.
On this second Sunday in February, the trail is happy with dog owners, “loving life” solo hikers with ear buds, and couples who are testing their relationship with their different paces, different temperments, and varying interests in hiking at all.
As we approach the switchbacks of Phase II without any of the fencing, we have the full sun on a day heading to 70F; while back in York, 17” of the white stuff is falling on our snowbound brethren on the coast of Maine.
As legend goes, bears inhabit the region. Still with so many of us on the trail, I feel it quite unlikely that some big ole black bear needs an afternoon snack of Dan and Hannah. Rather, our heart-pounding is due instead to the steady climb into the mountains.
Ascending relentlessly with very little shade early in the afternoon, Hannah sets the pace as we can often walk side by side. Never does the trail have a “too busy” feel, even on this first sunny day after the past week of rain. (February is the rainiest month in southern California.)
Above the trail of switchbacks, we encounter a charmless fire road into the wilderness. Without the native appeal of woodland trails, fire roads do get us conveniently from point A to point. Our goal is to hike up to the Franklin Bench some 3.5 miles up the trail and chill there above the Pacific.
Climbing from the Front Country towards the mountains for the past 75 minutes, we meander along the fire road still wondering where the hey is the Franklin Bench. Doing the math of our pace with the distance traveled, we know we gotta be close. We agree that we’ll turn around in another twenty minutes if we can’t find the bench.
Finally, we hail a hiker passing in the opposite direction and ask how far to the bench. Oh, you just missed. It’s back a few tenths of a mile. Leading us down the hill, he has saved us a mile or more on this sun-exposed trail. The backside of this unknown Samaritan is pictured to the right.
Debooting and looking out to the Channel Islands of the Pacific, Hannah takes five while I do my millennial thing by sending this dual picture of the Queen and her King to my Instagram and Facebook friends.
Having climbed 1000 feet of elevation gain, we look to the mountains where Phase III will eventually include a 2.7-mile section of the trail that goes up to 3,720′.
But that part of the trail is for a next lifetime for us. (Click here for May 2017 opening of Phase Three of the Franklin Trail.)
We’ve hiked on a sunny California Sunday and are ready for an afternoon siesta back at our cottage and a cold Dos Equis to toast the Pacific sunset.