This morning we return to hike up San Ysidro Canyon in Montecito; later tonight we will look out over the Pacific to thank a trio of our lucky stars. Three years ago Hannah fell 25’ down a steep, sharp-rocked canyon, ripping her leg open to the bone. Perched on a rock, 30’ above the unforgiving creek boulders, Hannah was rescued thanks to our son-in-law Tip. Thanks to our daughter Molly who raced ahead with our grandson Owen to the trailhead so an ambulance was waiting for Hannah. Thanks to Dr. Aganostou of the Cottage Hospital ER in Santa Barbara for stitching her back together.
Having been to this fateful canyon three times before, Hannah comes to the trail without fear or dread but cognizant of how the stars aligned for her to hike another day. If you know Hannah, you are not surprised to learn that she was truly grateful that it was she, not Owen, Max, Molly, or Tip who fell down the canyon that day in February 2017.
Today, we drive The 101 highway to Montecito, then on to the trailhead on Mountain Drive. On this early January 60F morning, we take to the narrow, single track trail where creek side houses are being rebuilt, two years after the Thomas Fire that raged in this and other Montecito canyons (the year after Hannah fell).
Denuding the mountainside of all vegetation including large trees, the fire paved a path for torrential rains to cause mud, car size boulders, and rock debris to overwhelm the creek bed and inundate the creekside neighborhoods. Tragically, 23 people died and two children were never found.
In sight of the mansions, we take to creek-side fire road heading into the mountains. Passing a first, then a second flexible debris flow net across the creek, we see a curtain of metal rings that hang high enough above the creek to allow for wildlife and water in the creek to pass through but are still able to trap and block debris in case there is another catastrophic natural event.
One mile in, we take to the trail that narrows as we walk single file stepping higher into the Santa Ynez Mountains; it’s a moderately strenuous workout with 1000′ of elevation gain.
Hiking on, we continue to puzzle out where Hannah fell. We can’t be sure since the canyon has been scoured and re-sculptured due to the 2018 debris flows.
Today the trail to the falls is blocked by branches purposefully left to keep hikers out. Today the falls are a shadow of what they are when it rains. Check out the falls in 2017 and 2020.
After hiking two miles up the canyon, we return with none of the drama of three years ago. Sometimes routine is good, very good.
Click here if you have not read Hannah’s terrifying descent off the San Ysidro Trail.