Dan and Hannah Go Bouldering at Seven Falls, Then Hike to Inspiration Point in Santa Barbara, California

25 minutes away

This mid-February 2022 morning Hannah and I drive to a trailhead with two possible hikes: the uber-popular Inspiration Point Trail as well as the mysterious Seven Pools, Three Falls Trail, which we have been unable to find since we first came to Santa Barbara in 2014.  Perhaps today…

Parking on Tunnel Road among the mansions of Santa Barbara, we are well aware that our car will be towed if it strays beyond the white lines on this winding narrow road into the mountains. 

Cars toeing the line on Tunnel Road to avoid the hefty fines

Safely parked, we pass around a rusted metal cattle gate onto the ¾ of a mile of cracked paved road to the trailhead. 

Southern California Edison “paved” road to the trailhead
The cracked road continues above Hannah’s head into the Santa Ynez Mountains

Once at the trailhead for both trails, we have a steep climb on a wide fire road until the turn-off to the left for Inspiration Point as well as the Seven Pools, Three Falls Trail.

Figuring we will just hike to Inspiration Point, since we’ve been stymied in the past from finding the Seven Pools Trail, we fortunately meet up with an agreeable twenty-something hiker who gives us directions to the Seven Pools Trail. 

On the concurrent Seven Pools and Inspiration Point Trails

And find it we do.  But, and there is a big But

Hannah begins ascending among the boulders

This trail is not for hiking; it is for bouldering.  Bouldering is climbing over and around boulders in the creek bed.   This past December of 2021, the Santa Barbara area got three weeks of off-and-on rain.  A windfall for this parched, drought-ravaged area. That is the reason for the green hills and mountainsides that we see for the first time in years.  Fortunately, the rain has filled the pools which helps us identify the trail.

One of the seven pools
The boulders we must straddle

Bouldering up the creek, past a pool here and there, sometimes we stretch between rocks (see Hannah below) and most of the time we are use handholds to get up and over the rocks.

That’s one agile 74-year-old

Then a barrier of boulders presents itself and we skirt to a creekside trail that looks like it was made by others who couldn’t handle the boulders either.  In time this quote trail narrows and we are fully content wrapping up our Seven Pools Trail experience.  We make a quick 180. And, let me tell you, we will never go abouldering again.  It’s not a lot of fun. We’ll take hiking instead.

Along the creekside trail

Retracing our steps down the boulder creek, Hannah and I return to the Inspiration Point Trail into the mountains.  The trail is easy to negotiate and there is very little chance of getting lost.   The switchbacks take us to the top for a 180 degree view of the coastline out to the Pacific and the Channel Islands. 

Inspiration Point Trail
From Inspiration Point out to the Pacific Ocean
The Channel Islands are in the distance

Dan and Hannah Hike the West Fork of the Cold Spring Trail in Montecito, California

A week after hiking the East Fork of the Cold Spring Trail (Click here for that blog.), Hannah and I return to Montecito, ten miles from Carpinteria, to hike its fraternal twin, the West Fork.

For the first 0.3 of a mile the East and West Fork Trails are one. In short order we turn left and step carefully on rocks over the Cold Spring Creek.

Soon the East Fork Trail leads to the West Fork Trail.

Two years ago this trail was compromised by landslides from the Debris Flow of 2018.  At that time, Hannah and I hugged the mountainside on a pebbly narrow trail, forty feet above the creek below.

At the turn across the creek
The West Fork Trail begins

Hiking today in the shade into the mountains, we see that the Montecito Trail Foundation has shored up the trail in many places quite nicely. 

Montecito Trail Foundation to the rescue
Lush grasses from December 2021 rains
Stepping to the canyon wall side of the trail, we step carefully above the steep canyon cliffs

Our first half hiking destination is the wide culvert once used to transport water into Santa Barbara.  Today its crumbling concrete and rusted, forbidding gate block the adventurous from seeing where the culvert tunnel goes into the mountain.

Cold Spring Water Tunnel

At this 1.2 miles point of the trail, we turn left into the mountains as we have the Gibraltar Road in our sights.  Engaging a young couple (probably 30s) descending the trail, we ask what we have ahead since this part of the trail is all new to us. The guy says that we have a mile to go with 400’ more feet of elevation gain.  To Hannah and me that all seems quite doable on this mid-60s full sun day on the last Tuesday in January.  The guy seems believable.  Why you ask?  He is handsome, fit, dresses hiking-well and speaks with authority.  Oh, the assumptions I make!

Steep pebbly grade to Gibraltar Road
Into the Santa Ynez Mountains we go.

After some initial switchbacks to take the steep out of the trail, we have Adirondack switchbacks (straight up the mountain) for the next four-tenths of a mile.  But more challenging is the pebbly trail into the mountains.  Unspoken for both of us is that hiking down this trail will be far harder than climbing up due to the possibility of slip sliding away.

Climbing further up the mountain, we ask another older couple whom I make no assumptions about, how far do we have to go?   Jubilantly they say, You are almost there.  Maybe five minutes.  As they take the switchback turn past us, I shout, I could kiss you.  They laugh.  I don’t kiss them.

Info at the Gibraltar Road trailhead
The Gibraltar Road turn around

Arriving at Gibraltar Road jubilant, five minutes later, we, in fact, did not have as far to go nor have as little elevation gain as the young man had said.  I learn that handsome, fit, and confident may be charming, but I just might hold off on my foolish assumptions. 

Lunching on our pbj (just pb for Hannah) at the turnout of the Gibraltar Road,, we don’t delay in dealing with the pebbly steep climb down.  We figure we may have to just slide on our butts, but we don’t.  Hannah, in the lead, grabs the chaparral bushes on the side of the trail as I do the same and side-saddle my way down; we handle the vertical handily, albeit slowly.

Heading back down. Looks pretty sweet? Just you wait.
The chaparral comes in handy
Switchbacks that take the steepness out of the mountain
Steep but not dangerous clifffsides

Once back at the trailhead we know that we have another Santa Barbara hike for you to feast on.

Dan and Hannah Hike the East Fork of the Cold Spring Trail in Montecito

It’s Another Day of Sun (La La Land)!  No truer statement has been said of our winter home away from home. It’s right up there for accuracy with It Never Rains in Southern California (1972) by Albert Hammond. A “bad” winter day in Santa Barbara is cloudy in the upper 50s.  I think we’ve had one such day in the six weeks that we have been here.  Not bragging, just the facts, ma’am. Good news for us is bad, bad news for the locals who are in the midst of a 20-year drought. 

Google maps doesn’t acknowledge the East Fork Trailhead which is the same at the West Fork Trailhead

Today we have another jewel on the diamond bracelet of hikes in Montecito, just six miles to the north of Carpinteria just off The 101.

We begin heading inland on the East Fork, turn right on the Cold Spring Trail, and return via the Ridge Trail.

We’ve been to the East Fork before.  It was just days before Covid-19 turned the world upside down in the winter of 2020.  At that time, we saw the bridge across the creek washed away due to the Debris Flows of January 9, 2018. 

The newly constructed bridge previously washed away by 2018 Debris Flow.

The massive boulders (the size of SUVs and large vans) raged down the mountain killing 23 locals in the predawn hours.  All of this destruction was born the year before when the Thomas Fire destroyed the vegetation in the mountains above Montecito. The following year heavy rains unencumbered by the trees and bushes of the Front Country of Santa Barbara dislodged the boulders and sent them crashing into the homes below.

Reinforced trail along the Cold Spring creek

Reputed to be one of the three most traveled hikes in the Santa Barbara area (the other two being the Rattlesnake and Jesusita Trails), the East Fork of the Cold Spring Trail is a three-mile loop with creek side hiking to a small waterfall.

We’ll being hiking over Hannah’s shoulder.

Today, we see the new one-lane bridge across the creek.  Our morning sun at the shore is gone as the clouds of fog engulf the mountain trail.  Still sporting my new St. Joe’s College hiking shirt (I choose white for my hiking shirts for photo ops because it stands out about among the greens, browns, and grays of nature), I warm nicely climbing higher and higher.

Five years later the Thomas Fire has still left its mark
Mini-falls along the trail

Before us, we have a three-mile loop trail along the Cold Spring creek with 800+ feet of elevation gain.  As with most hikes above Montecito (see recent San Ysidro and Hot Springs Trail blogs), it’s a steady climb on dirt trails that are easy to step around the trail rocks.  Though there are steep cliffs into the ravine, never did we feel threatened or in danger.

Thanks to December rains the falls, in fact, fall.

With December rains, the creek is bubbling in ways we haven’t heard in the past four years.  Gott love nature’s rejuvenation and rebirth. 

Returning by way of the Ridge Trail we have views to the Pacific Ocean
Evidence that the Thomas Fire raged far and wide on the Ridge Trail back to the trailhead

After a mile, the trail meanders east and the creek can no longer be heard.  We reach the Ridge Trail that will take us down the mountain with its gentle switchbacks which makes for a hike families will love.

Being a loop trail, the East Fork of the Cold Spring Trail can in fact begin on the Ridge Trail where we ended up this morning.

Three miles later in just over an  hour, we return to the trailhead.  No heavy lifting today but good times.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Hot Springs Trail in Montecito, California

Our first week in California this January 2022 has been picture perfect. Hannah and I have mid-50s mornings to walk the Carpinteria Beach and afternoons to ride our Cruiser one-speeds along the bluffs above the same beach.

Carpinteria Beach at dawn

Today we are off to the Cold Spring Trail ten miles away in Montecito to hike into the mountains. Driving down East Mountain Road, we are surprised to see a parking spot at the trailhead for the uber-popular Hot Springs Trail. You see, the Hot Springs Trail has soothing sulfur-tinged warm waters in a series of descending pools that are, oh so popular in the Santa Barbara area. Just before the pandemic hit in March of 2020, we were introduced to this trail by our pickleball/hiking friend Claudia.

Notorious for little parking, the Hot Springs Trail trailhead is offering us a gift we can’t ignore. Ditching the Cold Spring Trail like a bad habit, I lace up my Merrell Moab hiking shoes to hike the 1.3 mile trail to its healing waters with Hannah.

The trail above the creek

Paralleling the creek bed to our right, the trail is filled with rocks that make catching a hiking rhythm challenging. Walking single file, Hannah and I are pleased to see the effects of December’s rain in the Santa Barbara area. Green grasses line the trail and spring green bushes make a corridor of life as we head into the mountains.

Hot Spring Trail into the mountains

Soon we notice the stream has turned milky in color and the sulfur odor cues us in that we are close to the warm pools. Spotting a graffiti-defaced sign for the Montecito Creek Water Company, we remember not to take what looks like the main trail straight ahead but make a sharp turn to the left over the creamy blue/white stream.

Make a left here to the Hot Springs

On this mid-January Thursday, we join eight to ten others dipping their feet or submerged to their necks in the warm waters.

Series of pools
Hannah cools her jets
It’s as idyllic as this picture makes it look!

Finding pool-side rocks upon which to de-boot, we soak our hiking shoes-bound feet into the soothing waters. Hot springs? No, they are not hot, but they caress our feet nonetheless.

You’ll see on our Strava map below that after soaking we hike briefly into the Santa Ynez Mountains above for our best views of the Santa Barbara coastline, the Pacific, and the distant Channel Islands.

Views out to the Pacific Ocean

On the way back to the trailhead, we meet up with three separate couples coming to the warm pools for the first time and let them know how important it is to turn left at the Montecito Water Creek sign. To a person, they smile in appreciation; ain’t it cool to be the one does providing just the right information at just the right time.

Returning to the trailhead

One point three miles each way which makes the Hot Springs Trail an enjoyable family hike (we’ll take Molly’s family here when they visit next month) and a delightful way to spend a few hours, especially when temps in Maine are heading to zero and two feet are predicted for January 29, 2022 throughout New England.

Dan and Hannah Return to the Scene of Major Drama – San Ysidro Falls Trail

I am so glad it wasn’t Owen or Max, Molly or Tip, Hannah remembers that early afternoon five years ago when the trail beneath her feet gave way. She ended up on a perch twenty-five feet into the canyon, fifty feet below (See the links below to recapture that 2017 experience.)

A steep cliff on the San Ysidro Trail similar to the one where Hannah fell in 2017

She also remembers the sound of a crack she heard in her head as she landed on the rocky perch.  She thinks it came from the gash to the bone of her leg as the sharp rocks ripped into her leg. I remember after supporting her for a mile and a half back down the trail from where she fell that the paramedics said to Hannah, You can choose whether you go to the emergency room with us or go with your husband, but you are going with us. The wound to the bone was so severe that the ambulance was, in fact, her only option.

Four-mile roundtrip to the falls

Nonetheless, Hannah and I choose the trail to the San Ysidro Falls in Montecito as our first winter hike of 2022.  Due to the Covid pandemic we did not return to the Santa Barbara area in 2021.  As usual, we come back this mid-January fleeing the cold and snow of our home base in Maine. 

San Ysidro Trail at the start looks pretty benign.

A mere twenty minutes from our home away from home condo in Carpinteria, we have no trouble finding parking along East Mountain Road among the multi-million dollar mansions of Montecito.

After “easy pickings” walking the level beaches of Carpinteria, we have a 1000’+ of elevation gain to the falls.  Ever since the rainy February of 2017, the falls have not flowed when we have hiked because of persistent drought.  Also the debris flows of January 2018 that killed 23 local residents have scoured the ravine to recontour the terrain; deadly 15’ diameter boulders littered the ravine.

Guard rails along the trail

The first mile of the trail is a wide fire road with gravel and small rocks here and there on the trail.  Not so pleasant for the feet but not difficult at all for hiking.

At the one mile mark, we head on a single trail that weaves through the forest along the south side of the still, in places, steep cliffs of the ravine.  It doesn’t feel perilous at all, though we hike closer to the mountainside than the cliffs.

Since this area has received a good deal of rain over the last three weeks, we have green grasses and lush leafy bushes flourishing along the trail.  Winter is in fact the rainy season in Santa Barbara, but you’d never know it from our eight winters here when the parched and coughing brown landscape was all we saw.  The recent rains also make us hopeful that this year we’ll see water cascading down the falls.

And that we do! Weaving our way in sight of the falls, we are plumped to see the waterfalls some 100 yards away.  Where in 2017 we were able to hike to the base of the falls, the trail no longer exists to do that any more.

Returning to the trailhead looking out to the Pacific Ocean and the distant Channel Islands.

It’s another five-star day in Paradise.  The falls are tumbling, the sun is casting its glory on us, and Hannah safely returns to the trailhead after four miles of hiking in 2022.

Six blogs of 2017

Dan and Hannah and Their California Winter of 2021

Today (January 16, 2021) was the day Hannah and I were to fly to California for our two months in Carpinteria.  We did not go.  Let me explain.

On the last day of 2020 we were hiking with our extended family.  Good times, masks, social distancing, the works.  The following day one of them started having a headache, sore throat, temp of 100F, and body ache.  Sure, it could be Covid, but this family took every precaution.  It didn’t seem possible. But damn if he didn’t have Covid. And the kicker is, he has no idea where it came from!

Consulting the Covid nurse at York Hospital, she thought that it was unlikely that we had Covid since we were outdoors and not in “close contact” (i.e. being within six feet for 15 minutes).  Even so, she recommended that we self-quarantine for ten days.  Better safe than sorry.

We met these “close contact” guidelines.

Jet Blue didn’t want us to fly anyway if we had any such contact for 14 days.  So we pushed back our January 9, 2021 departure by one week to today.

Self-quarantining was a bummer, but still very doable.  Gone was our Covid pod with Karen on Sundays, daily going to the gym that we have been doing regularly since June, weekly ping pong with George, going into any building (e.g. grocery shopping), and Hannah cutting hair.  Inconvenient but hardly a sacrifice. Our neighbor Laurie shopped for us.

On the morning of January 8, 2021 as Hannah and I lay in bed, I asked her if she felt safe flying to California.  She did, but it was the Covid crises in California that concerned her.

Currently in Santa Barbara County, there are 2,895 active cases in this third and worst wave of the virus; compared to just 241 during the peak of the first wave last spring and 444 in the summer surge.  The virulent, more contagious British variant of the original Covid also has been found in California.

It’s zero per cent in Los Angeles County and Santa Barbara County has record number of cases.

Since December 7, 2020, southern California has been under a Shelter at Home order by Governor Newsom.  Though California would rather not have us, we were technically good to go since we were staying for two months and could quarantine for fourteen days at our rented house.   

Though we are very healthy, quite the rule-followers when it comes to Covid protocols, and have ten months of being Covid-free under our belts, Hannah didn’t want to further stress the health care system with our presence. We are not invulnerable.

Carpinteria 2020

With that major medical concern real, I began thinking that my memory of winters past in Carpinteria might be muddling my thinking of what Carpinteria 2021 would be like during a Covid winter. 

We’d be pretty isolated with no pickleball connections (3-4 times per week in previous winters), no Unity of Santa Barbara connections, no Santa Barbara International Film Festivals, no movie theaters on rainy days, no community events at the local Alcazar Theater, limited time with our friends, Kim, Nancy, Claudia, and Bill since indoor gatherings, evenings, and parties are out.

True it would be sunny and warmer there for beach walking, Cruiser biking, and into the mountains hiking.  But the health risk to us and others eclipsed the lure of warm weather this year. 

We’ve been sitting with our decision for eight days, and it still feels like the right thing to do.

And wouldn’t Hannah’s brother Doug (1946-2002) and my college roommate Big Steve (1950-2011) love to be “stuck” in Maine for the winter? Hannah and I turn to gratitude at this time. AND… (drum roll)

… we are still celebrating the election of two Democratic senators from Georgia and a new president in four days. I’ve already begun planning a California national park tour to celebrate my 75th birthday in September of 2021 once we and much of the country have been vaccinated.  It seems vaccines will be available within two weeks in Maine for us 70+ year olds.

Here’s a first draft of national park itinerary.  We’d fly into LAX, spend three days in Santa Barbara, then head to Sequoia National Park, later to Yosemite…

California here we come, eventually.

Rather than morning beach walks on the Pacific this winter, Hannah and I will walk our Atlantic beaches and along the York River (see above) As you can see, that’s no sacrifice!

PS Though we had non-refundable tickets, Jet Blue has given us credit for them that we can use to schedule another flight in the coming year. The VRBO owner of our two month rental refunded our entire payment.

Long Sands Beach, York, Maine on a January 2021 afternoon

A friend from Santa Barbara who thinks our decision not to to come to Santa Barbara a wise one and a reader of this blog, sent out this news today from the Edhat newsletter of Santa Barbara. For the bad news, Santa Barbara County is now the worst county in California in terms of COVID-19 spread. This means, according to our data, a person with COVID-19 is likely to infect more people in our county as opposed to other counties. This is directly related to behavior and people not following the guidelines. Do not gather with anyone outside your household, wear a mask, and keep at least six-feet away from others. 

Dan and Pickleballers in Santa Barbara, California

While Hannah and I hike regularly during our winter two months in Santa Barbara, we also pickle three to four times per week.  Today, I introduce four of the good guys at the pickleball courts.

Pick map

Ten miles from our home away from home to the courts

Pick Tim 2

Tim in the safari hat and blue tee shirt

Let’s start with Tim.  Hailing from Virginia and here for the winter, he and I come to the courts in Santa Barbara as the outsiders.  Many times Tim makes a point of seeking me out as a playing partner.  His power, delicate touch, good humor, and the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously make him an ideal partner.  Though we win more than we lose, it’s always a good time with Tim.

After our last pickleball morning before we return for home in Maine, Tim makes a point to come to wish me well.  He then seeks out Hannah on another court to bid her farewell, and says, Take care of the old man.

Pick Bill

Then there’s Bill.  After one enjoyable morning of teaming on the pickleball courts of Santa Barbara, Bill offers up, why don’t we “catch dinner” together with our wives.  Not exactly sure what that means, we invite them to our place in Carpinteria for drinks, dinner, and cards.  Our Sunday night becomes one of the peak moments of our winter stay as we laugh throughout the evening over getting-to-know-you conversation and then conclude the evening with a spirited game of Mormon Bridge.

Pick Werlins with H

Bill and Claudia with Hannah at the Frog Wall in Santa Barbara

The following week, Bill and I play as partners all morning long, building on our growing friendship.  Three days before Hannah and I leave for home in Maine, Bill and Claudia have us to their place for lunch, followed by a surprise trip to the Frog Wall in Santa Barbara.  We have a home away from home.  And Hannah has plans for a Frog Wall in York.

Jerry makes three.  Though we only partnered up on two mornings at the end of our stay, he made an indelible impression with his encouragement and confidence in my play.

Pick SB logo

You see, I can be a fish out of water. I play the soft game; by that I mean I hit softer third shots over the net and dink to slow down the play; I’m waiting for an opportunity for my partner or me to pounce on a high return.  At Santa Barbara Pickleball, power is the name of the game for so many of the top players.  Slam, bam, thank you ma’am.  They are bangers.  Without subtly, they crush the ball and often leave me in their wake.  I tire of points being over so quickly; either they pummel me or miss wildly.

Jerry is different.  As an elite player, he values and celebrates our soft games.  With some deftness, he and I beat some top opponents and narrowly lose to others.  But Jerry is constant in encouraging me to keep hitting my low soft balls over the net.  Self-deprecating himself, he pumps me up especially when we play games where I am clearly the weakest of the four players.  He sees the best in me.

Pick Sal

Sal in the blue shirt rocketing a winning return

And lastly Sal.  Everyone knows Sal with his effervescent personality.  With his welcoming way and daily presence on the courts, he is a bridge to all the advanced players.  Sal hits with power, plays the soft third shot, and good-naturedly moans about missing a shot, all in good fun.

At Santa Barbara Pickleball, if players win, they stay on the court for the next opponents.  On one morning, I have just won a game with another player.  We as a team move to another court to play, when that player calls out, Sal let’s play.   Clearly that is against protocol since I just won. Sal turns and says, You won with Dan.  It’s his turn to play.  It may have been an innocent mistake on the other player’s part, but what I appreciate is that Sal stepped up.   He could have let it slide, but he didn’t.  He was looking out for me.

I want to take something from each of them to be a better version of myself.  From Tim, let another know that they make a difference; from Bill, go for it and reach out to others; from Jerry, speaking up and be relentlessly encouraging; and from Sal, look out for the quieter ones so they don’t get lost in the shuffle of more aggressive players.

There have been others of note – Bonnie, Matt, Alistair, Paula, Ben, Andres, David, Paul, and Craig who were decent to me as well as excellent pickleballers.  I look forward to returning in 2021.

Pick H serving

My number one squeeze, Hannah serves in the far court.

Dan and Hannah Hike on the Hot Springs Trail in Montecito, California

The Santa Barbara area is Zen-like in that it has an abundance of hiking trails.  Coming to the area for seven years, today Hannah and I find a new-to-us hike with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Let me explain.

Hot map to HS

Different from most of hikes where Hannah and I are alone together, today Claudia, a regular on the trails in Santa Barbara, joins us.  She is an example of the serendipity that comes to our lives when we just put ourselves out there.

You see, at pickleball in Santa Barbara, Hannah and I met her hubby Bill.  One thing led to another and they came to our house for drinks, dinner, and Mormon Bridge, the Rothermel Family’s favorite card game.  Over dinner, we learned of Claudia’s trail adventures and invited her along on our hike into the mountains above Montecito.

Hot 1 start of trail

Following the lead of our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip who hiked this Hot Springs Trail just last week, we three come to the trailhead and find only one spot of the seven for parking.  Hakuna Matata (no worries).  If you, too, can’t find a parking spot, just around the corner on Riven Rock Road there is parking for 30+ vehicles.

Hot 1B C and H on trail

Claudia with Hannah along the dry creek bed

Hot 1C D and C

Dan with Claudia on the Hot Springs Trail

On an unusually warm late February day going to 80F, we three take to the opening chute of the trail past the mansions of Montecito.  At 830A, the trail is shaded with many places for two of us to walk side by side in conversation.

Hot 1D H and C on trail

Since it’s not a long hike at 2.6 miles round trip, the trails modest 800’ elevation gain makes this a hike one families can do.  In fact, we soon will see a dad with his one-year-old on the trail.  Yes, he is carrying her, but there is a reason why she is along; and that’s at the end of the rainbow.

Hot 1F H and C on trail

Like her husband Bill whom I teamed up with for pickleball just yesterday, Claudia is good company sharing her stories and wondering about our lives.  We have a kindred spirit.

Hot 2 H and C on the trail

Though the McMenemy and Saddlerock Trails veer off our path, our trail is easy to follow as we crisscross the nearly dry creek into the mountains; due to the mini-drought of the winter of 2020, there are small pools here and there.

Hot 2 stream crossing

Arriving at one final creek crossing with the smell of sulfur in the air, we figure the hot spring pools Molly mentioned were just the small pools in the very dry creek bed.  Not so fast my friends!

Turning back toward the trailhead, we soon see said father and his child.  Chatting him up, we learn that he is off for a soak in the hot springs with his daughter.  He lets us know it’s just a little further up the trail.

Hot 3 pool

Hot Springs of Montecito

We would have totally missed the hot springs if the universe hadn’t intervened for our greater good.  Zen Deux!  Finding four iridescent pools of warm water with fascinating white strings of algae(?), we deboot to soak in the healing warm waters of Montecito’s Hot Springs.

Hot 3AA white strings better

White algae strands from the hot springs

Hot 3C H and C in pool

It’s February in California!

Hot 3FF H and D better

Next time we’ll bring Bill, bathing suits, and towels to luxuriate for a good soak in Montecito’s healing waters.

Dan and Hannah Get Their Vitamins Hiking to Inspiration Point in Santa Barbara, California

Whether hiking or pickleballing, Hannah and I feed off our interactions with others in small groups.  Classic introverts!  This morning four new hikers dropped into our lives thanks to a tee-shirt and a baseball cap.  Let me explain.

Unity map Carp to IP

With no trailhead parking for Inspiration Point, we park along Tunnel Road, then walk the ¾ of a mile on a damaged paved/gravelly fire road to the trailhead.  Once on the actual trail, we find a delightful single track along a dry riverbed.

IP D on trail

Now for the value of wearing distinctive shirts on the trail.  Wearing my iconic white Ithaca Bombers tee-shirt, a woman coming down the mountain says, My son went to Ithaca.  Are you two from New York?

I say, No, we live in Maine.

Where? she asks.

Since hikers usually don’t know the little town where we are from, I say, south of Portland.

That piques her interest, Where?

York, I respond.

In disbelief on this southern California mountainside in the middle of February, she says, York!  We’re from York.

It turns out Eric and Carol own the Dockside, a popular restaurant/watering hole/wedding venue in town that we have been many times.  Hum with me, It’s a small world after all.

IP 2 H on real trail

Jazzed by our conversation, Hannah and I hike along a trail that meanders through the brush and woods of the Front Country beneath the 3000’ peaks.

IP 2B H on trail

IP 2C H on trail

IP 2A more of trail

On the way up, I notice a man with a hat with has hockey national champions.  Ever the chatty one, I ask him, What school is it from?

He says, It’s for my hockey team.  Turns out Karl is here from Minnesota for a weekend tournament of 60+ year old players at the local Ice in Paradise rink in nearby Goleta.  How cool is that?  Of course, it’s cool, it’s a hockey rink.

IP 3A from the summit

Fifty minutes after we parked our car, we are at the overlook on a hazy day, unusual for Santa Barbara.  My video puts the inspire into Inspiration Point.

Hiking down the rocky, dusty, never perilous trail, we meet up again with Karl and now his wife Beth.  Walking and talking with them, we know very soon that they are America’s version of Canadians.  They are from Minnesota.

For the next forty minutes we make connections in that we each have five and seven year old grandchildren and love being active.  Learning that Karl plays right wing on his hockey team, I crack, Do they assign position by politics?  They both laugh no, no; we are among kindred spirits.

After forty minutes of conversation with the couple from the Land of Ten Thousand Smiles, we have quite the morning of Vitamin N and Vitamin C.   By that I mean, Vitamin Nature and Vitamin Connection.

Dan and Hannah Hike the “Unity Trail” above Santa Barbara, California

This was not part of our plan.  You see, Hannah and I were ready to be inspired by hiking to Inspiration Point above Santa Barbara on this first Monday in February 2020, but…  Well, let me explain.

Unity map Carp to IP

Arriving at Tunnel Road, having hiked in this area before, we know there is no trailhead parking.  Since the only parking is along the road leading to the trail, we park and walk nearly a half mile to the trailhead.  There we spot a small sign at the gate to the Edison Road.

Unity 1 H at trailhead

It’s that little sign to the left of the gate

Unity 1AA sign at trailhead

By looking at this sign, especially the last line, you tell me how worried would you be, from 1 to 10, that you wouldn’t be able to hike to Inspiration Point this morning.  My concern was a 3; possible, but not likely.

Before we get to the real trail, we have ¾ miles on a charmless, fractured paved road that Southern California Edison uses to maintain their power lines into the mountains.  It’s a steady climb on a road with new sand/dirt berms to keep mountain gazing hikers from sliding into the canyon.

Unity 1A berms on fire road

Berms along the So Cal Edison access road and then road continues in the distance

Unity 1B fire road

At the end of the now dirt fire road, we see orange pylons; that’s never good!  And then two city workers say in so many words “No dice” to our plans to hike the trail to Inspiration Point.  It seems Santa Barbara City crews are working on the trails for the next three days.  Ergo, mild mannered that we are, we shrug and figure it’s a Doris Day day!  That is, que sera sera.

Unity 2 pylons

When straight ahead to Inspiration Point is blocked, we juke right.

Spotting a rocky, rutted sandstone trail with no name to our right, we take it to get a heaping does of Vitamin N on this morning in paradise (That’s right, Vitamin Nature).

Unity 3 unknown trail

Unity 3A more of new trail

At this point, we shift into Unity mode and head into mountains.  What’s Unity mode, you ask?  Let me explain.

Unity unity of SB

Each winter when we come to California, Hannah and I are part of Unity of Santa Barbara, a spiritual community.  People ask is this Unitarian/Universalist?  Nope.  So what is it?

A recent talk/message (not sermon) by the minister (not preacher) Cathy Norman of USB focused on three points that may begin to help you understand UnityUnity folks (1) look for the good in any situation, (2) embrace setbacks and see them as course corrections, and (3) believe in the importance of positive I am sentences (i.e. When you start a sentence with I am it should reflect your goodness, your potential, your possibilities, not what’s wrong with you.)

Today we see this new trail as a literal course correction, an opportunity to experience something new; focus on it’s possibilities rather than wah, wah, wah.  You know the old joke, Want to make God laugh?  Tell him your plans.

So, the Unity Trail?  There is no Unity Trail, it’s just in our minds.  Asking hikers that we pass if they know the name of the trail, none do.  Maybe the Tunnel Trail, one says?  Maybe not?  So for today, it’s the Unity Trail that reminds us that obstacles are opportunities (from Unity 101).

Enjoy the sandstone Unity Trail into the Front Country of Santa Barbara and its views to the Pacific.

Unity 3C H on trail steepens


Unity 4 out to the ocean

Channel Islands in the distance beyond the Pacific Ocean shoreline


Unity 4A green has returned


Unity 4B out to channel islands