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 Pelican Bluffs in Point Area, California

Carpinteria Morning

It can’t be a surprise to the regular readers of this blog that Hannah and I come to California in the winter to be active in the great warm outdoors.  Mornings before breakfast, we walk the beach or bluffs in Carpinteria.  Then it’s often a hike or pickleballing.  After Dan’s nap and Hannah’s post card writing in the sun, we then have a late afternoon bike ride on our one-speed cruisers through the coastal village of Carpinteria. 

Sea Ranch, 150 miles north of San Francisco

Taking advantage of every minute we are in California and not in the cold of winter on the coast of Maine, we plan a road trip 500 miles north of Carpinteria to Gualala to visit our friends, Tree and Scott.  There, too, we will keep up our uber-activeness by walking their neighborhood before breakfast, hiking mid-day at Sea Ranch, and take in the Pelican Bluffs for our late afternoon hike along the Pacific.

Just four miles north of their home in Gualala, the trailhead is smack dab on The 101 north (truly a country road at this point in the lightly populated Mendocino County) to hike its spectacular bluffs. 

The 73-acre preserve is home to the endangered Point Arena Mountain Beaver as well as to a creek that is recovering from tons of crapola from cattle grazing.  Click here for a two-minute video of the park.

With a parking lot for ten, we meet up with Cliff, a neighbor of Scott and Tree’s, who gives us the low down on the two-and-a-half mile hike.  We have choices for a shorter or longer hike.  See the map below. No surprise, we choose longer.

We choose to go straight from the trailhead to the ocean and then turn south.

Cliff makes me wonder why people move to this remote area.  The nearest big city is nearly three hours away. Santa Rosa and Ukiah are two hours for a Target and Costco.  It makes sense that folks want to get away from the congestion and hectic-ness of the cities.  They do have a chance to become an important member of a small community.  It never snows here.  There is outdoor beauty that is a 10 of 10. 

Alas for us, it is Carole King “So far away.”   With family in New England, we will spring, summer, and fall in York, Maine where we have lived for the past 40 years.

From the trailhead through the coastal forest to the fields above the bluffs
Before arriving at the bluffs, we traverse the coastal fields
Ever see a monk from St Joe’s (Maine)? Now you have.

We leave the forest of redwoods and Bishop pines for the fields before we arrive at the bluff trail.

Along the Pelican Trail

Doubling back we take the field trail which is 0.9 of a mile to the trailhead.

Sunset hikes are just the best for picture taking

With the weather unseasonably warm, we could be in southern California. Our Strava app has the final word(s).

Dan and Hannah Meet the KGUA Superstars, Then Hike the Bluff Trail at Sea Ranch, California

Hannah and I have four big draws in Gualala that make us want to drive 500 miles from Carpinteria to this village 150 miles north of San Francisco.  First is Scott and Tree, our friends from York; they knock themselves out to make our time together filled with breakfasts out, hiking, and time to chill each evening.

Staff Photo by Herb Swanson, Sun, Oct 28, 2001: Scott and Tree (Theresa) Mercer run near their home in Cape Neddick Sunday. The couple will run the New York City marathon to raise money for the Firefighters World Trade Center Fund. Theresa’s cousin, John Crisci, was a member of squad 288 died in the WTC attacks.

The other two draws to the area are Mark and Peggy of KGUA radio in Gualala.  Peggy built a public service radio station from the ground up and was open to Mark’s idea to create a regular weekly segment for KGUA writers.  That decision has fueled my creative instincts since the spring of 2020 when Covid shut down my world.

Hannah with Tree at the KGUA studios
Peggy and Mark in their KGUA studio

Over lunch at the KGUA studios, Hannah and I meet our inspirations.  By the way, did you know that Hannah is also a KGUA writer?  While I submit my KGUA free write by a voice memo and later publish it in my blog on Mondays, Hannah has our daughter Molly, with the occasional pinch-hitting by her brother Will, to read her free write onto a voice memo, then send it on to Mark.

Mark, Dan, Hannah, and Peggy at the KGUA studios

Peggy and Mark are as gracious and welcoming as I had imagined. KGUA is a public station which airs news, science, politics, and music. It is a project of the Native Media Resource Center whose mission is to produce educational materials about Native American and Indigenous communities in order to promote harmony and cross-cultural understanding.

After lunch, Hannah and I drive a simple mile south on The 101 from Mendocino County into northern Sonoma County to the Gualala Point Regional Park. There we have access to the bluff trail of the exclusive (and by that I mean uber-pricey) Sea Ranch.

As a community developed in the 1960s as a getaway for city-bound Californians, Sea Ranch, of late, has been a refuge for upscale IT folks who can work remotely. The community includes swimming pools, tennis courts, and, yes, pickleball courts.

On an unseasonably warm (mid-60s) early February afternoon on the northern California coast, Hannah hike four plus miles round trip high above the Pacific Ocean.  Let my pictures take you there.

The bluffs of Sea Ranch
An example of one of the 2000 Sea Ranch domiciles; this one along the bluff trail
The bluffs above the rocky northern California coast
Sea Ranch houses along the bluff trail
Crashing waves
The afternoon sun

Thoroughly satisfied, Hannah and I return to our “Tree and Scott B&B” to rest up and chill with Wordle, the five-letter word game recently bought by the New York Times for $2 million.  Playing Wordle daily, we love the challenge and that the game is not a time suck.  There is only one word game per day.  Try Wordle here and be a part of the Hannah and Dan daily word challenge community.

Dan and Hannah Hike Fern Canyon near Mendocino, California

North of San Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway north of Bodega Bay is a cliff hanging, side-of-the-mountain-hugging serpentine thrill ride.  That said, it’s a grind for the driver who can’t take in the breathtaking views as the 72 miles takes nearly two hours.  There’s 15-mph hairpins when the coves meet the mountain canyons. All of this at the end of our 500-mile, twelve hour day from Carpinteria.

Arriving at the home of Tree and Scott, friends from York who have relocated to Gualala on the north coast of California, we have a couple who know how to do happy hour right.  By that I mean Dan and Hannah right with free flowing wine, crackers, and chips and salsa.

Scott, Hannah, and Tree at the primo Rollerville Cafe in Point Arena

The following morning Tree and Scott take us to their favorite local breakfast place, the Rollerville Café in Point Arena just north of their home in Gualala.  The Rollerville delivers!  It’s signature Monkey Omelet with tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, avocado, cheese, and sour cream along with hash browns and an amazing grilled biscuit will make a grown man cry, or at least blubber in appreciation. 

St Joe’s College (Maine) comes to California with our friend Tree

Pleasingly fueled, Hannah and I are joined by our lady of the house, Tree, (short for Theresa) for our hike up the Fern Canyon Trail in Van Damme State Park just south of Mendocino.  Seven years ago when we were last here, Hannah and I hiked this very trail of towering redwoods along a rain forest trail paralleling the Fern Canyon Creek.  Today we can do it with new eyes and with our friend Tree.

The trail begins. Notice something by Hannah’s right hiking shoe?
California’s own banana slug. We named it Hannah. Yes, the slug is Hannah Banana!

We have the trail to ourselves as February is the off-season for northern California coastal tourism; the campgrounds are closed and just us retired folks are in the area. 

The trail gets very little sunlight, hence moss reigns on river rocks, shaded trees, and fallen logs.

The canyon is shaded most of the day with 100’ second growth redwoods keeping the area damp with a hint of rain forest.  The trail along the creek rises gently as the moss covers the river rocks and the shade keeps us in pants and light jackets. 

Ten bridges cross the creek as we hike the two and half miles inland with a easy elevation gain.  Let us take you through the redwoods with pictures.

Hannah and Tree lead the way
Redwood glory!
The trail hugs the creek for two miles. Gurgling water is our companion.
The majesty of the redwoods
A cool day in early February 2022
I’m slacking with these two energetic women in the lead
Tree and Hannah

On the 45 minute ride back to Gualala, we pass the Sacred Rocks on the California coast

Sacred Rocks

Dan and Hannah Come to Sausalito just over the Golden Gate Bridge

Hannah and I are heading north from Carpinteria on our first road trip in years. It’s a 500-mile challenge from south to northern California. Sleeping restlessly, we awake early at 415A and figure What the hell? Let’s just get up and go.

Tooling north on The 101 along the Gaviota coast, we soon pass through San Luis Obispo, then on to John Steinbeck country in Salinas.  There, we partake in a Dan and Hannah travel tradition of getting McDonald’s $1 medium coffee to sip with our monster muffins from the Win-Co grocery store in Ventura.

Approaching where Tony Bennett left his heart! If under 60, consider googling him.

Soon we have a decision to make on how to deal with traveling through the Bay Area.  The GPS says go east young man, go east on I-880 through Oakland avoiding the city streets of San Francisco.  Or we could just deal with the San Francisco city traffic and go over the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County.

Our buddy Scott says in so many words, Are you crazy!  Go over the GGB.  Our pickleball friend Bill agrees, letting us know that I-880 is the nasty truck route through the bay area. 

The wise choice going over the Golden Gate Bridge
The GGB heading north to Marin County

What clinches the deal is that we can lunch harborside in Sausalito if we go by way of the GGB.

Though 19th Avenue in San Francisco has stop light after stop light, Hannah and I deal with it as we inch our way to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Once there, we sail through as the one-way tolls are collected electronically going south.  Just after noon, we take the Sausalito exit having covered 350 miles of the 500 we will travel to be with our friends, Tree and Scott, in Gualala on the northern California coast. For now, it’s time to chill in Sausalito.

The boardwalk along the marina in Sausalito
Tyho, Tyho, it’s off to work (not) we go!

It’s an early February Tuesday with few tourists and we find it easy enough to avoid the $3 per hour metered parking along Bridgeway Street, which parallels the harbor. We find a sweet spot on a side street. 

The concrete sea wall walkway to the Sausalito sea lion
Sausalito’s harbor sea lion

Wondering how we are going to get our 10,000 steps on a 500-mile travel day, Hannah and I immediately lace up our hiking shoes to walk the boardwalk by the marina and then onto the crumbling 19th century concrete walkway at the harbor’s edge to the Sausalito sea lion. 

Returning to the harborside Dunphy Park, we have a picnic table for our feast of Subway subs (tuna for me, Black Forest Ham for Hannah), barbecue chips, and a fine IPA over ice.  We have Belvedere in Marin County across the bay with Tiburon behind the coastal mountain.

After seven hours in the car, our two hours walking and lunching in Sausalito refuels us for the challenge of the cliffhanging, serpentine Pacific Coast Highway we have ahead to Gualala. In addition to being the home of Tree and Scott, Gualala is the home to KGUA radio, which has been my writing lifeline since the spring of 2020 when Covid brought us all to our knees.

We are ready for the PCH.  And yes, we got our 10K steps on this travel day!

Dan and Hannah Have Quite a Surprise for Susan and Jenny of Carpinteria

Every, and I mean every morning, while Hannah and I are wintering (what a pretentious verb!) in Carpinteria, Hannah and I would walk its beach or the bluffs above at high tide.  In early February, we noticed two women who either were swimming in the 56F Pacific or passing us on the beach.  Since they beamed so brightly, one morning, I asked if they were sisters?

Hannah and Jenny in front of the Pacific Ocean in Carpinteria
Hannah and Susan at the Carpinteria Beach

It turns out Susan and Jenny are sisters and have lived in Carpinteria since they were kids in the 1950s.  So, now most every Carpinteria morning Hannah and I meet up with them and linger to talk before they take a dip in the chilly waters of the Pacific or head for the west end of the Carpinteria Beach.

Taken with their joie de vivre and positive energy, Hannah and I invite Susan and Jenny for tea/wine on the patio of our VRBO condo at Carpinteria Shores.  That afternoon, among other things, we learn that Susan was an English teacher at Carpinteria High School and Jenny had recently gone to Santa Barbara for the rally to support the Ukrainian people.  Hannah and I have some new kindred spirits in our lives.

When we mentioned we were going to hike the Franklin Trail, which starts at the Carpinteria High School, Susan mentioned that at the trailhead there is a bench and plaque in recognition of her founding of the high school Eco Club.  Unfortunately, she added that the area is overgrown with weeds.

The trailhead of the Franklin Trail in Carpinteria. The bench and plaque are to the left. Carpinteria High School is to the right (out of the picture).

Hannah and I are not going to take this lying down. 

Discarded energy drink can beside Susan’s bench with her plaque to the right

When we arrive at the Franklin Trailhead, we would never have known there was a bench let alone a plaque due to the weeds, dried out branches, and neglect. 

Once inside the enclosure we see what negligence and time has done to the plaque.  Kneeling down, Hannah and I can barely make out the lettering.  We do pull some weeds and make a path to the bench to begin to clear the area.

We can barely make out the Susan Anderson. What is below her name is a mystery.

Later returning with glass cleaner and a screwdriver, Hannah and I sadly learn that the plastic covering and plaque are bolted to the stand so our screwdriver is of little use.  We need a wrench to keep the nut from turning and we really need WD-40 for the rusted bolts and nuts. 

Hannah scrubs the plastic covering but moss is growing between the plastic and Susan’s ceramic plaque. We have to find some way to take out those rusted bolts.

Two days later on our hands and knees, Hannah holds the nut with the wrench while I use all the torque I can muster to unscrew the rusted bolt.  Son of a gun if the WD-40 doesn’t work it’s magic.  Unfortunately, the bolts and nuts are so rusted that one breaks and the other bolts and nuts are useless.

Hannah does use the glass cleaner on the ceramic plaque itself now that the plastic cover has been removed.  We are stunned to see how beautiful the plaque is. 

Undeterred and wanting to complete the job professionally, we immediately set out for the local hardware store off Carpinteria Avenue less than a mile away for replacement nuts and bolts.

Returning to Susan’s bench, we secure the plastic covering on the ceramic plaque with the new nuts and bolts.  Stepping back to admire Susan’s plaque, we realize what joy resurrecting the plaque was for us. 

And get this! Susan doesn’t even know we did this! You see, we finished all this work on Susan’s plaque three days before we left for home in Maine on March 9, 2022.

Susan is learning of our efforts for the first time this morning as she reads today’s blog.   

How cool is that!

Dan’s Images of California 2022

Hannah and I leave Carpinteria for Maine this Saturday morning after our 2022 winter in California. We’ll fly out of LAX, hope to get bumped for $1500 each in Delta script to pay for next year’s flight to California, and eventually make it home.

Today’s blog presents some of the images from our winter in the Golden State.

Sunrise in Carpinteria
Another Day of Sun (rise) in Carpinteria (La La Land shout out)
Egret along the Carpinteria bluff
Hannah cooling her jets at the end of the Hot Springs Trail in Montecito
Hannah above the San Ysidro Falls in Montecito
Hannah descending the High Peaks Trail in Pinnacles National Park
Hannah’s 74th birthday breakfast at the Summerland Beach Cafe with Nancy Rose, our Santa Barbara friend of five years, (Breakfasts at the SBC are free on your birthday)
Our grandson Owen on the shoulders have his dad at the Carpinteria Beach
Max (in front) and Owen with their grandparents in Big Sur
Carpinteria sunset (clouds make for the best sunset pictures)
Stunning price of gas on Carpinteria Avenue on January 9, 2022 when firsts arrived in California
We filled up the night before we headed to LAX (March 11, 2022)
St Joe’s College in Standish, Maine wisely hires our son Will to work in their athletic department
Pizza Man Dan’s on LInden Avenue in Carpinteria has the best pizza boxes
When it is high tide at the Carpinteria Beach, we walk on this boardwalk through the Carpinteria State Park
Our daughter Molly and her mom soaking at the end of the Hot Springs Trail in Montecito
Part of our Gualala family. Mark to the left and Peggy to the right produce the KGUA Writer’s Hour each Monday
The cove and waterfall at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur
Along the Big Sur coast
The beach below the bluffs of the hiking trail at the Hearst/San Simeon State Park just south of Big Sur
Max in blue and Owen come to Carpinteria for their winter school vacation
The O’s – Omi and Owen
Sunset with wine in fine Jet Blue plastic cups with our daughter Molly on the sand berm just outside our Carpinteria condo
What we missed in New England while we were away.
Sunset at the Carpinteria Beach
Breakfast at the Rollerville Cafe in Point Arena with my teaching buddy Scott and our hiking woman Tree
Hiking among the redwoods on the Fern Canyon Trail in Van Damme State Park south of Mendocino
The iconic northern California coast at Gualala
High above Santa Barbara on the Rattlesnake Trail
Scoring free tickets to King Richard at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Arlington Theater on State Street.
Always expressive, Hannah wondering what’s up as she is at the first of 156 steps of the quote Thousand Step Stairway to the beach in Santa Barbara.
Morning at the Carpinteria Beach
The February Snow Moon above our condo in Carpinteria

The joy we have in California is tripled by the people we meet who are becoming our community in our home away from home: Bill, Claudia, Duncan, Jean, Jenny, Kim, Nancy, Robin, Scott, Susan, Tim, Tree.

Dan on His Birthday – KGUA #81

For March 7, 2022 KGUA Radio Writer’s Hour hosted by Peggy Berryhill and Mark Gross, we are asked to freewrite to the following prompt: What’s Your Favorite Way to Spend Your Birthday?

First of all, having a birthday two days after Christmas is not what I would call good planning by my parents.  Or was it? 

Shrewdly, they could give me an “extra special” present and have it count for both Christmas and my birthday.  Those of you with late December birthdays know my pain.

Here’s a shock for regular KGUA listeners, I would spend my birthday in California.  Even if I had to get a 6 AM flight from Boston, I’d arrive before noon at LAX for my birthday to really get going. 

I’d take the PCH (you know I am California wannabe when I use the acronym for the Pacific Coast Highway) (fact is I’ve already dropped LAX for the airport in Los Angeles.)  But I digress, I’d take the PCH up Malibu way and stop off at Zuma Beach to just get my toes in the sand and breathe in the salt air. 

Google directs me right to The 101, but I would go along the coast through Malibu to Oxnard

In no time I’d take The 101 (doesn’t The 101 with a capitalized The mid-sentence  scream California!). Anyway, I’d take The 101 to the little village that has become our winter home away from home – Carpinteria.  Waiting there would be our fat tire, one-speed cruisers for Hannah and me to ride on the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean.  

Late afternoon, I’d head to the Muni courts in Santa Barbara for pickleball with our friends, ex-pats from Japan and farmers from Virginia.

Sunset wine on the protective sand berm at Carpinteria with Hannah tops off my Left Coast birthday.  Did I tell you that I am applying for dual citizenship?

Maine and California!

Words – 257

Dan and Hannah Travel to Big Sur with the Family Rawding

Tip, Molly, Omi, and Poppa in the front row from left to right. Owen and Max behind at Big Sur

Our daughter Molly’s family’s has come to Carpinteria, California for their winter school vacation week.  On Tuesday of that week, we’ve planned an all-day road trip 200 miles to Big Sur along the California coast south of San Francisco.  Hiking among the redwoods of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is in our sights.

Off by 6 AM, we stop and go through Santa Maria and then again near Pismo Beach.  North of Cambria, we take to the twists and turns of the Pacific Coast Highway. 

Pismo Beach is just north of San Luis Obispo
Check out the gas prices in Gorda, the tiniest of hamlets, in Big Sur.

Arriving at Julia Pfeiffer Burns around 1040A, with no ranger in sight (that should have been a red flag), we self-register and pay the $10 fee.

As I step out of the car, something is amiss.  I walk back to the trailhead to construction fences around what was the visitor center and then see a Do Not Enter sign that bars us from hiking up the canyon of redwoods.

It turns out, due to the September 2021 wildfires that raged in this canyon, we are only allowed to hike a quarter mile to the bluffs above the beach; the beach itself is closed.  Effectively, the state park that we have traveled four plus hours to is closed

Dan and Hannah with their daughter Molly and grandsons, Max and Owen
The beach cove at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Molly and her guy

As our local California state park expert, I have dropped the ball in a big way.   I just assumed that the park would be open as it always has been when we’ve traveled to Big Sur.  I hadn’t remembered the late summer wildfires the roared through this area.  A simple check online would have determined that the redwood canyon trails at Julia Pfeiffer Burns would be closed. 

So what do we do?  How do we deal with everyone’s disappointment, especially Owen’s! Most of all, he wanted to do two things in California: go to Big Sur and to the Santa Barbara Zoo.  So now we get to the nitty gritty, Who do we blame?

It turns out no one; we just roll with it.  Molly and Tip deal with what’s real. Their boys pick up on that vibe and are hardly fazed by the change of plans. Plan B emerges.  Without eye rolling, finger pointing, or passive aggressive silence, we just turn back down the PCH to hike in the equally redwood rich, Lime Kiln State Park 15 miles to the south.

The shoreline mountains put the Big in Big Sur.

Oops.  Lime Kiln State Park too is closed due to wildfires.  On to Plan C which is to drive 40 miles south to the Elephant Seals Sanctuary and then hike the bluff trails of the Hearst-San Simeon State Park.

The bluff trail at the Hearst San Simeon State Park begins
Looking back to the beach from whence we came
The bluffs above the Pacific Ocean near the Hearst Castle
The tunnel of eucalypti just inland from the bluffs

On our way home, we celebrate in San Luis Obispo by introducing Owen and Max to Jack-in-the-Box for some mid-afternoon fast food (e.g. fries, curly fries, chicken nuggets). 

Postscript – Two days later, as Molly’s family often does, before our dinner of fish tacos on their second to last (penultimate to you English majors) night in Carpinteria, we each say our rose, bud, and thorn.  A rose is something you liked, a bud is something you are looking forward to, and a thorn is something that could have gone better.  Owen goes first, and despite the snafus in hiking in Big Sur, and says, Thank you for taking me to Big Sur.

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.