Learning just last week (January 2020) that the Cold Spring Trail had officially reopened after the January 2018 debris flows through Montecito that took the lives of 25 people, Hannah and I take The 101 north from Carpinteria. Winding through Montecito, we come upon the trailhead parking at East Mountain Drive in twenty minutes.
At the trailhead, where once East Mountain Drive crossed the Cold Spring Creek, now a forbidding chain link fence blocks all but foot traffic. Following the yellow lines dividing the former road to the creek’s edge, we look over to the road forty feet beyond. There is no evidence of any bridge abutments, let alone the bridge that washed downstream from the amazingly powerful flow of water, mud, car-size boulders, and trees.
Immediately, we have a choice of two trails thirty feet apart. A hiker returning from her climb suggests the second trail which will take us along the creek bed to the east. It turns out to be a fortunate choice as we head into the mountains on the shady side of the East Fork of the Cold Spring Creek.
As a narrow single track, the trail has overhanging trees providing protection from the penetrating sun. As the trail’s soft, moistened dirt caresses our feet, the switchbacks take the hurt out of the climb on this 67F morning on the central coast of California.
We come across a small waterfall, which begs to be videotaped. Enjoy.
Easily crossing the creek two or three times, we climb further into the mountains in light shirts and shorts.
High above the valley, those more adventurous than us can go further up the mountain. Opting for the trail to the right back down, we have a steeper descent (due its one mile length as opposed to the 1.5 miles we took to climb up) on a trail with full sun that has switchbacks with views to the Pacific.
Though the Thomas Fire of 2018 denuded the landscape and made it ripe for the deadly debris flow, Mother Nature takes a W today with regenerative green carrying the day.
After we park in downtown Montecito to pick up the Thursday special, Mojado chicken burritos, at Los Arroyos, I wonder if you can guess which is the car we rented from Enterprise?
Post script – Click here for Ray Ford’s history of the Thomas Fire and Montecito Debris Flow of January 9, 2018. Ray Ford pictures from 2018