Dan and Hannah Return the San Ysidro Trail in Montecito, California

SY Dr. A

Dr. Aganostou working his magic on Hannah

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.


SY 1 H at trail head

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.

SY 1A creek and trail at the start

The no longer V-shaped canyon after the debris flow of 2018

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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.

SY 1B D on fire road

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.

SY 2A H on trail with nets in distance

Debris flow nets in the distance


SY 2B nets closer

A closer look at the debris flow nets over the San Ysidro Creek

SY 2BB nets better

Up close and personal view of the debris flow nets


SY 2 H as trail narrows

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.

SY 3 H on narrow trail

SY 4 h close up family picture

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.

SY 5 where hannah fell

We think this is where Molly distracted our grandsons, Owen and Max, while Tip rescued Hannah in 2017.

SY 5A cliffside where hannah fell

This just may be where Hannah fell

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.

SY 7A more falls 2020

The San Ysidro Falls trickle down in 2020 with the branches blocking the trail to the base of the falls

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At the base of the same falls three years earlier (2017)

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.

Dan and Hannah Return to San Ysidro Canyon after a Weekend of Debris Flows

SY2 map of carp

In winter, California is not Florida with its 70s and 80s.  Our days in the Golden State are often sunny, with low humidity, and 60s, which, it turns out, is ideal for pickleballing and hiking.  Since winter is the rainy season here on the Central Coast, there is, of late, the ever-present danger of life-threatening debris flows when rain falls.

SY2 map 2

Ever since the Thomas Fire of December 2017 denuded the local mountainsides, mandatory evacuations occur when the forecast is for rains of at least an inch an hour.  Why, one morning at 430A, our iPhones blasted us awake with warnings of the possibility of dangerous debris flows due to heavy rain.  Where we are in Carpinteria, three hundred yards from the Pacific, there is no danger;  even so, everyone is on high alert after the January 2018 deaths of twenty-three from mud and debris flows in nearby Montecito.

SY mudslide dump into Carp ocean

After heavy rains and mud flows, Santa Barbara County dumps the mud and stones from the inland catch basins at the beach in Carpinteria.  This mud, over time, replenishes the beaches.

On the first Saturday of February, The 101, the major coast highway from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara and north, was closed in Montecito for most of the day due to mudflows across the highway.


Dan, Hannah, Nancy Rose, Duncan, Patty, and Kent at the Summerland Beach Cafe

With our Arizona State Sun Devil friends and fellow hikers, Patty and Kent, in town from Oregon, we decide to hike Montecito’s San Ysidro Canyon to see what the heavy rains did to the trail since Hannah and I hiked it four weeks ago.  Click here for that blog.

SY2 1AAA reconstituted creek

The scoured San Ysidro Creek that was V-shaped and tree-lined before the January 2018 mudslides

First, to celebrate Hannah’s mid-week b-day, we breakfast at the Summerland Beach Café.  (You get a free breakfast at the SBC if it is your birthday!  Hannah loves when free and breakfast are in the same sentence!)

SY2 debris flow with H, P, and K

On the trail with Patty and Kent with the stony and cobbly evidence of the force of last weekend’s rain

Driving just minutes away in Montecito, we have  two miles of trail to stunning waterfalls.  Very soon, we see evidence of mountainside cobbles spread across the trail from this past weekend’s rain.

After a mile of fire road hiking, we veer off along the one-person-at-a-time creek trail.  With Hannah and Patty in the lead, Kent and I watch these two buds loving life and regaling in their forty-year friendship.

SY2 1C P and H at pink ribbon

Hannah and Patty at the pink caution tape

Stepping carefully by where Hannah fell two years ago, we come to a pink police caution tape across the trail.  Wondering why, for the trail that is still quite passable, we soon arrive at a roaring side creek within 200 yards of the falls; the speed and volume of the side creek flow make it clear that we are not fording this torrent today.

Looking beyond, we finally put two and two together about the pink caution tape – the trail ahead has fallen away.  There is, in fact, no safe passage to the falls.  In the distance, we do make out the pounding waterfalls through the trees.  But it will be another year before we can return to the base of the falls for picture taking to satisfy the yearning, nay the demand of my 82 Instagram followers.

SY2 2 at side creek

The white water side creek in our way to the falls


SY2 2A trail out with creek in front

The damaged trail beyond the side creek


SY2 2C falls zoom

Zooming in on the distant San Ysidro Falls


Dan and Hannah with Owen and Max in Santa Barbara

Once a week throughout the year, Hannah and I live the grandparents’ dream and head an hour south to Massachusetts to spend the afternoon with our preschool grandsons, Owen and Max.  In warm weather we have parks and lakes while in winter we turn to indoor fun centers: Loch Ness Fun Center in Chelmsford, Imajine That in Lawrence, or One Stop Fun in Westford.

Ratt map of SB

This winter, we have an entire week of days with the boys since they are coming to southern California to hang out with their Omi and Poppa.  Our plan is to take the boys for daily “adventures” while our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip get some time to hike or head to the beach.

Prior to the boys’ arrival, Hannah and I take in the Carpinteria Bluffs to learn whether this is a place for preschoolers.  With the few seals that we see far below the bluffs, that this is not the active experience we’d like for Owen and Max.   Preschool compatibility index – Not really.

OM Carp boys with bat

Owen and Max at Carpinteria Beach

Though this has been the rainiest February since Noah and his Ark, we have a sunny Sunday to take Owen and Max to the Carpinteria Beach just ten miles south of Santa Barbara.  With our guys, we know they love the filling of sand in their buckets, then dumping it all; then filling and dumping on and on.

OM Carp flying gull at vball

A tennis ball and fat bat as well as a Frisbee keep them on the move.  At the beach volleyball court, they make up their own game of throwing the ball over the net and trying to catch it.  The ocean water in February is fine for surfers in wet suits, but we all are just fine going to the water’s edge.  Preschool compatibility index – Off the charts.

Monday is a day when the rain gods bark, You’ve been bitching about the drought for six years; so tell me, what is your problem when I give you Biblical rains!  On such days, the universe provides the Sea Center on Stearn’s Wharf on the Santa Barbara beachfront for Owen and Max.

OM Zoo skates

Sea Center

OM Pier theater

Pulling onto the half mile wooden wharf itself, we have free parking for the first 90 minutes.  After, it’s $2.50/hour.  You can bet Dan and Hannah will make this an 85-minute visit.  For $7.50 each for seniors and $6 for kids age 2-12, the Sea Center begins with the boys petting baby sand sharks, sea anemones, and star fish. That lasts for about five minutes and then the boys are off.

The movie about sharks and the marine fishing vessel experience hold no interest for our guys.  It’s running around which they love!  As we move to the top floor, a barnacled large gray whale model dominates the airspace; this wows them for a good 15 seconds, and then run they do.

What does interest Owen and Max is the Marine Puppet Theater with stuffed animals such as a gray whale, hammerhead shark, two kinds of turtles, a purple squid, and octopus.  Though they never put on a play for us, they imagine with the stuffed animals, run about, tug over their favorite (the purple squid), and spend more time there than any other place at the Sea Center.

Hannah and I feel that the $27 admission fees are money well-spent supporting the Natural History Museum of Santa Barbara, of which the Sea Center is a part.   But….  Preschool compatibility index – Not so much; it’s a dry place on a misty day, but the place is more for interested adults and school age kids with a marine bent.

Tuesday, when it rains with preschoolers at the cottage, our choices of outdoor activities are limited.  Molly and Tip take the boys to story hour at the Montecito Library.  Later in the afternoon we adults watch The Best of Men DVD (PBS – Outstanding) while Max naps and Owen watches Dinosaur Train.

OM Lookout Point O and M

Lookout Point in Summerland

But by 3P, the sun comes out and we have the chance to give Molly and Tip their daily break (daily bread?).  Lookout Park on the Pacific here in Summerland is just down the hill from our cottage.  Walking with Owen and Max the half mile through town to the beach, we have a playground with a climbing wall, slides, and swings.

The train track gives Hannah an idea from her childhood.  She has Owen and Max put pennies on the track itself to be crushed by the next passing Amtrak train.  The boys are learning the meaning of watched pot never boils.  Eventually distracted, the Amtrak train roars through and delivers in a big way – squashed coins beyond recognition.   Preschool compatibility index – Late afternoon playground time after a day of rain – elixir for the whole family.

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Max with the big fellas

Wednesday, the sun comes out and we are off to the Santa Barbara Zoo.  While Molly and Tip hike Romero Canyon in nearby Montecito, we drive the six miles to the Zoo just off the main beach in Santa Barbara.   To save the $7 for parking we park across the street from the Zoo entrance at Dwight Murphy Field.  Tickets for 2-12 year-olds are $10 and seniors get in for $13 each.  Money well spent.

OM gator

See you later alligator

The boys really love running anywhere – this time in a park setting.   Seeing the colorful parrots, the boys’ interest lasts about twenty seconds.  Let’s go is their refrain as Owen leads, Max follows and repeats whatever his big brother says.   They never stop.  We see flamingos, foxes, gibbons, elephants, condors, snow leopards, and alligators.  Surprising to me, Max has a fascination with the zoo map as he points out where we’ll go next.

But the Santa Barbara Zoo delivers in three big ways.  First, there are the lions that perch on manmade boulders at eye level.  Though they don’t roar, that doesn’t stop Owen and Max from communicating with them with their own best king-of-the-jungle roars.

OwenMax O and M with giraffes

Then there is the herd of giraffes.  Regal and stately, they are so much more impressive than what we see in books.   Later we hit the gorilla compound.  At lunch time the gorilla picks at his celery, beans, and lettuce through a grate in the ground, which, I am guessing, is to improve his dexterity and to teach him to eat in a civilized manner.

OwenMax H as trainer

My kind of zookeeper

A mid-zoo playground with a climbing spider web and a hill for sledding down on pieces of cardboard grabs the boys’ attention.   After three hours of running, we and they are pooped.   Preschool compatibility index – You’re in the running for grandparents of the year if you take your grandkids to the Santa Barbara Zoo.

SY 3B T with boys

Owen and Max with their Dad

On Thursday, our Owen and Max activity is hiking the San Ysidro Trail in nearby Montecito, California with their parents.  When hiking with preschoolers, Hannah and I have the one important ingredient today to make this activity fly – parents like Molly and Tip.  This four-mile round trip to a rocking waterfall needs playful parents who can distract their boys when they get weary.

SY2 4A five on trail

Prefall Hannah on the San Ysidro Trail with the Family Rawding

For much of the way, Tip carries nearly 3-year-old, 40+ pound Max in a backpack.  Such endurance is out of my league.  Owen, five in July, walks and runs most of the four miles, often holding the hand of his mother Molly.  Preschool compatibility index – Only try with athletic, vigilant, and relentlessly positive parents.  It’s too much for us alone.  Click here for that blog.

On Friday, we rest as Hannah recuperates from her fall from the above trail the day before.

Grandparents the world over will nod their heads and know that it’s been gold to have five days with our Dynamo Duo.

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 3 of 6

(Part 2 ended with our son-in-law Tip bringing Hannah off the ledge to my waiting arms.)

After Tip brings Hannah up from the cliffside, she and I hug and hug some more.  I put aside the subjunctive – the what ifs, the what could have happened.   Startled and so grateful, as is her outlook on life anyway, Hannah lets the tears flow, knowing how fortunate she is to be on terra firma.  Looking down at her left leg, I see some scrapes above her ankle below her capris but am oblivious to the sizable gash that Tip and Hannah have both seen.  With no time to lose, we begin the mile and a half trek to get Hannah and her left leg out of the woods and to the trailhead.


The side creek that we just passed before the trail gave way beneath Hannah’s feet

With an hour on the rocky trail ahead, I clutch her left elbow as she takes her first tentatively step and leans forward.  On a trail of sharply angled rocks, I brace her left side as she puts her weight on her solid right foot.  Fortunately, we have already crossed the widest side creek, but there are still others to navigate with Hannah on one good leg.

SY2 trail with Han hurt

The San Ysidro Trail that Hannah descends

I have no clue to the gaping gash on Hannah’s calf, which is a good thing, as I focus on supporting her as she gingerly steps down the trail from rock to rock.  When the trail levels out, she says to me, we can go faster; knowing that the sooner we get to the bottom, the sooner she will get the medical care she needs.  Remember, while I think she has just a few scraps, she has seen the deep gouge in her lower left leg.

SY2 6B hand in hand

Picture Tip took as he followed us down the trail with Hannah and her three tourniquets

On our slow walk down the trail on this Thursday in the last week of February, I think how Hannah and I usually never hike with others; but again good fortune smiles on us as today we have Molly and Tip.  That said, if it had been just us two on this trail just above suburban Montecito in metropolitan Santa Barbara, we would have had many other hikers here to support us.

Stepping carefully and rarely looking up, we take no breaks and beeline it for the trailhead.  The three tourniquets Tip tied on her leg are working as Hannah never complains, in fact, smiles her way down the mountain.

SY2 4C rocky trail with all

The San Ysidro Trail that we came down; earlier in the hike Hannah and I had hiked up it with Molly, Tip, Owen, and Max

Both Hannah’s sunny disposition and our steady pace off the mountain has fooled me into thinking that she is okay and that the medical attention she will need may be minor.

SY2 6D hand in hand

Hand in hand, hiking to the trailhead

At the junction with the McMenemy Trail to Saddlerock Mountain, we have a mile down, with just a half a mile to go.  Our daughter Molly has gone ahead with our four-year-old grandson, Owen, to get our car in position for me to take Hannah for medical attention.

Fifteen minutes later, we see Molly waving from behind a chain link fence with their rented Toyota in the foreground.  Behind them, we are surprised to see three bright red vehicles: a full-length fire truck, an American Medical Response ambulance, and a fire department SUV.

Hannah turns to me as says, I don’t want to go in an ambulance.  I want you to take me to the hospital.  How bad can her leg be if she doesn’t think she needs an ambulance?

SY2 ER 1 h with emts

Zach explaining the reality of her injuries to Hannah

Arriving at the staging area, we see Zach, an EMT, who says, you must be Hannah?  Hannah smiles and nods, as he leads her to the back end of the ambulance to sit and be examined.  Still convinced I can take her to the hospital ER, Hannah is smiling, in no pain, as Zach checks out her lower leg; he quickly assesses that this is no simple gash that just a few stitches will heal.

Saying to Hannah, It is your choice to go with your husband or go with us in the ambulance, but our service is free.  Hannah remains unconvinced that she needs an ambulance.

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American Medical Response ambulance

As the four EMTs gather around, they are stunned that she is feeling no pain.   To a person, they call her the patient of the year.   Maybe they say that all the time, but I doubt it.  Hannah is a rock star who has walked out a mile and a half with a gaping wound – never complaining.

As they are about to wrap up, Hannah mentions a spot of blood on her capris on her left thigh.   Asking if it is okay that he cut away her capris, Zach soon sees a much larger and longer gash, twice the size of the lower one, that goes all the way to the bone.

Zach looks at Hannah and says, You can do what you want, but you are coming with me.  Hannah readily agrees.


I asked Molly to write a reflection of what she was thinking when she went ahead for help.  In Molly’s words:

Owen and I walked/ran ahead. Owen seemed to be leading the pace.  We sang some songs together as we ran, as a way to pass time and keep our focus on getting down back to the car.  We talked about how far he has hiked that day.  I told Owen that   “Omi is one tough cookie,” to which he asked, “what does tough cookie mean?”   I explained that even though she was hurt, she was walking to get down the mountain.  I told Owen that we were going to get the car to go back up part of the side road to pick her up when she got back down to the access road.  And then she would get help. 

As we got to the bottom of the trail, we ran 200 feet on the road to my car. As we got to the white rental car parked behind Omi and Poppa’s car, a man in a white Audi wagon pulled up right behind our car. Not sure whether to call 911 or not, I asked him if I could get through the locked gates on the access road to get closer to my injured mom.  I explained that my mom fell and hurt her leg near the top of the hike – and was coming behind us with my husband and dad and another son.  The man said that I could call 911 to get support – he was very encouraging and reminded me that “this is what they do — and they are close by.” 

After realizing that I had no idea if mom was getting worse or if she was even able to walk at this point, I decided to call. It crossed my mind that my mom probably would not want an ambulance, I figured I’d rather be on the safe side and get medical attention if she needed it.  I called 911 as I sat in my car.  Owen was sitting in the back seat eating mixed nuts.  

In general I felt pretty calm until I started talking to the dispatcher because I had somewhat incomplete responses to her questions – where exactly I was, how my mom was doing…  I tried to describe where I was and where my mom might be.  I knew they were walking down, but not sure at what pace. I told her that I wasn’t sure if she’d need medical attention but she had a bad fall 1.8 miles up the trail… the dispatcher said they were sending an ambulance to meet me at the trail head.

Owen and I drove up the access road to get closer to where Omi would be coming down and wait for the ambulance.  We saw the man (from earlier) again who was hiking up the trail as I was talking to Tip (who had just come back into cell reception area).

Tip wanted me to look up a hospital in the area – and the man was walking by and heard the conversation – and told me about Cottage Hospital. He said it’s close and it’s the best in the vicinity!  The man continued hiking – and I told him that he’d see my mom soon and asked if he could relay about how far they had to go when they crossed paths. Within 3 minutes, I could see Omi, Poppa, and Tip at the top of a hill — and simultaneously the ambulance pulled up the access road.  Since the road was locked at the gate, the EMTs encouraged Omi to keep coming down the trail – and they met her there. 


Here’s Tip’s take on the hike out after the accident in his own words.

So, after Hannah and I had climbed back up on the trail we were going to take a look at the “gash” on her thigh that was hidden under her capris, but then I thought better of opening up the wound to the elements even more, so we grabbed another long sleeve T-shirt and wrapped around her thigh to slow the bleeding.  Once we all started moving down the trail toward the car and help, I had Max on my back and just watched Hannah slowly make her way down the narrow path. 

I knew the cuts I saw were deep, but they didn’t seem to be gushing blood and Hannah just kept on going–there was no stopping her. 

I was trying to think of a way to support her to get down, but other than carrying her on my back, which I offered, there didn’t seem to be much I could do. 

When we’d pass hikers going the other direction many that noticed her injury would offer help and Hannah would say something like “I have these two guys to watch over me, I’m good.”  Some would then look at me with questions on their face and I would just shrug my shoulders and then give a nod of thanks. 

I’m not sure if we should have taken them up on their offer, and if so, what they could have done. 

Once the trail was wide enough for two to walk down Dan was there to support Hannah. 

Once we had cell service I got in contact with Molly, about a half a mile away from her, I knew she called someone for help. I wasn’t sure who was coming whether it was just a police officer to open a gate Molly’s car was stuck at or the ambulance. I didn’t mention that to Hannah and Dan. I thought that Hannah was a little embarrassed by the whole thing. 

When we got close enough to see Molly and the car we also saw multiple rescue vehicles pull up. After we saw them Hannah told Dan that “she wasn’t going anywhere unless it was in his car.”  I wasn’t sure that was the case and was glad there was someone professional who could look at her leg. 

As we went down the trail, I felt like I wanted to do something but there wasn’t much I could do. I am grateful she is okay.  





Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 2 of 6

(Part 1 ended with the cliffside San Ysidro Trail giving way under Hannah’s feet)

Hannah immediately slides down the rocky cliffside, 15’ or more, into the ravine; and I know because I am standing directly behind her.  The vertical drop between Hannah and me now is jagged with rocks and unstable dirt due to the recent heavy rains in the Santa Barbara area.  As a human mudslide, she later told us she grabbed for saplings on her descent down this nearly vertical rocky cliff.

And then suddenly, she is perched on a small promontory, some 25’ above the San Ysidro Creek, rich with boulders and trouble.  On the good news/bad news continuum, the good news is that it appears she has not hit her head on the way down.  I don’t know if there is any bad news… It turns out she and Tip do.

Rescuing her down the hillside of rocks and mud where she slid is not an option.  Any effort to save her that way will just push more rocks and mud onto Hannah and may propel her further down the steep chasm.

SY2 6 side of trail after hannah fell

Tip on the cliffside preparing to take Hannah back to the main trail.  See the sheer cliff, the occasional sapling, and the creek far below

At this point, Tip passes their son Owen off to Molly, who is hugging their son Max, and sprints fifteen feet down the trail to a point parallel to where Hannah is.  Shaken, Hannah knows the enormity of the danger that she is in.  Tip uses the saplings sprouting from the hillside for support and steps carefully along the side hill to reach her.

Her left leg has taken the brunt of the rocky slide.  Though there are abrasions by her ankle, a major gash has been ripped open on her lower leg.  Hannah and Tip see it all; he quickly takes off his long sleeve tee shirt to make the first of three tourniquets on her left leg.  At the time, I am half way down the same path Tip has taken but see nothing that they have seen.

Later Hannah told me, Tip said to her, Omi, Omi, (her grandmother name) with a tone that “this is serious, but with the reassurance that we’ll get you through this.”  Comforted, Hannah knows she is in good hands.

SY2 4C rocky trail with all

Earlier in the hike on the way to the falls, Hannah in her capris.  The trail gives you an idea of the jagged rocks of the trail.

Wearing capris down to her mid-calf, Hannah feels a strong pain in her upper thigh, but neither she nor Tip can see if there is a wound there.  Surprisingly, there is no tear to the capris above her knee.  But Tip has seen enough of the gaping gash in her lower leg to know that she could use more tourniquets, one below her knee and another around her upper thigh.  It appears nothing is broken, but adrenaline might mask a break anyway.

With all the skill of a veteran EMT, Tip slowly moves Hannah along the side of the cliff, towards the main trail.  All the while Molly, above on the trail, is distracting Owen and Max.  She is especially thankful when Max notices a bug on the side of the hillside that grabs both boys’ attention.

With Tip leading Hannah to the trail, I reach for her, and see a smiling and thankful Hannah.  Her sunny disposition belies the wounds to her left leg; I have no idea what lurks beneath her capris on her upper thigh, nor does she or Tip.

SY2 4A five on trail

Hannah and I rarely hike with others.  Fortunate this day that Molly holding Owen and Tip with Max in his backpack joined Hannah and me for the hike.

Later Hannah remembers four things about the fall: (1) the loud pop as she hit the first sharp rock (perhaps the puncture of her leg that didn’t rip her capris! Whoa!), (2) looking down at her lower leg and seeing a gaping gash that she quickly decides she doesn’t need to look at anymore, (3) when her fall stopped on the small promontory, she could see the drop to the boulders and rocks in the creek below, and (4) her good fortune that our son-in-law Tip was the reassuring rescuer that she and we all needed.

By the way, when Tip chooses his next career after being the Tom Brady of stay-at-home dads, the world will be a better place if he considers being an EMT or a firefighter.  Hannah remembers how cool and encouraging he was under “saving her life” pressure!

Holding Hannah tightly, I now hug her with all the gratitude that she is safe.  Having seen none of what Tip has seen and buoyed by Hannah’s belief that she is doing well and can walk the mile and a half to the trailhead, she and I step carefully down the trail.

SY2 3 family on trail with cactus

Earlier in the hike, Molly with Owen and Tip with Max.  Molly’s quick thinking had her and Owen hike ahead to get transportation at the trailhead.

Thinking quickly to save time at the other end of the trail, Molly goes ahead with Owen to get our car as close to the trailhead as possible.  Molly is doing what we need on this sunny day in the 60s, though ironically she herself is in the dark, uncertain if her  mother will even make it out without additional support.



Dan and Hannah Hike to the San Ysidro Falls with the Family Rawding and Then…  Part 1 of 6

sy2-2-family-at-start-of-trailEarlier this past February, Hannah and I had hiked the San Ysidro Trail in Montecito, just south of Santa Barbara, California.  With the relentless rains of the winter of 2017, the waterfalls at the end of the trail had grown from a trickle to a thunderous applause of water.  That waterfall trail jumped it to the top of our list of favorite hikes in Santa Barbara.  Click here for that blog.


Raging stream for stick throwing, not for crossing

Five days ago, our daughter Molly, her hubby Tip, and our grandsons, Owen (4.5) and Max (nearly 3) flew from Massachusetts to spend their school vacation week with us at our rented cottage in nearby Summerland.  On Molly and Tip’s first full day in California, they hiked this very trail while we took Owen and Max to Carpinteria Beach.   Molly and Tip got sidetracked onto other trails and never ended up at the San Ysidro Falls.


Max by San Ysidro Creek

So, with sunny weather this last Thursday in February, we all decide to hit the San Ysidro Trail for the ideal “family” hike.  “Ideal” if you have two athletic, vigilant, and relentlessly encouraging parents like Molly and Tip to deal with the challenges of hiking with preschoolers; who begin the hike moving and grooving, then get tired, and finally want to be carried.


Tip with thier sons, Owen (left) and Max (right)

Driving in two rental cars, we six arrive at the trailhead on East Mountain Drive and park beside the hedges of five to ten million dollar houses of Montecito, home to Oprah, Kenny Loggins, and Ellen.   Thankfully, long ago the Montecito Trail Foundation established trails up the mountain so the public can enjoy the same scenery as do the landed gentry.


Athletic Omi with her grandson Owen

When you hike with preschoolers, you are in for a “stop and smell the roses” kind of hike.  Not wanting to control the boys’ enthusiasm, Molly and Tip watch Owen and Max explore, run, sometimes fall, and then they are there to help Owen and Max throw away their “ouchies.”  At the end of the hike, Max will need three band-aids on his knees.


The boys race, we follow while Molly and Tip remain alert.  Trees with hollowed trunks are favorite stopping points for the boys as is the storm-fueled river where they watch their thrown sticks follow the current past stones and boulders in the stream.


A six to eight-inch rain storm fell just six days ago, so the trail has puddles and mud that Molly and Tip swing their boys over.  The trail is rocky with side creeks that require careful stone-stepping to cross.  Having Tip’s strength and agility makes all the difference.


After a mile of the two to the falls, Max finally turns around, raises his arms up, the signal that he is ready for the backpack.  Interestingly twenty minutes later he wants to get down; but Tip has seen this show before on other hikes.  First down, then literally 30 seconds later Max wants to go back up in the backpack.


Last week’s rock slide impeding our hike

Along the way, we see boulders from mudslides that block the trail that we step around and over; not impenetrable, but testament to the power of the recent storm.

Within two hundred yards of the waterfall, we come upon the widest side creek, where seven days ago, Hannah and I easily stone-stepped across.  Today, Tip climbs atop the larger boulder (see below) mid-creek and extends his arm to each of us, all the time having 40-pound Max on his back.


San Ysidro Falls

And then, just around the bend is the San Ysidro Falls in all its storm-fueled glory.  Hannah and I see that the trail in front of the falls has narrowed to 18”, due to the erosion caused by the storm.  The force of the water over the headwaters is double what it was just ten days ago.

It’s been two hours for two miles; about par when hiking with preschoolers on a trail into the mountains.  Older brother Owen has impressively walked the entire two rocky miles with 1150’ of elevation gain – a chip off his mom and dad’s block.


The rock Tip perched on to get us all across the side creek, within 200 yards of the falls

A little after 1230P, we head back for the trailhead on East Mountain Drive, which requires Tip’s strength and balance to support us again over the side creek torrent that we just negotiated twenty minutes before.

And then…

… with Molly in front with Max, Owen on Tip’s shoulders, Hannah following them, and me just behind her on the trail, the trail above the forty-foot ravine suddenly gives way beneath Hannah’s feet.  One minute Hannah is there, the next she is feet-first, rock surfing down the vertical cliff side towards the ravine 40′ below.


Dan and Hannah Hike the San Ysidro Waterfalls Trail in Montecito, California


Santa Cruz Island, 15 miles from Ventura Harbor

Waking early on this Saturday in mid-February, Hannah and I have planned an excursion out to the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara for some hiking.  Calling before dawn to confirm our departure, I hear that Island Packers, the local cruise line, has cancelled the morning whale watch due to strong winds and large swells.  Even so, our trip to Santa Cruz (one of the Channel Islands for which we paid $54 each as seniors) is on.  Island Packers warn that if you are susceptible to motion sickness, consider rescheduling.


Island Packers transportation from Ventura to the Channel Islands

The stormy seas came out of the blue.  When we went to bed Friday night, a sunny Saturday in the mid-60s was predicted.  We had no idea that rough seas might kibosh our fifteen-mile boat ride to Santa Cruz.  After hearing the news of the strong winds and large swells, Hannah and I look at each other and immediately decide that we are not that kind of mariners and reschedule for the following Tuesday.  Barfing and hiking are not a pretty mix.  That said, barfing and anything are not a pretty mix.


With sunshine aplenty here on the mainland, we plan a hike to the waterfalls on the San Ysidro Trail in Montecito, the next town north of our cottage.  We smile at each other and know in our hearts that we are, indeed, citrus wonderfolk  (i.e. we don’t just make lemonade from today’s lemons (the postponed trip to the Channel Islands), we make margaritas!  The stormy seas off Ventura did not happen to us, they happened for us.  Today we will have waterfalls!


The San Ysidro Trail begins

Jumping north on The 101 highway for the San Ysidro exit two miles away from our cottage, we turn right towards the mountains. Two miles from there, we eventually weave our way up to East Mountain Road, which dead ends at our trailhead.  While multi-million dollar homes hide behind arbored walls of green, we easily find side-of-the-street parking.  Click here for both John Dickson’s fabulous directions to get to the trailhead of the San Ysidro Falls Trail as well as his directions once you are on the trail itself.


The trail is not mobbed at all but joyful with couples, singles with dogs, and coeds from University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).  Tree-lined and bracketed by the tasteful but impenetrable walls of the estates of the foothills, the trail skirts the driveways of the Montecito rich and famous.  Soon we are above the last of the estates on a trail muddy from the last week of rain.  This bodes well for the falls to be amazing.


Muddy, then rocky muddy, the trail is easy for us to step along to find the drier dirt.  With the San Ysidro Creek to our left, we notice the foliage has not leafed out so we can see down the rocky ravine to the creek.  All good signs that the waterfall is going to blow us away.


At the half mile point, there is a turn to the McEnemy Trail and Saddlerock Mountain.  Click here to visit that blog from a year ago, when the land was parched, the large peace sign intriguing, and the terrain brown on brown.

As the trail narrows, it heads into the foothills forest.  Shaded most of the way, the San Ysidro Trail rises gently and steadily, as the rocky terrain begins to dominate.


Crossing side streams from time to time, we did not have any such mini-creeks in the previous three winters we have been here in the mountains of Santa Barbara. At the mile and a quarter in point, the trail steepens and we get the workout we love.  As a four-mile round-trip, we rate the hike as moderate, most worthy of the time, especially with the payoff at the end.


The last sidestream crossing the trail, 200 yards from the falls

Using the health app (the one with the red heart) on my iPhone6, I have an accurate measure that we are within 0.2 of a mile of the falls.  Rocky and narrow, we hike with a steady flow of weekenders to the falls.


First, we see the first of about twenty students from the UCSB Adventure Club with climbing ropes, who have come to  climb the falls.  And then around the last bend, we see the most dramatic falls we have ever seen in the Santa Barbara area.  Parallel flumes of thundering white descend over the head of the falls.


With our hometown of York, Maine blanketed with one 14” storm and awaiting another in two days (that turns out to be 24″), we stand in awe of nature’s water show in the parched desert of California.  Owen’s Woodstock and Max’s blue elephant add a touch of our grandsons to the mountain falls experience.

Again, no surprise, California delivers.