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