Wednesday, July 27, 2011

07-23-2011 Romero Canyon

This week I challenged myself to find a good hike using public transportation to get me to the trailhead and back. There are plenty of reasons for wanting to use the bus. I was thinking it would be nice to for a one-way hike to not have to drive back the trailhead and retrieve a vehicle. I didn't find anything in Ojai. So I looked to Santa Barbara. I saw the 14 goes right by Romero Canyon. Okay I'll do that I thought. If it seems reasonable at a later date maybe I could make it into a multi-day trip through the Murrietta Divide, and get picked up at Matilija. So I figured out what time I would have to catch the Vista Bus from Ventura to SB. I wanted to get up there early, but the way the schedules worked out I didn't get to SB until 8:30. The bus ride through Montecito is pretty nice. The bus driver pointed out some the highlights to me.

Driver: "There's Oprah's estate"

Me: "Oh, that's pretty impressive"
Driver: "That's just the guest house, you can't see her house from the road"

Me: "Whoa!"

The bus dropped me off on the 192  (East Valley Rd.) and Romero Canyon Rd. The road immediately starts angling upward towards the mountains. There's no sidewalk but traffic is pretty light. The street is lined multi-million dollar mansions with exotic cars in the gated driveways. Being a gate maker in Montecito must be a great gig. Everybody has one, and they all look like they are trying to be fancier then their neighbors. One might be made of intricate iron work, another ornate tiles, or maybe finely crafted wood.

It took me about twenty-five minutes to walk up the 1.75 miles to the trailhead. There were a few cars parked along the side of the road. I couple and their dog arrived at the same time I did. I watched them walk right past the dogshit bag dispenser. After a few hundred yards the dog started shitting all over the trail. It was a pretty impressive amount of dookie for a little dog. The owners did not even pause to consider picking up after their pup. So I picked up some poop and threw it at them. No, I didn’t do that. I didn’t do anything actually. In hindsight I should have spoken up and at least embarrassed them. Maybe next time.

I had brought the USGS topo for the area (Carpinteria quad 1988) but the trail I was on didn’t feel like it matched the trail on the map. I was on a trail right next to the creek and the map just showed an old road further to the east. Meh, I just kept charging up the trail. Every once in while I would hear a bell jingling to alert me to a mountain biker that was coming down the trail.

After about an hour and twenty minutes I came to a junction. A wide dirt trail ran east-west and the trail I was on continued upward. There are few signs there that just say, “Trail”. Gee, no shit that’s trail, and that’s a tree, and that’s a rock. What would actually be helpful is if the signs identified the trails or said where they went. Can you imagine driving around town and all the street signs just said, “Street”.

Maybe there should be a sign to point out the "Sky"

I stopped there for about ten minutes and ate some Pop-Tarts. Every couple of minutes mountain bikers would come by on the east-west trail. I dunked my hat in the cool flowing water of the nearby creek. I wasn’t really sure if I was I on the right trail, but I figured up was the right direction to go.

Overlooking a hazy Montecito. You can see the tip of one of the islands braking through the marine layer.

 East Camino Cielo Rd

  Getting near the top

I kept hiking for another forty-five minutes or so. Then the trail started to top out. I saw a water tank, and a paved road that I knew had to be East Camino Cielo. So this had to be the Romero Saddle. A couple of friendly women who were on the trail with me split off and took a trail that led off to the east. They said they were going to Blue Canyon Pass, but I think that trail would have taken them to Escondido Canyon. The trail I was on split. The right fork looked like it went off into an overgrown mess that might lead you to Blue Canyon Camp, but I'm not sure. I took the left fork that just went up a few hundred yards more to a peak. From the 192 I had climbed about 3000 feet. I took in the 360 degree view, snapped a few pictures, then started back down the trail.

I stopped at the junction again and ate lunch. Then I continued on down the canyon. Then back down the road. It was a little funny to me sitting there waiting for the bus to pick me up as Ferrari’s and Porsche’s and some really nice custom motorcycles passed by. I got back to the transit center on time, but had to wait some more because the Vista bus was 50 minutes late. So if you live in Santa Barbara it should be a pretty simple bus ride to Romero Canyon Rd, give it try some time. I'm sure the folks there will appreciate any increase in foot traffic in their neighborhood.

Friday, July 15, 2011

07-07-2011 Sequoia National Park

Many months ago Frank planned a summer trip up to Sequoia National Park. This week we rented a van, and along with Heidi we drove up the I-5 to the 198 up into the park. As expected there was a mass of humanity up there. We had a nice site in the Lodgepole campground for three days. Much to my dismay I had forgotten my air-mattress, damn it. Conveniently there's a store on site that sold really cheap foam mattresses. So with that and some folded up tarps, towels, etc.. I would have to make do.  After we set up camp Frank and Hedi took off to do some horseback riding in Kings Canyon. I took the opportunity to make the leisurely hike up to Tokopah Falls.

Kaweah River

This is a super easy hike. I saw tons of smiling kids walking the trail and plenty of parents carrying the ones that were to tired to do the whole thing. As popular as the hike is I didn't see much trash. The few bits I did see looked they had fallen out of people's pockets, not left deliberately. There's a huge mountain overlooking you the whole way. I saw a few of the local marmots doing their thing.

It took me maybe 45 minutes to get to the falls. It's a 1200ft cascading waterfall made of pure snow melt. To say I was impressed is an understatement.

Tokopah Falls from below

This is the biggest waterfall I have ever seen in person. I snapped some pictures and headed back to camp. That night we ate smoked salmon and corn on the cob. We washed it all down with Doghead Midas Touch and some Port for dessert.

 An interesting looking grill

My alarm clock

The next morning we decided to hike up to Heather Lake. It's the first of three lakes on the appropriately named Lakes Trail. Instead of hiking all the way from Lodgepole we started from the Wolverton Trailhead. It's a nice winding uphill trail. About half way up the 2000ft ascent we started to see snow in shady spots along the trail. By the time we made it 2/3's of the way up the trail was pretty much covered in snow. Thoughtfully the powers that be have put yellow markers high up in the trees to show the way when the trail is hidden by snow. It took us about two and half hours to get the first "peak".

Heidi navigates the trail

 Tokopah Falls from above

From that vantage we could see Tokopah Falls in all it's glory down below us. We were up around 9000ft, I think. We dropped down a couple hundred feet and were greeted with an incredible view of the lake.

 Heather Lake

We hung out for a bit and ate lunch. Some of the local wildlife came over and checked us out. The lake had a big disk of ice taking up the majority of the surface area. I tossed a brick sized rock out there and it just landed on top of the ice, so I think it's still fairly thick. Snow melt waterfalls framed the lake.


This marmot was feeling pretty bold

The yellow markers were super helpful in getting us out of there as there was no way to see the trail beneath the snow. A couple of hours later we were back at the trailhead parking lot. Then we went back to Lodgepole. We got cleaned up at the shower facilites. Then we grilled up some steaks and potatoes. We drank Gulden Draak. And for dessert we made some pie-iron smores.

The next morning we started a little late. Around 11:00 we drove to the flagship of the Sequoia National Park, The General Sherman Tree. Before this trip the biggest tree I had seen was the massive kauri, Tane Mahuta, in New Zealand. It seems barely gargantuan in comparison to the General. General Sherman and the other giant Sequoias are awesome in the classic sense of the word. They are dumbfoundly gigantic, just stop you in your tracks behemoths. I could use every "big" word in the dictionary, but nothing would do these trees justice. You really need to experience them for yourself. I don't see how even the most pessimistic person couldn't be impressed by this natural wonder of the world.

General Sherman

We headed down the highway for bit then turned off on a narrow, winding road.  Our destination was the Crystal Cave. This cave discovered back in 1918 by a couple of fishermen. It been a tourist destination since the ‘30’s. Frank had signed us up for the Wild Cave Tour. Two guides would lead us and two other people through the tight, muddy, caverns that the regular tour never sees. We met our guides Khrys and Tara. They both seemed very knowledgeable, professional, and enthusiastic. Having never been caving before I was excited to see what this entailed. Once we got inside the cave the temp dropped to a refreshing 48F. Khrys was the leader, and he took us all over the place. We spent about three hours crawling through ice cold water, and mud. This was no place for the claustrophobic, or fatties. Our guides showed us sparlkly golden bacteria, rock formations that looked like popcorn or bacon. They took us down to a subterranean pool with perfectly clear water. We were shown little, tiny spiders and centipedes (or were they millipedes?)  At one point the seven us were in a  tight little slot that only had enough room for us to lay on our belly's. We all turned off our headlamps and experienced the complete and utter darkness, it was pretty cool.

We gotta go through this?

Sure, no problem

We emerged from the cave with big smiles on our faces and sense of accomplishment. That was something I've never done before that turned out to be super fun. Gotta give Frank credit on this one, good call. We headed back to camp tired. Frank and Heidi had feasted on steak again, I had left over Fourth of July hotdogs.

The last morning of our trip Heidi woke up early and hiked out to Tokopah Falls. Frank and I packed up the van. On our way out the park we made one last stop. When I had been up at the Lodgepole Cultural Center (or something to that effect) a few days earlier I saw display about the local indian tribes. The display said that Monanche Indians had left some pictographs at a spot called Hospital Rock. The ranger at the center said it was easy to find. When I got home and did a little research Wikipedia and Flikr both suggested that the pictographs belonged to the Potwisha, a band of the Monanche. Those aren't the best sources, but that's all the research I'm gonna do.

So a big thank you to Frank for organizing everything. This trip took some foresight and pro-activeness to plan, two qualities I'm severely lacking. Thanks to Heidi for joining us too, it was a lot of fun.