29 February 2012

Blue Canyon

Santa Barbara back country

Locate the trailhead.

The web page that indicates the current state of the first gate on Camuesa/Romero changed from "will probably be reopened on the 17th" to "was closed on the 27th" in anticipation of a coming storm that passed without much result. I decided that this meant I could make a loop of the Blue Canyon and Romero Canyon trails without having to worry about traffic on most of the road between the two trailheads. Not being sure where Romero meets the road, I thought it best to park near the gate and proceed to Blue Canyon coming up Romero Canyon. I spotted the sign on the way in, so could have reversed it but decided against that. I found a place to park near the gate and walked down to it, discovering that the mysterious road headed down to the left of the gate is actually a parking lot.

an overview of the hike to come
High on the side of the canyon as the road begins to drop down into it, there is a good overview of the hike to come.

Continuing past the gate, I found that there actually was a little traffic on the road. The ranger stopped and asked if I was going far. They like to know where to look if you go missing. The road eventually crossed over a nice flow of water, but still had a way to go before the canyon. The trail cut could be seen on the far canyon wall still far away. Crossing over a bridge and a dribble of water, the trailhead is visible on the left, simply marked "trail". Just down the trail, an informational sign contained details of the endangered species that live along the stream.

downstream from the road
The first bit of water as the road crosses Escondido Canyon.

trail cut along the side of the canyon
The Blue Canyon trail making its way down the canyon.

Blue Canyon's water, not so much
A dribble of water flowing through Blue Canyon under the bridge.

Heading down the trail, the tread is good. A few flowers are blooming. A crevice here and there has huge, exposed rocks resulting from the erosion of the rains that fill the crevice for brief periods, some with fascinating patterns. The trail stays somewhat high above the stream for quite a while, then flats become visible and it finally crosses over to the south side. The south has more vegetation and the trail becomes soft underfoot. Then suddenly a large cut from the south breaks through. The trail drops sharply and it is clear that the far side was recently built. I managed to slip on my way down. Just a few steps from the top is the first campground.

quite common purple things
Prickly phlox. Some bright flowers that were common along the side of the road.

hard bits of rock sticking out of the hillside
Bright rocks in the canyon walls above, some exposed because they are hard and resisted erosion and some exposed because the water thunders over them when it is raining.

grassy trail heading downhill
A stretch of trail, growing a little grass but still well established with moderate use.

a bit of the canyon
There were blue rocks in the canyon, as well as greens, purples, reds, and blinding white. The deeper greens were sometimes blue as well, depending on the light.

the current site of Upper Blue Canyon camp
Upper Blue Canyon camp sits directly on the trail. A fire ring and a shovel to help make sure the fire is out when the campers go to bed is provided. Someone has built an interesting chair, as well.

After the campground, the trail drops so quickly into the stream that high steps more like a ladder have been carved into the mud. After crossing, the trail climbs quickly while off to the downstream side a huge slide can be seen. After the steep climb finishes, the trail crosses at the top of this slide at a dreadful slant. I was particularly uncomfortable to be crossing that section, especially after having slipped already. The trail improves after that. There are a few more cuts requiring rerouted trail, but all rerouting has been done already and for now that tread is good.

one massive oak
An oak with features to make it seem smaller than it is. The trail is a very comfortable width through here and the blaze may well be the biggest I have ever seen, as wide as my splayed hand.

California peony
California peony. Some tight little flowers staring resolutely at the ground.

a pool under a rock
A pool as the stream undercuts a large boulder and leaves odd patterns on it. There were odd patterns on the rocks in the pool, too.

making a living in the cracks of the world
Many of the colors of the rocks displayed all in one place.

trail junction
The sign at the junction with Romero Canyon trail hangs on a bit of wire but serves its purpose.

Coming to the intersection with Romero Canyon trail, I wanted to look a little for the second trail on the map leading to Cottam where Forbush meets Blue. The map indicates it is a little way up from the intersection so I started up Romero. It was steep as promised, especially along that very first part. The junction shouldn't be far along, but my uncertainty that it really exists got the better of me with that tough hill and I quickly returned. I then looked a little beyond the small triangle of meadow behind the sign. Some level of trail was there and lead up past a nice little campsite and numerous small trees that had never been clipped. It continued past the site on up beside the tributary and may have been the trail I was looking for. From the satellite photos, it looks like this would be the right place and that the upper sections under the high tension lines still exists. However, since I had already given up on the trail, I ended up going along the well maintained trail instead. The camp is located just around the corner from the junction, a very short half mile.

entrance to Blue Canyon camp
Blue Canyon camp is located a little way off the trail and has a little more space than the upper camp. It has a shovel and a sign.

3 ice cans and a table
The three ice can stoves in a row with a table in the middle.

the metal seat and tube from an outhouse
It seems that once there was a biffy here and someone has found the seat, now placed on a few rocks a bit too close to the stream.

A few crossings of tributaries later, and the trail makes one last climb to the top of a notch and drops down onto the meadow south of Cottam camp. I ate and drew the ice can stove in particularly poor shape that could still be found here. The camp has plenty of room, but still one picnic table. Scraps of metal can be found at various spots around the place. After my time relaxing, I returned to the intersection with Romero and again started to climb that steep trail.

Cottam camp with table and trees
Cottam camp also comes with tools and a picnic table. Plenty of flat areas can be found to the east where there's another fire circle (although that one is not sanctioned).

spider on the shears
Not sure how long these will be useful sitting out on the sign. Maybe a spider home is use enough.

bit of old wood
A bit of metal on a not-quite-natural piece of well weathered wood shows where there was a fence once.

a bit of water between the trees
One of the tributaries along the way between Blue Canyon and Cottam camps.

climbing out of Blue Canyon
Heading up Romero Canyon trail quickly allows views out over Blue Canyon.

dried up puff balls
Some dried up puff balls that spew a thick cloud of spores if poked with a stick.

looking out from higher up
The trail climbs up to one of the towers, then meanders over a couple humps before climbing again.

trailhead for Romero Canyon trail
The trailhead for Romero Canyon trail, at least if you are heading down from Romero, the road, into Blue Canyon.

Getting back up to the road, I turned toward the car. I was a bit closer to the gate than the trail, but it was still a fairly short walk. Just one last little bit of downhill, but the rocky obstacles seem to be larger and the stones of the surface larger and the surface itself harder. I'd been noticing some clouds looking a little threatening as they came in from the west. They did end up raining a little, but only after I was well sheltered.

one last look over Blue Canyon
One last look over Blue Canyon as it is darkened by clouds that are increasingly thick.

©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 1 March 2012

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