21 March 2012

Seven Falls and Three Pools (the falls)

Santa Barbara front country

Locate the trailhead.

The past weekend's rains may or may not promise a bit of water flowing over the local waterfalls. There were a couple soaking rains at the beginning of the season, but the middle of the rainy season has seen nothing significant. I was in need of a hike, having not done anything for too many days, so I decided to go up to Seven Falls, a popular destination not too all that far up. While I was looking for a short hike, I decided to leave options open for more hiking after the falls by printing out a bit of map before going. Some folks hike all the way up to Tunnel Trail along the creek bed, some go up Cathedral Peak, just a short way away, and some head up Jesusita, and those are just the more obvious options.

I got near the end of Tunnel Road and parked in a large lot-like area rather than playing with parallel parking. There were some particularly bad parallel parkers up along the street begging for tickets in what is fabled to be a well ticketed area. I had to walk a little bit further, but the point is exercise, (and seeing new things). This time, the sign at the end of the road pointing to Seven Falls makes a little more sense.

permanent road closure
The end of the road, for the car driving public. Many choices for where to hike from here. Today, it's a chain of waterfalls.

the view out to the island today
There's a little fog out around the island today.

bridge over Mission Creek
The bridge over Mission Creek along Tunnel Road/Trail.

Crossing the bridge over Mission Creek, I come to the first point where a choice is to be made. From here, the road continues along the mountainside while a use trail makes its way up the creek. One route drops right down into the creek bed while another stays high and dry along the right side of the creek. I turned up the trail that pushed through the vegetation. Of course, quickly, there was poison oak to dodge. The vegetation was so thick that it is hard to see the creek below, it is only heard. Then a bit of trail dropped down. I continued high, but then my route got to a rock and dropped, although a little less steeply.

pools and falls along the way
Part of the short and narrow rock canyon along the upper portion of the section of creek between Tunnel and Jesusita trails.

By then, I was about halfway along to Jesusita. Trails continued a little up on the right side of the canyon, but there were more trails between creek and high trail. I ended up spending a little more time in the creek as I went upstream.

sweet peas in front of a waterfall
Multicolored sweet peas that happen to be in front of a waterfall.

Reaching Jesusita, there are more choices. I could turn back, but that would be a rather short hike. I could follow Jesusita up to Inspiration Point and anything beyond. I could climb up Cathedral Peak, although I wasn't sure then where that trail would be. I kept to the creek to continue up to Seven Falls. The trail crossed over at this point and stayed up along on the left side of the creek. People also choose to go right up the middle of the creek, too. Many use trails went higher, but I tended to stay level until higher was my only choice. Then I dropped into the creek and went a short way up, mostly on the right hand side, to get to the falls.

a series of little falls
A few little falls along some hard rocks.

a pair of lizards on a rock
The lizards were out in force.

little power pole
I found one of the power poles of which a few can be seen still standing, occasionally with wires, up Tunnel Trail.

newt swimming toward the camera
I noticed a newt (or probably a salamander) in a pool and as I watched it swim and glide, I found two more in the same pool often hiding behind rocks, but then moving again and visible.

another newt
More newt (or probably salamander) gliding along in the water.

sycamore flowers
The sunflowers and sweet peas and hemlock and... weren't the only things in bloom. There's also the sycamore.

little falls and pools coming over a few hard layers of rock
A small cascade of falls, maybe three or four feet high at the most, just before getting to Seven Falls.

Reaching the falls, I climbed up to the top of the first one where someone was already sitting. They told me about how one navigates through these waters, over this section here and around there and hugging a rock over there, but it's fine, just don't fall in, but it's too high right now to do it. They turned back and another group came up. One of their number was exploring ways to go up while another tried to see if he could do the same path the first group told me about. He didn't feel they could either. We had a brief bit of commotion when one noticed a snake swimming through the pool below. It was just a garter, but it was winding back and forth over the deep water like so many poisonous snakes in other areas do. Continuing with thoughts on getting to the pools above, I told them that there were major use trails heading up the right side back a little bit, but they felt those went off somewhere else. They took off up a slide on the right side that some people have clearly gone up. I dropped down to the bottom of the lowest, biggest fall, and watched a frog trying to climb the fall. The group came back down not too much later, disappointed and went on down. I followed shortly.

looks more like four or five falls
Lovely big Us where the water has managed to break through particularly hard layers of rock and wonderful bowls in the softer rocks between. This doesn't look like quite as many falls as advertised.

the first waterfall at the bottom
That first waterfall, coming into a nice, deep pool.

frog climbing the waterfall
Go little froggie, go! This frog climbed and rested and slid back and wandered over to the dry areas and back and got about 1/3 of the way up before going too far into the stream and falling back.

I went up one of the more distinct trails heading upward and eventually came to a branch where people clearly went across a lot and up a little. I took the main route and got to a huge trail headed up a ridge. I suspected it was the trail up Cathedral Peak, or "somewhere to the west" to the disinterested party that wasn't getting to their pools, and decided that was a perfectly good destination for now too. Not too far up, another flat trail lead off, this one a little bigger than the one I'd come along. I took it and it crossed over the barrier made of the hard rocks and dropped back down to the creek.

Seven Falls from above
The bit of the canyon that is Seven Falls, seen from above and illustrating why it's a difficult point to pass.

yellow flowering bush
A flowering bush along the path.

round pools seen from above
The Seven Falls. From this angle, they look more like a few round pools.

Continue on to Three Pools...

©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 22 March 2012

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