12 April 2012

San Ysidro Trail

Santa Barbara front country


Locate the trailhead.

There are a number of route to reach high Camino Cielo from the city below. They tend to be 4 to 4.5 miles and climb somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000 feet and have insufficient parking along a neighborhood street where the people are sometimes a little wary of all the public. The climb gives ever increasing views of the front country mountains and ocean and islands. The top gives a whole new kind of view in the form of a rolling sea of mountains. I've gone up San Ysidro to the falls, but never taken in its upper reaches. With 1.5 inches of rain falling the night before last, I thought it was probably a good time to visit that waterfall again and see if it could gush, then check out the further heights along the trail. Even with the storms rolling in one after the other, the previous day had held lots of sun, so I had lots of hope for maybe having a good look around at the top, if I was early enough. Rain seemed likely a bit after 5:30 in the evening, but that should be plenty of time.

I got up and realized the camera battery was quite dead, so had to wait far too long for it to charge. It was still sunny and bright in places as I left, though, so hope was still there if ever so slightly worried. Some folks were preparing for some climbing as I got there. The sign at the bottom says it is 4 miles to the top, which seems reasonable. After less than a quarter mile while winding through the private road of Park Lane lined with no parking signs, a second sign claims it is 3 miles to the top, which seems a bit short. Keeping to the dirt path beside the paved road, I pass two gates and am delivered onto a dirt road adorned with a couple of brightly bagged bits of dog poop. Ugh.

Meanwhile, the sun is coming out a little more and brightening up the place. The road was muddy from the recent rain and here and there there were deep footprints. I kept to the hard packed routes where footprints where harder to see.

mossy dirt patches draining of extra water
Clumps of dirt on the rock with moss along the bottom ooze a bit of water down the rock face.

possible climbing rocks
Perhaps these rocks were the destination for the rock climbers.


The road turns off first to the right to continue east and then to the left. A sign simply stating "trail" and pointing ahead marks the route up. The route is no longer the wide dirt road, but is still wide for a trail. It is well used and has numerous side trails down to pools along the stream.

small bird foraging along the trail back of the small bird
A couple of finch, though unlikely to be a pair, were out foraging on the trail.

a small waterfall along the stream, and a large pool
There are little waterfalls along the way, too.

The trail leaves the stream and starts to climb. Just to confuse things, a use trail with improvements for a pool continues on and leads to a use trail of people trying to push their way further having missed the trail. Initially there is a section of cement, for whatever reason. The rocks above here drip under normal circumstances and it provides a cool spot on hot days. Today doesn't need it, but it has a good dribble going.

trail climbing from next to the stream
Stone sided trail leading up to dip under the yellow overhang of rocks that are black where the water flows slowly and often.

a purple common wood mint, probably
Some common wood mint along the side of the trail.

one more little fall
Seen from a switchback, this little fall is often called little San Ysidro and is sometimes treated as the destination even though it's not much larger than some previous little falls.

With one last set of climbing switchbacks, the trail drops into the stream and crosses it to head up a tributary. Passing a couple Eagle Scout projects, I was looking at the dribbly waterfall again. It isn't much, but this time I can see water coming over the top without having to examine it all quite closely.

San Ysidro Falls
A couple little flows of water visible coming down San Ysidro.

Turning to leave the waterfall, I passed a couple guys coming up the trail and gabbing away. I turned up the trail as they went to glance at the waterfall. It starts to really climb up onto the side of the canyon. I heard voices behind me. The chattering guys were going a bit faster than I was, so I let them pass. Eventually I heard voices again as I came up to them stopped for a snack. As soon as their voices quieted from distance, the chatter started up again, and I let them pass again. From time to time, I heard them above, never stopping in their talk. Meanwhile, the clouds were closing in more and more.

little cap mushrooms with gills
Some more mushrooms found on the trail.

erosion exposing more rock layers
Some layers higher in the mountain getting exposed. There's a funny bit of heavy erosion on the left, too.

view down the canyon and into the city
The mountains are heavy with cloud, but the city seems to still have sunlight.

Higher up, there were more flowers. It was extremely clear there would be no view at the top. A meek hope said maybe the clouds were only along this side of the mountain, but it wasn't very convinced. The clouds were beginning to shroud the hills and make it impossible to look ahead at the trail's route for very far. The bushes are thick and could potentially offer shade on a hot day, but are cut too far back for that potential to be realized. Still, it's a pleasant trail for this cool day.

yellow flowers in various stages of life
Flowers getting ready to pop out and already popped.

a bit of trail on the bushy hillside
It may look like fall colors, but it is spring colors. The trail cuts through the hillside ahead and the clouds bear down on it all.

orange flowers
Bush monkey flowers that are a little past their prime, or at least not doing well with being hit by raindrops.

I passed a woman with a large dog that wanted to make friends with me. The chatting guys came back down and hadn't run out of things to say. The wind was picking up, which I took to mean the top was nearby. It was enough to be cold if I stopped, but wasn't going as fast as I expect for up on a ridge, especially with a storm moving in.

bush of tiny blue flowers
The ceanothus were carpeting the trail with blue here and there.

sign at the top
Near to the road, there is this old cut sign and a little further along is a new big green sign with lots of information. It's so thick, I nearly can't see the ground I'm standing on at the top.

At the top, the wind was blowing harder and I was cold even with moving. I had gotten hungry, so wanted to sit and get some energy into me. I grabbed the rain jacket and put it on as it started to rain. If it was going to be raining on me while I sat, I thought it might be a good idea to grab the pants while I was digging around the pack. I got them on as it turned into a proper rain. The rain didn't bother me much, but it was cold up there. I tried to make out the distant features as I ate on the far side of Camino Cielo, but couldn't even make out the close ones. So much for that sea of mountains.

Finishing with what I wanted to eat from my collection of snacks, I packed up my stuff and headed back down, not bothering to take off my rain gear. Up until now, I've suffered in coated nylon gear. This is my first breathable gear and I was going to try it out. Also, expecting it to warm up as I drop down, but still very cold. As I packed, I checked the effects of the rain on the stuff in the pocket and found the sil-nylon with the visible holes wasn't doing all that well. I shrugged and took off back down the trail.

yellow bush flower
Lots of big yellow flowers on the bushes.

I decided to draw a little as the rain had let up while I'd found a place I could sit and see the rocks that poke out of the hillside below the waterfall and the city below, which still seemed bathed in light, if a little filtered. I found that a little water had gotten through the sil-nylon dry bag I use to keep the art supplies all in one place and protect the sketch books. Water was on the cover that was against the bag. I'd left it out in the rain at the top even though I was a little suspicious the years of rubbing around on the inside of the pack and being strapped to the outside of a hydration pack and being sat down in all manner of sand and dirt had taken their toll on it as well. No harm had come to the book, and I started to make it one page closer to done. The rain started again as I put down the first line. The rain worsened as I hurried and tried to crouch over it to keep off the little drops, which didn't work well since the wind was not at my back. I snapped it shut as I did the last line for the rocks resolving to add the finishing touches of color (which has to dry open) and a date later. The good thing is that it was getting warmer as I came down and I was no longer wishing for some good gloves for my poor hands.

morning glories in the rain
Morning glories, or bind weed if that is your disposition, keeping open in the rain.

small bit of water coming into the main stream
The little bit of water in the tributary with the waterfall joins the main rush of water in San Ysidro Creek.

big, white mushroom and a couple earthworms
A nice big mushroom growing in the leaf litter. I dug under it to see the bottom and seem to have disturbed a couple earthworms.

The breathable rain gear was pretty nice. The rain didn't stop again coming down the trail, but did have times of light drizzle. The waterfall wasn't any more spectacular as I passed on the way down, but it didn't seem to be that much rain yet. I was finally warm again as I got to the road portion at the bottom. The trail parking was even more abandoned as I left than it had been as I got there.




©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 13 April 2012

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