02 June 2012

Gaviota Wind Caves

Gaviota State Park

Locate the trailhead.

The Sea to Backcountry trail was the 20 year (or so, according to faint memory) dream of, well, someone, and one Saturday for Trails Day nearly another 20 years ago, a mismatched group of volunteers and professionals gathered together to help make it a reality. The trail had been flagged, but it needed some tread and brush work as well as a touch of dynamite. As part of the unskilled volunteer force, I think I cut a bit of brush. Others scraped a line through the bright yellow mustard. I still haven't been to see what the final trail was like and would like to. This didn't turn out to be the day to see the trail, but, getting up to the wind caves, I did get to see what has become of our volunteer hours.

Coming from the south on highway 101, I hung a left into the south end of the state park. The road splits and parking for the trail is very soon up the hill to the right while information can be found at the kiosk to the left. From the dirt lot, we started down the paved road headed north. Eventually a trail leads off the road through the tall brush. It climbs the hill of mustard, today standing tall and dry, to get to some shallow caves before heading further inland.

flat rocks and brown hills of the surrounding countryside
Starting out down a paved road aimed at a bit of rugged country with soft edges.

a bit of trail up through the grassy hillside
The trail leaves the road and heads up into the grass and mustard covered hills.

first look at a few of the caves
A first look at a few of the caves up on the ridge.

purple thistle
Not everything was brown already. There were a few of these thistles that don't look quite the same as the common ones.

pock marked ridgeline
There's a lot of smaller attempts at caves in the ridges. The freeway and tunnel are, perhaps, a little close.

I'd remembered putting in a small switchback for the steep hill and the satelite images would seem to confirm that, but it is now just a slightly steep climb and the switchback is lost. Coming to a spot with a large bit of bare ground at a lookout point, it would have been easy to miss to correct trail. The guy in the kiosk mentioned that it actually goes up a rocky spot while other routes will bring you right back down again. Heading up the natural concrete, I suspected I had seen it before. Once before minor blasting and once after. The trail climbs along this tough ridge to pass a small cave and then come near the some larger caves which the park claims are inaccessible, but others might have other ideas.

a delicate little daisy sort
Some nice touches of purple on this flower.

the mouth of a small cave hidden by a stocky oak tree
Coming up to the first cave along the side of the trail, hidden by a bit of oak.

interior of the cave
The caves are shallow but intricate. This one seems to have been marked up a bit by the local natives who feel the need to declair their love and toss bright colored chalk around.

the view from the cave
Looking out the cave to the nearby peaks, which were playing peek-a-boo with us in the June gloom.

more holes in the hillside
Further up, there are more caves hiding themselves behind various sized bushes.

a natural arch of sandstone
A nice arch up on the ridge.

We headed back down after seeing the caves. It's a nice little stretch of a walk.

©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 10 Jun 2012

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