20 July 2012

Romero Canyon Trail

Santa Barbara Front Country

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

I've been thinking for a while that I'd have a look at Romero Canyon, which once had a public road to Camino Cielo. Besides the road, there is also the trail that heads all the way over the top and into Blue Canyon on the other side. I decided on a route heading up the trail, along Romero Camuesa back to Romero Saddle where the pavement ends, and then back down along the road. I didn't pay much attention to the distance because, well, it's front country and they're all about that long. Actually, the mountains are a little shorter at this point than further west.

I got a late start out, partly because I stayed up way too late the night before and partly because I've been noticing that the islands have been crisping up in the afternoon so I expected better vistas later in the day. Of course, weather is changeable so it might not work out, but the best bet is usually that today will be exactly like yesterday. I crossed over the dry ford and found a spot to park with the noon hour coming up next. A locked gate marks the start of either route as the actual trailhead is a little way up the road. A sign pointed the way, if there was any confusion, but pointed toward the creek instead of the road creating a little instead.

locked gate and no parking signs at the road
Romero Canyon Trail is ahead, except with the orientation of the sign it should mark the trail as being to the right.

A trickle of spring fed water wet the road as it crossed. It was more water than I expected to see, but my expectations had not accounted for the prevalence of springs in the area. Shortly after, I could hear water down in the stream flowing into or through a small building. After another short distance, there was a single lane bridge below which a bit more water could be heard and seen. The road joined the Edison Catway and I took the far more traveled direction to the right but no signs indicated the way. Around the corner, and I found the trailhead.

flood control of cemented rocks
A flood control measure of cemented local rocks below some exposed bits of local rock on the hillside.

start of the trail up the fire road
A simple sign and one of the new city signs to mark the start of the 6.4 mile Romero Trail.

pink granite over a few layers of trees
Looking up the hillside over the tops of the bushes and trees.

The trail sticks very close to the water as it goes through nicely wooded areas. Tight little dry slots empty out into it and make me feel like this would be a death trap in a cloud burst, but that is true of every canyon. As I go, the water is often hidden even as I hear it playing over the rocks. Eventually the water leaves to a rightward fork while the trail follows the left fork. A tiny trail continues up along the side of the water although it doesn't look often traveled by people.

trees arching over the trail
A section of the trail as it travels the treed areas deep in the canyon.

A few of the sparse flowers along the way.

Another flower displaying in the height of summer.

creek obscured by bay trees
The creek playing over some rocks while slightly obscured by bay trees by what is almost a camping spot.

more stream and pools
A little piece of the little creek as the trail crosses and continues along on the right.

The trail climbs up and out of the canyon a little bit and rejoins the road, which is now quite obviously only traveled by people or beast power. A single track winds through tall grasses along it in either direction. At the far side, a ledge of dirt passes exposed roots as it climbs steeply to a proper trailbed. An old sign tucked into those roots shows the rough mileages to points ahead.

a bit of the trail following the old road
Looking down the road at the junction, a hard packed path is well defined while the rest of the road is growing.

dark lizard
Lizards today came in almost black and almost white.

After a few more trees, the trail breaks out into the sunlight and the heavy fragrance of sage. There are moments when I can see out toward the islands and oil rigs. It ducks through a few more trees, then back into the sages for good. I heard the sound of the noon train pulling in late and a hawk cried, drowning it out briefly. Along the way, there is a gully that must be being moistened from below, but it is the only hint of something cooling. I stopped at one view to sketch the shape of the mountains with the roads and trail wrapping around them on some far too hot rocks in the far too direct sun. I put my bandana under me and it helped a little with the heat of the sun baked rocks. I had a bit of lunch as I was starting to get hungry.

a moist gully
A little bit of enthusiastic green hints that there may be a water source below.

something more of a succulent
Up above the green, plants tolerant of much drier climes reside.

view out over the canyon
The canyon with the road running along the side of it while below the city sits and Anacapa is almost visible.

sunbaked trail falling down
Some walls trying to hold the sun baked trail in on the decaying shale.

Climbing higher, there seemed to be more buckwheat than sage. It was getting quite hot and I was getting uncomfortable with the complete lack of shade. I could dive under a few small bushes if I really felt the need, and I almost did. Nearing the top of the ridge, I finally started to feel a light breeze. In the distance on the saddle, I could see the water tank. Eventually I reached what was likely to be Ocean View and turned to the left.

view out over the canyon
The fog is spilling over Santa Cruz the same way it spills over the less submerged mountain ranges. On the road, the one major rockfall can just be picked out.

Romero Saddle
Camino Cielo making its paved way along the ridge and Romero Camuesa traveling down off the side, graded but rough. Romero heads back to the left and use trails make their way to the top of each bump.

trail winding through buckwheat
Getting to the top of the ridge, the area is covered in buckwheat. The dried flowers make a multicolored carpet that tends to the pink, brown, and white.

I noticed a bit of trail going off to the right, but not in the way that the rest of Romero should go. A slapstick to the left indicated where a trail was. I did not catch Romero again as I climbed the ridgeline that Ocean View follows. I eventually checked the map, but was not all that enthusiastic about finding it since it would mean hiking up to the saddle along the road I've driven a few times instead of along the pleasant ridge trail. With a few ups and downs, I got to one last down before the saddle. It was steep and seemed to have long lost a few switchbacks. This loss was probably helped out by someone putting up fencing to keep out the motor bikes that didn't bother with where the trail went but left an opening where the bikes had gone. A little bit further and I found the water tank. I stopped under its roof as this offered the first good shade in over a mile and the exposed road didn't seem to offer any soon.

a grasshopper on a stick
The grasshoppers are always out. A few of them had lovely blue wings when they jumped.

glimpse into the mountains
Reaching the top, I can see the sea of mountains on the far side. The rest of Romero Trail should be down in this shallow valley.

Romero Trail descending Blue Canyon
Looking down into Blue Canyon and seeing the rocks that presumably give it its name and the rest of Romero Trail heading down to the high tension lines on the way to the bottom.

dried white flowers
These flowers always look either far gone or in a slightly opened tight bud.

the pavement ends and the dirt begins
The end of Camino Cielo is the end of the pavement. The continuation as Ocean View extends upward behind many generations of "No motor vehicle" signs. There might be an old trail tread to the right, but it is now blocked by metal ropes so the only choice is straight up.

view from beneath the water tank
Hiding from the sun under the only "shade tree" around, the water tank.

Once I was feeling cooler again, I continued down the road.

©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 22 Jul 2012

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