18 September 2012

Rattlesnake Canyon

Skofield Park, Santa Barbara front country


Locate the trail head.

The Rattlesnake Canyon Trail starts at Skofield Park and reaches into the National Forest behind before popping up on Gibraltar Road. A connector runs from it over to Tunnel Trail, so routes to the top exist by either the road or the trail. I decide to head up it thinking I might go to the road, which has a good view of the city but the air has been hazy for weeks. I might go up to Mission Fall but it is as dry as always since it takes more even water to flow than cleaning up the haze requires. I might just poke at things. I find a place to park on the east side of the one lane bridge at Skofield and drop into the dry drainage along some use trail to cross over to the big sign where the trail presumably starts.

in support of wilderness
I found some graffiti under the bridge at Skofield Park.

I turn up the trail and soon cross over flowing creek and climb along a couple switchbacks with multiple deep shortcuts to a good trail at the top coming from the east side of the creek. The trail stays high on that bank for a bit, passing an old driveway with a small trail and stout wire marked "no trespassing" to hint that it isn't for the general public to follow. A little further, there is a second route to the right that is well traveled and likely goes to a ridge that is popular for the view. I skip both these and keep going up.

rocks set in an eroded bit of sandstone as teeth in a mouth
For some reason, I want to shout out, "Cookies!"


The trail crosses over the creek and climbs up again so that the creek is just out of view. It is high enough that the creek is out of view, but never particularly far above the water. It crosses back for a moment as the creek crosses through one of the harder bands of sandstone. A small trail leads out of the rocks again, but on the other side of the creek. Another climbs a slope to some shiny bolts set into an overhanging rock. A rope and some other equipment has been left hanging on the rock. They also built up some wood pieces to help keep the dirt below the wall in. I wonder why there are bolts set below knee level while sketching in the cool.

well used trail
Rattlesnake Canyon Trail as it winds up through the Santa Barbara foothills.

looking out to the ocean
Once in a while, there is a view out of the canyon, past St. Mary's Seminary, and out to the hazy ocean where the islands are almost visible.

pool full of high ripples from its inflow
A high inflow makes prominent ripples over a pool in the creek.

climbing wall from an overhanging bit of sandstone
Climbing gear left up in some permanent bolts on an overhanging bit of sandstone.

Continuing on, the trail crosses back over to the west side of the creek fairly quickly. Up the hillside again, the trail passes a few switchbacks that look like they've been reclaimed. Soon it comes out to a meadow that is just before the junction. The south end of the meadow shows signs of fire, but the junction looks unsinged. Somehow the old wooden sign is missing, but it was loose on the ground and could have been taken home by someone.

orange moth on a purple flower
A moth sipping nectar.

meadow below the junction
A nice spot any time of the year. It turns orange in the spring but now is just brown.

the tributary the trail goes along
A look up the canyon along which the connector trail travels to Tunnel Trail.

I decided to skip the route to the road to the right. I turn up the connector to Tunnel, leaving all trees and entering a burned area. There had been at least one big tree that is now charred lumber. Generally it was only bushes, but they can get to 20 feet or so. They aren't even as tall as I am now. Today wasn't supposed to get over 70F, but it feels quite a bit more as I walk this section. A sea breeze helps occasionally, but as the canyon heads west, the breeze is less frequent. Some parts are steep, some are loose, but the trail is good the whole way.

burned bushes
The remains of tall bushes that once might have provided some shade to travelers.

holy cherries
The holly-leaved cherries are out and ripening right now.

a look down the canyon
Looking back down the connector trail, Gibraltar Road along the ridge and communications sites on the middle peaks.

I rest in the shade at the saddle just before Tunnel Trail. Finally some good shade that gives a nice, cool spot. After cooling off for a bit, I turn up Tunnel to go up to Mission Fall. The rocks of the dry fall will be fun to poke around a little and that's where the next tree is.

ocean and Goleta
The view of the ocean once in the Mission Canyon drainage.

Mission Fall
The cleft of rock that is, shortly after big rains, Mission Fall.

I walk out onto the rocks at the top of the fall. The last pools are gone except a slight bit of moisture in a narrow and deep hole. There are deep, horizontal holes in the sandstone at the top. After a little tour, I head up to the tree and relax on a rock that makes a good chair in its shade.

top of the fall
Up on the top of the falls.

a bunch of holes in the rocks
Horizontal holes in the rocks at the top of Mission Fall.

inside one of the horizontal holes
A look up inside one of the horizontal holes in the rocks at the top of the fall.

I head back down again once it has started to cool again. This is also when the sun started to peek out below the branches of the tree to get to my spot on the rock. Down in slightly less heat is much easier than up in the full blast of sun. Perhaps it is the angle of the sun, but the air seems much clearer now, too. There is some fog low on the islands, but otherwise details can be made out.

old power pole, maybe
The remains of these poles are all along Tunnel, including one stump of a square pole in the sandstone next to the fall. This most complete one is near the junction.

Coming up, I thought I could see trail along the ridge on the other side of the canyon. I also found a couple trails, but they may be no more than animal trails. A cut branch may signal no more than some human wanting to go down it once. I look at it coming down, but it really looks like an animal trail that someone has done some cutting on, at least at the very start. A few feet later, another trail branches off looking even more like an animal trail. As I examine the ridge for trail, I realize that where I think there might be one along it changes from different angles, so likely there isn't much of anything along there.

some kind of trail at the saddle
A bit of trail that is likely an animal trail found on the east side of the saddle next to the junction.

lizard on a rock
As always, there are plenty of lizards. I eve saw one that wasn't yet 2 inches long but had already lost a bit of its tail.

Santa Barbara Harbor
The Santa Barbara Harbor and beyond it, Santa Cruz Island with a fog bank.

Along the main trail below the junction for Gibraltar or Tunnel, I find a trail heading up that looks like it sees plenty of use, although much less than the main one, so is unlikely to be just an animal trail. I don't go up it, since with resting here and there and another sketch of the coastline on the way down, it is starting to get late. Instead, I hurry down, getting there with plenty of time if not plenty of water. The day was a little hot for going out with just 2.5 liters. Cooler days should be coming.

Rattlesnake Canyon
Rattlesnake Canyon creek at one crossing in the shadows of the late afternoon.




©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 20 Sept 2012

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