19 November 2012

Rattlesnake Canyon

Santa Barbara Front Country

Locate the trail head.

Every year after the first big rain, I seem to go out to some local waterfall hoping that it is somewhat more impressive than it was a few weeks ago. Invariably, it isn't. The first rain barely wets the soil, even if it is long and soaking eventually dropping about 1.5 inches as fell on the front side of the mountains on Saturday. I decided to hike up to Mission Fall by the nicer, or at least cozier with easier parking and fewer mountain bikes, Rattlesnake Canyon. The mountains did not drink up every drop that fell on them, the creek is a bit louder than it was in recent months, but it doesn't really look like more flow and there isn't any flow in the little tributaries. The mountains did manage to take in a lot of it.

The day was fairly cloudy with a layer out on the water as well. It was a really good temperature for hiking, but the patchy sunlight sure makes photography difficult. There is construction in the area at the moment, so I kept getting warned that the road was closed ahead. I parked on a paved bit just before the bridge at Skofield Park next to some huge machinery and a pile of metal plates and started up the trail at the same time as two cars worth of twenties and their dog. They were only loaded down with a pint of liquid and I'm a bit of a slow hiker even without a bit more water, nibbles, warm stuff, emergency kit, and even art supplies, so they outpaced me pretty quickly. Well, until the first stream crossing when they settled down for a smoke, at which point I passed them and didn't see them again.

looking out over St. Mary's to Santa Cruz Island
The trail quickly climbs up to give views of the city and island out over St. Mary's.

With a little climb to a bit of view, the trail wiggles a little through trees and past a cairn marked route down, then drops down again to cross the creek. Passing the climbing wall, the rope strung from high on the rock was dangling down to the main trail along the steep use trail. Bright equipment still hangs from the stays in the rock. The trail crosses again, by a little pool and over a rock that shows a bit of flattening performed long ago. Climbing again, there is a little use trail down to the water to follow the creek up, but the main trail turns to leave it. The water can be heard below a few turns, but eventually it is lost. I got to the meadow just before the junction which I have just learned is Tin Can. I had read about a Tin Can Cabin and wondered if this was where it was, so found a nice little write up of Rattlesnake Canyon history in the LA Times archives, which mentions a few things I'd forgotten as well as describing the old cabin the meadow is named for.

Tin Can Meadow
Tin Can Meadow from above on the connector trail.

little flowers on dried up stalks
Some of the few flowers out. There were also some little red things that dangle and another hardy shrub with lighter flowers.

Taking the turn for the connector to Tunnel Trail, I got more and more view until the fog started rolling in. I noticed a big cruse ship anchored way out and a few little boats carrying people to the wharf so that they can do whatever it is one does to enjoy the city. Coming over the saddle, I found it a little less foggy on the Mission Canyon side of the ridge, but the weather was quickly fixing that.

Tunnel Trail
Clouds moving in over Tunnel Trail.

Mission Falls
The rocks of Mission Falls, as dry as they are nearly every other day of the year.

Getting to the falls, I took the spur out onto the rocks and pulled out some food and long sleeves. The depressions in the sandstone had puddles that rippled in the light wind, but otherwise the rocks were quite dry close up as well. The clouds gathered in a little more closely, but then burned off again. I headed back and bumped into a father and son pair who were looking for seven falls, but had expected signs, probably because most of the sites that talk about it make it sound official and there is a sign at the start. We talked directions and destinations and they decided that if they were half a mile from a fall, even if it was dry, they might as well go on to it. It was clearing up again as I hopped over the saddle and back into the Rattlesnake drainage.

heading back into Rattlesnake
The strip of Gibraltar Road is quite visible as I start back down Rattlesnake.

Santa Cruz
It is still misty out on the water, but that is lifting too.

I made speed going back down, except for pausing to poke around Tin Can to look for bits of the cabin (there isn't even a flat spot) and to pop up the side trails to the right here and there. Most of them go nowhere, but there is one that seems to climb toward the catway high above. It makes a good effort at switch backs up the steep ridge and even has tree cuts on a fallen bit of oak to try to make it look more official, but it is far too steep in some spots to be so. The three stone cairn on the trail to the south had been joined by another six stones high.

tiny mushrooms among the hardy stems
A little rain brings little mushrooms.

cruse ship and harbor
Massive cruise ship out in the Santa Barbara bay.

I didn't want to go all the way up that side trail that probably climbs to the catway, so I turned back and made my way down the steep mud. Coming back, it cleared even more. I had to give the rock monster a little pat. I think he's lost some teeth, but someone is keeping a bit of red flowers among them for effect.

a look up the canyon
Looking up the canyon as it becomes shadowed in the late sun.

©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 20 Nov 2012

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