Santa Barbara front country
Locate the trail head.
Buena Vista is a three pronged trail extending east and west to the Edison Catway on either side and south to a bit of road between Romero Canyon and San Ysidro Creek. I spotted it while checking satellite around a benchmark. I don't hear people talk about it and only the catway connecting segments are on the 1995 Carpinteria topo, but it seems well covered in a couple of area trail guides. It is particularly well described by Ray Ford, who notes, "Not too far beyond the end of the trail and the beginning of the catway a small trail leads to a knoll which is marked on the Carpinteria topo with a small triangle and the elevation-1543'." That triangle is the benchmark. He also suggests a loop with Old Pueblo Trail, which I thought was excellent since I have so far ignored it as I went other places. The three trail heads to the west (San Ysidro, Hot Springs, and Cold Spring) are all fairly crowded, even on a weekday, but at this one, I find only a couple workers for one of the nearby homes and a single hiker in the numerous spaces, so parking is very easy. The trail starts from a small sign on the east side of the stream. A bit of old road that goes up to a reservoir, I suspect, and might look like trail head, but the uninviting signs will keep anyone from being confused.
|A small Montecito Trails Foundation sign marks the start of the trail at the side of Park Lane.|
I find myself walking along a well used and manicured trail. Everything within four feet of the path is been trimmed to the ground as it snakes up the steep, but short, slopes in tiny turns, or down the other side losing half the recently gained elevation. A large dog, followed by the one hiker, gives me a few barks, then a sniff and decides I'm not a threat after all. Just a few hundred yards after starting, I am informed that the trail easement has come to an end. There was no mention of any difficulty with permission, so I take the word of the dirt which shows no narrowing of the trail, and continue.
|The well cleared trail follows small switchbacks as it climbs.|
|Um, what? The trail clearly does not end and would probably vanish if it was only as long as to here.|
As I climb, there's a single spot that could be considered a mediocre view, making the trail seem misnamed. Mostly, it is down in the canyon and shady. Today is quite hot and I am glad for the shade. There are a few springs around, and some of the canyon has water pooling in it. Sycamores grow even where water cannot be seen. Occasionally, I cross over old pipes. There are a few spots of nicely carved sandstone.
|Water has always been precious here, and while not quite as valued, was a better investment than gold for the providers.|
|Some of nature's intricate carvings in the sandstone. A use trail I didn't investigate leaves near here.|
|Not much flow to it, but there is a little water here.|
I come to a sign that is fairly legible telling me San Ysidro is to the left and Romero Cyn to the right. Turning right, I start to climb out of the canyon on short switchbacks to the catway above. There is still frequent shade as I climb. Across the canyon, I can see the other branch of the trail making a similar climb. As I near the end of the catway, I can hear a radio playing that turns out to be a guy in a grader having lunch. There is another sign at the top of the trail that is a bit harder to read than the last, but seems to indicate that permission to pass is revocable.
|Looking out over the upper canyon, there are a few likely spring spots.|
Climbing the freshly graded and incredibly flat road is particularly easy. Near the top of the hill, I find a Red Flag Patrol truck with a big tank of water in the back idling. The truck is just far enough back so it does not hide a small trail heading the last few feet up. I pass it at first, thinking it is too soon, but then check and go back because this is the trail I want. The chaparral curves overhead, but the tunnel through it is very tall. At the top, the view is obscured by the bushes, but there is still plenty to look at. The hilltop is occupied by a memorial and a bench. There are a few pieces of an older, more elaborate bench on the ground. Above me, the old cut of Romero Canyon Road snakes around the edge of the hill. A cursory look over the area shows no benchmarks or even suitable rocks.
|The next section of catway rises up, out of San Ysidro in the distance.|
|Looking down the coast over the salt marsh and Carpinteria and down past Ventura into the haze.|
|The new bench is not as unique as the old one as it looks out to the hazy islands.|
|Santa Barbara downtown and the harbor in the bay.|
After a while enjoying the view, I start really looking for the benchmark. The station and a single reference marker were set in 1927, but the station (likely) found itself on the wrong end of a bulldozer in 1974. The reference was placed 20 feet north and the bench is on a bit of rock that might be a bulldozed boulder, so I look under the brush on that side of the clearing for rocks. There are two and one almost seems to have a rounded, sort of green middle. Climbing in under the coyote bush with a bit of manzanita pushing through it from the other side for good measure, I find the reference faithfully pointing at the bench.
|The reference mark is good, literally. I'm not obsessed. It's just a bit of fun and this one hasn't been reported on for nearly 40 years.|
I brush a little at the rock below the bench wondering if the stem from the marker can be found, then remember I'm not that desperate to find it. I head back down instead. The truck has left by now, watching for sparks following the grader who has scraped away my footprints on his return trip. I start down the steep road and quickly form a new opinion of freshly graded roads that have been loosened and give uncertain footing to those descending. Even what appears solid can give way a little as I walk.
Coming again to the junction in the canyon, I continue across the stream and up the other side. A maze of vines cover the lowest reaches of the small canyon. This side of the trail doesn't offer much view either. It also doesn't offer much shade. It has gotten hotter and toward the top, I'm feeling overheated after every few steps. Happily, this side is also lower and I am done climbing when I get to the catway. The sign on this side is completely illegible. There is a bench here, too.
|On the other side of the canyon, the trail can be seen climbing to the catway and then the catway climbing to the ridge.|
|It does take a little more climbing to get to the bench and its view of Santa Barbara.|
The road here is freshly disturbed by a grader, too. Only three pairs of footprints mar its surface, and two of those match except for direction. The view from the road is not quite as expansive as from the hill by the benchmark. There are more footprints in the dirt as I pass a spur to one of the towers. By the time I hit San Ysidro Trail, there are so many footprints that the grader tire tracks are almost completely obscured.
|One last view of the city from high up shows McMenemy Trail climbing the hillside.|
On down the road, the giant prickly pear is looking very dry yet full of fruit. A couple of rock climbers are starting up a cliff face on the other side of the creek. A runner passes as I get near Old Pueblo Trail.
|The edible, but very defensive, prickly pear feeling fruity.|
I turn down Old Pueblo Trail and find myself between two fences marked private property. There is a sign numbered "1" at the side, but no more indication of an interpretive trail after that. I can hear an aviary below the trail and sometimes see out to the further houses. The route varies quite a bit as it passes native vegetation with the suggestion of old structures in the rocks below, apparently abandoned lots, manicured gardens with varying levels of fencing, and long rows of olive trees.
|Chain link along both sides as the trail starts off through a garden which has been given much more care away from the fence.|
|What is considered ordinary housing in Montecito.|
|A brief section that feels nearly wild and very thorny.|
After paralleling a road for a bit, the trail crosses under the watchful eye of a camera and passes a plaque before a fairly wild section along a gas pipe. The Wiman Trail heads off sharply to the right and then the trail parallels another road. At the bottom of this road, there is a sign for Old Pueblo back the way I've come. I turn left and find I'm very nearly back to the car.
|One last view of islands over the tops of the Montecito houses.|
©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 29 August 2013