30 August 2013

Hot Springs Canyon

Santa Barbara front country


Locate the trail head.

I decided to go on a loop hitting the Hot Springs Club ruins and giving me an excuse to look for another benchmark that has no reporting since 1964, or maybe that's the other way around. The day is hot but the trail parking is full and I have to park on a side street. The trail passes between a fenced garden and the creek as it climbs shallowly toward another road. A trail sign points at a dirt path along the side of this trail that ends at an intersection. Continuing in the same direction, the route crosses a ford and then passes again between fence and creek, but now swapped. Past this, it drops onto the fire road and continues up. Generally shaded by non-native trees, it climbs some more to a junction. Trail signs point to a creek crossing to the right while a second trail along water pipes and a road continue past private property signs. I think the road goes to a house, but the trail may now be taken.

sign with mileages, garbage and recycling cans below, trail starting between two fences
The trail head on the side of East Mountain Drive. The fence on the left will quickly give way to the dry creek bed.

signs point to the trail beside the road
Hitting a bit of road, Montecito Trails Foundation signs help keep the traveler on the correct path.


The trail climbs steeply back out of the creek after the crossing. It passes another house on the right and an old foundation on the left as it becomes fire road again. After a little more climbing, an old gate marked with more private property signs stands wide open. That private owner is now the Land Trust of Santa Barbara County and foot travel on the road is now permitted. McMenemy Trail splits off to the right just before the gate. The benchmark I am chasing today, designated "spring", is reached by following an old power line trail to the top of the ridge, then making a way through the brush about 80 meters down. Since trails are more likely to be recycled than remade, this is probably the ancestor of McMenemy.

gate with trail around the edge but now wide open
Travel past this gate was discouraged for decades. Plenty happened anyway, hence the trail around the edge of the gate.

The climb up to the ridge is quick and steep. A few use trails lead down to the left to an old cut of some sort, but I keep to the well beaten path. At the oak at the top of the ridge, there's no clear way southwest along the ridge, so I foolishly stayed on the trail a little longer where it seems to be going my way. Where the trail turns east, I made my way back to the ridge along an outcropping of rock. The route requires a few hand holds and branches are in the way, ready to push one off the cliff. Of course, the view is great on the side of the cliff. The rocks come to a local peak and a bit of bear trail heads down the ridge line to either side.

a line of trail climbing out of Oak Creek and past a water tank
Looking across Oak Creek, McMenemy climbs the other side past a water tank.

a bit of marine layer hanging over the southern coast
Looking down the coast, there's only a very light fog today.

Pushing a few buttons, the GPS gives a heading and distance. The reported coordinates are 340 feet away, somewhat further than the estimate in the description. There are a couple of promising looking flats as I push through the hanging dead branches, but the GPS isn't happy yet. A bit of fence follows along on the left of the ridge for much of the way. I stop at a short cliff and check the GPS to find I've overshot by 20 feet. Looping around some trees, there is the old reference mark. The spot was first monumented in 1890, but there is no information about that. In 1893, a rock with a drill hole was buried as the station and a second drill hole was made for a reference mark, plus redwood stakes in the cardinal directions and a blaze on a nearby oak. In 1927, the station drill hole was taken up and a boulder placed with a monument disk. The old drill hole reference was given a monument disk and a second reference was placed. They couldn't find the redwood stakes or distinguish the blaze. These disks survived until fire break clearing knocked the station disk off in (or before) 1957. It was found near the first reference. Although not reported to be reset, the station is reported destroyed again, this time with the original reference, during fire break clearing in 1964. Today the remaining reference still looks undisturbed. A bit of the barbed wire from the old fence is strangling an oak next to it and it points uselessly at a spot of small, loose rocks in the dirt. It does seem to be pointing more N than NW, so maybe I should have taken a little more time to check for the second reference, or at least taken a bearing. (I took a minimal pack to make bushwhacking easier, so only had the electronic compass on the GPS, but it does seem to work.) The nearby oaks don't look like they would have been good candidates for a blaze 120 years ago.

green circle with writing on it cemented into a rock
The remaining "spring" reference mark set in 1927. The copper in the bronze has taken up a lot of oxygen in the last 85 years to give a lovely green while the zinc has added some white. Still claiming not to be obsessed.

Turning to climbing back up the hill, somehow the bear trail is not so obvious. The branches near the ground seem to generally point downhill, making progress in that direction easier. Still, it isn't so hard to get back to the rock outcrop at the top. Following down the other side is easy too, and just requires a little push through the last layer of branches to get back to the trail. I came out just short of the oak at the intersection. I managed a thorn embedded in my arm and a couple good scratches that don't quite make it to the designation minor gash, but feeling none of it, I sit for a rest and decide how much walking I really want to do in this heat. The heat isn't so bad after removing the long sleeves that were protection from shrubs (and then finding and yanking that thorn). It isn't above body temperature or anything, so I head down McMenemy as it navigates Oak Creek.

old trail cut along the side of the foothills
McMenemy snakes under the rock ledges that Saddle Rock Trail climbs through.

By the bench dedicated to Col. McMenemy, there is a little more shade to rest in. I take Girard Trail north from there to start making a loop. It turns out that there's a few nicer shady spots right on this trail. An unsigned spur leads down some steps to benches and rocks with more dedications.

McMenemy bench from above
The islands in the distance are looking marginally clearer today. In fact, Anacapa actually has three bits visible instead of just the tall one.

stone and concrete bench with San Ysidro as view
Bench set for viewing San Ysidro in memory of Edwin Heyer and Marion and Arthur Williams.

road coming down the side of San Ysidro
The route down to San Ysidro two days ago.

The shade near the benches is taken by an excited bulldog and his mum, so it's back to trail which offers a couple more spots before joining with the catway. Turning left, it is a gentle rolling past the other end of the Saddle Rock Trail to the Hot Springs Club ruins.

Saddle Rock with Santa Barbara as backdrop
There's a couple people up on Saddle Rock.

Edison Catway coming down from Cold Spring
The Edison Catway contines past Hot Springs and climbs to the edge of Cold Spring where it joins the trail briefly.

I take the back driveway into the ruins, which puts me on a large flat strewn with old bricks and with steps leading down to the old entrance. Trail leads out the back toward the hot springs. They are currently full of banana trees and pipes and deep green and stark white algae.

clumbs of green and strings of white
Algae in Hot Springs. This bit of pipe seems likely to be useless.

ripening bananas in the creek
Most of the bananas aren't fruiting at the moment, but there was one flower and fruit.

Trail also leads along the bottom of the walls of the ruins to the hot springs, and I take that back to the road. A couple flowers in the abandoned gardens are blooming. I felt the pipes as I walked past, and they were quite hot.

steps around the edge of the base of the ruins
Trail around the base of the remaining rock wall of the ruins leads up to the hot springs.

an unhealty looking geranium at the base of the walls
An unhealthy looking geranium, a leftover of the gardens, blooms at the base of the ruins. Below, the hillside is terraced.

Leaving the ruins, it is an easy hike back down the road on the side of the canyon. The route up to Cold Spring joins from the right, then an unsigned built trail branches off to the left. I quickly make it back to the gate, and then back to the car.

looking down the canyon
One last look down Hot Springs Canyon.




©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 31 August 2013

1 comment:

Qrtmoon said...

Hi Valerie, thanks for sharing. Kat and I did a hike through the ruins several years ago. Started to the north and came out that way. I remember there were no trespassing signage and the trail was very overgrown. It seems the hot spring was under a locked lid back then.

Tom