22 September 2013

Douglas Family Preserve and nearby beaches

Santa Barbara


Locate the trail head.

It seems a good time to greet the new season starting today. Winds have come through and broken up the marine layer to the point that we might actually have a visible sunrise today. I head down to the beach to find out. Thousand Steps is my go-to point of entry. They give a little exercise on the way up and hasn't been under a pile of rubble for a while. They have been drier than normal and only a little bit slick. Not so much that they feel safe on the way down, but better than usual. Their number is far less than advertised, but in the summer the wet steps and close rock walls offer a cool climb. After dusk, their lack of lamps and unwelcoming nature to any outside light leaves them a threatening and cold cave. The last four steps have almost been worn to a ramp by the ocean waves and as fall takes hold, the sand will retreat from the bottom so that that ramp leads to a few foot drop off. No other beach access has quite as much personality as Thousand Steps. Of course, I come here for convenience, not because it threatens to break my neck, probably somewhere just below the landing.

pink sky and a light house
Up at the end of the street where the steps start down and looking west to the lighthouse and Coast Guard property. Dawn has long broken, but the sun is not yet up. The ocean reflects the pink sky when looking at it from here.


bottom of the steps
Those well worn bottom steps of Thousand Steps. No one has been here since they were last washed in sea water, except the sand crabs.

There's no footsteps coming from the steps, but a few trails past them hint that the beach is not totally empty. At the bottom of the steps, I turn my back on the sun and head toward the point past the lighthouse. It isn't much of a point, but it will get the first sun along this stretch. Only a slight haze and a few tiny bits of cloud are left of the marine layer that didn't even break a couple days ago.

more reflected pink
The ocean has very little color at all in the dawn light as seen from the beach, but the wet sand reflects the pink sky.

waves hitting light as they start to break
As the sun comes up behind the cliff, the breaking waves reach just high enough to catch some of its light. A little color is starting to show in the ocean.

point along the beach
Indeed, the point is the first bit of land to get sun, and the beach is not empty. The ocean is looking very light blue now.

small rocks apparently pecariously balanced
A couple balanced rocks along the beach. We have a local obsessive who likes to balance rocks, but this could be a knock-off.  It doesn't seem to have as many delicate elements.

Arroyo Burro as it enters the sea
Arroyo Burro has a reasonable flow above, but it is just draining into the sand at the beach today, making it quite easy to cross.

Reaching the Arroyo Burro estuary, I leave the beach for the cliffs. The bottom of the old road at the north end of the Douglas Family Preserve is much changed with the restoration of Mesa Creek, until just short of the old gate on the road. Climbing to the top under the oaks is nice. At the top, I find that undiluted sun is already feeling a little warm. Heading out to the point, I find that the new cypress has vanished. Over-watered? Looking down on the ocean helps to bring out its color, not to mention that the sun is getting higher so more light is getting into the water. It's all about the law of reflection.

blue blue ocean and some of Hope Ranch
Out on the point above Arroyo Burro, the ocean is picking up that blue that we generally see throughout a sunny day. UCSB is visible today way out there.

brown with sand
Looking down upon the ocean, the true colors from the sand kicked up in the waves show. In the shallows, we get greens.

Below, there's a spot where I could see the edge of an old foundation from when this was a nursery, and below that it looks like old cut boards. I try to locate this as I pass along the cliff top, but it turns out not to be the foundation I thought it was. After following the trail around the outside edge of the city park, I'm just a couple blocks from Mesa Steps, the one set of public stairs between Arroyo Burro and Thousand Steps. These are dry and have handrails you can grip and have even been redone in the last few years. These don't threaten more than any other steps. Back on the beach, it's getting to be a crowd, but it thins as I head back to the east with a face full of bright sun.

rock layers in a dome
Of course there's more to see than the blues of the ocean. There's also the layers of shale bent from old pressures.

many footprints in the sand at the bottom of the steps now
Many people have come through here now.




©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 22 September 2013

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