28 May 2014

Toro Ridge

Toro Canyon Park

Locate the trailhead.

I tried Toro Canyon Park a while ago and was disappointed with the hiking possibilities there. This was unfair because I had not exhausted the hiking possibilities, only the one that is easiest to find. Besides the small loop at the main portion of the park, I had learned about a second trail that leaves from the road somewhere. I spotted a likely trailhead on the way out, so it seemed that a trip back for that second trail would not be met with failure at the start. Driving along Toro Canyon Park Road, the start of the trail is easy to spot and signed by the Montecito Trails Foundation. There is a turnout for parking, but it is unclear if the apparently abandoned piece of road that accesses some fenced in equipment needs to be kept clear. There are no signs to dissuade anyone from parking along it and the rest of the parking is not very good, but I leave it open and block the sign instead. The hints I can find are that this is not a very long trail and I pay little attention to my water, which is only 3/4L and has been depleted while wandering the Carpinteria Bluffs and Rincon Beach, as I head out.

MTC Toro Ridge Trail sign
Sign at the start of Toro Ridge Trail.

The abandoned road continues past the fenced in equipment and the trail follows it along the side of a stream. There is plenty of trash along the first hundred feet or so, including some that would have been considered toxic when it still held its contents. Further on, there are a couple of water seeps bringing wet into the canyon. These spots are especially full of growth and there is not always a visible trail through stands of mustard. Slapsticks mark the side frequently to assure the hiker this is the correct way. The poison oak gets a bit close for comfort a few times.

paint can collection
Paint cans and solvents show a lack of care for the area sometime in the past.

defined track
A spot where the track of the trail is fairly well defined with one of the many "trail" signs in the background.

water seeping from the side
A little water seeps from the canyon wall on the left and flows toward the creek bed on the right.

The flat finishes and the trail starts to climb in short switchbacks. Ten feet, turn, ten feet, turn. Then it delivers me onto the road again through another high gate with no indication of what happens now. There has been nothing like a ridge.

blue belly on a rock
Watching me go first one way then another and is sure I do not know where I am going.

switchbacks with a bit of growth
Short switchbacks climbing from the canyon floor.

Toro Canyon view
Looking down Garrapata Creek as the trail levels off, just before it dumps back into the road.

Following the road up, there is another "trail" sign and then another trail. This one has no trailhead sign although older photos show it with one. It is still easy to locate since it is at the very highest spot on the road. It also has better parking. The trail that climbs from it is much clearer and better used. While there is still a little poison oak along the sides, it is no longer difficult to dodge. The view starts to open up out to the east and over the rest of the park with its gazebo on a hill.

open dirt trail with trees overhead
The upper trail has quite a bit more traffic.

looking down on Toro Canyon Park
Looking down on Toro Canyon Park. The gazebo is on the lower nearby hill, to the left of the hill with the obvious road over it. The road is part of the approach trail to the gazebo.

The trail levels off generally and passes along some private property. Small signs on either side of the trail warn me to stay on it rather than try one of the faint trails that wind around the area. The section is pleasant and shaded by oaks. Eventually, it breaks out into the sun and views to the south with a handy stone bench provided for taking it in.

stone pieces cemented into a bench with plenty of room
Looking out over the stone bench and Carpinteria.

It is just slightly over a mile from the first trailhead to the bench and this is the place where most people turn around. I cannot help noticing that not everyone turns around here. Also, there is the vaguest recollection of reading that this trail is actually 2.5 miles long, although that is highly suspect and I cannot now find where I might have seen that. A trail continues along the ridge a little overgrown but better than the first section. It follows the larger cut of a fuel break down slightly and then up to the highest spot, where there was a benchmark marked "brush" placed in 1927. Only the shank remains of the station, but the single reference mark should still be there.

butterfly on mustard
A butterfly drinks from some invasive mustard stretching across the trail.

On the far side of the high point, the trail continues, now dropping. I decide to go just a little bit further and try to see how far it will go. There is a metal triangle buried in oak branches off to the side, part of the markings for fuel breaks. It is hard to see anything over the curve of the hill, so just a little bit further grows and grows until suddenly the trail turns back on itself, and then again. There are switchbacks on what I had taken for a use trail. The trail bed is cut into the side of the hill and flat as it drops down the south side.

following the trail along the ridge line
Just a little further down the ridge line along this trail.

polinators at work
There is still at least one bee in the county.

turkey vulture above
A turkey vulture came by for a couple swoops on the thermals.

well made trail down the hillside
A sample of the trail that has clearly been built.

Now it turns into a mission to see what the southern terminus of this trail is. It seems only sensible that there must be one. The upper sections are full of very dry horse manure and there are hoof prints frozen in the dried mud, no no other indications of people passing. There are few trees for shade and the cactus spines look very healthy.

flowers starting up on the cactus
The cactus are getting out some blooms.

There is a wide cleared spot with a low view of the surrounding countryside and below this, I can see shoe prints in the dirt. Then I come to a difficulty for finding the other end of the trail: options. A well used trail heads off to the end of a road on a farm. It seems doubtful this is a public route. Further on, it meets an abandoned road. The horses seem to go up this one too, but looking up it makes me think it was a utility road. I follow it down instead. Shortly after, there is a route down to Arroyo Paredon. It is nice to see that the creek is flowing, but the trail on the other side is clearly just going to a house. Below this, the road follows close to the creek for a good dose of green and a little more dodging poison oak.

rows of food growing
Rows of growing things below the trail.

Arroyo Paredon flowing along
A track leads down to the creek, but the other side is obviously not public.

Continuing along, the trail makes a change and gets a little more brushy, then there is a survey stake, and beyond it a gate with the back side of a "no trespassing" sign. Behind it, traffic flows past quickly on Foothill, but there is still no terminus. Turning back, I notice another trail across the creek. This seems to be where the shoe prints of all sorts are generally going. I follow it down and the trail seems better and more built here. Above, the parked cars seem to hint at a park. At the top, I find corrals and trailers. The horses are not a bit alarmed by my presence and answer a cheery hello with an unconvinced snort. I turn back again, none the wiser.

trail under oaks
One of the drier sections of the trail beside the creek.

trail cut in the distance
Looking up the hillside, the trail cuts back and forth to climb it. A bit of the lower trail is in the foreground.

Somehow my little bit of water is sufficient to climb back up the hill to the bench above and then back down to the car. I even still feel good enough for a quick loop around the main area of the park.

salt marsh below
Back at the bench looking down at the salt marsh.

on a hilltop, a gazebo
The gazebo in Toro Canyon Park from much closer.

©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 29 May 2014

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