08 March 2015

Gaviota Wind Caves

Gaviota State Park

The local chapter of the Sierra Club was offering a hike to the Gaviota Wind Caves, but with a twist. They were planning to hit some extra caves on a cross country route. I decided to go. We total five hikers as we arrive in Gaviota to find it cooler than expected. A light breeze makes the day even more comfortable for a little walking. We start off heading up the Beach to Backcountry trail to the wind caves along it. Robert, who is leading, says this is the opposite direction from how he usually does it. Most of the rest of us agree that it will be doubly new to us this way, since we have not done it.

a row of wind caves above us
Dark spots in the rock mark the wind caves that will be seeing at least a hundred visitors today.

We stop at the viewpoint at the top of the hill to look over the ridge on the far side. It is pock marked with the caves we will be visiting later. I cannot see much trail around them, but there is a spot below them with a well established tread. We turn back and start climbing again over the natural concrete. We take a moment at the first cave, the only one actually along the trail, and then start climbing again as the trail starts braiding. We end up on the wrong one that passes by close under the front caves before purposely taking the wrong one up to the top.

holes in the ridge line across the way
Look across the canyon at the top of the hill to find more wind caves.

window on the world
Peeking out to the trail below from the window cave at the top.

detail of the wind cave
Taking a moment in the shade to take in the view and the detail of the wind cave.

Having come as far as most the crowd will get today, we turn down the trail that gets most directly back to Beach to Backcountry and take it up further to the next hard rock layer ridge.

ridge line to drop down
Trying to get an idea of the climb down.

At the ridge, there is no distinct trail down, but it is more open than my last loop through this side of the park. Down a little way, the trail becomes better defined. Sometimes there are even multiple well defined trails.

starting down the ridge
Starting along the ridge line. It is all downhill from here.

Gaviota Peak
Gaviota Peak on the other side of the highway. The station on the point above the tunnel is a little blue dot from here.

the other caves
Getting down near the level of the upper wind caves and looking at them from the back side.

At one point, Robert tries hard to lose our confidence in him as a guide as he pokes his way down three different possible routes trying to decide which we should go through. They all look like they do not require the breast stroke to get through, so they all surpass my rather low standards for a cross country route.

little yellow flowers
Some yellow blooms up on the ridge.

standing on a sculpted rock
Out on a higher, sculpted rock along the way.

top most wind cave along this line
Getting down to the topmost wind cave along the line.

It is a while before we get down to the caves we are aiming at. The rest start to pass the first cave quickly, but I want to go in and they follow. It is the start of poking our way into any cave we can fit into and checking out the rest at least a little.

another window, this time to the back
The first cave has a small window in the north side.

cliffs across the valley
Checking out the cliffs across the way. The trail goes near the edge of these.

high caves
Caves above our heads.

This line of caves is much longer, but none are quite as big as the higher set near the trail. Only the very lowest ones are decorated by the previous passage of teenagers.

wall crack
A narrow crack is being carved out into another window through the rock.

returning along a ledge
One spot is a narrow ledge to check out more caves, but the route further id difficult and we backtrack out.

plant coming out a crack in the rock
Plants will find a way, sometimes even when the crack is pointed downward.

Eventually, it is time to make our way down the last little bit. Since people generally come up here from below, there is an easily followed path from here.

backdrop of rock slabs and chaparral
Our backdrop through it all.

three carefully making it down a rock face
One last steep little bit to the flat.

big oak tree in the canyon
A bit of shade in the bottom of the canyon.

Once down in the canyon, the only danger is poison oak. There is plenty of it under the shade of the oaks. There is a last little bit of a hill before we arrive at the paved road. It has the first Mariposa lily I have seen this year. There is a family coming down the hill from the trail along an even better established track. They mean to be going to the wind caves, but missed the turn. I have to wonder how many will end up making this same mistake today.

huge outcrop of rock
One last look at the rock riddled with caves.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 9 March 2015

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