19 April 2016

Rocky Pine Ridge

Los Padres National Forest




A warm day is a good day to head up the mountain. It is a little cooler up there. I went up to the top of Gibraltar for a short, mild scramble of a hike out to Rocky Pine Ridge. There are other ways up, but this is the easy one. To prove it is easy, I fail to find the correct trail at first and have to make a second attempt. Once on the correct trail, the way might still not be obvious. The surface is shale and there are plenty of apparent routes through the brush. There have also been many people out here recently and the path they walked is obvious by the shapeless footprints. A little higher, as the track winds up a northern slope, the brush closes in and makes losing the route impossible. The sloped shale makes uncertain footing.

La Cumbre and Cathedral
La Cumbre topped with a decaying fire lookout and the tooth of Cathedral start the march of peaks to the west.

It seems to finish climbing and then starts wrapping around the little peak. Soon my destination is laid out before me. The crest of sandstone pillars supports a spattering of coulter pines. The surface below my feet changes too, becoming the much more stable sandstone.

Rocky Pine Ridge
A stand of coulter pines hangs onto the rocky crest ahead. This is Rocky Pine Ridge.

There is a well established trail up to my left that has been rocked off. Fresh prints continue the way I am going, but no prints can be seen on the other. It seems no one wants to go to the peak. I do and so take the turn and mar the perfectly clean path.

top of the peak with a sign
Someone has placed a sign at the top. "White Mt. elev. 3804'"


The only peak sign that I know of for many miles greets me. I once climbed up to it on a Wednesday evening hike starting at Rattlesnake Canyon and coming up to Gibraltar Road for about a mile before starting up a longer trail. Some went down via the ridge below and a trail that comes out near the Tunnel and Rattlesnake intersection saying that way was quicker. It turns out they were right. Today, I am just happy to place it better in my mental map.

northerly range
Mountains from west to east, but mostly northerly.

Although no one has come up here in the life of an ephemeral footprint, plenty have come. There is not much view from the ground, but there are plenty of boulders all easily climbed to gain the view the brush is trying to hide. The flat top requires climbing a few different rocks to get the whole view.

Little Pine Mountain and a lot of others
Rumors are that Little Pine Mountain is full of poppies now and indeed, there is a distant orange splotch.

Santa Ynez Mountains
The distant high point of the Santa Ynez range across from Old Man Mountain and its tooth.

The trail heads down from here. The route I came up along before is also rocked off, but also marked with a large cairn. It holds no attraction for today. I head down further. There is one last brief climb up onto the ridge.

Santa Barbara harbor
A slight saddle lies between here and the ridge. We seem to have a big boat tied up today.

Once on the ridge, the trail is a little harder to follow. There is often more than one and some are easier to walk than others. Sometimes there is a trail behind the ridge, as well, which is usually the easiest but the least interesting.

Gibraltar Road
The eastern coast and Gibraltar Road winding its way up to the trailhead.

layers of sandstone
From the side, the pillars are obviously uplifted sandstone at a sharp angle.

There is a usual end point to this and I only go as far as that. From here, travel becomes quite hard. We sometimes climb up to near here on Wednesday evenings. Subjectively it feels like 2 miles up from the official trail, but the GPS has only ever admitted to 0.6 miles. I am looking to relax in the warm sun instead, so find a perch with a view for a while before heading back up.

gap in the rocks
A cave big enough to sleep in just north of my perch.

sandstone structures
More holes in the nearby rocks.

The route back up is a little easier after just coming down it, but not entirely. Things always look different going in the other direction and I lose my path a few times. Often, I can just track my footprints, but there are none when there is a rock scramble.

sandstone tunnel
Another tunnel in the sandstone.

blue belly of western fence lizard
There are blues in the rocks, but none so bright as a blue belly.

plant behind a crack
Thin walkways lead to isolated patches among the rocks.

small tree by large burned log
Fire takes its toll here, too. A new tree takes advantage of where some much larger, burned tree once stood.

After only a few bumps and scrapes, I have managed to climb back up the easy part of the ridge. Climbing back up the side of the mountain to get around it is easier on this side. The shale seems especially steep going down it. The total hike is just a little over 2 miles.




©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 20 Apr 2016

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