23 May 2016

Arroyo Burro

Los Padres National Forest

Continuing on my quest to get to those sneaky trails that have somehow managed not to be stomped under my feet, I drove up to the high point of Arroyo Burro Trail. The front side of this trail is the hard part stretching 7 miles from city to top with steep sections and a big drop in the middle while you are trying to climb. The back side is a much tamer trail with the caveat that there is a designated shooting area just off the high point. The vast majority of debris left by shooters shows that they usually do so in a safe direction, but a few pieces and the old targets up the hill next to the road show this is not entirely the case. As I start, there are a couple guys with their cars wide open shooting at things well away from the road. They insist on being utterly oblivious to my presence, even when not firing, so it is a tad uncomfortable to pass until there is a nice, solid hill between me and them. The trail starts down just beyond the hill and gate although the sign for it is set well back so that I have to know where to go before getting it confirmed.

rusted sign hanging over the thin trail
On the trail and a rested, shot sign points the way to White Oak Camp and Santa Ynez River Road. It is four miles to the second.

The transition from road to trail is awkward, but it soon settles down. The brush is close and feels especially so as I duck under some shoulder high poison oak leaves. Below the encroaching brush, the tread is solid. The marks on it tell a story of popularity with mountain bikers while hikers and horses also pass. All the marks look sharp and fresh. There are few views out, all of them framed by the vegetation. The brief fire of bullets between long pauses is quickly muffled and the trail loops around and the madrones, then oaks close in.

circles of flowers
Chinese houses are offering up some wonderful detail to compensate for the lack of views.

globes of white
Fairy lanterns offer to light the houses.

river and mountains
A brief view right down to the river below and the road on the other side more typically called Paradise.

The trail bounces between two thin and rocky bottomed gashes, each quite dry at the moment. What little can be seen of the local area is largely vertical and the distance traveled overall by the trail is not much. It is just ever downward in the thin green tunnel.

steep canyon nearby
A sample of the nearby landscape.

all the trunks lean to the left
The trees and bushes all lean outward from the hillside but the trail is still with good tread.

more purple sprigs
Still more flowers in the shade.

One turn beside the rocky creek bed shows that now it has water in it and then the trail crosses it and levels off. There are a good collection of songbirds hidden away in the branches singing. The songs all seem to follow the same themes, so the varieties of birds may not be all that many. One bird skitters out of the brush beside me, but does not look like the singers of the song around me.

a little water in the creek
There it is, water to keep everything green and singing.

flat trail through young tree tunnel
Easy going trail through oaks and bay and unseen singers.

As quickly as the easy flat started, it ends again as the trail takes a rocky downward slope. There is a second creek crossing before a junction as the landscape turns into grassy meadows dotted with oaks. There are "designated route" signs on the trail I came down and the one heading off northwest, but the eastern route looks at least as well used. A quick exploration shows it goes to a road by a water tank with a leak, so I turn to take the other "designated route" through the tall grasses.

inside white with dark orange spots bleeding yellow and outside purple
Mariposa lilies with spots are still having their day.

brown and spotty and common
Butterflies alight in the golden grasses.

a little climb
The nearby hill looks like it might be fun to climb.

This trail comes to another junction with no markings. Just up the hill is a cabin, so I figure I do not want that route. Going back up the hill to the southwest also does not seem right, so I head toward the common areas of the camp north and downhill. At the road, this is marked as "horse trail". I turn east to see if it connects with the road the other trail connects with and after some trailer sites and tent sites, there is a large gate keeping people from continuing onto the road with their vehicles. Of course, there are the backsides of signs asking me not to enter, so I step out to comply. This must be Arroyo Burro Road. I knew I should have at least reviewed the map before coming. I ponder taking the last little bit of it down to Paradise Road (or maybe it is Santa Ynez River Road there), but get lazy and turn south to climb again.

Arroyo Burro Trail
A sign points me to the Arroyo Burro Trail just short of the spur I took.

The road forks and a sign points me toward the trail on the right fork. This goes on to the wide water tank with a green fan of moss down its leaky side. There is no sign to help people catch the trail that heads off west and a second trail curls away to the east to rejoin the other fork. Always happy to take a loop, I follow this second route. The bicycles very clearly love to take the loop too, and their many tire tracks cover the road following it down to the fork and back up to the trail. (Or the other way around, the tracks are not obviously directional.)

purple and yellow under the barbed wire
Still plenty of flowers to enjoy along the side.

The road is an entirely different character to the trail in all the expected ways. The grade is continuous and gentle. It tends to stay toward the ridges being exposed with expansive views quickly opening up as it climbs. Some days, this might be a bit much, but today the warm sun is tempered by a steady wind that still smells faintly of Alaska. Unfortunately, I can also hear the gunfire from target shooters above again.

climbing golden grassy road
The area hills are the first view as I climb through golden grasses along the road.

rocky and open canyon
The next canyon along comes into view as the road crests a ridge line.

A sign marks one end of Matias Trail which crosses the rocky canyons to the east to connect with Devils Canyon. This and its connector have also escaped the stomping of my boots, so I am briefly consumed with deciding how I want to see the canyons it crosses. A big loop from the top, maybe with a bicycle to help with the long road section? A simple Y shaped hike from the bottom, which has a few easy parking spots but is limited in time by a gate that is only open sunrise to sunset? Then I turn back to climbing, but I cannot help but pick out the well established trail as it rolls eastward.

trail sign
That is a funny order for the destinations on the sign.

I am enjoying the flowers along the road, although most are the same as the ones along the shadier trail. I come upon a quail trying to climb up a steep embankment to get away from scary me, but cannot quite make it. I have never seen a quail so determined not to fly as it slips down and scampers up again. I pass and it rests again. Further up, the road somehow finds some big flats of oaks just like the trail did. There is a little bit more variety to it than I expected.

flowering bush
Some of the flowers that were not found along the trail before.

expansive flat of oaks
Oaks occupy an expansive flat area beside the road.

up Santa Ynez River
The view up the Santa Ynez River which is not available to the trail.

Santa Cruz
Some of those expansive views really expanding to the higher mountains to the northwest.

Slowly, the road turns back to rejoin the trail, making its way to the saddle.

road to the top past a line of sycamores
A line of sycamores hints at a possible water crossing, but it is dry at the surface today. The road snakes past them to the top.

maple pods haning
The next wash is full of maple heavy with seeds ready to twirl their way away.

There is a nice long break in the shooting, but apparently it is too much to hope for that someone will not be there as I get to the top. I give some useless shouts as I approach, but there is no answer. Creeping around the hill shows a whole new set of utterly oblivious target shooters having their fun, but at least they are pointed in a responsible direction.

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 26 May 2016

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