01 April 2017

Matias Trail

Los Padres National Forest

Link to map.

The trail just wanders through some beautiful country and an approximate plan was hatched quite some time ago to see it. Putting the finishing touches on it, I dropped off my bike at the crest of the road by La Cumbre Peak and parked the car at the top of Arroyo Burro. The bike will take care of most of the paved road walking very well and extraordinarily easily. The Glass Factory is already booming with a large variety of explosions from five or six groups of target shooters. Slow and measured or fast and finishing off a clip, there are all kinds of shooters. About two people notice me as I walk past behind them with my fingers in my ears against the sometimes painful level of noise. Happily, no one is set up on the road or up the hill next to it. There is relative calm past the gate and around the hill as the view quickly opens up. Being up high sure is good for views.

northern mountains
A view dominated by Little Pine Mountain with some taller things behind it. Sage Hill is on the left, but hard to distinguish against Loma Alta behind it.

I start down the fire road somehow not even noticing the trail until it is a cut on the next ridge. This is fine since I am not looking for it. Matias only gets as far as the road. The prickly phlox does not seem to be as abundant as it has been in the past. There are a few blooms of it, bush poppies, and a very crimson paintbrush along the edges. Far down in the valley, I can see the thin track of Matias winding through the bushes and grass. It seems to be most of the way down to the river.

Arroyo Burro Road
Slowly wandering downward on the road.

crimsom paintbrush
A bit of paintbrush dipped in a particularly deep shade of red.

trail below
Matias Trail snaking through the grassy slopes below.

After just over three miles of slow descent on the road, there is a sign next to a thin track.

sign with vines
The western end of Matias Trail is well signed with creative mileages. The camp is closer to 3 miles away and the dam is more like 7 miles.

The trail has plenty of gopher holes and little green things sprouting up in the middle of it, but the track never quite disappears. Shooting stars are prevalent. A small land slide finally breaks the track, but a new one is forming over the top. A bumblebee is bouncing along between the larkspur on the far side, so any difficulty getting over is quickly forgotten. So it goes as the trail tucks away into the bottom of the shallow canyon and climbs back out the other side.

starting down
There are a few rock formations further down in the canyon.

white ceanothus flowers
The ceanothus is really starting to bloom now, making it hard to see any green within.

little flow of water
The second prettiest creek along the way.

canyon with power towers on either side
Looking down the canyon on the climb out. High tension line towers stand at the edges.

As I dip into the next little canyon, I am sure I can hear water. The leaves in the wind can sound very similar, but there are differences. However, the wide rocky creek is quite dry.

brush covered mountains
The brush is thick above as I look to the trees on La Cumbre Peak.

grassy bits
Here the brush is thin and there are large grass fields.

The rock outcrops further down start to get more interesting to the east. Unfortunately, the set of high tension power lines coming down through Blue Canyon to the east stand tall along these canyons too. I simply have to try to look past them. It is easier in some spots than in others.

Camuesa Peak
That interesting bit of rocks backed by Camuesa Peak and striped by the power lines. Matias Connector can be seen cutting along the ridge below.

caterpillar eating
I cannot help but think of these bushes as caterpillar bushes even when they have none on them. This one has over a dozen including this busy nibbler and the two resting behind it.

As I close in on the connector and camp, I come to the very nicest creek along the way. The water is cool and plentiful. Above it, the trail passes some grassy flats. Someone has placed a blue ribbon way off trail along here, but wandering a short way past it does not enlighten me as to why.

nice creek
The nicest creek of the day. Clear water and the highest flow.

connector trail sign
Arrival at the Matias Connector. Now it says Gibraltar Dam is 4 miles away. One mile progress after nearly three miles, or 2 according to the sign.

It is less than a mile down to the river on Matias Connector, so I go for it. I would not want to have just this little bit of trail sitting there unhiked. The trail drops slowly at first, then much faster. On the way, I am under the power lines and can see a much older and smaller set of thin poles that once served the same purpose as the tall scaffolds of today. The creek comes in close but a long way down. It sings a bright song, but is eventually drowned by the music from the Santa Ynez River.

canyon of the creek
As it hits the hard rock layer, the creek cuts a narrow canyon.

horny lizard
Quite a few little horny lizards about plus this rather large one.

Santa Ynez River
The Santa Ynez River along a large slow bend. There are quite a few voices coming from it.

There is a sign board and a gate marking the trail at the bottom. I keep hearing the road is closed at First Crossing, but there certainly are a lot of people enjoying the river nearby with a raft and other toys. I am suspicious that I am misinformed, but the sand crossing the road only shows bicycle tracks. I turn back. It is time to climb from the river to the top of the peak.

Matias Connector
The gate at the bottom of the Matias Connector.

It feels steeper going up in the early afternoon sun. At the top of the connector, I turn to complete Matias Trail. As it crests the next ridge line, there is a slapstick showing the way to Matias Potrero Camp and another showing the rest of the trail. It is not quite as well signed as the other junctions, but I was expecting less. I drop down, following a wide bulldozer path along the hills. There is very little trail.

Matias Potrero
The way down to Matias Potrero.

The path gets to a spot thick with poison oak, but there is a path through it for the careful. It crosses a thin creek that pools and goes underground just above the crossing. It does not look as inviting as the one a little west. It looks like there is more track heading back up, so I follow it. There are the crushed remains of what looks like a bee box along the way and it ends at a corral with a trough. Nothing flows through the pipes and it is dry. This is all I can find of the camp although there is reported to be a collapsing table somewhere.

small corral with a trough
A small wire corral with a trough with pipes, but no water. There was another down the hill between the connector and the camp.

I climb to the nearby ridge to look around. The rocks are still there. I think I can hear voices in conversation, then they vanish again. Heading back, there is now a set of footsteps in the grass heading down the canyon from the crossing. Maybe there really was someone that passed by. Someone with a traditional looking waffle pattern tread, in fact. I head back up and return to climbing to La Cumbre Peak. The trail now shows a recent passage of someone going the other direction in the crushed grass. That was the only person I might have met on the whole trail. At least I now know there are no washouts ahead that will force me to turn back.

black and whit spider at the end of a thin twig
There are far too many eight legged critters in the grass, but the few that are spiders are quite interesting.

bright yellow spider
Such a bright yellow color but it does blend in with the grass.

power towers into the distance
The march of the power towers over the next canyons and into Devils Canyon.

There are two more little creeks along the way. One is a mossy trickle and the other seems to have some flow to it. Both are sinking into the rocks just as they get to the trail.

Hildreth Peak
Hildreth is out there.

La Cumbre Peak
La Cumbre Peak looks like a long way off and a long way up.

fairy lanterns
The first of the fairy lanterns with many more to come.

last of the hills
A look back at the last of the hills.

Arriving at one more signed junction, it is time to leave the hills behind and really start to climb. The trail traversing the canyons was a lot flatter and a bit easier than I thought it would be.

long way down
Those rocks east of the connector still stand out from up here.

Gibraltar Dam
Looking down on Gibraltar Dam which is now spilling.

The trail meets Gibraltar Road. Here it is only marked by a cairn. It is not far up the road to the top of the pass and Camino Cielo. The road takes a long wind around a peak, but I decide to take the fresh fuel break up and over it. The scraped earth is ridiculously steep. It takes a while, but at the top I am rewarded with a rather expansive view and a natural sandstone chair. Everything is lit at an extreme angle and it all looks amazing.

fuel break
The fresh fuel break continues east along the top of the ridge.

White Mountain to La Cumbre Peak
White Mountain and Rocky Pine Ridge on my left, Cathedral Peak and La Cumbre Peak on my right in the sunset.

northwest view
There are views over the backcountry from this nude peak, too.

There is a very nice trail coming down the other side to a turnout. From there, I wander up the road a little further, then turn to climb the last little bit of road up La Cumbre Peak. I am so close, and this way I can say I climbed it from the river, which is a very unusual route.

Santa Barbara lighting up in the evening
The lights are coming on in the city below. Cathedral Peak from La Cumbre Peak.

I head back down and cross the road to where my bike is stashed. It is still just as I left it. From here, it is nearly all downhill. There is one spot with enough up that one definitely has to pedal and another that could be taken just on enough momentum without being dangerous. Since it is dark now, I do go fairly slow. It sure is an easy way to get downhill. My knees really enjoy it. It really was about time I got to see this special piece of trail.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 3 April 2017

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